I’m in LOVE with the Myers-Briggs system and how it’s helped me understanding people and parenting. (As an ENFP, mind you, I love EVERYTHING. Especially emojiis.). ;)
One of the knocks against the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) is how it can stereotype or pigeonhole people. “We are not all the same!”
No, we aren’t.
But the MBTI isn’t asserting that people are all the same, it’s asserting that there are cognitive functions that we lean towards naturally:
How we recharge.
How we take in information and make decisions.
How we perceive and work with time.
Inside those functions we have a lot of personal preferences. I have an ENFP friend who is meticulous in her dress and makeup. Matching earrings. The whole thing.
I’m not that way.
If I even remember to look in the mirror before I leave the house it’s a special occasion. I could blame it on having kids but she has kids too, so….
That being said we are both extroverted (charged up by groups). We both are future-oriented in thinking. We assign meaning to, well, everything. And we have the same rush-around-late thing with time. We have the same “functional stack” going on in our brains.
So what does this have to do with using Myers-Briggs with your family and your parenting?
It’s all about the intent.
Set the intent for Myers-Briggs to give you new insights so you can work WITH your child and your spouse more harmoniously. Set the intent that it opens up better pathways to communication. Set the intent that it helps you love and appreciate who they are and who they are not. Set the intent that it helps you know how to best help THEM to succeed in ways that speak to them.
And then let them be the unique people they are.
That’s the win-win of Myers-Briggs. Understanding AND acceptance. Two fantastic things for a family to thrive.
I just found this post I forgot I wrote. Ha! This is based on the Myers-Briggs personality typing system.
Do you have a kid who waits until the last minute to do something? It’s almost midnight, you have to leave for a family trip at 6:00am, and their suitcase lays open on their bedroom floor still empty?
If so, chances are your child is a Perceiver and they are not waiting until the last minute because they are lazy… because they are trying to drive you nuts… or because they don’t care.
They wait until the last minute because that’s when they make inspired decisions.
Perceivers see the world as possibility. They find stimulation in open-ended situations. Going on a trip? Let’s not over-plan. How will could we possibly know everything to make a decision until we get there, anyway? Once we arrive, the massive amounts of real-time data flooding over us will make decisions clear. What fun!
Judgers, on the other hand, prefer the opposite. Those with the Judging function like to close doors in advance, creating a clear hallway to walk. Ahhh, that feels good. So they often plan out their trips in advance, identifying potential problems and solving them ahead of time. And their suitcase? It was packed last week.
So what should you know about raising a Perceiver Child?
Their last-minute tendencies do not mean you have failed them as a parent. They also do not mean they will be unsuccessful in life.
Perceivers who embrace their last-minute function learn to work WITH it. They clear their calendar the day before a trip for that last-minute burst of energy. They relax the week before a trip and look forward to it, instead of spending the time feeling horrible about themselves and stressed out that they haven’t packed yet.
And they thrive with parents who understand and embrace their natural way of working too.
You can thrive too.
Whether you are a Perceiver or Judger yourself, communicating and setting boundaries ahead of time will give you the peace of mind you need to either pack last-minute yourself or get some much-needed sleep.
After all, just because they like to work last-minute doesn’t mean you have to be put out.
If they are old enough, talk to them about YOUR boundaries. When are you going to bed? When is the laundry room closed for the night? What do they need so they don’t have to wake you up asking you questions? And how will you both work together to get them up in the morning–nicely–regardless of how much sleep they did or did not get?
It’s amazing the teamwork that happens when we feel like there is nothing wrong with us.
And for a Perceiver packing last-minute, writing their paper last-minute, or giving you their Christmas list the night it is due there IS nothing wrong with them; they are just working with their natural gifts.
And that’s always something a parent can celebrate.
This sounds silly but seriously...try it.
Feel guilty? Had a fight? Wish you could make things right with your child but:
Child Whispering is a-maz-ing. It goes like this:
You sneak tippy toe into your child's room while they are asleep. You stand near their bed, close enough where you can see them. You put your hands on your heart (OK, that's not necessary, but darn if you won't feel way more heart-felt and connected if do) and you speak, softly, whisperingly, sweet words like:
"I'm so sorry. I love you. I wish I had done things differently, but I was frustrated. I want you to know how much I care. You mean so much to me. When you wake up, I want you to feel amazing. I want you to feel loved. I want you to feel connected. I want you to feel like the world is a beautiful place. You are adored."
