Parenting and personality Q&A with Dr. Yvonne Nelson-Reid

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Parenting and personality Q&A with Dr. Yvonne Nelson-Reid

Posted 03 November 2023 by
Vanessa Bradford, MBTIonline Contributing Writer
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Your personality type shapes the way you parent. And your child’s personality type shapes the way they view their upbringing. In fact, the kind of childhood you intend for them to have might look vastly different than the one they experience. Whether you’re a seasoned parent, stepparent, dedicated caregiver, or you’re just starting out, there’s a lot to gain from learning about the personality types within your own family.

On a recent episode of The Myers-Briggs Company Podcast, parenting and personality expert Dr. Yvonne Nelson-Reid spoke about this at length. And she was generous enough to include examples from her own life as a mother of five children. Here are some important questions she answered during the first half of the episode (quotes slightly edited for clarity):

When can I introduce the concept of personality types to my children?

During the episode, Dr. Nelson-Reid uses the term “type language” to refer to the way people talk about personality – specifically in relation to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) and Murphy-Meisgeier Type Indicator for Children® (MMTIC) assessments. For example, words like Extraversion, Introversion, and even preferences are considered type language. While we wouldn’t typically use type language with small children, we can begin to introduce it as they grow up. This is especially helpful as a child’s personality preferences become more obvious.

Type language gives your entire family a framework to better understand similarities and differences without ever putting anyone in a box. No matter what your child’s personality type is, Dr. Nelson-Reid recommends exposing them to a wide range of life experiences so their natural preferences can develop in a well-rounded way:

“Extraversion–Introversion is recognized at a very young age. I often said I could almost tell in my pregnancies which child preferred Extraversion and Introversion. It seemed so obvious. The dominant process – that’s the core of the personality that tends to develop first – depends on whether that preference is encouraged or discouraged in the home. So presenting opportunities for kids to experience all the preferences when growing up really provides them with that healthy environment to develop their preferences naturally. Provide options and you'll likely see their natural type come through in their choices and their behaviors.”

Does personality type change? How can I help my child’s personality develop?

As parents, we don’t set out to stifle our children’s personality types. That said, most of us don’t want our kids to struggle through life. So when a child’s personality seems different from our own, we might try to “correct” their behavior. Sure, some of that might be necessary for their safety or success. But it’s also important to get curious about (and encourage) our children’s natural personality preferences. Dr. Nelson-Reid begins with an important question for parents, followed by a thought-provoking example from one of her sessions:

“Are children's preferences at home encouraged and supported in the family? If so, then they're likely going to develop them naturally. But if they're discouraged, or if a parent sees their way as the only way, then a child may act against their own preferences to please their parent.

There was this family that I was working with – a mother and her son. The mom set up the session with me because she was worried that her child was not getting deep into any activity, sport, or hobby. Rather, he was kind of jumping around from one thing to another. As it turned out, her son prefers ESFP, so he has dominant Extraverted Sensing.

For anyone who knows what Extraverted Sensing means, it's about wanting to try everything. So it was absolutely no surprise that this is how her son verified his type. Because he wanted adventure [and to] experience the world. It's about trying everything that he can and everything in the here and now. After going through this session with the mom and her son, the mom felt relieved to know that this was actually natural for her son. And her son was relieved to know that it was also okay for him to be him.”

My child and I have different personality preferences. Any advice?

During the episode, host Melissa Summer mentioned that when her stepson comes home, she wants to ask him a lot of questions about what’s going on in his life, like what he did at work and what his weekend plans are. Melissa’s preference for Judging means she likes to plan ahead, so it’s natural for her to wonder what other’s plans are too. But if her stepson is less than enthusiastic about her questions, it’s likely that he has a different personality preference. Differences like this are common in every parent-child relationship. So what’s the best way to handle them? Dr. Nelson-Reid offers some great advice:

“I'd say to the parent, honor your type preferences first, then stretch to your child's personality type. For example, a parent who prefers Introversion may not want every minute of every day to be filled with people and activities. Whereas a child who prefers Extraversion may want to hang out with friends or have a lot of playdates and sleepovers. So you can imagine that this could cause a bit of a clash. I would say compromise and open communication go a long way in a scenario like this one.

It comes down to respecting all personality types and differences. First you need to know what those are, of course. And then again, compromise. Here’s another example. Let’s say a parent who prefers Judging may want to know what everyone has planned for the weekend, which might be frustrating to the kid. The parent could say, ‘My love for planning means I would like to know what we're going to do on Saturday. When I ask what you have scheduled, it is to help me plan my day more than to interfere with your freedom.’ [As a parent] I love that line because I don't even necessarily need to know what all the details are. But I want to know how I can go about planning my day with my preference for Judging.”

Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll cover the second half of the episode. In the meantime: