Anyone who has parented more than one child knows that it’s impossible to have a favorite. At least you wouldn’t say it out loud. It is very possible, however, to have one child that clicks with you and one that’s hard to get. I know.
My children are opposites. Exact. Opposites. One is analytic. The other is emotional. One is calm. The other is excitable. One loves solitude. The other craves society.
Myers-Briggs Personality Typing (MBTI)
According to The Myers and Briggs Foundation there are 16 major personality types. These are formed from the combinations of 4 personality traits. These traits are not opposites of each other, in that you have one and not the other. But rather they are on a scale of preference. So, one might be slightly more extroverted than introverted, but not necessarily a social butterfly. You might base your decisions mostly by facts but also take into consideration the feelings of others. So, the extremes of the different traits are not independent of each other. But we tend to lean to one side or the other.
- Introversion/Extroversion (Do you prefer an external or internal world?)
- iNtuitive/Sensing (How do you process information?)
- Thinking/Feeling (How do you form your decisions?)
- Judging/Perceiving (What is your preferred structure?)
Who Am I?
I am an INTJ woman. (Introverted, interpretive, logical, structured.) In the personality world, I’m a rarity. Women with my personality type make up only 0.8% of the population. INTJ’s as a whole make up only about 2% of the population. I married an INTJ. One of my children is an INTJ. The other is an ESFP. Opposite.
Truthfully, my little social, huggy free-spirit, is more of the norm in society than the rest of us. Our family is just an inordinate mix of introverts. We like it quiet. We like solitary activities. We like books. My free-spirit wants people, chatter, drama, and group activities.
It’s easy for the rest of us to think she’s strange. It’s easy to wonder how our genetics produced a personality like hers. It would be easy to look at her and say, “Black sheep.”
Different Isn’t Wrong
When raising children, we think that, by pouring into them all that we know and how we perceive the world, our children will turn out very similar to ourselves. We have a large part in shaping the values and characters of our children, but not their personalities. They are who they are.
Trying to change who a person is at their core sends the message that they are inherently wrong. That somehow they are a mistake. They feel like they will never be accepted until they can become something they’re not. They spend years in turmoil trying to “find out” who they are. Since they cannot fundamentally change, they never learn to accept themselves.
I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself. – Rita Mae Brown
I spent much of my childhood not quite knowing where I fit in. Not seeming to click with my peer group at any age. I looked at the world as a serious place. I didn’t care for frivolity. I thought giddy girls were strange. I had friends but never a “best” friend. I enjoyed conversations with adults more than with my peers.
Fortunately, I was given plenty of space in my home to be who I really was. I wasn’t looked at as strange because I didn’t fit the social norm.
Knowing now that my predisposed personality puts me in the minority allows me to understand better and be okay with myself. In a house of introverts, my extroverted daughter is the minority.
Give Them Room To Grow
To deny my extroverted child the stimulation she needs, is to stifle her spirit. She communicates differently. She’s flamboyant in her speech and gestures. She gets bored and down if she doesn’t have enough social interactions. She needs touch to communicate emotions. Everyone’s feeling matter to her.
All of these traits are wonderful. Just because they don’t necessarily apply to me doesn’t mean that they’re wrong. In fact, I want her to continue to be the sweet, huggable, friendly person she is. I want her to become more of those things and be comfortable in them. She will use those natural gifts to make the world a better place. She can be a positive influence on someone else.
It’s important to have an idea what our children’s personality preferences are. Being different isn’t wrong. Being different is beautiful. We all add a little to pallet of colorful personalities around us. Help your children become strong and comfortable in their personalities. They will bring so much richness to your life.
Do you have a child with a very different personality than yours? Does it cause you to parent differently? Share your story in the comments.