As a parent, you want to set boundaries for your children that protect them without overprotecting them. You want to establish rules for conduct that steer them toward wiser choices without restricting their freedom to choose their own pathways.

It’s a delicate balancing act. You could end up being too lenient or too controlling, depending on how you perceive the nature and depth of the challenge.

Thankfully, you can find a better parenting balance by using your Myers-Briggs personality type as a template for self-analysis. In this instance, being true to yourself can benefit your children immensely.

INFP: Establish the rules early

You don’t usually set boundaries ahead of time, preferring to address developments on the fly. You see this as being flexible, but it can be confusing to children who don’t know what to expect from day to day.

To solve your consistency problem and eliminate misunderstandings, you should:

  • Have a brainstorming session with your spouse or partner and try to come up with a list of definitive boundaries you both can agree upon.
  • Ask your children for their ideas about what the rules should be. Accept some, but not necessarily all, of their suggestions to show you care about their input.

INFJ: Stop bending the rules for them

You want your kids to become more independent. So, you may ignore some rule violations if you see benefits in letting your children take some risks. But you’ll still insist your kids live up to the highest moral standards and will discipline them if they don’t.

To promote clearer family communications about rule-making standards, you should:

  • Speak to your children honestly, explaining why you’re so disappointed when you see them acting selfishly, rudely or inconsiderately. 
  • Stop bending the rules on your own initiative, but instead give your kids the opportunity to ask for the occasional exception to the rules on their own. If you think it's for a good cause, grant their request.

ENFJ: Take a more neutral approach

You believe in your children’s potential and encourage them to reach for the stars and to dream the biggest dreams. But like most ENFJ parents, you can be a little naïve about the need to set boundaries. You trust your kids implicitly and expect them to follow your example at all times, which sets you up to be let down.

To take control of your boundary-setting behavior, you should:

  • Take a preventative approach. This means setting a lot of boundaries ahead of time, and not just assuming your kids will do the right thing.
  • Take a more neutral and unemotional approach to setting boundaries and assigning penalties for violations. Make it a point to be more objective about the process.

ENFP: Be a parent, not a friend

You have strong feelings about what constitutes acceptable behavior. But you often want to be your kids’ friend, and therefore will shy away from setting firm boundaries or reacting strongly when the boundaries you do set are ignored or violated.

To get on the right track, you should:

  • Watch a video or two about the importance of setting boundaries; it will help you gain a better perspective on your previous failures in this area.
  • Tell your kids you want to set some solid boundaries and establish some unbreakable rules with clear consequences for violations. Then, seek their input about what they think is fair.

INTJ: Customize for the child

As a parent, you strive to find a balance between firmness and flexibility. You believe structure and rules are important for growth and self-development, but you’ll still give your kids the latitude to try new things. At times you may struggle to find the right balance between a stronger and a lighter touch.

To make your approach work, you should:

  • Talk to your children individually to get their thoughts on why some rules are hard for them to follow. Listen to what they say and don’t be afraid to make adjustments.
  • Speak to your partner or spouse about the differences in your kids’ personalities and try to adopt a customized code of conduct for each one based on these discussions.

ENTJ: Work with your partner

You set clear and easily understood boundaries with well-defined consequences for misbehavior. You apply discipline fairly and consistently when you have the chance, but since you are often focused on your career you aren’t always home to enforce the rules.

To compensate for your shortcomings in this area, you should:

  • Have a serious but loving conversation with your kids, where you express your trust in them and ask them to be responsible and respect the rules even when you’re not around.
  • Ask your partner or spouse to be your surrogate and enforce the boundaries you’ve set when you’re not at home. To return the favor, you must enforce their rules when they’re not available to do so.

ENTP: Make boundary setting a family activity

You desperately want to see your children take wing and fly. You want to teach them to be independent thinkers and self-directed achievers and, in general, you worry that setting too many boundaries will hinder your child’s growth. Consequently, you often leave it to the other parent to make and enforce the rules, although you will express a general commitment to discipline.

To tighten up your approach, you should:

  • Read a book about child rearing that emphasizes the importance of setting boundaries to a child’s development.
  •  After you’ve learned a bit more about the concept, collaborate with your partner and your children to set boundaries that make sense. This will make it a positive family activity.

INTP: Talk to friends about rule-setting

You like to see your children figuring things out on their own, and you may be reluctant to set too many boundaries if you believe they will interfere with your kids’ development. At other times you may be distracted by your own projects or problems, leaving it to your partner to manage boundary setting and compliance.

To increase your constructive involvement, you should:

  • Talk to two or three trusted close friends or family members who have children about rulemaking and discipline. Listen carefully and consider following some of their advice.
  • Get together at least once each week with your spouse or partner to discuss family boundaries and your kids’ recent behavior. Work together to refine your approach to discipline if it seems necessary.