Whisper until you feel peace. Whisper until you have tears streaming down your face. Whisper until you are done, in whatever way that looks and feels for you. Then sneak out.
Don't wake them up!
Go to bed and wake up to the miracle of morning. You will be amazed.
Also, be kind to yourself. You are doing your best and sometimes parenting is hard.
It was freezing here the other week at park day. The kids were running around without gloves on–impervious, what gives?–but the moms were standing around freezing. As I got blankets out of my minivan (which doubles as a closet) I wished I had brought my cloak. Sure, I would look like the total geek I am and then so, but OMGOSH THEY ARE WARM AND SURPRISINGLY PRACTICAL.
And then I found this little gem on my computer I forgot I wrote on 12/31/2014. Hahaha! Enjoy.
Winter Coat? Bah. I've Got Something Even Better.
OMgosh I have just discovered the most amazing thing to wear in cold weather if you have a baby or toddler EVER. Before I tell you what it is I must warn you. It's not conventional. (No mall purchase here.) If you wear it you are going to have to get your fun-face on. And people are going to want to talk to you and ask you about it. But honestly, once you try it on in the biting wind you are never going back.
Are you ready?
Really, really ready?
Super-duper - OK OK!
It's a cloak.
That's right. A full-on, button around your neck, flowing down to your ankles, got-a-hood-on-it fantasy fiction cloak.
I wore mine today in the biting wind with my 13 month old baby boy. I felt like a super-hero. I was impervious to cold because my legs were warm, my butt was covered when I sat down on the metal benches, and my arms were still near my body where I generated heat. Plus, I could throw it over my shoulder and pose.
(A must in any park-day situation.)
But enough about me. When I picked up my 13 month old I could prop him on one hip, wrap one half of the cloak around him and then cover him up in the front with the other half. This kept his dangling legs and little hands out of the cold. (Can you keep mittens on a baby? If you can, tell me how!) Why don't I use a blanket? I have tried blankets but they never stay on. (Can you keep a blanket on a baby you are carrying? If you can, tell me how!) The cloak, since it was buttoned around my neck and flowing so magnificently over my stoic shoulders in an iconic display of awesomeness, stayed on both of us, even while I tossed that 20 lb. bag of rice for distance.
(I did. Woot!)
Nursing? Bottle feeding? Time for a little snuggle? No problem! When you sit down you have a lot of fabric to wrap around the baby and you. Fabric that does not fall off onto the dirty, muddy ground or cursed wood chips that cling.
I tell you the list of pluses is endless including - but not limited to - your friend saying in an awed whisper, "I feel like I'm walking behind a Jedi".
Yes, yes, you are.
"Where can I get my cloak?" you ask?
I got mine from a year-round costume store but you can get a cloak on Amazon. It doesn't even have to be fancy - mine is just a thin polyester brown. Cloaks come in all sorts of fabrics. Velvet and wool and cotton and more. Get a faux-fur-lined one. Sing "Let It Go" in the snow. Go crazy. But above all, be warm. You're welcome.
P.S. Sorry for anyone who has that song stuck in their head now. Parents know.
I keep meeting parents who have pulled their kids out of school but it's not just me, statistics prove it: homeschooling is on the rise in the United States.
They all say the same thing when they step tentatively into one of our park days, hope and trepidation in their eyes:
My child is doing so much better now that they aren't in school.
I don't know what the heck I'm doing.
Yes, I nod. Yes. We all felt that way when we started.
So now that I've been doing this for nigh on 15 years, I thought I'd share some of my tips for new homeschoolers.
1. Find a community, but make sure it fits.
You will thrive much more easily with support–even if it's only online if you can't find it where you live–but you won't thrive if the community isn't a fit. You see, homeschooling isn't a one-size-fits all thing. There are unschoolers (self-directed educators) and curriculum homeschoolers. Online homeschoolers and Montessori-type homeschoolers. Religious homeschoolers and secular homeschoolers. The list goes on. And even then, inside each sub-category there can be differences. Radical unschoolers are different than academic unschoolers.
Homeschooling is a varied as people.
So find the group that fits you. And you know it fits when you can be your complete self, whether that self loves to share how the Bible is helping you find peace at home or you love to swear to emphasis how much it hurt to get your tattoo. I'm telling you, a group of non-school-going folks who high-5 you all the way is the only way to go.
So if you can't find a group, make one. That's what Facebook is for.
2. Decide what your mission is.
What do you value? What does success look like to you? How will you know you are successful? If families sat down and figured out their family mission statement many core fears would clear themselves up and and large wrong-turns in homeschooling could be avoided.
