How the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Helps Me Raise my Children
First of all, if you are aware of what the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is you may be thinking, “Whoa…be careful doing that.” Yes. I get it. So the first thing I will tell you is I don’t share any of this stuff with my children. I use it as a personal organizational tool, a way to find the words to describe the behavior I observe in them.
My children are twins, a boy and a girl. My son is I believe, Introverted. My daughter is Extroverted. This one is pretty easy to note in just about any human. My son loves to socialize but after an outing or a gathering of some sort he wants to go home and be alone or do a quiet activity with his sister. Knowing he is this way, my husband and I make sure to give him this time and space to recharge his batteries. It is easier for me to remember he is this way because I too am an introvert.
My daughter the extrovert appears to melt if she goes without human interaction for too long. So when it snows in the Winter or if she has a cold and has to stay home for days in a row she starts to fall apart. Whereas at a party or gathering she is completely alive and never wants that party to end. My husband is more of an extrovert so he often reminds me that she needs to get out and mingle.
Not only do we help accomodate our kids according to their needs but also, being aware of the way they are, we also help support them in learning how to develop the part of them that isn’t so strong. So we help our son find ways to cope and get value out of long social interactions and we help our daughter to enjoy the peace and self-reflection that can come from solitude.
Now we come to Sensing vs Intuitive in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. So far I’m guessing my children are both Intuitive types marked by an N. This means they seem to get information by focusing more on “concepts, patterns” and overall “conceptual awareness” as Dr. Dario Nardi, author of Neuroscience of Personality puts it. I could be wrong of course, but we do have an awful lot of long talks about ideas, theories and “what if” scenarios.
I think my husband and I are also Intuitive types which means there is no one at home taking care of practical details. Believe me, look around my house and the evidence will support itself. We are a bunch of hopeful dreamers about the future, though! We all work on our Sensing skills since these can be further developed and just takes awareness and practice. Sports, dance, music, time in nature, art and being present with daily mundane activities all help with this.
The next bit is whether my children are Thinking or Feeling types. A quick word about these. Thinkers feel and Feelers think. However, there is a filter through which we first process information and Thinkers first run information through a logical train of thought while Feelers first run information through their feely feels.
My son is a Thinking type. If you trip and fall he is going to run to the spot where you tripped to find out what caused you to trip and let you know how to prevent it from happening again. My daughter, a Feeling type will run towards you and ask if you are alright. Thinkers can seem cold and unsympathetic to Feelers and and Feelers can seem too emotionally irrational to Thinkers.
I am an F and my husband a T so we each help our children with their types. I explain to my son how in many scenarios it is an advantageous and welcome people skill to lead first with a compassionate and empathetic response and then come in with the practical one — because he does have this response, it’s just not his initial response. My husband helps our daugther to calm her emotional response enough to get to her place of logic, which is well formed, for the sake of making wise and unimpulsive decisions instead of ones based on temporary and often unreliable emotions.
Last but not least is the fourth function, Perceiving vs Judging. I think my son is a J and my daughter a P. Judgers tend to be tidy, like structure, don’t appreciate last minute changes, and prefer reliable routines. Perceiving types like going with the flow, random change-ups and flying by the seat of their pants. I’m a P too, and my husband is a J. My son and husband help my daughter and I to be more organized and punctual and tidy whereas my daughter and I show my son and husband the fun in spontaneity and openness to change and embracing whatever the future holds.
You may have noticed something interesting but typical about my family. My husband and I are nearly opposites in our Myers-Briggs type and my son and daughter are as well. My husband and I work really well as a team because generally speaking, my weaknesses are his strengths and vice versa. My son and daughter work the same way. They push each other forward to learn what is challenging to them. They also gain empathy and respect for each other and for others as they realize every single day that our differences are not so much a problem or annoyance but a wonderful asset if we learn to communicate and see one another’s gifts. Our different ways of taking in information lead us to function like a well-oiled machine with all the various parts working optimally and in unison — if we manage to let it.
I get a huge amount of guidance and support from using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in my family. I make sure not to use it to box anyone in and am aware people can change over time, especially children. For one, my children don’t know what Myers-Briggs even is. It helps me to structure the behavioral tendencies I see in my family in a way that allows me to name it, appreciate it better and stay aware of the interplay between different ways of viewing the world aside from my own. It helps me see the gifts in my husband and children and supports me in guiding my family to use their strengths and build upon weaknesses. It also helps me to encourage and communicate with my family in a way that best suits each of them. It helps me to understand myself and loved ones as this leads to more appreciation of myself and others.
When my children are grown I hope they feel I tried to “get” them, allowed them to be themselves, and supported their personal growth. I also hope they do this for themselves and for others.