Myers-Briggs for Children: Thinking versus Feeling

Oh, Thinking versus Feeling. My favourite Myers-Briggs trait (SARCASM ALERT). This is the one that causes all the fights in this household among the children. JOY.

This one is all about decision making and conflict resolution. Thinkers want to do – and expect to get – what is fair. They use a set of “objective” rules and logic to decide what is fair, and will weigh the options and the rules when figuring out what they should do, and how they should be treated. One flaw here is that kids are often not the most objective people in the world, and their self-centred view can make their own version of “fair” a little bit unfair, and is that too much commentary? Because oh my heavens, I HAVE BEEN THERE.

Meanwhile, Feelers want to do – and expect to get – what makes everyone happy. They want to be liked and they can’t stand it when other people are mad or upset. They want harmony above all else, and will often set aside their own needs to make others happy. That’s a behaviour that is often praised by parents, and trust me, I do find it helpful around here, but it causes problems both when the Feeler kid gets pressured into doing stuff they really shouldn’t, and when the Feeler kid has a bad day and for once, doesn’t want to give in. Then all hell breaks loose. I WOULD IMAGINE.

The Captain is a Thinker. Oh my Lord, is he ever a Thinker. “That’s not fair!” is pretty much his life’s mantra. He has a photographic memory when it comes to things Sir Monkeypants and I have said and when we try to bend the rule by one little iota, we hear all about it, OH YES WE DO. We like to call him our little lawyer, because he’s all about the points of law around here. On the plus side, it means that when we make a rule, he follows it to the letter. He’s the easiest to put to bed, because hello, it’s bedtime, and that means time for bed, and why wouldn’t you go to bed when it’s clearly time for bed?

On the down side, he often feels like he isn’t being treated well around here because we sometimes get tired or there are special circumstances and the rules change. For example, say we tell him that he can only have cookies if he eats “a good dinner.” So he carefully eats every single bite on his plate. His sister eats everything except two bites. Both are offered a cookie, but that isn’t FAIR, because he ate everything and she didn’t, and so he ate better, so only he should get a cookie. And when we try to shrug this sort of thing off and say, “Buddy, you both ate well, that’s the end of it,” you can tell by the look in his eye that he feels betrayed. For a thinking child, being able to trust that your parents are consistent, logical, and fair is the hallmark of a good parent-child relationship.

Another thing he has a hard time with is emotional responses and emotion-based decision making. If we offer him a choice, he wants to know which one is better – if we suggest that it’s up to him, is his opinion, he doesn’t get that at all. He wants to know which is best one, objectively. Likewise, if one of his sisters gets upset over something he does not consider worthy, he almost gets angry at them for their irrational response; he’ll say, “Gal Smiley, that was NOTHING, you should NOT be upset!” I’m sure you can imagine how helpful that is to my crying daughter, but he doesn’t mean to hurt her feelings – in fact, he thinks he is helping.

Gal Smiley is a Feeler above all else. We often refer to her as the glue that holds this family together, because whenever there’s conflict, she is the one who smooths it over. If one of her siblings is upset, she’s the one who rushes to give them something special – often something of her own – to make them feel better. She is so incredibly in tune with the feelings of others – with one word from me she can read my entire mood, and often knows that I’m cranky and warns the other kids before I’m even aware of it myself. Every decision she makes is based on making other people feel happy. That’s a good thing for family harmony, although I have to be very careful to make sure that her brother and sister are not taking advantage of her (they often ask for her stuff and she hands it over readily), and it’s very hard for me to help her learn to stick up for herself when dealing with friends. Conflicts with others can make her physically ill (the infamous “stomachache”) – and getting the details out of her is almost impossible, as she feels so uncomfortable with the issue that she just doesn’t want to talk about it.

Although it’s easy to forget, feeling kids actually need a lot of affection and attention, and that’s another challenge for me. Gal Smiley is easy going and always willing to take the bum end of the deal, to accept the smallest cookie or the one toy that no one else wanted. But in return what she wants is cuddles, praise, and constant reassurance that she is loved. It’s so easy to take advantage of her feeling nature and give my attention to the ones who are complaining about fairness – especially because I’m a feeler too, and when the others complain, I feel an overwhelming need to respond and make it all better. I need to work more on letting Gal Smiley know that it’s not her job to make me feel better; that standing up for herself is just as important; and that I’ll always love her, no matter what.

I often find my thinking kid to be exasperating – having to constantly justify and explain your decisions can feel like judgement. But knowing that he just thinks differently than I do helps me be more patient, and to try to explain things in terms that he can understand. I know he needs absolute honesty above all else, and I try very hard never, ever to lie to him, not even white lies. I do try to make him see why harmony is more important to me, sometimes, than fairness – but I also try to be as fair as possible, for his benefit. On the flip side, I know that any disharmony is very stressful for the feeling kid, and although I look to her for help keeping this family flowing, I also turn to her immediately when there’s conflict to make sure she is okay. I have pretty much endless patience for her need for reassurance – I get it that her reactions are emotional, not logical, and that can sometimes mean a huge reaction to a small thing.

Emotion versus logic; diplomacy versus justice. It’s a delicate dance, and I’m still figuring this one out myself.

Next time: Perceiving versus Judging.

3 thoughts on “Myers-Briggs for Children: Thinking versus Feeling

  1. i always thought the jellybean was a thinker. but he has these phantom bellyaches all the time. i wonder if he is a feeler in the budding. i will have to watch more closely now.

    i’m really loving these posts.

    1. nadinethornhill

      The Jellybean, may still be a thinker. According to Myers-Briggs, everyone has both the thinking and feeling characteristics, you’re typed on which of two is dominant.

      On a separate note, I *really* need to think of a cute blog-name for my kid.

      1. So true, that the Jellybean might be some of each – some people are very borderline on a particular parameter, especially when young. Also, remember that only one of N/S and T/F will be the dominant trait – if the Jellybean is clearly N or S, then the T/F preference probably won’t be clear until he’s at least 7 or 8.

        I really recommend the Nurture by Nature book by Tieger and Barron-Tieger. It’s so insightful, clear, and helpful – really great reading.

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