Not the keyboard typing, but Myers-Briggs type-watching typing.
I'm doing more and more type-watching at work, as part of my job. And that naturally leaks over into my home life. Actually they leak both ways, because I do a lot of parenting at work, too. Okay, a lot of collaborative problem-solving and communications work, but it amounts to the same thing.
If you don't know Myers-Briggs, the basics of the types are:
- Introvert/Extrovert (I or E) which is more where you get your energy from, not how socially adept you are.
- Sensing/iNtuitive (S or N) which is how you draw in information from the world.
- Thinking/Feeling (T or F) which is how you process the information you bring in and how you express it back (including decision-making).
- Perceiving/Judging (P or J) which is how you prefer life to function (in patterns, time, and space), and isn't about whether you are perceptive or not.
It's imperfect as a system in many ways, but it also has some very useful aspects. Ep and I were officially typed way back before we got together, and it was very interesting. We've both shifted some since that point, but it has given us a language and a basis of understanding each-other that has really helped ease some areas of our relationship and communication.
The temperaments aspect is particularly powerful (that's an extension/overlay found in the Type Talk books). So is the understanding that types aren't static, and particularly children aren't static on their types - so typing one's kids is somewhat of a cautious process.
Regardless of the limitations, it gives some ideas about how to approach parenting. If you have an idea of what functions your kids have as strengths, and what are more secondary or tertiary processes, ways of being that stay background or function most internally rather than externally, it can help form a strategic response. Working on providing skills in the weaker zones, or even just framing how to approach a task differently, can make a difference for how life works. Or just having another way of understanding who they are and what they need out of life.
We 'get' Mr G pretty well.
He's always been at least a bit of an introvert, tending to go off alone or with just one other person as a way to recharge. He wants one-on-one time more than group time, and wipes out if there is too much noise and interaction. So, definitely an I. How much an I may change over time, possibly even expand and contract (that is, degree of reach into both sides of the range and tendency to balance and integrate the opposites, rather than being just one end or the other - MBTI doesn't 'work' that way, but I tend to think that humans do 'work' that way, so it's a loose application of the concept - credit Trompenaars for asking the question).
Mr G (edited - it had said Mr B, oy) has also always been pretty clearly more J than P. He's always been an orderly thinker, wanting things to happen on schedule, by the clock, and by the rules. The rules may be his own rules, but he's been like that more than we expected, from very early on. Now, most toddlers are pretty J - they like things the way they like them - but by contrast, Mr B has no concern with 'on time' or schedule. Even his breastfeeding pattern wasn't reliable day-to-day, it was more responsive to conditions than reliably by the clock. I could still figure out how the pattern worked, eventually, but it wasn't like with Mr G, whose nursing sessions would start literally within minutes of the previous day's schedule, often for weeks on end.
Mr G has also been more of a thinker than a feeler. Not that he doesn't have great emotional skill and understanding, facility and function and range - he is quite emotionally literate. But he also tends to live in his head, go to his mental function first, consider and think. He gets emotional, but it's not a constant process.
Whether he's more of a sensor than an intuiter is a bit iffier, but looking at the types makes it fairly clear that he's more an N than an S - more grand dreams and visions than concrete details and nitty-gritty.
INTJ - In Type Talk terms, that's "Life's Independent Thinkers" - and they see the world "in terms of endless possibilities"... The entire description is Mr G's way of being from about 18 months old to now, straight through. Which doesn't mean he won't change before he's grown up, but he's definitely been this way for a while. He's very strongly in that mode of being. He's his own person, is seen as a leader because of his confidence and vision, is not consumed by others' needs or issues, hugely imaginative, and something of a tendency to want to think about stuff instead of actually DO it - er, yeah. DOING it is work, thinking about doing it is fun.
And don't bore me with the details of how to get from point A to point B - he doesn't really want to know too many details, certainly not at once.
And we've been working with all that for a while - teaching him how to manage the details, structure and contain the process of getting from point A to point B, break things down to a useful level so that he can carry on with them toward his goals... all that. We understood, somehow, and we've been doing a great job all-in-all with parenting him (breaking my arm patting my back here - don't worry, my comeuppance is coming up soon).
And then there's Mr B. (see, I said soon)
No more back-patting. Because while we don't totally suck with Mr B, we're nowhere near 'on top of it' with him.
I know they're different. That's been obvious forever.
I know they need different things from us. More duh for us.
But exactly what different, and how different? Er. Not so good on that part.
It's more like we've been trying to adapt the methods that worked with Mr G to Mr B, and make them work. Instead of just starting from Mr B straight off.
Okay, so it's hard to do that, but still, it seems so darn obvious, why didn't we think of it? Or why did we think of it (which we did) and yet not succeed at it? I mean, Effective Prudent True starts with EFFECTIVE. If it's not working, you'd think we'd notice. Oy.
Million reasons, of course. Excuses and reasons out the wazoo. And yet the real reason is that we didn't figure out what the real problem was. If you work the wrong problem, you will NOT solve the situation. That should be obvious by now, but we're human, which means we can be amazingly dense sometimes.
But at least we're not totally hosed yet. More seasons of time, more opportunities, and hey, at least we're still trying to figure it out instead of giving up. That's about 90% of success in parenting - just keep showing up and trying different things even as you're figuring it out.
So, I started looking at our kids by type, as best I could, and realized I had no clue what Mr B's type was. Hmm. Figure figure figure.
Mr B's type is also fairly loud and clear, though not as loud as Mr G's.
