It’s scary that my kids are so radically different from me. For a person who lines up her cans alphabetically in the pantry, it’s pretty harsh. This ISTJ submitted identical genetic samples at conception, then raised them all in the same house with the same rules with unvaried routines…and they are from five different planets. And that’s only if Pluto counts. What you need to know is that your little one was born with a complete personality. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
When you Think you know
I’m a Thinker. I plan ahead. I had a manual. There were many things about having children that I could work with. Is the baby a girl? Create a nursery in pinks and greens. Is the baby colicky? Learn the football hold. Is the toddler smart? Of course he is, teach him to read. And also, put cabinet locks everywhere because that little scientist will attempt to destroy your home in the name of research.
This stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) prepared for a calm, stable, warm Norman Rockwell family.
It occurred to me during their early years that my children had an awful lot of Feelings. This phenomenon seemed to align with chapter fourteen in the manual and I did a lot of soothing with juice boxes and distraction. I had a plan, you see. The Feelings could be labeled neatly and lined up in the toy box with the glitter glue and Playdoh and the other messy but containable childhood things.
As two children turned into three children and three were suddenly five, I felt the full impact of what it is to be a mom relying on her Thinking for parenting. Certainly the way I made family decisions almost never considered what the family felt about it. We moved as a herd, if one child was cold, they were all handed their coats. It wasn’t a question of “Are you hungry?” it was a matter of planning snack time at the same time for everyone and if they had Feelings about apple slices, they were to keep it to themselves.
Outnumbered by the Feelers
I consistently worked us as a group and avoided as long as possible the fact that they were individuals who demanded - at any given time of day - attention for five separate passionate emotions. My Thinking brain was completely unprepared to handle this. Every time I attempted to come alongside their Feelings, I made things worse.
My firstborn, a deeply intuitive empathetic artist, took me years to meet. He is a free-spirited independent compassionate person who never understood my manual. It simply isn’t in his hardwiring. He took his Feelings to the canvas where they poured from his paintbrush into art I had no vocabulary for.
My next born seemed a steady, linear-loving, manual-abiding darling but had so many Feelings that I honestly had no way of helping her cope. She eventually found her favorite Aunt to pour her heart out to on a regular basis. An Aunt with a space in her that was okay with Feeling things and didn’t need to Think so much about them.
Baffled but committed
I had Feelings too, but they were of vague defeat that my plans and manuals had somehow missed a huge loophole in the family arrangements.
My middle child is used to coming up and patting me on the shoulder and telling me it’s okay that I am the Grinch. That someday my heart will grow and they all love me anyway.
By kid number five, I shook the Magic 8 Ball and let it decide whether his Feelings were going to be addressed or not. I looked at a child once in a while and asked, “Who are you? Where did you come from? This must be from your father’s side of the family. Waaaay down the line.”
Understanding at last
A few years later, when the studies on Personality Typing came out, it helped me understand our family dynamics and learn the most important lesson of all. I wrote it into the back of my battered manual.
And then I Thought about it for a while.
“We are uniquely and wonderfully made. Our different personalities are as varied and indispensable as the flowers that fill a garden. Feelings are not to be feared, and when they are released, other beautiful things can be born from them.”
Things to consider if you are a Thinking parent of Feeling children
- Feelings aren’t as frightening and out-of-control as you think they are. They may sound repetitive but they are here to stay. Feelers need to be heard. It is one of the ways that they grow and learn to understand the world around them. Sometimes, it will be someone else who can do the listening and it is not a sign of failure.
- If you think your child’s Feelings may not be age-appropriate or could be a signal for help, especially as they grow into the teen years, encourage them to share them with a counselor or therapist. Once again, expressing their Feelings is their normal way of figuring out where they fit in with the world around them and it’s okay to call on a professional listener.
- Feelers come from a place of empathy. Their world includes everyone else’s Feelings, too, and carrying the weight of the world easily tips them into overload. Help your child relax to a manageable place with warm baths, cuddly blankets, upbeat movies, or walks in the park. Depending on the child, they may need time alone to process Feelings before they can share them.
- Sometimes, a Feeling child can’t or won’t verbalize them. Advocate constructive lifestyles that will give them the tools they need to help them understand themselves better. Offer them a musical skill or a sports team or a paintbrush or a cause that encourages passionate Feelings to emerge and be used to their advantage. Older children can learn about the Personality Types and acquire the vocabulary used in discussing them.
- Be okay with taking a break if unresolved (but manageable) