Myers-Briggs for Children: Perceiving versus Judging

Time for our very last Myers-Briggs code: Perceiving versus Judging. This one is about organization and closure – basically, judgers want it, and perceivers don’t. Judgers want things to be finished, complete, settled. They like it when a project has a plan, when things are set out and ready for execution. They feel satisfied and happy when something is over. Perceivers prefer things to remain open-ended, leaving the door ajar for anything that might come up. They prefer to keep as many options available as possible, and the very idea of something coming to a close gives them at least a little anxiety.

Gal Smiley is my perceiver. Just about the worst thing you can do is offer her a choice. The more choices, the more stress – she simply cannot decide. Waffles for breakfast, or cereal? What about muffins, or toast? Yogurt? Cucumbers? Leftover tacos? IT’S TOO MUCH. What if she chooses one thing, and then the other thing would have been better? The best thing I can do for her is just pick and have her breakfast waiting for her on the table.

And when she’s watching TV, she starts to get a little wiggy when a show is coming to a close. In fact, now that she can work the remote herself, she prefers to start a new show from the PVR before the one she is watching actually ends, because closing credits are just about the worst thing ever. Likewise, I can’t count the number of books that she has read up to the last chapter, then stopped reading. STOPPED READING BEFORE THE END. That’s like, total sacrilege to a judger like me. And speaking of books, she’s always got at least five bedtime books on the go – yet another thing that used to drive me up the wall, before I figured out this P/J thing.

The other big thing that marks her as a perceiver is her need to explore – in a rule-free environment. She isn’t interested in your arbitrary rules about right and wrong; she needs to see it for herself. We have learned that it’s only going to end in absolute frustration if we try to constrain her too much. So while we provide a lot of structure to the other kids, Gal Smiley gets a lot more leeway (much to the chagrin of our Captain Of Fairness).

On the other hand, the Captain and the Little Miss are judgers. They like to pick one thing, do it, and finish it, before starting anything else. The Captain in particular will only start a task if he knows he has enough time to see it through to the end; if something comes up and he can’t finish his video game or his book, then it’s a CRISIS. And heaven forbid we try to change a Christmas tradition or our regular daily routine. NUH UH. Not happening.

(I say this and it sounds like I am complaining, but in truth I am ABSOLUTELY the same way, and I totally get it buddy, and glad to have you over here on Team Anal.)

I find it pretty easy to handle the Captain, because he thinks like I think in this respect. I know he likes to know the daily schedule and he likes it when we stick to that plan. He gets stressed out when we are late, as do I. He needs a lot of warning when we are going to change tasks, and a lot of reminders that we are leaving in five minutes. On the other hand, when he gets up in the morning I know for a solid fact that he is going to brush his teeth, and if I ask him if he has brushed he will always, always tell me the truth because not brushing would be breaking with the routine and that is Not Done. He understands when I explain that we need to do ABC now, because later we want to do XYZ, and we need to make time for everything. And when I need someone to make a decision about something, he’s right there for me, taking charge and making it happen.

The Gal is nicely flexible and lots of fun, as she’s very spontaneous. In general, now that I understand how she thinks, I find it pretty easy to handle her as well. But we still have conflict when she asks for “just one more minute” for just about…everything, not caring too much about having to be somewhere at a specific time. And sometimes I get impatient while waiting for her to decide something, already – and I also get impatient when she chooses the very first thing she sees, because she knows that actually looking at and considering all the options is going to be too stressful. This is why I have a LOT of crappy junk in my house that was purchased with birthday money spent on the item closest to the entrance of the store. SIGH.

Still, I’m probably best at managing the differences between the perceivers and judgers in this house. It’s definitely an area where my parenting has improved by realizing the different ways my kids approach the world – both different from me, and from each other.

So there you have it – my thoughts on my kids and Myers-Briggs, in great graphic detail. Now I can make room in that little brain of mine for more Dance! Show! Just when you thought it was safe to come back to my blog.

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.

