Standing at the kitchen sink cleaning up breakfast dishes, I listen to my sons bickering. They’re arguing over, of all things, the fact that one of the two likes to sing, rap, and generally engage in entertaining the rest of us much of the time. He’s generally cheery, and if anyone in the family is sad, he wants to cheer them up. Quite the contrast to his brother who mostly just wants to be left alone and does not greet most mornings with a cheery façade. Normally, my reaction is to shout at them to stop fighting and be nice to one another (I know, right? Shouting sets such a great example!).
But this morning, I didn’t bother because I found myself overwhelmed with a crushing insight. They’re different personality types and until they understand themselves and how they approach life, they’re never going to understand or appreciate each other.
That bolt of lightning sent me down another path of thinking about how my personality type affects the way I and all of us, really, parent. I find it fascinating. I’ve been curious to learn more ever since attending an Enneagram workshop at the end of summer. Re-taking the Myers-Briggs at a work retreat this past weekend, made me determined to dig in and try to better understand my parenting strengths and the areas where I have room for growth based on how I parent as an Enneagram Type 2. I thought I’d share a little of this information with y’all in case you’re curious.
If you’re not familiar with the Enneagram, it’s an ancient tool used to better understand ourselves and others. It has been around for roughly 4,000 years and originated in ancient Greece. It entered mainline Western culture in the 1970s when Jesuits working in South America learned about it and brought it to their communities in the U.S. It continued to spread and today many psychologists and therapists use it to help clients gain a better and fuller understanding of their motivations and intrinsic needs.
The Enneagram typology consists of nine personality types each based on a specific archetype. I think we can learn from most personality tests including the MBTI. But the Enneagram speaks to my heart. Its simplicity and directness make it a great and efficient way to identify and know how to work with others. Of course, before we do that we must better understand ourselves and to that end, I want to share with you the nine Enneagram types, as well as what you can see as your parenting strengths and the areas where you might have room for growth.
If you want to learn more or take a test to determine your specific personality type, I encourage you to visit the Enneagram Institute or to check out The Wisdom of the Enneagram. For a great book on parenting based on your Enneagram type, I recommend Knowing Me, Knowing Them: Understanding Your Parenting Philosophy by Enneagram Type.
Okay…ready to dig in and see if you see yourself on this list? All right! Let’s go!
Type 1 – The Perfectionist
You believe in order and the rule of law. You’re the mom with the white and cream color scheme even with toddlers. No PBJs or Goldfish in your living room and definitely no unsightly toys strewn about the floor.
Your child always feels secure with a strong sense of boundaries. He’ll never feel like you pulled the rug out from under him by changing the rules and when he leaves for college, he’ll have Life Skills nailed because you instill a strong sense of responsibility.
Just remember it’s okay to have a little fun. Spontaneity and play benefit children just as much as knowing the rules. You can always clean up a mess or tidy a room, but you can never recapture those magic moments of playtime you share with your kids when they’re small. And try to show some grace to the parents doing it differently than you…what works for your family may not work for someone else’s family.
Type 2 – The Helper
Nothing makes you happier than showing the people you love that you love them. Unless, of course, it’s sharing that love beyond the walls of your home through your acts of kindness for friends, your kids’ teachers, or volunteering at an organization that speaks to your heart. You were born to support others and your child benefits by feeling loved and nurtured.
You’re the mom who listens to endless hours of stories about Pokemon or watches your child act out an episode of My Little Pony. You happily put your chores aside to sit on the floor and play Thomas the Tank Engine, listening as your little one narrates what he’s doing. And by showing your little ones that level of empathy, you’re the parent of the teen who still confides in you and feels heard and unconditionally loved.
Type 2s must learn when to back off and give their child room to step beyond your protective influence. Resist the urge to fix everything or to be quick with advice unless your child asks for it. Know that it’s actually okay, normal really, for your child to experience pain. Life brings difficulty and your child has to learn he or she can endure the challenges they’ll face and thrive. They’ll be okay, and so will you, as long as they know they can always come home to your love.
Type 3 – The Achiever
Hello, Tiger Mom! You look in the mirror and you see a winner and want your kids to experience those same feelings of accomplishment and success. You’ll do everything in your power to ensure your kids succeed, not just at one subject or activity, but at life.
You provide extra coaching for sports in addition to regular lessons; music lessons; tutors…whatever it takes to make sure your kids have opportunities to become well-rounded and to excel. Your kids will learn the value of being punctual, organized, and that hard work can pay off even more than natural talent. And they’ll never have a greater cheerleader than you.
It’s important for Type 3 parents to understand that not all children thrive under the pressure to succeed, even with encouragement. Some kids find packed schedules exhausting and will flame out at one or more activities, especially if pressure to excel supersedes the joy of the activity itself.
