Saturday, September 6, 2008

What's your parenting style?

I mentioned the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in the last post as an assessment of learning styles in GEP. This basically a personality test except it's not so basic. Measured on four dichotomies (or scales), it places you in one of 16 different personality types. Everyone I know who has done the test has found it to be highly accurate. Knowing what "type" you are is very useful in many areas but the reason I'm writing a post on it is because it can be extremely helpful for parents.

Not every parent is the same, just as not every child is the same. There is no one "right" way to be an effective parent. If you understand your personality type and your child's type, you can see better how to use your strengths to cater to your child's strengths. It is definitely more productive and constructive than trying to change your personality traits or your child's!

In essence, the four dichotomies are:

Extraversion (E) vs Introversion (I)Sensing (S) vs Intuition (N)Thinking (T) vs Feeling (F)
Judging (J) vs Perceiving (P)
In each dichotomy, one letter describes you more than the other, so eventually, your personality consists of 4 letters, eg. ENTJ. 16 possibilities altogether. I did the test at a church parenting workshop and I am an INTP. What this means is I'm classified as a:

The love-of-learning mother (INTP)Intellectually curious and patient, the INTP mom relishes learning things together with her kids. Whether they're at the zoo or a store, she answers their "whys" with in-depth responses. She is objective and introspective. She listens to their questions and ideas as she would those of a peer, fostering self-esteem. Open and non-directive, she allows kids the freedom to do for themselves and quietly encourages them to believe they can. Her highest priorities for her children are independence, autonomy and intellectual development. An avid reader, she naturally imparts an appreciation and love of reading.
For the most part, this is very true. I tend to subconsciously turn everything into a learning activity. My kids were watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon on tv one day and Tom was playing a piece of music on the piano. I said, "Do you know the name of that music? It's the Blue Danube, it's a very popular waltz by Johann Strauss." And Lesley-Anne went "Mummy! We're just watching tv."

In the full personality test, it contains a much longer list of characteristics. For me, it says I value intellect, and I'm a problem-solver, I love puzzles. When Kenneth first saw my characteristics list, he exclaimed "Unbelievable!" That's because he knows I commonly stay up till 2am in the morning doing logic puzzles, something he considers really eccentric (I subscribe to Dell magazines to get my fix). Haven't you noticed that my blog so far tends to feature some learning element?

Kenneth on the other hand, is an ESTJ, which means he is a terrific administrator, always planning and organised, comfortable with well-defined boundaries and consistent routines. It explains why he is such an impatient and harsh teacher to our kids (they don't learn according to his scheduling!) Ask any of my kids and they'll rather learn from me than him any day. But since we now know our traits, I leave the administrative tasks to him, like keeping track of and paying the fees, noting down the different activities and timings the kids are scheduled for in the week, etc. Things which I never remember and are so mundane to me.

It also helps to know your child's learning style. At the parenting workshop, I learnt that clashes occur most when parent and child are very different personality types. Eg. if your child is I (Introversion), he needs time to reflect on what he has just heard or learnt. If you are an E (Extraversion), you learn by talking things out and may wrongly read your child's silence as non-understanding. While you keep explaining, your child is probably getting increasingly frustrated by the onslaught of information! What you then need to do is to give him time to be by himself and digest the information.

Lesley-Anne is a P (Perceiving) learner, which means she tends to be easily distracted and wait till the last minute to do her work. The problem is, I am also a P, which means I'm the worst possible person to help her plan (I can't tell you how many times we've scrambled about like mad hamsters the day before her project is due, with me shouting "why didn't you do this earlier??") So now, she tells her dad her deadlines and he, the efficient administrator, will plan the schedule and ensure she keeps to it. Well, at least that's the plan, it doesn't always happen. But at least we have a plan, right?

The Myers-Briggs test is not free, you have to pay to do it which is a very comprehensive series of questions. But you can find a good explanation and summary of the 16 types on the official site here. I also found an article which translates the Myers-Briggs into mothering styles, you can check out which one you fall under.

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