Myers-Briggs for Children: Intuitive versus Sensory

As I said yesterday, kids usually have one of Intuitive, Sensory, Thinking, or Feeling – one of the four “middle” Myers-Briggs codes – as their dominant trait. Certainly by the time your child is three or four years old, you should be able to pick out the one of these four that they display most often. At ages four, six, and eight, all three of my kids are pretty easy to call.

Today I’ll talk about Intuitive versus Sensory. This aspect is about how you take in and process information. Intuitives look at the big picture; sensory people are all about the details. Intuitive types use their internal feelings to draw conclusions, fantasize about the future, or read into the actions of others; sensitive types rely on their five senses and concrete facts from their environment to figure things out. You might think of this one as those with practical natures versus the dreamers. As my friend Lee Ann put it to me once, shown a painting and asked what they see, a sensory person might say, “A girl, a horse, an apple, some woods,” while an intuitive person might say, “Wow, that cloud is shaped just like a bird! Is it a secret message?.” Sensory people tend to be very literal; intuitives tend to be more inventive storytellers.

I have one sensory-dominant child, and that’s Little Miss Sunshine. She loves nothing more than to have her five senses stimulated. She likes having her hair brushed or her back rubbed. At the park, her favourite activity is rolling around in the sand, letting it pour over her hands, feet, head. She adores anything sparkly, bright coloured, shiny, and has a huge collection of jewels/beads/tiny toys to prove it – oh yes, she’s a gatherer and a collector. She loves music or things that make a jingly sound and she can’t get enough of water – pouring it, splashing in it, spraying it. She wants to touch and feel and experience everything.

She’s also amazing at recording every detail of a scene. If I move a picture frame or a knickknack, she’s ON IT – she’ll notice in seconds. She’s a savant at those I Spy books – she can spot the smallest item in record time, and always remembers exactly where everything is the minute we come back to the same page. On the down side, she’s sensitive to loud noises and nervous about tasting new things – everything seems to be painted in bolder colours for her. She prefers routines and to follow steps the same way every time – she’s not too flexible, because when something in her environment changes, that involves a lot of thinking and processing and realigning of thoughts for her. She’s most comfortable when the world follows a predictable set of rules.

Gal Smiley is my one kid that has intuition as a Myers-Briggs trait. She’s my flexible child – able to go with the flow, adapt to things as they come up. She’s my ideas gal – whenever I say no, she’s got a million workarounds, a thousand ways to make it happen. Don’t even think of telling her she’ll have to wait a few minutes for a cup of juice – she’ll never believe that she’s too little to get it herself. Sometimes that’s a good thing – she’s very independent – but sometimes it’s a bad thing, as she is only capable of imagining a happy outcome, and things don’t always work out the way she envisioned.

Repeated patterns get boring for her – she needs new stimulation. She’s a creator – her artwork output is staggering. And it’s more about the process than the end result – she’ll often come back to something she drew months ago and decide to add more, or change things around, or cut it up and use it for something else. She’s not good at sticking to a timetable or paying close attention to what is going on around her – she’s so easily distracted – but she’s great at synthesizing different ideas into one theory, or at instinctively answering a question without being fully aware of the steps she used to get there.

Know how a few years ago they introduced the idea of “whole word” reading, as opposed to the more traditional sounding-out of words piece by piece? I wonder if that is an N/S thing – the Captain, a sensory child, is a sounder-outer (the more rules the better – give me a framework to apply), while the Gal, an intuitive, likes whole word recognition (I’ll just use the picture to guess at these words, and if I’m wrong, just tell me already, so I can move on to something more creative).

I find that knowing about this code helps me know which kids can handle a last minute schedule change (the Gal), versus those that need a LOT of warning (Little Miss and the Captain). And it helps me have more patience with two of my children’s desire to collect stuff, a LOT of stuff, while the other kid creates piles and piles of artwork daily (producers of Clean Sweep, call me!). And it helps me understand why school comes easily to my two kids who are able to memorize and spit back with ease, while the other one needs a little more help to stay on track.

Is your kid rooted in reality, or does she have her head in the clouds? Either way, try to see the world as she does.

Next time: Thinking versus Feeling.

Myers-Briggs for Children: Extroverts versus Introverts

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?


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.