Every child wants to be understood by their parents. Every child wants to be appreciated for what makes them unique. Every child wants an opportunity to be heard, and to be allowed to be themselves. Most parents want to give this sense of understanding and individuality to their children, but it’s easier said than done. I think almost every adult I talk to in some depth will eventually say that they wish their parents had understood them better. While no parent can be perfect, a knowledge of personality type can make understanding and fostering your child’s unique character a whole lot easier.
Now before I go on, I have to admit I’m no perfect parent, and I don’t always understand my children like I should. There also are plenty of amazing parents out there who have no knowledge of MBTI® whatsoever. For me personally, and I think for many others, having a knowledge of the personality type can make the challenges of parenting a whole lot easier!
When I had my oldest daughter, Melody, I assumed she would go the typical route of young girls and be interested in princesses and pretty dresses and hair bows. What I got was a fiery little tomboy who loves dragons and dinosaurs and wanted her hair cut short so she didn’t have to bother with brushing it. This isn’t something I pushed her into. I didn’t surround her with “boy” toys and try to coerce her into those interests; from an early age she rejected princesses in favor of superheroes, and dolls in favor of plastic dinosaurs. She preferred sweatpants and t-shirts over dresses, and would rather play Minecraft than have anything to do with Disney Channel tween girl nonsense. I didn’t do anything to make her that way. She had a quiet intensity from the moment she was born. She was a serious little baby, who turned into a blunt, straightforward little toddler, and now she’s my beloved, intelligent INTJ daughter.
Knowing my children’s personality types has helped me so much as a parent. I know my ESFP step-son needs a lot more hugs and physical affirmation when he’s upset; whereas I know my INTJ daughter needs more physical space and time to think when she’s upset. If I treated them both the same when they were upset, one of them would be incredibly irritated. Knowing what works for each child helps me as a mom, every single day, tremendously. If you know your child is an SJ type, then you’re going to want to provide that child with a more predictable routine and they’ll thrive under more clear black and white guidelines. If you have an SP child you’re going to want to teach your child through hands-on experiences, and let them learn by ‘doing’. If you have an NF child, you’ll need to be more gentle in your criticism, as any kind of conflict can make them incredibly stressed out; you’ll need to be open to their endless imaginings and their deep emotional feelings.
How Can I Know My Child’s MBTI Type?
Knowing the personality type of your child can be kind of tricky, but it’s worth it! There are times when it’s difficult figure out the entire four letter type of a child early on because children haven’t fully developed and matured in regards to their cognitive functions. I’ve been doing a lot of research into defining a child’s type and it’s something that I am hoping to blog more about in the future. However, to begin, it can be somewhat easier to define what temperament group your child falls into; are they an SP Artisan, an SJ Guardian, an NF Idealist, or an NT Rational? Knowing this alone can be a huge help to you as a parent!
How to Figure Out if Your Child is an Introvert or an Extrovert
You’ll be able to figure out whether your child is an extrovert or introvert by looking at them and their interactions with others. Are they more independent and energized by being alone? Are they more energized by being in a group? Most kids are going to want friends; so you can’t simply call them an extrovert because they want friends. But you can tell by looking at them after social interactions to see if they seem exhausted and want to be alone, or if they seem energized and ‘amped up’ by the experience. You have to understand that extroverts and introverts both need some alone time and some social time, but the real question is which interaction gives them the most energy. Generally speaking, an extroverted child will be more dependent on social interaction and will be more energized by this. They may think out loud, and have a louder volume to their voice than an introverted child. And generally speaking, an introvert will be able to pursue things better independently, and will be more energized after some alone time to play, learn or imagine on their own. They may think and reflect more before speaking, and may not speak as loudly. However, there are variations among types, and if your child grows up in a loud family, they may have more of a tendency to be loud just because that’s the only way they can be heard. Always remember, the MBTI only tells you so much, environment is also another huge factor.
What About the Other Functions?
