Improve your relationship with your kids by taking the MBTI
“If I step on one more Lego, I’m gonna lose it . . .”
Ever said this? You’re probably a parent. Those little plastic blocks hurt. And don’t get me started on dinosaur figurines. The spiky ones are the worst offenders.
But for every wince-inducing moment, parenting can be incredibly rewarding. One way to make it even more rewarding is to learn your personality type. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality assessment is a great way to do that.
To be clear, your personality type doesn’t determine whether or not you’re a good parent. Any type can thrive as a parent or caregiver. Here are some of the things the MBTI assessment can help you do:
- Pinpoint your strengths and blind spots as they relate to parenting and relationships
- Offer insight about the home environment you can create to facilitate growth for everyone
- Find ways to improve communication with your kids
- Motivate you to connect with your family on a deeper level
An overlooked parenting tool: self-awareness
As a parent or caregiver, it’s important to meet children where they are. Many of us might have grown up in rigid authoritarian households where “my way or the highway” was a common theme. While our parents probably did the best they could, we can choose a different approach for our families. As frustrating as it can be to try to see eye-to-eye with a toddler or teenager, validating their experiences and viewpoints is critical. It’s part of shaping them into responsible, mature, emotionally intelligent adults.
And hey, maybe they’ll still actually like being around you when they’re older.
This also aligns with a tip from MBTI expert Judy Grutter, who says it’s the responsibility of the person who knows their personality type to adapt to the needs of the person who doesn’t know their type.
And since the MBTI is a tool for adults, you probably won’t know your kids’ types for a while. In the meantime, you have to put in the work to find common ground and bridge the gaps. But before you can validate them, you need to focus inward for a bit. The key? Self-awareness. Myer-Briggs® type can help show you the way.
Let’s say you’re one of the personality types who prefers extraversion (ENFJ, ENFP, ENTJ, ENTP, ESFJ, ESFP, ESTJ, ESTP). But your child seems to want to play alone and only has a few friends. Based on your own preferences, you might wonder if they’re sad or depressed. With good intentions, you might even verbalize your concerns regularly with questions like, “hey are you ok?” or “what’s wrong?” As an introverted kid, I often got asked if I was in a bad mood when I wasn’t. I was perfectly content in my solitude. It was just difficult for the more extraverted people in my family to understand.
On the flip side, parents with introverted personality types (INFJ, INFP, INTJ, INTP, ISFJ, ISFP, ISTJ, ISTP) can find themselves triggered by kids who don’t view the world through their same lens. My son’s outgoing, bubbly nature means he can strike up a conversation with anyone at the grocery store. Meanwhile, I’d rather stay in my “shopping bubble” while I figure out which pasta sauce will go with the recipe I bookmarked.
How one ISTJ dad prevented conflict with his ENFP daughter
Extraversion and introversion are just the tip of the iceberg. Things get even more complex when your four-letter personality type is the exact opposite of your child’s. Here’s a great example from a self-aware ISTJ dad with a (possibly) ENFP daughter:
“My daughter collects things. One day (in hindsight maybe I was having a bad day) I went into her room and said, ‘you’ve got a lot of crap in here, you need to clean it out.’
And she yells at me, ‘it’s not crap! It all has meaning to me!’
If I didn’t understand MBTI type, that could have been a very ugly situation. I probably would have yelled back about her doing what I ask instead of arguing. I might have even started demanding she throw things away. But instead, I put my hands up and said, ‘OK, I get it.’ And I walked away and never said a word about it again. If it means that much to you, go ahead and keep it. And over time she has gotten rid of some of that stuff.
From a parenting perspective, that’s huge. If you’re a parent and can understand your type, you can modify how you parent and it’s really good for the kids’ development. As parents, maybe you’ve read a book about how to parent. You have to establish rules and show the kids who’s in charge. My wife has read those books too. But knowing something about their types is so important.
My other kid is different. We might go somewhere and he’ll play with the other kids for 15 or 20 minutes, but then he’s done. Other parents might say, ‘We’re at Johnny’s house and you need to go play with Johnny.’ But knowing what I know about his [preferences], I instead say, ‘OK, go do what you want to do. I know what you need – you need to go take some time out away from people and that’s fine.’
That awareness allows you to make different decisions about what your kids are doing and it’s huge.”
In this example, the dad’s self-awareness served as a conflict prevention tool – and may allow for deeper connection with his kids in the future because he’s doing his best to meet them where they are. Even though their preferences may trigger some stress for him, he can still respect their way of being in the world.
Interested in learning more about parenting triggers by type? I’ll cover that in a separate blog post.
True parent-child connection: the key to a better future with your kids
MBTI type can be a powerful parenting tool because it shows you your own strengths, blind spots, and motivators. In turn, it helps you become more aware of how you may have misunderstood your kids or expected something out of them they can’t give you right now.
Without knowledge about different personalities and type dynamics, it’s easy to unintentionally give people the message that who they are isn’t good enough. True parent-child connection happens when parents understand the differences between personality types.
Want to take the assessment today? Here’s how. We’re rooting for you and your family.