The Art of School Yard Dynamics. Using Behavior Styles to Support Our Animals at Play

October 9, 2017

My fourteen year old son has just started high school.  On day two I come home and he’s in tears, hunkered down in his bedroom.  It’s been a rough day.  A lot of contributing factors, but the main one – a group of older students with an apparent ‘right of possession’ over a particular lunch table, a table that my son and his unsuspecting mates sat down at.  Feeling a little intimidated, and like fish out of water, the school school ‘newbies’ decided to move on. The senior students were a little too confident, bold and a overwhelming.  For some, this may not seem like a big deal. However, depending on how your child is wired, school yard dynamics can play a big part in their confidence and experience.

So, how do each of the behaviour styles show up in the schoolyard? How do they communicate, have fun, and interact with others when outside the classroom? Below are a few insights to get you thinking about how your ‘animals’ navigate the playground.


Fun, spontaneous, direct and quick witted, your Lion will make best use of the little time they have to enjoy a break in the school day.  Typically a Lion will dive straight in to an activity and expect others to do the same.  Creative, courageous and charming, a Lion will lure friends easily, however can frustrate them with their disregard for the needs of others.  It is important to help encourage your Lion to be aware that their friends or peers may have different needs and triggers.  Teaching them to recognize social and emotional cues so that they don’t inadvertently upset or are unnecessarily cruel in their interactions, is a key part of their maturity and development.


Panda’s may miss the cues when it comes to social interactions on the playground and in their effort to see logic and ‘cut to the chase’ they may find themselves upsetting their peers without even knowing it.  Quick to logic and fact, Panda’s will be dismissive of others’ emotions and needs; not to be mean but because it’s not in their initial frame of reference.  Teaching them and showing them what different emotions look like can help as will giving them language cues to ‘soften’ their delivery and feedback to others.  Conversely, they may find themselves on the receiveing end of ‘mean-spiritedness’.  With little need for lots of social interaction, Panda’s prefer the company of ‘like-minded’ peers who often fall under the heading of ‘nerdy’ or ‘strange’ due to the fact that they prefer learning and indulging their curiosity and problem solving to what they consider the boredom of schoolyard play.  Teaching your child to recognize what they’re energized by will give them the tools to understand why they might be perceived targets.


Our Dolphins will be happiest when they’re part of a pod. However, there are times when the pod is made up of other animals and a dolphin will feel isolated and alone.  Dolphins need other dolphins who share the same need for connections and relationship. They’re driven by a need to be a friend to many and will be faced with rejection when that same need is not reciprocated. Nothing worse for a Dolphin that feeling alone on the playground without a friend in sight. Finding ways to help connect your child to other like minded individuals is something you can do as long as you’re not doing the square peg and round hole situation.  Dolphins are motivated by creating connections for others.  They might find themselves in sticky situations when there’s unrest in their friend group and they try to step in and help all parties involved. In this situation they often find themselves suddenly in the hot seat when they were only trying to help.  Either that or they absorb the emotions of their friend group unrest and cant shake the sentiment of the group.  Being a shoulder to cry on and a good listener is the best support you can offer your Dolphin in this circumstance.  Teaching them to stand up for themselves and not let others use them as a repository for negative emotions is critical.


Owl’s are motivated to do the right thing.  They will be the first to communicate ‘right and wrong’ to either friends or offensive parties on the playground.  We need to help them understand that there’s a time a place to get involved…and not.  And that not every offense is a “I’m telling on you” moment.  We also need to help them understand that there is a whole lot of ‘grey’ in the world and not everything can be defined in black and white terms.  That flexibity is important and that we are wired differently.  That sometimes our friends just want to talk about things without having judge and jury monitoring the discussion.  With reponsbility being a critical value for an Owl, they hold themselves accountable for their actions  and are watchful that others do the same. It can be very difficult for an Owl to understand ‘why’ a friend or a peer did something they ‘perceived’ as wrong.  Help them to stand in the shoes of others and think of things from another persons perspective. Respect their values, encourage them to remain strong, teach them to be considerate.

Note – we each have elements of all four behavior styles, so don’t feel boxed in by specific jo. Look for work enviornments that inspire and motivate you, capitalizing on your strengths and providing opportunities to work on your weaknesses. To find out precisely what these are, take the assessment now!