Type: Help for Understanding Your Children
a parent have you, with wringing of hands, looked at one of your children
and thought, "I don't understand how you can be so different from the
rest of us"?
of us at some time question why our offspring are the way they are. If
the scenario goes beyond hand-wringing, we may lay down the law to the
"different" child and say: "You will change!" And does the child really,
truly change? In most cases, the answer is a loud "HA!" So we struggle
along, hoping for the best, and reaching deep inside ourselves to understand
the "different" one.
there is hope, not for changing our children's behavior, not for excusing
it, but for better understanding it. Psychologists are now revisiting
a centuries-old answer to the question of differences. Back in the fifth
century B.C. Hippocrates believed that people generally fall into one
of four groups of temperament. Over the centuries some scholars rejected
the concept, but others kept this theory alive.
most students of human behavior use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®
to look at characteristics shared by large numbers of people. The
Myers-Briggs is a painless (all answers are ok; none is wrong) evaluation
tool available through counselors trained to give it. It places
the test-taker into one of 16 broad categories, or types, based
on combinations of eight letters: I for Introvert, E
for Extravert, S for Sensing, N for iNtuition, F
for Feeling, T for Thinking, P for Perceiving, and
J for Judging.
sixteen types are a bit much to talk about here, but lots of resources
are available at libraries and bookstores if you're interested in knowing
the full story. (Temperament
Research Institute is on the web or call 1-800-700-4874.)
now, look at the basic fourcalled SP, SJ, NT,
and NFas described by psychologist David Keirsey. Keirsey
believes that each type represents a pattern. Here's a thumbnail sketch
of each of them:
action and a feeling of living on the edge, makes decisions quickly
by picking up cues from others, values freedom and independence; good
at persuading others.
dependable, likes to feel a sense of belonging, follows rules; strong
sense of responsibility.
about the world and what makes things tick, values ideas, wants to
be competent; often detached in dealing with people.
people, usually upbeat, values integrity; frequently takes on role
of catalyst; empathetic; likes harmony among people.
these types change as a child grows up? Not really. No one acts out a
canned script, but in general people stay true to their type. Of course,
if a child has been disciplined to perform according to a parent's style
rather than their own, the child may change and live life in a style more
natural to him or her. Most adult children, however, still have many of
the same basic characteristics that they had when toddlers.
following sketches of four adults illustrate how their present behavior
reflects their lifelong types.
an SJ, was an orderly child who always looked forward to finding
a new diary in her Christmas stocking. Class president all four years
of high school, she was also a leader in college. Today she blends
her life with spouse and two children with a busy career.
an SP, was never much of a scholar. Always on the edge of being
in trouble, she could have made good grades but was more interested
in placating anyone who questioned or criticized her behavior. Now
with two children, she and her husband have invested in a risky but
exciting business venture.
an NF, outgoing and friendly, has always been sensitive and
warm-hearted. More concerned with her friends than her grades, she
nevertheless made good on her scholastic commitments. Idealistic,
she looks for good in everyone and thrives on the relationships she
now enjoys, with spouse and son at home, and at work as an executive
an NT, was easily fascinated by take-apart toys as a young
child and later with mechanical things. He rarely sought attention
from others in his class. His grades reflected serious concentraton
in areas that interested him and good work in other areas. Today he
is unmarried and a computer software specialist dedicated to his work.
son or daughter also has characteristics that are unique to his or her
temperament, characteristics that will tend to follow them life long.
Look at your children with an eye to discovering these characteristics.
As on-going observation revises or confirms your initial sense of their
type, use these suggestions, based on what you see:
Keep in mind that typing offers useful guidelines, not personality
profiles cast in concrete. You'll see ways a child fits and doesn't
fit their primary pattern.
your child's basic personality. Young children, wanting to please,
may act as you want, but in the long run they will be happier if they
act according to type. You run the risk of their rebelling and the
havoc that brings if you try too hard to dominate them. Type, however,
is no excuse for poor behavior.
Base discipline on type. Ask the NF to go to their room. Take
a favorite toy away from the NT. Explain to the SJ exactly
how you want them to behave and when. Take away some of the SP's
freedom (if you can catch him or her!).
one type isn't superior to another. The boisterous SP may shine
at selling wrapping paper for the school while the quiet, studious
SJ sneers at the prospect of hawking wares.
the early grades help your child's teacher understand their type.
About 40% of the children in a class will be SPs; almost two-thirds
of teachers are SJs. Does this often cause classroom problems?
what type you are and what that type adds to the parent-child relationship.
If you are an SJ and like things neat and orderly but your
child is a slap-dash SP, instead of demanding that their room
be kept ship-shape every day, allow the child to shut the door on
a mess from time to time.
forget that your child is an individual. When in doubt, let your personal
knowledge of the child be your guide. If you observe your children
carefully, you can spot their basic types and use the information
to help them grow into happy, successful (whatever that means to them)
adults. Eventually, when your children are capable, competent adults,
but very different from each other, you can accept the questioning
comments of friends, smile, and say, "Vive la différence!"