Help! Have Ideas for a Four Tendencies Quiz for Kids?

I’m getting geared up for publication of my book The Four Tendencies — planning the book tour, getting ready to launch the major pre-order bonus (stay tuned for that!), thinking about my book talk.

I can’t wait for the book to go out into the world.

One question keeps coming up, over and over, and I want to sit down to figure out the answer before the book hits the shelves: people keep asking me to write a version of the Four Tendencies Quiz aimed at children — so I’m going to try to draft one.

I need to adapt the existing Quiz so that it uses vocabulary that children understand as well as examples that resonate with them. How do I help determine if a child is an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel?

I could really use your suggestions and ideas! What questions should I ask? Related to dealing with school, parents, friends, coaches, classes, pets, anything that’s part of a child’s life.

I asked this question over on my Better appmy free app that’s all about the Four Tendencies — and got such helpful, insightful responses, that I decided to ask here, too.

One difficulty is that an eight-year-old and an eighteen-year-old inhabit very different worlds. I’m not going to write multiple versions of the child test (at least not at this point), so one challenge is to try to be general enough to cover most ages.

For some children, their Tendency is very obvious at a very young age. For other children, it’s much harder to determine. Partly, of course, this is because children aren’t autonomous in the way that adults are. Also, their lives tend to include tremendous amounts of accountability. Nevertheless, in my experience, it’s often possible to see a child’s Tendency.

To spark your thoughts, here are the questions from the adult version:

1. Have you kept a New Year’s resolution where you weren’t accountable to anyone—a resolution like drinking more water or keeping a journal? 

  • Yes. I’m good at keeping New Year’s resolutions, even ones that no one knows about but me.
  • I’m good at keeping resolutions, but I make them whenever the time seems right. I wouldn’t wait for the New Year; January 1 is an arbitrary date.
  • I’ve had trouble with that kind of resolution, so I’m not inclined to make one. When I’m only helping myself, I often struggle.
  • No. I hate to bind myself in any way.


2. Which statement best describes your view about your commitments to yourself?

  • I make a commitment to myself only if I’m convinced that it really makes good sense to do it
  • If someone else is holding me accountable for my commitments, I’ll meet them—but if no one knows except me, I struggle.
  • I bind myself as little as possible.
  • I take my commitments to myself as seriously as my commitments to other people


3. At times, we feel frustrated by ourselves. Are you most likely to feel frustrated because…

  • My constant need for more information exhausts me.
  • As soon as I’m expected to do something, I don’t want to do it.
  • I can take time for other people, but I can’t take time for myself.
  • I can’t take a break from my usual habits, or violate the rules, even when I want to.


4. When you’ve formed a healthy habit in the past, what helped you stick to it?

  • I’m good at sticking to habits, even when no one else cares.
  • Doing a lot of research and customization about why and how I might keep that habit.
  • I could stick to a good habit only when I was answerable to someone else.
  • Usually, I don’t choose to bind myself in advance.


5. If people complain about your behavior, you’d be least surprised to hear them say…

  • You stick to your good habits, ones that matter only to you, even when it’s inconvenient for someone else.
  • You ask too many questions.
  • You’re good at taking the time when others ask you to do something, but you’re not good at taking time for yourself.
  • You only do what you want to do, when you want to do it.


6. Which description suits you best?

  • Puts others—clients, family, neighbors, co-workers—first
  • Disciplined—sometimes, even when it doesn’t make sense
  • Refuses to be bossed by others
  • Asks necessary questions


7. People get frustrated with me, because if they ask me to do something, I’m less likely to do it (even if they’re a boss or client).

  • Tend to agree
  • Neutral
  • Tend to disagree


8. I do what I think makes the most sense, according to my judgment, even if that means ignoring the rules or other people’s expectations.

  • Tend to agree
  • Neutral
  • Tend to disagree


9. Commitments to others should never be broken, but commitments to myself can be broken.

  • Tend to agree
  • Neutral
  • Tend to disagree


10. Sometimes I won’t do something I want to do, because someone wants me to do it.

  • Tend to agree
  • Neutral
  • Tend to disagree


11. I’ve sometimes described myself as a people-pleaser.

  • Tend to agree
  • Neutral
  • Tend to disagree


12. I don’t mind breaking rules or violating convention–I often enjoy it.

  • Tend to agree
  • Neutral
  • Tend to disagree


13. I question the validity of the Four Tendencies framework.

  • Tend to agree
  • Neutral
  • Tend to disagree

But a new question for the kid’s version doesn’t need to inspired by this existing Quiz. It could be something completely different, as long as it shows the differences among the Four Tendencies.

I appreciate any thoughts or examples you might have!

  • Have you read Learned Optimism? They have questions for children for a depression quiz, but it gives an age limit on when you can begin to ask the questions. It might be a good resource for understanding how best to format questions for a certain age group.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great suggestion, I’ll check it out!

  • caitlingracie

    One thing that struck me after I took the quiz for the second time and it told me I was a Questioner was thinking back to homework in school. I was always told that I was smart but an extremely frustrating student because I would often not do my homework, or only do enough to get by. I specifically remember my eighth grade teacher yelling at me in front of the class that I was lazy because I wouldn’t fill out the worksheets (which I thought were dumb–they were basically taken from the textbook with blanks to fill in). Yet shortly after he raved about a project I did with my friends where we wrote a rhyming skit that we memorized and performed in front of a large group of our peers and teachers–I gave the project my all because I thought it was fascinating and fun and it made sense to me. I went on to complete college and even graduate school successfully, but most of the assignments in college seemed more meaningful to me so I didn’t struggle to complete assignments the way I did in middle and high school.

    So, maybe something like this for a question:

    When assigned a project for school, I tend to:

    *Complete it, because it’s important to me to do well in school.

    *Complete it, because it’s important to my teachers and parents that I do well in school.

    *Possibly complete it, if I think the assignment is necessary.

    *Not do it unless I want to

  • gametime2210

    I think a good question might be something like: If you could do anything you wanted for one day, would you… keep things about the same, let my friends and family help me plan the day, that would never happen – so why should I even think about that, or go crazy and break all the rules.

    Also, I think a specific question about bed making: Once you’re on your own, will you make your bed each morning? Choices: of course, it starts the day off right/ only if we’re having visitors/why would I do that?/only if I feel like it.

    Finally, maybe something like: When I disobey my parents/teachers/the rules, I feel: upset because I know I can do better, upset because I’ve let people down, it depends on the rule or reason I disobeyed, no.

    Obviously, these would need fine-tuning. Just some inspiration.

  • Esther

    I like the comment below about something related to school work. I was thinking something similar because as a Questioner, I would often hand in assignments late because the deadline seemed arbitrary. Maybe something like… When it comes to school assignments, I
    – Complete the work regardless of when it’s due
    – Complete the work as long as there’s a deadline to hand it in
    – Complete the work but when it suits me – I don’t mind handing it in late if that means I’ve done it properly
    – Have trouble completing the work because I’m expected to

  • PettiteR

    I would gear the book towards parents. After all it is a parents responsibility to guide and upbuild their children. Plus adults are most likely to buy your book not children.

    • gretchenrubin

      Oh, the book is geared towards parents, teachers, coaches, etc. But parents and teachers keep asking me for a child-centered quiz, so I thought I’d try to create one.

  • AGirl

    Hi! Thanks for asking for our suggestions. I, unfortunately (maybe fortunately), fall into the rebel category. The moment I read this post my reaction-Q for rebel kids was: “Are you angry when a parent asks you to do something you were planning on doing anyway?” For me the answer would be yes. I know your quiz structure is Q + 4 possibilities, so this could be modified to ask, “How do you feel when a parent or teacher asks you to do something you were going to do anyway?” for secret rebel answer it could be something like: Angry because that’s what I wanted to do, but now I don’t like that someone “told me” to do it. I don’t get the credit for wanting to do it on my own; now it’s not “me” doing it.

    I’m not sure what the others feel, but here are by best guesses:
    -Upholder: Great because I love that we’re all on the same page.
    -Obliger: Relieved because I am doing the right thing.
    -Questioner: Indifferent because I was going to do what they asked anyway because it made sense to me.

    • gretchenrubin

      All these answers are so helpful!

      • AGirl

        Oh, yay! I’m so glad. 🙂