He's always been an E - extrovert boy prefers to be with others. Being alone is hard on him, draining, discouraging, and just plain wrong. Being With is one of his driving forces, and he will sometimes struggle with the conflict between his values and his need to be-with. So far, his values generally win, but he's stuck with friends for longer than is strictly useful because he didn't want to let go the relationship - even if he did decide eventually that being friends with someone who was mean to others wasn't what he wanted to do. He's also more prone to joining for the sake of being with a group than Mr G has ever been. But that's a true expression of himself, too, so that's okay. (Our culture tends to put strange mixed value pressure on 'being a joiner' - it's kind of derogatory, even though there are real strengths and needs answered in 'being with'.)
He's soft-hearted and passionate, and tends to be care-taking of others - definitely more of an F than a T - a Feeler. More prone to spontaneous acts of kindness and affection, and willing to spend hours making things for others because it will make them happy. Joyful, and more joyful if he can bring joy to someone else. It's nice. I kind of expected it to fade out under the pressure to Be A Guy (strong, silent, buried emotions, etc.) - at least a little. But it hasn't. He's comfortable and confident of being a Caring Person First.
The spontaneous thing plus his life-long (from birth) tendency to flow with what happened before rather than follow a more clock-work style pattern says P - perceiver. Go-with-the-flow, seat-of-the-pants, roll-with-it, adapt and flex. Definitely more him than not-him.
It's a question whether he's more of an S or more of an N. But I suspect more S - there's the element of total avoidance of tedium or boredom, the need for things to be Fun to be Worth Doing, the tendency to want to make it into a game - that's more ESFP than ENFP. Could still change, though.
Spotting that makes everything snap into focus. Suddenly all those tedious tasks, that he turns into infuriating games or avoidance scenarios? Ah, yeah, whoops. They make sense now. This type avoids paperwork, repetition, and 'the usual'. Getting dressed is Boring. Wearing a uniform is maddeningly boring.
What he's been saying with the resistance every morning has been not been:
"I want to drive you nuts, I like feeling helpless, I want you to be with me as an expression of my control needs"
"This is the only way I can think of to force you to ignore my siblings in favor of attending to me"
Nope. It has been a much deeper and more meaningful and painful:
"Please please please mom, help me make this more fun... do it with me, participate with me, make me laugh while I'm getting dressed, let me make you laugh while I'm getting dressed, do something to help me make it possible to get dressed without feeling like my head will explode from this agonizing tedium - please make it stop, I need your help!"
And of course, when I'm trying to get three (or four) kids ready in the morning, I really just want him to get dressed by himself.
As I was talking with ep about this, he clicked into understanding in the same way I did, with a different example. Asking Mr B to go clean his room alone probably sounds about the same to him as if we'd said 'go to your room and stab yourself in the head repeatedly with a fork' - yeah, why are you even suggesting that? His extreme misery and resistance to doing tasks like that suddenly makes more sense translated through the lens of ESFP-dom - pulling out his fingernails would be more pleasant, and more likely to happen. If it isn't fun, if it can't be made into a game, and if it can't be social in the process, it's a big huge UGH, please, anything but that!
Interestingly my mom has aspects of this type - she's more in the middle on everything, but this shows up. She rewards herself for doing things like taxes by doing something fun, or indulging herself. She buys some art glass or eats some really good chocolate, as a reward for slogging through the boring stuff. So, maybe that would help as a strategy.
He's 7 and a half, and we're juuuuust figuring this out. It's like he got his own version of the 'test child' thing (where your first child is kind of like the test run on figuring stuff out, and child two you have a better sense... only, we 'got' Mr G pretty fast, so now Mr B gets his own layer of 'oh, wait, we've been doing this wrong - maybe we should try something else'. Sigh. Granted, I think each child gets that to some degree, because we figure out each child as we go.)
This also explains why when his riding instructor didn't push him really hard at lessons, he wanted to quit. It was just riding around in a circle, every lesson the same, booooooring, and he immediately hated it - hated it like I would expect Mr G to hate having to do something that is not in line with his vision and long-term plans. And once the instructor (new one) started really demanding more, making it a challenge, and switching things around (plus giving him an idea of how soon he'd be doing something new and different and exciting), he was right back to 'I'm never going to stop riding'.
Okay, so we had a little of that figured out - we knew he needed a challenge in order to want to carry on with a task. But really getting why he hates getting dressed, doing chores, and doing anything repetitive... that's a very different understanding. The WHY and the HOW of that help really re-frame the HOW to respond.
It's like suddenly another light went on, and I can see into the issue with some clarity - maybe not full clarity, but it isn't the 'responsibility' or the 'independence' that is the problem, it is the repetition, the tedium, the solitariness, and the boredom that are the resistance points.
Those, I can work with. Those don't make me want to pull out my hair in frustration. Those also don't make me wonder way back in the corner of my mind if somehow I've taught him to be demanding and spoiled and resistant to responsibility, bringing up all my anger at feeling like a parenting failure. And it also didn't really fit, since there were plenty of signs of responsibility, just not this kind and flavor of responsibility. The boring kind.
So, okay, we can build skills around that.
No idea if he'll stay that personality range or type forever, or even past this disregulation stage. But for now, it gives me a different hook to hang things on, a different perspective, and a new way of dealing with skills - certainly the old way wasn't working, so it was probably the wrong skills I was trying to teach. Funny how when it doesn't work, I still initially just try harder, rather than wondering if maybe I'm working the wrong problem...
Ah, well. Mucked it up. So get up, straighten myself out, figure out a new approach, and try again.
Good thing we get more than one chance per child.