Your family has a unique view on life.
Does success to you mean a child can name all the capitals and do calculus? Does it mean they are skilled decision makers with a high Emotional Intelligence? Is empathy a core value? Commitment? Service? How will you know your child is successful? Is it when they pass a test you provide, when they show an extreme interest in something and follow through on it (however unconventional) or when they show they are responsible and can be independent?
Take your time figuring this out. "Create a core mission statement" is easy to say but may be very hard to do. Once you try to write it down you may end up facing your own issues. This is deep work folks, but it's the guiding star to your ship. Without it, how will you know where you are going or when you get there?
3. Learn who your child really is.
They were born who they. Now you can help them be the best they can be. But what the heck is that?
However you want to go about this I'm all heck-yeah but to help you understand what I'm talking about I'll share my favorite person-understanding thing. It's Myers-Briggs.
I'm a huge fan of the Myers-Briggs personality typing system (MBTI). It helped me understand people in ways 15 years of personal growth research never did. But mostly it helped me understand how to support my children.
All types are awesome and inside each type is a unique person. But once you realize not just in your heart but in your brain that there is honestly nothing wrong with your child who seems so shy or your child who can't seem to sit still or your child who is ALWAYS TALKING SO LOUDLY or your child who....
It gives you great peace of mind. It allows them to be who they truly are and–more importantly–who they are not.
4. Communicate. Clean it up. Grow.
Learn how to communicate, clean up your mistakes, and grow from them. You are going to be living with these little people, and tween people, and teenagers 24/7 for a long time. This close-quarters living will reveal all of your flaws to you. Your children will mirror them. They will poke at them. They will drive them to the forefront until you have to choice but to either transform yourself or live in a swirl of all-ages chaos.
Homeschooling your children will force you to become a better person. This will be your greatest challenge and your greatest gift. Embrace it. While they are in school learning you will be learning too. Read books on communication techniques. Take classes on forgiveness. Learn about the habits of highly successful families. Whatever your favorite flavor of self-help is, buy it in bulk.
The end result?
People will hear you homeschool and say "I don't know how you do it, I could never stay at home with my kids all day" and you will just smile because you LOVE living with your child/ren. True story.
5. Practice answering questions from people about what you do.
Most people can't help it, they don't know how else to start a conversation with a kid except "What grade are you in? Where do you go to school?" HOW you answer that question changes everything.
If you answer with a bow of the head, mumbling with apology, "We don't go to school...." you will be met with a similar head nod from someone feeling sorry for you. If, however, you answer with a huge smile of confidence and joy, "I'm homeschooled!" they will simply smile and say "Oh, that's great!" mirroring your enthusiasm.
Each person who "has concerns" over your educational choices is usually well-meaning. Genuinely concerned.
"How do you socialize? How will they get a job? Go to college?" They have no idea and they are alarmed so I help them feel better. I give statistics or success stories. I tell them how ANYONE who is 18 can go to community college. How 16 year olds can get associates degrees and transfer to major universities if they choose. I talk about apprenticeships and entrepreneurial paths. I tell them about the hundreds of social opportunities available to my family and how we have to say no to more things that we say yes to because there is not enough time to do all of the "social" things we could do.
Mostly, I say: when a child is at home over summer vacation, do they learn nothing? Not one thing? Not even on that family trip? Did they never talk to another person or "socialize"? If summer vacation can be ripe with learning opportunities and growth, just imagine what you can do all year with a parent or two focused on it with you.
I win them over, every time.
You see, most people don't realize homeschooling is actually a thing. If you are homeschooling, or considering it, chances are you've done a lot of research. Now it's a bigger topic online and in the news but just a decade ago it wasn't. I can't even count the number of parents my age I have met who said: You don't have to put your kids in school? I didn't know that.
Imagine what the oldest generations don't know about what we now know about education.
6. Have fun!
Believe in the power of having fun.
As adults we can appreciate what stress does to our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. Even doctors talk about how harmful it is. Homeschooling gives us a chance to cultivate an environment of our choosing. Like making a nest for a baby bird or tending the waters of an aquarium we get to cultivate the atmosphere we grow our children in.
It's hard to learn new ideas when you are scared, stressed, or anxious.
Think about it. Brainstorming is a huge technique for developing innovative ideas. The number one rule for great brainstorming is creating a safe space. Once people feel comfortable to share ideas–no matter how wacky they are–their ability to create new ideas multiplies.
And then, once they feel comfortable what do they do?
