Friday, May 11, 2012

Parenting to the Personalities

Several weeks ago, I had one of those days where I looked at my two children and wondered, Where did I go wrong?

I KNOW. That's a terrible thing to think, but man, sometimes, when you're watching your 1st grader have a Veruca Salt-esque tantrum while your 5-year-old is giving you her hot laser eyes the thought hits: I have utterly failed as a parent.

And okay, that's the opposite of true, and I know this deep down. My girls are EXCELLENT people... So, as I scooped homemade chocolate sauce into my mouth, followed by a whipped cream chaser (my coping mechanism) I started to think, What can I do to understand these little people a bit better, to figure out why they're behaving the way they're behaving right now?

I guess timing is everything, because while the drama with my little kiddos was going down, I was also at the point in my new WIP (work-in-progress, aka, the new Young Adult novel I'm currently writing) where I like to bust out the Myers-Briggs personality tests (test HERE, type portraits HERE - thanks Maggie Stiefvater for the links!) and see what more I can learn about my characters. You know, figure out why they're behaving the way they're behaving, because after plonking out 1/3 of a first draft, I definitely have a good idea of who my half-baked characters are, but there is always room for more understanding.

And the more I worked out who my story characters are, the more I started to see that THIS might be just what I needed to understand my kids better.

Now, when it comes to children, the personality test is different than the one for the 13+ year-olds, because instead of the 4-letter type, kids have only three (preschoolers have two) - the missing letter develops as they grow. And when it comes to my kids, who I know pretty well, I didn't even take a test (although you can go ahead and google where to find kid's tests if you want), I just read through all the child types (HERE) and was easily able to pick out my kids, which my husband later read and agreed with.

***added later - I found a free, for a limited time, kids test - from the HERE ***

Annelie is an EFJ - Extroverted Feeling Judging

Gracie is an IFP - Introverted Feeling Perceiving (which was totally me as a kid)

And discovering this about them, has made a huge difference in how I've parented them the last four weeks - because though I do know my kids pretty well, having spent just about every day of their lives with them, sometimes I parent them the exact same way. And while this works sometimes (ie. when their traits are in line with each other) other times parenting them the same way creates mass amounts of conflict.

Which leads to me yelling, and Gracie's emotional meltdowns, and Annelie's spontaneous and furious hot laser eyes.

Last month, I asked for Gracie's help with something - something quick and easy. Gracie didn't want to do it, because helping me isn't high on her list of favorite things to do, not when she just wants to draw pictures or play in her room with her dolls.

"I'll do it!!!" Annelie shouted. But this didn't work for me - Annelie had already helped me when I asked, and I was too bothered by the fact that Gracie wouldn't help at all. Instead of giving Annelie the opportunity to help me elsewhere, I told her I didn't need her help and to go play. Then I yelled at Gracie, who still wouldn't budge.

EVERYTHING went downhill immediately. Gracie ran to her room sobbing, just at the thought that I was mad at her - forget the reason why I was mad, she wasn't concerned about that. Annelie hit self-destruct mode and flew into an angry rage which had me going WHERE IS THIS COMING FROM???? Because I wasn't at all mad at her, just wanted her to go play! I thought I was being nice!

In hindsight, I know where I went wrong.

Annelie's type has these qualities:
  • "They love to please people, and may go to great lengths for their approval
  • Thrive on praise, thrive on opportunities to help others, and can be crushed by criticism and rejection - cannot take criticism at all without becoming very upset
  • Their intense and passionate feelings make them hyper-sensitive"
Gracie's type on the other hand:
  • "Will resist doing tasks that seem impersonal, for which they can't see how it affects the human element (and presenting sheerly logical tasks within the framework of how performing the task helps humans will help the IFP face the task more willingly)
  • They're extremely sensitive, take things seriously and personally, and become hurt very easily
  • They are so internally focused that they are sometimes completely unaware of how anyone else is feeling - although they care deeply about others, they are self-absorbed and so may be seen as selfish"
After reading about their types, I had a-ha! moments like crazy. And I've become more careful as a parent, to make sure that meltdowns don't wreck what was once a perfectly lovely day.

(obviously this excludes the too-hungry meltdowns, and the too-tired meltdowns, and the someone-gave-Gracie-something-with-EVIL RED FOOD DYE-in it- meltdowns - although these meltdowns don't often hit when I keep the kids on schedule)

I'm also THRILLED to see that each personality type listed on the Personality Page site, lets me see how the girls learning styles are affected by their personalities, which is HUGE as far as I'm concerned!

We're in week 4 of me parenting to their personalities, and other than one mini-issue with Gracie, and one with Annelie, which I immediately resolved with a talk about their feelings (they both love to talk about their feelings) and big hugs and explanations about why I got mad, and what I expect from them next time, LIFE HAS BEEN RUNNING SMOOTHLY. As my husband travels for work several days a week, leaving me without his backup when things get overwhelming, a smoother life is quite high on my list of AWESOME THINGS.

Not to mention, the girls have taken on more responsibilities - Gracie will help with anything now, as long as she knows why her help matters, and finds a bonus in it for her. Annelie just wants to help - and now has joyfully taken on the task of preparing my breakfast every morning, in addition to other responsibilities.

Seriously, WOO HOO!



SewSweetStitches said...

What a great post! I'm going to look at those personality types and give it a try. Usually I chalk up all bad behavior to low blood sugar and UV rays (we're both allergic to hunger and sunshine haha) but I think if I understood her better, everyone would be happier. You're such a great mom :)

PS. You totally look like their older sister instead of Mommy!

Heather Kelly said...

Love this post! And, don't get me started on the red dye meltdowns... That stuff should be banned.

Thanks for the insight!

beka said...

wow. that's amazing! so cool how parenting has changed for you because you've learned that...gosh.
congrats! i'll have to keep this in mind for future kiddos

Natalie said...

I love this, too! I'm having a hard time deciding which personalities my girls are. (Especially the little one.) They act so differently when we're out of the house with other people than they do at home.

The Hockman Girl said...

How cool that you thought of doing that to better understand your girls! The personality testing is fun. I've taken the test over and again every few years to see if I've changed any. And I always come up the INFJ! Ha ha! Guess I'm stuck in a personality rut! ;)

Denise Felton said...

You are freakin awesome. Seriously. You are my Mom Hero.

Unknown said...

Marisa, I bow to your parenting skills of awesomness! That's a really great idea. I'm always looking for new ways to get through to my banshees. I have carried allysssa from walmart kicking and screaming several times... and you know that girl can scream... so I am willing to try anything to prevent meltdowns! Thanks for the great post!

Unknown said...

There are so many things about this post I love:

1. You have a new WIP! I hope I'm on the list of beta readers . . .

2. You actually care about finding out WHY your kids are behaving the way they are, which just confirms something I already new about you - that you're an awesome parent!!

I'm definitely going to click through all those links you posted, 'cause Gosh knows I often need help in the parenting department. Tell me what I'm doing wrong so I can make it right, eh?!

Anonymous said...

Heather Kelly directed me to your blog after we were talking about parenting the kids we have. Thanks for the links to kids personality tests and to bringing this up in the first place! My husband and I are opposites on the Myers-Brigg scales so you'd think we'd be tuned in to appreciating that our kids also may be very different from one another (which we are) but it hasn't impacted our parenting of them. I'm pretty sure we have an ENF and an IST. I'll definitely look into it further now that I've read your post. Thanks!

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