In the world of parenting, there are thousands of “how-to” articles written by numerous different parents. It can be overwhelming to read through mommy blogs, parenting books, and magazine articles and see the sheer number of differing viewpoints! Do I let my baby cry-it-out or do I rock them to sleep? Should I practice positive discipline or use consequences? Should I feed my child organic or should I pay my rent this month and buy regular eggs? The simplest decisions suddenly seem monumental and challenging.
Not everyone is going to parent the same way. We all have our different styles and approaches. Perhaps you feel especially misunderstood as a parent. The truth is, you’re not alone. There are so many others out there who are struggling like you are; and I believe personality type has a part to play in this. For example, an ESTJ mother is going to parent very differently from an INFP father. If the INFP father reads the ESTJs parenting blog, they might feel ill-equipped to parent in the “right” way according to the ESTJ. So what are the unique struggles that each personality type faces when they become a parent? Thanks to some helpful books like Please Understand Me II, MotherStyles, and the MBTI® Manual, I was able to get some ideas.
This post is part one of a series that will talk about the struggles each personality type faces as a parent. If you want to see the Struggles of Intuitive Thinking (NT) Parents, Click Here. If you want to read about Sensing-Perceiving (SP) parents, Click Here. I will be posting about Sensing-Judging (SJ) parents next week.
The ENFJ Parent
ENFJs are supportive, nurturing parents who do their best to bring out the full potential in each of their children. They have incredible insights into their children’s abilities and skills and want to see them fulfill their dreams. They inspire their children to believe in their hopes and visions, and they go to great lengths to make sure each child’s unique individuality is appreciated.
ENFJs have very strong values and ideals that they hope to instill in their children. While they love to inspire uniqueness and individuality, if the child decides to disagree with one of the ENFJs core ideals or beliefs it can be heartbreaking for the parent. They may feel lost and fragmented as the child they love so much has chosen a path that doesn’t align with their own deeply-held values.
Another struggle ENFJ parents can face is that they are so in tune with their children, and so aware of their moods and feelings, that they can be mislabeled as “smothering”. As children reach adolescence they may resent the ENFJs insightful presence and keen eye. They may want to just go out and have fun and resist the ENFJs encouragement to keep their eye on the future and their goals. ENFJs believe a young life is a terrible thing to waste, and may struggle with wanting to give their child freedom yet simultaneously fearing that they will make detrimental choices or squander their potential.
Like all NF parents, ENFJs may have a hard time dealing with disharmony in the home. ENFJs like to create an atmosphere of peace and cooperation, and when there are rivalries or disagreements it can put them in emotional turmoil. They may feel such a strong urge to fix the problem, that they don’t allow natural consequences to take place. They may also feel burned out and depleted if disharmony is frequent.
A Tip for ENFJ Parents:
Get some time for yourself. Even as an extrovert, you need to be able to separate yourself from the emotions and moods of other people in your home. Take a walk outside, a drive in the car, whatever you have to do to wind down. This can also give you the chance to tap into your Intuition and Sensing to avoid overusing your dominant Feeling function. By giving your strong Feeling side a break, you can gain a better grasp and understanding of home situations that are causing you concern, and avoid over-stressing yourself.
The ENFP Parent
ENFP parents are full of adventure and playfulness. They love to watch their children explore the world around them and experience new discoveries and thrills. They instill in their children a sense of wonder and curiosity, and give them the freedom to develop their own preferences and unique abilities. ENFPs put the fun in parenting, as they never seem to lose their child-like wonder and enthusiasm about life.
The ENFP parent is so in tune with their child’s feelings and emotions, that they may struggle with over-identifying. They feel pain when their children feel pain, they feel heartbreak when their children feel heartbreak. The ENFP may find him or herself overwhelmed by the emotions and moods of their children, and it may take a toll emotionally over time.
While ENFPs love to explore the wonder and beauty the world has to offer, they hate the mundane daily rituals of parenting. Washing dishes, being on time for school drop-offs, keeping up with the laundry, all these things can feel frustrating and mind-numbing to the adventurous ENFP.
