Today’s guest post in the 31 Days of Learning Differently series is by Susan Williams of Education Possible. We’ll be returning to this topic again during the series because I think the information is so valuable for parents!
Yesterday we were participating in a group homeschool activity and a mom I hadn’t met before said “Let me guess…the tall boy over there, I bet he is yours. He looks just like you!”
She was right — that was my guy! Everyone claims they can see the physical resemblance right away, and for that reason they often comment that we are “so much alike”.
What usually isn’t as obvious, however, is that in many ways he and I are quite different. For example, he LOVES participating in his group homeschool teams and activities with other kids because he finds them truly energizing. While I, on the other hand, find these gatherings completely exhausting!
You see, he is an extravert and I am an introvert.
Understanding Personality Types
I understand that we are all unique. But, over the years I have also spent many years learning about and working with people, and I have come to appreciate the theories of Personality Type – the idea that we can actually identify patterns in human behavior.
Don’t worry this isn’t going to be a complicated psychology lesson! This is just a quick overview to show you that by recognizing some of your behavior patterns, and those of your children, you might be able to understand each other a little better and even find ways to improve your interactions and relationships.
First, let’s clarify a few terms:
- Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. – American Psychological Association
- Personality Type is a concept developed by Carl Gustav Jung to explain natural differences and patterns in human behavior.
According to Jung’s type theory, individuals’ behaviors fall into patterns that tell us where individuals get their energy, how they perceive information, and how they make decisions. The combination of these patterns or preferences is an individual’s personality type.
A person’s personality type can be identified by understanding preferences in four areas (dimensions) of personality:
- Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I) – where we focus our energy
- Sensing (S) or Intuition (N) – how we take in/perceive information
- Thinking (T) or Feeling (F) – how we make choices and decisions
- Judging (J) or Perceiving (P) – how we respond to the outside world
From a very early age individuals will naturally have one preference per dimension above.
Next, let’s take a brief look at each of the four “dimensions” and see if you can determine which type best describes you and your children (select one from each pair).
This dimension is concerned with energy – Where do we get our energy?
- enjoying being around other people because they are energized by these interactions
- “think out loud” to resolve issues and feelings
- act before thinking
- like variety and action
- “recharge their batteries” by getting away from others and thinking through a situation on their own
- think and then acts
- concentrate on one thing at a time
- prefer to process information alone
Sensing – Intuition
This dimension is concerned with perception – How do we take in information?
- focus on practical and realistic facts and details
- start at the beginning and complete one step at a time
- notices details and remembers facts
- learns from examples
- are imaginative and creative
- jumps in anywhere and leaps over steps
- notices anything new or different
- looks for new ways to do things
This dimension is concerned with choices – How do we make decisions?
- use logic to decide
- are concerned with truth and justice
- strive for achievement
- are objective and analytical
- use values to decide
- are concerned about relationships and harmony
- strive to help others
- are sensitive and empathetic
Judging – Perceiving
This dimension is concerned with a person’s attitude toward life – How do we organize the world around us?
- like things settled and decided
- live by schedules
- make decisions quickly and easily
- are decisive and state opinions frankly
- like to keep options open
- adapt well to change
- postpones decision making to gather more information
- are curious and ask a lot of questions
How Can Understanding Personality Types Improve Your Parent-Child Relationships?
Think about one of those times when you felt like your child was “hard to understand”. Maybe he wasn’t excited about going to a playdate you thought you were both looking forward to, or maybe she got upset when your plans change at the last minute.
One possible explanation could be that he or she naturally acts in a way that is very different from you. Just like a person prefers to write with either their left or right hand, we have seen that we all have natural preferences for how we interact with others, approach new situations, or learn new information.
It is important to understand each family member’s personality type and recognize that everyone may have different preferred ways of behaving!
Here are a few examples I have experienced with my children.
As I mentioned above, I’m an introvert. I actually have two children and one is an introvert and one is an extravert. It took me a while to realize that because of their preferred types both of my children approach learning in a very different way. It took some time, but we were eventually able to find ways to juggle the needs of my introvert and extravert learners.
Another difference I discovered was that I’m a Perceiving Type while my oldest son is a Judging Type. He does best when he has a set schedule and agenda, while I’m perfectly happy to “go with the flow” and change our plans at the last minute. I couldn’t understand why he would get very frustrated when any changes were made to our scheduled activities! Eventually I realized that he wasn’t “being difficult” but rather he was just uncomfortable because of his preference to have things set and scheduled.
More Information about Personality Types
As you can see, I’ve just scratched the surface of Personality Types in this article! It is an interesting topic to explore further as it can significantly impact your communications and interactions with your family members.
If you would like additional information about understanding your child’s Personality Type, here are a few resources that might help.
- The Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas – In this book I have written a chapter about “Understanding Your Child’s Personality Type”.
- Nurture By Nature
Susan Williams – As a veteran educator I am always looking for new ways to bring learning to life for my family. I enjoy traveling, sharing ideas with other moms, and helping my children explore the world around them. Our favorite subjects to study together are history, literature and geography. I share our educational adventures at Education Possible.