If I were to explain every other cognitive function here, it would take a while. If you want to read more about the cognitive functions, you can do that here. With kids it can be especially hard to figure out all four letters, so I’m going to just give some basic clues to figuring out your child’s type.
SJ (Sensing/Judging) Type Children – The Guardians
The most common personality, SJ’s make up roughly 45% of the population. SJ children are usually responsible and reliable kids, who value stability very highly. They will work better in a scheduled environment with clear rules and guidelines, and will like structure and traditions. They are going to be practical and concrete in their thinking, regardless of their thinking or feeling preference. They usually do well in elementary school, since elementary teaching attracts SJ types. They learn best through step-by-step instructions, and are often very service-oriented. Your SJ child will thrive on a schedule, with clearly defined expectations. A sure way to stress out your SJ child is to make sudden, last-minute changes in plans, have an unpredictable routine, or to teach every lesson through metaphor and theory. Be straightforward, practical, kind, and conscientious of your SJ child’s need for order and structure and the practical.
SP (Sensing/Perceiving) Type Children – The Artisans
SP children are the second most common type, making up 27% of the population. SP’s are spontaneous, active, hands-on, “here and now” children. In fact, no type lives in the present moment more than the SP types. They make very playful, adaptable, energetic children who usually think in very concrete terms. They’re more likely to be kinesthetic (hands-on) learners, and will be drawn to things involving sensation; beautiful colored paints, thrill-inducing roller coasters, building sandcastles, or just jumping and dancing and playing as actively as possible. In school, they can sometimes be mislabeled as ADHD because of their need to move and be active; they can be extremely intelligent, but prefer to learn by ‘doing’ rather than sitting still. They usually excel in either athletics, craftsmanship, or the arts. A sure way to stress out an SP child is to force them into a very tight, rigid schedule, make them sit still for an extended period of time, speak to them in theoretical, abstract terms, or give them limited opportunities to work with their hands. Try to give them plenty of opportunities to be active, build and craft, and explore their creative side. Be open-minded, playful, and active with your SP child and give them plenty of opportunities to use their physical abilities.
NF (Intuitive/Feeling) Type Children – The Idealists
The NF types make up roughly 16% of the population. These children are highly imaginative, passionate, and people-oriented. They think abstractly, looking for patterns, and meanings behind behaviors. They want to understand others and themselves, and usually make excellent listeners. They are highly ethical, and are extremely sensitive to criticism. They are the daydreamers, the poets, the romantics, and they tend to be very complex. To sensor types, they can seem strange or not realistic or concrete enough. However, these types are some of the best diplomats and counselors out there. A sure way to stress out an NF type child is to be overly critical, not listen to their daydreams, to call their idealistic thoughts silly, or to make them focus most of their attentions on the concrete or here-and-now. They are future-minded, idealistic people who need time to express or imagine their rich inner worlds or their dreams. Be open-minded, demonstrative, and as gentle as possible with your NF type child.
NT (Intuitive/Thinking) Type Children – The Rationals
The NT types make up about 10% of the population. These children are the skeptics, the problem-solvers, the analyzers of the world. They are driven to understand how the world works, and are usually visionaries when it comes to figuring out ways to earn money, conduct science experiments, or design something (their interest in these fields will depend sometimes on which NT type they are). They are future-minded and theoretical, and will ask endless questions. They often seem debative as children, because they need to figure out the core truth of any and everything they’re going to accept as fact. They don’t take anything at face value, but must learn to accept a truth through questioning it. They are ingenious, logical, often strong-willed, and strategic. They tend to have a harder time in elementary school, where their debative or theoretical minds aren’t as compatible with a highly SJ-composed teaching community. It’s not that they can’t do well in their studies – they often get excellent grades; but they can be seen as too debative for teachers who want them to sit still, listen, and accept without questioning. The best way to stress out an NT type child is to shut them down and not let them question something important, to explain things emotionally instead of logically, to expect them to conform to something just because it’s “the way it’s always been done”. Be patient with NT types, give them a chance to ask questions, and give them opportunities to experiment, whether it be with science or a new money-making idea.