Type 4 – The Individualist
Type 4 parents are all about the feels. You may prefer one-on-one time with your child to joining in the Mommy and Me gangs and that’s just fine. We might find you finger-painting abstracts with your toddler or sharing your favorite Led Zeppelin album with your tween. You love sharing the things you care about and enjoy with your children. You also seem to have an uncanny intuition for what your kids need, perhaps derived from the closeness developed through one-on-one time spent with them.
Children of Type 4s always feel safe expressing themselves creatively and engaging in behavior that lies beyond the norm. Your children will thrive knowing they are free to be their true selves and have a lifelong appreciation for an exposure to arts and creative avenues. They can also develop comfort with their own emotional states and have a vocabulary for discussing them.
You do need to watch out for dark moods and melancholy which can pull you away from your child. More sensitive children may believe they’re caused your dark mood, so work on your awareness and empathy to reassure your kids when you’re in a low spell.
Type 5 – The Thinker
Time-sucking infants may not be your jam, but a curious, contemplative seven-year old who wants to ask a thousand questions? That’s more like it. You enjoy thinking, researching, learning, taking on new projects and sharing knowledge with your kids. Too much emotion, though, and Type 5 parents may shut down and become withdrawn.
Your kids will always have an opportunity to learn new things, visit and explore interesting places, or experiment with various hobbies and learning toys. You love helping them learn.
Type 5 parents must work to ensure they treat children with kindness and an appreciation for age-appropriate learning. They also need to remember that children need socialization with others even though they may loath social encounters themselves. Sending children to preschool or hiring a nanny who can take kids on playdates can help. Also take care to show kindness to children who may not share your passion for learning but have other interests of their own.
Type 6 – The Loyalist
As a Type 6, you work to create a warm, nurturing environment. You have a well-appointed home that speaks to ease and comfort. Yet, you may be the mom hovering at the edge of the playground, ready to zoom in and grab your child if she climbs too high or ventures beyond your sight.
You’re one of the most supportive and compassionate parents and your kids know they can always count on you. You instill a sense of responsibility but your kids know you can cut loose and have fun, too.
While you see the limits you set as reasonable, others – including adventurous kids – may perceive you as overprotective. Watch out for kids who like to push their limits and work on overcoming your fears and becoming more open to trusting your kids and building their sense of independence.
Type 7 – The Enthusiast
You go 90 miles a minute and light up every room you enter. Type 7s earn the name The Enthusiast thanks to their abundance of energy, excitement, and zest for life. You always have something lined up to keep yourself and your kids entertained. Ziplining, theme parks, and adventures of all kinds make Type 7s the “fun parent.” You take on every adventure with love and…enthusiasm. You love planning new activities – with or without your kids. The frenetic pace can overwhelm quieter, less adventurous children and your packed calendar means your kids perceive you as unavailable.
The kids of Type 7s can learn to live fearlessly and joyfully. And your kids will always feel like they have a buddy since your joy for life makes it easy for you to relate to kids.
It’s essential that you make time for the tedious every day chores that require your effort like helping with homework, cooking meals, grocery shopping. Boring as they may be, they give kids a sense of security and they’re basically essential to survival. Also, keep in mind that some kids need more down time and may feel overwhelmed by your energy and activity level.
Type 8 – The Challenger
As a Type 8, you may own your own business or work in a leadership role and running your home like you run your business makes sense…to you. You know that it’s a dog eat dog world and you intend to prepare your kids to face the challenges awaiting them in the cold, cruel world. In your house, you live by the motto, “My way or the highway,” and when your kids fail to toe the line they will feel your wrath.
All the while you work to prepare your kids to take responsibility for themselves and stand strong in the face of the world’s challenges, you do so out of a sense of needing to protect them. Your kids know that you will confront any threat to their well-being head on, taking down any threats to the ones you love. You would do anything for the sake of your children and only want to help them succeed.
The Type 8 parent’s personality looms large and sometimes kids may feel like there’s no room for them to have their own wants, needs, or personalities. You must take care to let your children individuate and not feel as if they are extensions of yourself. Honor your kids as individuals by giving them space to form their own opinions and interests without judging or challenging them.
Type 9 – The Peacemaker
Oh, Type 9…you’re the parent we all wish we had…okay, maybe that’s just me. You approach parenting challenges with a laid-back attitude, creative problem solving, and a sense of humor. You have a genuine interest in most everyone you meet and people love you because they sense no judgment from you and you have a gift for accepting people right where they are. Discipline might be your kryptonite and when you can avoid dealing with it, you do.
Could any kids feel more loved and accepted than those of a Type 9? Your kids know they are free to be just who they were meant to be.
The challenge of your laid back attitude may be ostrich syndrome…sticking your head in the sand and avoiding conflicts. Remember that kids need boundaries and structure sometimes so they have a firm footing from which to explore life figure out who they are. Giving your kids this balance can make them feel important as the object of your attention and effort.