ESFJ: Never discipline when angry

You’re good at setting clear and rational boundaries, and you do so with a caring and loving hand. However, you tend to take your kids’ successes and failures personally, and you can get upset and become highly critical of them when their behavior violates your standards.

To stop confusing your kids with your changing moods, you should:

  • Never discipline your children when you’re angry. Calm down first and be logical and straightforward when explaining the punishment you’ve chosen.
  •  Ask your partner or spouse to critique your approach to discipline. They will be objective and loving and give you valuable input you can use to adjust your approach to be more effective.

ISFJ: Write down some logical consequences

You believe in discipline and setting boundaries, as you want to make sure your kids are following traditional moral codes and upholding societal standards. But you often blame yourself for your children’s failures, demonstrating overprotective instincts that may prevent you from choosing appropriate punishments.

To overcome your flaws in this area, you should:

  • Analyze your current household rules with a logical and rational eye. Choose consequences for violations that make sense, write them out, make copies and give one to each of your children.
  •  When you find yourself feeling guilty about your kid’s failures, discuss these emotions with your spouse or partner. They can help you gain perspective and overcome your tendency toward self-recrimination.

ISFP: Be more consistent

You devote yourself to making your kids happy. You will set boundaries and establish rules, but you will do so only when you’re convinced it’s for your children’s own good. The rest of the time you’ll be relatively lenient, which can allow them to get away with some questionable behavior.

To make your boundary-setting practices more effective, you should:

  • Talk with your spouse about the behaviors that you each find upsetting in your children. Make new rules to discourage those behaviors, for your own good.
  • Discuss your expectations regularly with your children, and let them know how and why they will benefit from doing things the right way.

ESFP: Set boundaries for yourself first

You’re generally more interested in having fun with your children than disciplining them for their misdeeds or disobedience. Even the idea of setting boundaries is difficult for them to contemplate, so they tend to rely on positive reinforcement as a way to encourage better behavior.

To develop a more reliable approach to discipline, you should:

  • Set some boundaries for yourself. Separate having fun with your kids from the part where you make some hard and fast rules to discourage reckless or unhealthy behavior.
  • Try remaining positive when you have to enforce the rules. When they commit a transgression, your children know that you still believe in them and know they will do better next time.

ESTJ: Explain the reasons behind the rules

You respect authority and expect your children to feel the same. You are serious about preserving boundaries and will not tolerate a failure to comply. For you, the boundaries have a purpose, which is to teach your children to be hardworking, productive and respectful. Unfortunately, your kids may not always understand why you are so strict.

To get your kids on board with your style of discipline, you should:

  • Explain to your children calmly and compassionately why there must be consequences after they’ve broken a rule.
  • Find a way to loosen one of your restrictions periodically, in situations where you know your children would appreciate an exception to the rule.

ESTP: Be more clear and consistent

You cherish your freedom and independence and are reluctant to deny the same to your children. As a consequence, you often struggle to set meaningful or firm boundaries, which can leave your kids trying to figure things out for themselves before they’re prepared to do so.

To become more effective at balancing the need for freedom and discipline, you should:

  • Learn from what has already happened. Look at instances where your children got into some type of trouble, and reflect on how having stronger boundaries could have protected them.
  • Whatever boundaries you ultimately choose to set, never excuse violations. Make sure there are always consequences and that they are unwanted.

ISTJ: Loosen up

You always make a concerted effort to set firm boundaries, and if your kids violate them there will be real consequences. You follow the rules and respect traditional values and want your children to do the same. You think your kids’ world will degenerate into chaos without discipline, and that is why you can seem rigid and controlling at times.

To loosen up and become less rigid, you should:

  • Ask your kids which rules they think are too inflexible or unreasonable. Listen to their arguments, and if they make some good points negotiate some relaxation of the unpopular rules.
  • Experiment with loosening some of your boundaries, letting your children know you want them to cooperate but won’t punish them if they don’t. You’ll likely get compliance most of the time, which will prove to you that you’ve been overly controlling

ISTP: Use your experience as your guide

You want your children to learn through direct experience, and preferably from their own initiative. You don’t want to coerce them into anything, so you tend to be a little lax about setting clear boundaries, preferring to lead and influence by example. It simply goes against your nature to be a disciplinarian.

To become more comfortable with setting boundaries, you should:

  • Do a deep dive into your own personal history, thinking about the times you got into trouble when you were young and how it all happened. Use this as a guide for setting a few new boundaries for your kids.
  • Any time you make a new rule that somehow restricts your kids’ freedoms, explain to them calmly and rationally why you’re doing it. Saying the words out loud will clarify your intentions and actually make you feel less guilty.
Nathan Falde
Nathan Falde has been working as a freelance writer for the past six years. His ghostwritten work and bylined articles have appeared in numerous online outlets, and in 2014-2015 he acted as co-creator for a series of eBooks on the personality types. An INFJ and a native of Wisconsin, Nathan currently lives in Bogota, Colombia with his wife Martha and their son Nicholas.