I remember having an 'Aha' moment some years ago when trying to work out one of my children.
Why do our children suddenly 'lose it'?
He was happy in company, happy to play, integrate and hang out with the family and then all of a sudden, he'd melt down. There didn't seem to be a catalyst or a difficult moment that sent him over the edge, yet he was erupting.
Then I came across a really useful insight: Myers Briggs explanation of Introverts and Extroverts.
To all intents and purposes my child appeared to fit the classic definition of 'extrovert' - outgoing, friendly, enjoyed company etc...
But in the Myers Briggs profile the word 'extrovert' has a different definition.
In short, I understood that much as he loved company, he then needed to refresh and restore himself in his own company. I, on the other hand, was refreshed and restored in the company of others. I thought everybody was.
Are there some hidden clues for parents?
Have you ever wondered if there are some hidden clues which would help you understand why your child is sometimes drained by the things that energise others, or energised by what drains others?
This week on the podcast I chat to an expert, Jane Clements Yapp, and ask her how we spot the differences and how we can adapt family life to help our children to be the best version of themselves.
Of course, that doesn't mean setting up family life to suit one person. It just means knowing what each family member needs in order to thrive, so we can get the balance right.
So for me, in the case of this particular child, it meant structuring our days so that he had time to re-group. It also meant getting out and about for the extroverts and allowing the introvert some space in those times to withdraw, in fact, literally drawing was what he often chose.
Where do you get your energy?
which of the following Myers Briggs descriptions best describes you?
I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I'm excited when I'm around people and I like to energise other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.
or this one...
I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I'll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.
Those are descriptions from the two ends of the introvert/extrovert spectrum.
If you best fit the first description, you're probably an E - a Myers Briggs Extrovert.
You love getting out and about, you have a high capacity, your days are full, you like people through the home. But are your introvert children finding it all too much?
If you best fit the second description, you're probably an I - a Myers Briggs Introvert. You enjoy a quieter life, you love your friends, but need your space. You see the merit in quiet time, breaks from the outside world and, as much as you might love people, you need less exposure to them. But are your extrovert children finding it enough?
It's easy to set life up according to what we think meets our children's needs and desires, but sometimes it can be helpful to take a deeper look and ensure that we really understand them.
Knowing and understanding ourselves is key to leading ourselves. And when we lead ourselves well, we're ready to lead others. And what bigger setting for leading others than being a parent.
Which of these groups of statements apply to each of your children?
I am seen as "outgoing" or as a "people person."
I feel comfortable in groups and like working in them.
I have a wide range of friends and know lots of people.
I sometimes jump too quickly into an activity and don't allow enough time to think it over.
Before I start a project, I sometimes forget to stop and get clear on what I want to do and why.
I am seen as "reflective" or "reserved."
I feel comfortable being alone and like things I can do on my own.
I prefer to know just a few people well.
I sometimes spend too much time reflecting and don't move into action quickly enough.
I sometimes forget to check with the outside world to see if my ideas really fit the experience.
The small consistencies of every day are what make up the life of a child. Tiny little adjustments can make the world of difference to a child when they're struggling.
but an introvert will struggle with going straight from a day at school to an extra curricular activity. They might need some space between the two to refresh and get their energy back.
An extrovert will struggle to come home from school and go straight to homework or music practice, they'll love to have a bit of time with the family or with friends before they knuckle down. Or put it this way - they'll produce better work if they get time with people first.
These little differences apply to many different areas of family life and can help us to energise our children and enable them to be the best versions of themselves.
I have found over the years that helping my kids work out what their friends are allows them to understand their friends' needs better and be a better friend to them.
We're all so different and of course, understanding the other dynamics in the Myers Briggs matrix will give a broader picture. But for my money, understanding introverts and extroverts had such an enormous impact, it's the place that I'd start.
If you'd like to know more about this, pop across to the podcast this week and hear me chatting with Jane Clements Yapp. It's priceless. Here's the link
Also, if you're enjoying this information you might enjoy the book
See you there
Descriptions Adapted from Looking at Type: The Fundamentals
by Charles R. Martin (CAPT 1997)