I want to do a series of articles about Myers-Briggs for kids. I’m kind of obsessed with it, but in a good way – at least, I think so. Myers-Briggs is a personality awareness system in which you identify your personality type based on four different aspects. I think it’s really useful and informative – it can help you understand why you think the way you do, and understand your reactions to different situations.
There are lots of places on the web where you can take a quiz and help identify your own Myers-Briggs profile, which is fascinating and I recommend it to all. But what really keeps churning in my own head is how identifying the Myers-Briggs profile of your kids can help you as a parent.
For example, say you’re an introvert, and one of your kids is an extrovert. Knowing and understanding this difference can help you understand their reactions, which can give you a lot more patience. You can find a way to explain things to them that they’ll relate to. You can put yourself in their shoes, then figure out a solution that works for all.
I think kids can change a lot as they grow, and labelling their personality can seem limiting. Also, “they” say that the four elements of the Myers-Briggs profile emerge slowly, so if your children are younger than 12 or so, it might not be straightforward to figure out all four paramenters. But I am amazed at how knowing even a little bit about their current Myers-Briggs codes has helped me know them, understand them.
(Just between you and me: this book on Myers-Briggs for kids is basically a handbook on parenting your specific child. TRUST ME, it’s uncanny.)
The four codes are these: E/I (Extrovert versus Introvert); N/S (iNtuitive versus Sensory); T/F (Thinking versus Feeling); and P/J (Perceiving versus Judging). Today I’m going to chat a bit about the first code: Extrovert versus Introvert. Pull up a chair!
Most people think they know what the words “extrovert” and “introvert” mean, but it’s less about liking or enjoying the company of people, than about where you get your energy from. Extroverts gain energy from being inside groups of people, from spending time with others. Introverts gain energy from alone time, from introspection.
Just because you’re an extrovert doesn’t mean you won’t like reading, say, or long distance running. Just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you shy away from parties or meeting new people. The key is how you feel after such an activity. If a party situation leaves you feeling drained so that you need a nap afterwards – or maybe even an extended trip to the bathroom in the middle of the festivities for a few moments of recharging alone time – then that’s an introvert. If a party leaves you feeling revved up, ready to go, looking for more more more, then that’s an extrovert.
Children tend to develop one of the four “inside” codes as their dominant code early in life – that is, one of their I/N status or T/F status should be apparent from an early age. I’ve read that the next easiest code to identify is E/I, so if you’ve got a prechooler or older, you should be able to figure out whether they are an introvert or extrovert.
For example, I’ve got two introverts – Captain Jelly Belly and Little Miss Sunshine. The Captain loves school, plays with his friends all the live long day. But when I pick him up from school, he’s exhausted. He is whiny and cranky and just needs to come home and sit alone, reading or playing a video game, so he can get his head together. From a very young age he’d wander into our playroom and start up a game and play happily by himself for hours at a time. At a party, he participates but if it goes on too long, he’ll ask to go home.
The Little Miss is quite similar – at her own birthday party, she went upstairs at the hour and a half mark, not because she was upset or anything, but she just wanted to play by herself in her room. Ten minutes of recharge time and she was back in the game. After two hours of preschool, she’s cranky and tired – I learned this year that I can’t even turn the radio on when driving her home, she needs silence to be alone with her thoughts. The Little Miss just adores people – at stores or while visiting family she’ll strike up conversations, ask tons of questions about the other person, make a million new best friends. But there’s a limit – after so much socializing, she just needs to be alone or she’ll melt down.
Gal Smiley, on the other hand, is my extrovert child. She’s nowhere near as chatty as the Little Miss, and doesn’t especially welcome new friends. She has her circle of buddies and few newcomers are allowed. But being around other people is what really makes her wild with energy. When I pick her up from school, the first thing she asks – EVERY SINGLE DAY – is who can we invite over. And if we can’t have a playdate, can she stay and play with her friends on the school yard? Preferrably FOREVER, or at least until dinner? Dragging her away from any party or social event is terrible, she never, ever wants to leave and the very second I have her out the door, she’s all about, can I ask so-and-so over? Can we have a party? Can we go over to someone’s house?
MORE PEOPLE, PLEASE.
Poor Gal Smiley’s worst nightmare is a sick day. A whole day, sitting quietly on the couch, resting, ALONE? Shivers – at least let her make a few phone calls, for heaven’s sake. At night, she’s our hardest to put to bed because she would rather we never leave the room. It has little to do with fear of the dark or anything, she just doesn’t want to be alone because that is BORING. She’d love nothing more than my full attention, all the time, but when she can’t have it she will make do with the TV – hours and hours of it, if possible. Anything to feed off someone else’s voice, personality, presence.
Good thing we gave her a brother and a sister to keep her somewhat sated.
So how does this help me? I’m an introvert too, so I absolutely understand the Captain and the Gal. When they need alone time, I give them all the space they need (and appreciate having my own quiet time, too). I understand when they get stressed or tired from too much activity, too much time spent out of the house in the company of others.
It mostly helps me work with Gal Smiley, though. It’s a challenge for me sometimes to give her the attention she needs but I understand why she needs me around more than the others do. I try very hard to arrange extra playdates for her, and when we go to the park or a friend’s house, I bring books and coloring for the other two so we can extend our stay for the sake of the Gal. And I do try hard, very hard, to be patient with her when she doesn’t want to go home, and doesn’t want to go to bed.
So think about how your child likes to be fed their energy – through quiet alone time, or through spending time with friends. Then feed them as appropriate.
Next time: Intuitive versus Sensory.