Personality Type with Children and Families

Adults who discover their MBTI® personality type often say, "I wish I would have known about this as a kid!" Imagine learning, at a young age, that who you are is okay even if you are different from other people. And imagine growing up in a home that values those differences. Type awareness helps families make the most of personality differences.

Type is Developmental

It is through family that we first learn to love, argue, agree, disagree, communicate, share, fight, and compromise. Family consists of our most treasured and sometimes the most difficult relationships we will ever experience.

As young people grow and develop, the family home plays a big part in the development of their personality. When a child's type preferences are supported and encouraged, then development can take a natural, healthy course. Children learn that it is "okay to be me!"

Parents often parent according to their own personality type preferences, and although not necessarily intentional, can impose their preferences onto their children. When anyone is in an environment that pressures them to develop non-preferred type preferences, it can be stressful and lead to exhaustion.

Understanding Type Differences in Families

Of course, family dynamics are influenced by more than just personality type, but type knowledge can make a difference in family relationships. When family members know and understand one another's type, they tend to be more open to other viewpoints because type awareness involves awareness of others' perspectives. This is true across many issues including management of time, approaches to schoolwork, decision-making, sibling conflict, recreational activities and vacations, parenting styles, and even rules of the household.

For example, it can be easy to assume that a child who does not meet deadlines or commitments is showing poor character, but type can help us see that it may be an issue of how different types approach management of time (Judging-Perceiving preference pair). Knowing that your child prefers Perceiving and naturally stays open to all new information for as long as possible can change your interpretation of their behavior.

A parent who worries about her "antisocial" child can use type to see a need for solitude as simply their preference for Introversion after a school day that required a lot of Extraversion.

Often sibling rows can be settled with an understanding of type differences. For example, a child who prefers Thinking tends to be objective and direct, but to a sibling with a Feeling preference, may come across as blunt or mean, which isn't the intent at all.

On the other hand, a child who prefers Feeling is typically empathetic and seeks harmony but may come across as too personal and overly sensitive to a sibling who prefers Thinking, when it is just their nature to care deeply for others. Knowing these differences lends understanding to challenging sibling relationships.

When parents themselves differ in parenting styles, including approaches to discipline, and managing sibling conflict, knowledge of type can show them how to compromise on a style that respects the preferences of each parent—as well as the preferences of each child.

Knowing the type preferences of children can also be of assistance when dealing with school issues and relationships with teachers. Further investigation may reveal radically different learning and teaching styles based on type, that can be addressed when we recognize the differences in type preferences.

For more information on using personality type with children and families, go to peoplestripes.org, home of the Murphy-Meisgeier Type Indicator for Children® assessment.