Discipline is another area of frustration for the ENFP. They have a hard time being consistent, as they try so hard to empathize and identify with their children. They may struggle with being of two minds about what to do or how to manage disobedience. This can be especially difficult if they are married to a firmer spouse who disagrees with their more lenient form of discipline.
A Tip for ENFP Parents:
Make time for yourself! ENFP parents are at a greater risk of burnout than certain other personality types. This is because they like to be engaged in so many activities and ideas, and they are so emotionally connected to their children. It’s important for the ENFP to take some time to focus on their own needs. Take a quick jog around the neighborhood, enjoy a luxurious hot bath, indulge in a catnap. Try to separate yourself from the emotional dilemmas your children are facing for a time, and try to get some perspective in the peace and quiet of your own mind.
The INFJ Parent
INFJ parents are incredibly devoted to their children, and strive to give them the nurturing, loving support they need to be confident, independent adults. They believe in leading by example and don’t believe in talking down to their children or controlling them. They are thoughtful, committed, and extremely in tune to their children’s emotions and moods. They want nothing more than to help their children feel comfortable in their own skin, valued for their uniqueness, and equipped to achieve their dreams.
INFJ parents hold themselves to nearly impossible standards, and as a result are extremely hard on themselves if they can’t achieve their ideal. They will berate themselves for even the most minor failures, and can get stuck overanalyzing how they could have done better. They can also have very idealist expectations of their children, although they are more likely to blame themselves for their children’s mistakes than their children themselves. Overall, parenting is serious business for the INFJ and they will sometimes get too wrapped up in trying to be “perfect”.
INFJ parents also struggle with the nitty-gritty of everyday life. They love to focus on the big picture and the dreams and prospects of their children. They feel drained when they have to spend a large amount of time focusing on details like household organization, laundry, meal planning, and tidying up. However, when under a great deal of stress, the INFJ may over-exercise this area and become obsessed with cleaning and organization.
INFJ parents are more prone to burnout than many other types. The noise and hubbub of family life can be overstimulating for them, and the immense concern they put into handling their children’s emotions can cause them to feel overwhelmed. INFJs are known for “feeling” their children’s emotions as if they are their own, and so they may have difficulty differentiating what they feel and what their children feel.
A Tip for INFJ Parents:
INFJ parents need to get breaks to separate themselves from the emotions, moods, and noises of family life. INFJs are introverts who need that quiet solitude to tap into their rich intuitive process. Taking a quiet walk, spending time in meditation or prayer, or journaling can all help them to find balance, purpose, and internal harmony.
The INFP Parent
INFP parents are extremely understanding and open-minded towards their children. They long to give them the freedom to explore their dreams and hopes without judgment or being controlled. They are extremely aware of their children’s emotions and make excellent listeners and companions. They try to find ways to bring “magic” into their children’s lives. They use their playful nature and rich imagination to create memorable experiences they hope their children will treasure forever.
INFP parents often feel overburdened by societal pressures when it comes to parenting. They love to be free to be spontaneous with their children, to explore their rich imaginations and ideas fully. They dislike the mundane details of parenting; laundry, dishes, getting kids to school on time. They feel stressed if they have to focus too heavily on nitty-gritty maintenance.
INFPs, like most other NF types, also struggle with separating themselves from their children’s emotions and moods. They like to give each person in their family their full focus, and may struggle with knowing who to pay attention to at any given time. If there is conflict, or a disagreement in parenting styles, they can feel overwhelmed with trying to decide which decision is the right one. They can feel torn between maintaining harmony and wanting to make the right decision. They can also over-identify with their children and feel crushed when their children experience pain. This can make discipline extremely distressing for the INFP parent.
A Tip for INFP Parents:
INFP parents need blocks of free time, either alone or with their children one-on-one, where they can engage their playful, imaginative side. They need to take breaks from structure, rules, and mundane details and just enjoy the fun and possibilities of parenting. Sometimes INFPs will need to be alone to have some time to kick back and do whatever suits their fancy. Other times they’ll want one-on-one unstructured time with their children to have a picnic, wander the woods, read some Calvin and Hobbes, or go wherever their imaginations take them.
A Fun Side Note: The Author of Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson, is rumored to be an INFP!