So you will know you have safe space when there is laughter. And when there is laughter you won't sweat the small stuff.
And that's worth staying home for, if you ask me.
If you have people living under your roof who text, try creating a texting group and labeling it as a notes thread.
Whatever you want to call it.
Since it is a separate group message that texting thread can be silenced. Now anyone can message the group day or night without it creating noise or immediate disruption.
"Please remember to replace the toilet paper if you are the last to use it."
"I moved this thing over here if you are looking for it.'
"Cleaning out the fridge on Friday. You have been warned. ;)"
Having great, clear communication about living together makes things easier but having a way to communicate that doesn't turn a regular texting thread into an annoyance, something to ignore, or something to silence?
That's an awesome use of technology.
You could use a bulletin board or white board in the hallway of course, but if no one reads it or posts on it, it doesn't work. With texting you might see better results since you have a history of what was said by whom when, you can communicate from anywhere at any time, and you can lighten up the messages with some emoji or gifs.
Even housework is easier with a laugh.
You might find that asking people to change the toilet paper roll might not be what is causing the eye rolling. Interrupting someone while they are doing something fun, relaxing, or concentrating on something else to talk about an icky job might be.
Just make sure you tell them the goal of the text thread is a happier house with less nagging, not more chores. That might make all the difference. ;)
I adore my kids and I know you love yours too but that doesn't mean every day is roses. Sometimes it's boring. Sometimes the kids are whiny (which means we are whiny because the littles reflect us, but that's another story). Sometimes we are tired. And sometimes, sometimes, it's just a short-order-cook day with "Mama! Mama! Mama!" and hurry up and DING! here's another request like a short-order cook and all.the.demands.
So if your ability to appreciate your life on a day like that (or a week like that, or heck, a year like that) is waning, you aren't alone.
How are you supposed to appreciate a day that doesn't look like it's going to let up all week?
Sometimes you can't.
But you can appreciate a moment.
Here is a true life story. I know, it's mine.
I'm getting chewed on once more. I'm sitting in the pen with the puppy and the three year old and the puppy is chewing on me and it's not his fault because the three year old is tossing toys at his face and waving his precious blanket around like a bullfighter in the ring.
I am not enjoying this.
Those little teeth hurt.
Those Petco products hurt.
I cannot find a smile at that moment and think I love this time and all the times today I get to do this again and again to care for these two little ones because I don't. I don't love it. What I really want to do is curl up in a pair of sweats and read the book of the short stories on my Kindle that my friend wrote without being touched. I can't remember the last time I read a book at leisure or sat down without being jumped on....
But then there was a moment of calm.
One beat. Maybe three, of peace.
That's when I found appreciation again.
Ooh! I love this moment.
Here. This moment here. The puppy is warm on my lap and my beloved boy is giving him a gentle hug. This is beautiful.
Ack! Too tight! Puppy bite! Redirect, teach, redirect, teach!
Wait. Here is a moment. The puppy is sitting down and my amazing child is petting him so lovingly. This is beautiful. I love this moment.
Ack! Puppy attack!
And on it went.
When I found a spot of lovely–and there were a surprising number of them once I paid attention to them–I held it in my mind for a moment and gave it the doe-eyes.
You are so awesome. You. This moment right here.
That I could do. I couldn't see into the entire rest of my day and feel the love but I could appreciate a moment I genuinely liked so I kept it up. Not all day. Not every moment. But I found true moments to appreciate enough that...
Little by little, everything got better.
You've heard it before and it really is true: life is just a string of moments all put together. If you can't appreciate the string, find a pearl to admire. They are there, even in the midst of the most trying days they are there.
So I'm over here all struttin' my stuff. Check me out, I've got the laundry caught up, and I can find the kitchen counter, and I know what I'm eating for dinner this week... I'm totally kickin' it. Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
What is my new program? I ask myself. What is the miracle I discovered that transformed me?
Nothing is new except one thing: My baby got older.
Suddenly, I find myself feeling more in control of my life and more aware of my surroundings. I am remembering friend's birthdays again and I'm often showered. I've got a more robust sense of humor. I'm smiling and saying hi to strangers across the street just because the sky is blue.
I'm Mary Poppins, Y'all.
Since my three kids are spaced four and six years apart this is the third time this has happened to me. One day I look up and think: Hello World, you're awesome. Where ya been?
And it is a wonderful feeling to look up.
To look up, look around, and not worry someone is going to dash into the street, dump a cup of water on the floor, or randomly eat something off the ground. The delicious feeling I had when I did dishes yesterday and there was silence. Not the dreaded silence because someone has found my purse or figured out how to climb on the counters but the calm silence because they are playing–even with the puppy–so harmoniously....
...I can't even describe the feeling but it's like a rainbow mixed with a truly funny meme.
I remember asking a dear friend of mine who had kids well before me how she did it. Her kids were closer in age than mine and her answer was immediate:
"I lived in filth for three years."
She said it so matter-of-fact it stunned me.
It was her calm in that moment that has helped me all of these years. She made it. So can I.
Maybe there are parents out there who can keep everything together in their own zen just like it was before their baby came into their lives. (WHO ARE THEY? WHO?!) But for me it's just a real-life blend of "aaaaahhhh" and "awwwww" and "whhhaaaat?" and "oooops" and "sweeeeeeet" during the baby and toddler years because it's so awesome and so hard sometimes and so loving and so frustrating sometimes until one day, before you realize it, that stage is over and you have clean socks.
Two of them. Paired up. They actually match.
Once again, dear friends, I have arrived and let me tell you–it was a messy ride but it was totally worth it.
I'm a mom and sometimes... sometimes... I lose my cool.
(Really? Nah. Oh yes, it's true.)
The biggest challenge I have found when I'm irritated is that as an extrovert I tend to vocalize when I'm upset. This really, REALLY, doesn't work with kids. No child thrives in a nagging, negative environment. Heck, no adult does either, but at least the adult can walk away and go to a movie or something. That little kid who is just getting more upset and acting out because of the icky vibes will be with you all day. Like right with you. Probably even while you are trying to go into the bathroom and shut the door.
When you have an adult roommate or you live in an open office environment you can usually put up a hand and the person will back away lest they upset the tiger. Little kids? Not so much. They probably forget you are in a terrible mood. They might remember for... say... 30 seconds.
So one day years ago, after realizing the old adage again was true–if you can't say something nice... I had an inspired idea.
What if I put a sticker on my mouth?
That way I would not talk from my non-heart place, and the kids had a visual when they looked at me to remind them that Mommy was not in a good place to be talking to.
Not only did it stop the stem of unnecessary nagging and negative commentary from me, it stopped questions from them which would open the floodgate of nagging and unnecessary negative commentary from me. With this small measure of peace, peace began to descend. Or maybe I just got a chance to breathe through my nose and calm down. One thing happened that was unexpected, though.
It eventually made us laugh.
It's hard to stay mad with a sticker on your mouth. Try it. My favorite stickers are the ones from Trader Joe's. I also like their bacon.
"You're so... happy!"
Yes. Yes I am. That's because I clocked in to the sleep zone around 9:00pm last night. 7:30pm the night before.
Once again I am reminded of the balancing power of sleep.
You think I would have learned this by now. I have three kids, four and six years apart. Enough time to free-fall into the sleep-deprived baby and toddler years and then come back out, battle-worn and sweatpant weary, into blissful sleep at night once more, only to do it all over again.
This time, however, my baby has hair. Lots and lots of hair:
I wuv him!
The first month was, well, brutal. Loving and fun and amazing and cuddly and... brutal. We didn't know how this puppy-thing worked. He didn't know how we worked. All we both knew was that there was a lot of potty happening and not a lot of sleep happening. Sometimes in the yard. Many times in the house.
I weathered it well at first. I was invincible! Fueled by love and determination!
It took weeks before I looked in the mirror and realized I was un-showered, in the same clothes I'd been wearing since.... um.... I don't remember... an old pair of glasses sliding off my nose instead of wearing my contacts. I had to step over piles of laundry to get to the kitchen.
The pre-schooler was always doing things wrong. The dog was too jumpy. People weren't helping enough.
Diner was an afterthought. I didn't have time to play. I don't know what day it was.
And it was getting worse.
Luckily, we got a cold.
I could blame the play-place I took the kids to but I know better. Getting a cold means you are overwhelmed. So I shut it down, went to bed early for two nights and now...
The pre-schooler is doing everything well. The dog is awesome. People are so supportive.
Dinner is planned. I played all morning. It's Tuesday.
And yet nothing changed except me getting some much needed zzzzz's.
So mom and dads, before you wonder what's wrong with you, what's wrong with your kids, what's wrong with your life, what's wrong with your very existence, check to see if there is anything wrong with your sleep. If you can get some extra hours in the sack, do it. If you can't, put a sticker on your mouth while you ride it out. It will get better, I promise.
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