The larger goal of this blog is to write for parents about their own personalities and their kids’ personalities, and then to see how parents can support kids’ personalities, and how kids can learn a bit about themselves as they get old enough to do that.
The A to Z challenge has given me the opportunity to get a lot of basic information out on the blog that will be there forever more for people to refer to, but I haven’t talked about kids or parenting yet.
I’m going to use ‘K’ to get a couple fundamental things down about kids.
Kids’ egos develop from birth, but during the earlier years, it’s often tough to see a clear personality style.
I don’t recommend trying to type your kids when they are young.
How young is too young? Depends on the child and on how well you know the Enneagram. Maybe middle school age is a safe time to start the discovery process, maybe younger if you know the Enneagram well.
I actually don’t recommend typing your kids at all.
So if they’re too young to type themselves, what’s the use of all this information?
Answer: While you might be wrong if you were to guess their personality style without their input, you can pay attention to what kind of energy they are putting out there in different situations.
Example: Think about the difference between an Eight’s energy and a Five’s energy. The first is much more assertive, direct, engaged and even aggressive. The other is more withdrawn, thoughtful, private and even isolating.
You have to be careful though because it isn’t always that obvious.
Example: A Two’s energy can feel similar to a Nine’s energy. They both tend to be kind, upbeat, self-sacrificing and helpful.
Regardless, here’s an example of how to cheat before you or your child can know for sure:
If your daughter is trying hard to take care of other people, you can treat that like Two energy and make sure she is balancing her giving and caring behavior with taking care of herself behavior.
I’ll do a table at the end that you could use like a cheat sheet for how to support your kids’ personality energy.
But first, more fundamentals:
Just like adults, kids benefit from figuring out for themselves what type they are. If your kids are middle school age or older, you can show them one of the online tests and see what they come up with.
However, it is very, very important that, just like with adults, kids don’t let the test tell them what they are either. I can’t emphasize that enough.
Let the test help your kids narrow it down, if they want, but the most important part of figuring out which type you are is learning about them all, enough so that you realize what you are by how much you relate to some descriptions and not others.
So have your child take a test if he/she wants, but use the results very loosely.
I just worked with a group of kids the other day. First, they learned about all the types. As we went along, I asked them to write their names down next to any type they related to in some way. Most kids wrote their names next to at least four types before they were encouraged to identify with just one. Only one child knew for sure, the moment I described one of the types, that that was his personality style. The rest asked questions, learned about the differences between the types they related to and about what each type does when they are stressed or relaxed.
If you tell your child which type they are, and you’re wrong, they may believe you more than they believe themselves. If that happened, they might try to value something that isn’t what’s most important to them and ignore what they hold most dear.
Example: If you tell a One that you think he’s a Four, he might convince himself that his anger and frustration are because he feels separate and insignificant when, in fact, he’s pissed because he can’t attain the perfection he believes so strongly he should be able to attain. Any attempts to soothe feelings of separation or meaninglessness in life won’t hit the mark.
Teach them about the gifts of each type, not the character flaws. It is easy to get hung up on the downsides when people begin to learn about the Enneagram. Kids are susceptible to internalizing negative feelings about themselves if they believe that their personality is what is ‘wrong’ with them, and if only they could be more like some other number or fix theirs somehow.
Bonus Fundamental #6
Once they know their type, ask them what you’ve done so far as their parent that has and hasn’t felt supportive to them.
For example, my son, who is a Seven, recently told me that it is helpful when we say things that bring his attention back into the moment when his mind is wandering. I had no idea we were doing that for him, or that he appreciated it. He said it was as simple as one of us saying, “Look what the puppy is doing,” or “Did you see that catcher just overthrow third base?” Now that I know this helps him to get present again, I can be more conscious of doing it more often.
My daughter, who is a Six, has told us that, when she’s frustrated or angry, it doesn’t help her when we expect her stay in the conversation. She needs to know she can leave a conversation and go in her room to get reconnected with herself. There, she is much better at calming down, figuring things out, and coming back to tell us what she’s realized or decided.
Okay, as promised, here’s a table of the kind of energy you might pick up on in your kids, regardless of whether or not you know their type. When you see this energy from them, you can help them balance it out using some of the ideas here. This is a very small example of what you might see, but maybe it will make some things click for you with your own kids.
I’d love to hear!
|When your child displays the Energy of this Type…||You can support them by…|
|One||Thinking in right/wrong, black/white, should/shouldn’t; Wanting to be in charge of how things get done; Beating up on themselves for imperfections; Happy to help with chores or jobs; Judgmental of self or others; Strong opinions of how things should be.||Validating their sense of goodness; Reminding them that no one is perfect and that’s how it is supposed to be; Helping them consider what the gray area or middle ground might look like; Making sure they take breaks to have fun because they deserve to, not because they’ve worked hard enough to earn it; Helping them to find relief in letting go of being in charge of other people.|
|Two||Wanting to help; Wanting to care for others; Wanting to be appreciated for helping; Pride in their helpfulness; Loving.||Reminding them that they are loveable even when they aren’t caring for others; Helping them listen to their own needs; Encourage them to take care of themselves; Help them be conscious of times when they are being cared for so they can receive that love.|
|Three||Wanting to be the best; Competitive; Focusing on what others think of them; Being perfect in everyone’s eyes; Wanting to stay busy.||Encouraging they only do the things they really love; Helping them slow down so they can be aware of their emotions; Praise them when they aren’t doing anything special; Help them have meaningless, unproductive playtime/downtime and compliment them on following their heart during that time.|
|Four||Feeling deeply; Getting stuck in emotion; Feeling alone or misunderstood; Wanting to express themselves creatively; Clinging or pushing away.||Assuring them their emotions are not too much or too intense; Asking them to explain what feels misunderstood and finding a way to relate to that; Providing ways for them to express themselves; Allowing them to cling or push away without reacting (being a reliable home base); Helping them come up with solutions when they are ready; Valuing their depth of feeling.|
|Focusing intently on one thing for long stretches of time; Loving learning; Preferring to be alone; Not sharing personal information; Hoarding or stockpiling.||Helping them have time and space for their interests; Helping them access internal wisdom when then feel like they have to research it to learn facts; Reassuring them that they can safely participate in life and recharge themselves any time they need to.|
|Six||Fearing new situations; Looking outside themselves for reassurance, guidance or how to do things correctly; Reactive; Upset when trusted person feels untrustworthy.||Helping them tune into themselves for answers, knowledge and guidance. Praising them for their courage; Reestablishing support them when they feel unsupported;|
|Seven||Avoiding painful feelings or situations; Aversion to boredom; Flighty thoughts and actions; Strong reaction to limitations, rules and chores; Loving new experiences and optimistic.||Helping them stay present to what’s happening now; Helping them breathe through uncomfortable feelings; Helping them see the payoff in sticking with experiences; Providing opportunities for them to experience an array of activities; Giving them choices.|
|Eight||Asserting themselves; Saying things that sound mean or rude; Bossiness; Not understanding other people’s points of view; Confidence; Competitiveness.||Acknowledging the strength it takes to be kind or go slow or be gentle; Encouraging their vulnerability; Encouraging them to ask for help and then providing it so they know they can rely on that.|
|Nine||Eagerness to go with the flow; Hesitancy to state their own opinions or needs or not knowing what those are; Checking out through reading or napping or eating.||Encouraging them to listen to their own needs and wants and then share those; Complimenting them for enduring conflicts; Helping them see the benefit of working through conflicts; Seeing them and letting them know how important who they are is to the family.|