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How to parent THE CHALLENGER

This is the beginning of a series that will run through nine different common character types.

We'll look at how they behave and then pull the curtain back to see what's behind that behaviour -

  • what they're afraid of

  • what's motivating them

  • what their strengths and weaknesses are.

We’re starting with the character type EIGHT

They’re often called the challenger

Let’s look at some of their traits...

This character has a need to be strong and resilient. They’re not afraid to speak their mind or point things out that others might not choose or dare to, and they’ll rise to a challenge. They’re quite fact-lead.

Their motivation is that they don’t want to be seen as weak. They’re driven by this and will protect themselves and those they love, accordingly.


There are some great characteristics within these characters: They have leadership qualities, and they stand up for others who don’t find it easy to defend themselves.

They’ll go after a cause.

They get things done!


On the challenging side, they find it harder to follow than to lead, which can be problematic when they resist parental boundaries!

Sound like your child?


Enneagram type EIGHTs attracted to the high-voltage end of life. They like to be in the centre of the action and they have the energy for it. We might use expressions like this about them:

  • Energetic

  • Magnetic

  • Confident

  • Strong

  • Resilient

  • Assertive

  • Straight talking

  • Decisive

  • Resourceful

  • Upfront

  • Fiery

  • Overpowering

  • loyal

  • honest

And we need this type of person. If your child has these characteristics, I’m sure your friends have reassured you that they’ll stand them in good stead for the future. And they will, if they’re harnessed in the right way.


Let’s look at some famous type 8s

  • Winston Churchill

  • Oscar Schindler (of Schindlers list)

  • Martin Luther King

  • Aretha Franklin

  • Serena Williams

  • Frank Cinatra (I DId It My Way – get my point?)

  • Donald Trump

So as you can see they can do great things with their lives. But, if they haven’t quite learned to hone their strengths or been guided by wise parents, their strengths can make a lot of mess.


Type EIGHTs can rally support for causes (good and bad)

Instil confidence in others

Defend others


They can railroad towards their own personal goals overriding the needs of others in their wake.

Sometimes they’re so focussed on the goal, in all good spirit, they leave a wake of attrition and this is the part that needs a little growth, honing and maturing, some good parenting…

And the job of us as parents is to see if there are some characteristics that we can help our children to harness for good, not for self defence or survival as they grow and mature.

So what’s the motivation of an EIGHT


  • They want to protect themselves and those they love, from feeling or being seen as weak.

When they’re feeling stressed they can have a tendency to self protect. Their fears of being betrayed are amped up and their armour goes on. This can manifest in being critical and defensive and a little intimidating to be around, or they can withdraw and become remote, detached and hard to connect with. In both cases they’re hardening their shell against perceived threats to their strength.

So if you’ve got a child who feels pushed around or bullied at school and they’re in survival mode, you’ll notice them become overpowering or actually, strangely detached and withdrawn.

When they’re feeling secure you’ll see the shell come off. If they're in a potentially conflictual family moment and feeling secure, they’ll make space for other people’s opinions, allow for the fact that justice is a perspective, not just their decree! This is where they’ll let you see their softer side and they’ll draw closer and trust people with their vulnerabilities and even allow other people’s strengths to support and help them.


But there’s much more to an 8 than advance-mode.

But there is a real soft underbelly to an 8. Helen said in the last podcast that an 8 is like a bear in armour. They have a sensitive vulnerability.

I have an 8 in my life who has chosen to trust me. They will show me their pain and fear. It feels like a sacred space and a warm privilege to be allowed into that vulnerable place where they are sharing their deeper authentic feelings.

Isn't’ that what we want as a parent, to be a safe place for them to take their armour off and allow us to reach them.

So in short

They’re strong but the tipping point is that their strength can scare people off and then they can feel rejected. And underneath all that they’re soft and sensitive.

Sound like anyone you know?


So If we are parenting a type 8 child and we gain the trust of their fiery-challenger, we can then influence them to know when to advance, when to hold back, how to advance with sensitivity and how to be strong yet vulnerable and gain the trust and connection of the people they love.

So let’s look at some ways that we can bring out the best in our type 8 child…

1. Let an 8 fail with dignity.

We can help a type 8 child to see that imperfections aren’t weak, they’re part of the practice of life. Part of progress and growth, part of what will make them stronger. We can help them to know that they’re lovable, even when they get things wrong. And that mistakes are things that we’ve done, not things that we are.

2.Words are powerful for an EIGHT

Affirm their softer qualities

Let them know you’ve appreciated them if they’ve been

  • Supportive

  • Affirmed someone else

  • Made space for someone else’s opinion

3. Don’t solve.

If a Challenger shares a problem or an issue with you, it’s a really brave move. Don’t load in with ideas and suggestions, just let them know their feelings are valid and that you appreciate their honesty. You respect their vulnerability. Empathise!

That sounds hard

That must have been hurtful

I’m sorry you had to go through that.



When they’re angry, try to Find the wound

Anger is the go-to emotion of the type 8, but it will be masking an underlying emotion

They might be fearful

They might have been demeaned in some way

When they’re overbearing try to think about what could be stressing them. Are they angry? Frustrated? Disappointed?



Help them to repair when they’ve made a mistake.

Use language like brave and courageous when encouraging them to repair a relationship. That way they won’t feel weak when they go wrong or say sorry or forgive.

Help yourself and others around them to be gracious when they do try to repair.

And for this we need to model well, be quick to say sorry and own our mistakes. Show them that it’s empowering to restore relationship. It’s a strength.


If they’re not taught these 5 they can get hurt and rejected which is the very thing they’re trying to avoid.

Ultimately we know that the type 8 character is defending themselves from an internal message they’ve picked up somewhere along the line

Their survival is to to protect themselves and others from feeling powerless

So, helping them to make space for other opinions – even ones they disagree with

And finding people they can trust with their vulnerability will adjust their perception of strength so they will learn:

  • Moderation will protect them

  • Vulnerability will connect them

  • Self-control will balance them

  • Unconditional acceptance of themselves and others will calm them

And that will be their strength,

At home

In the playground

In life..


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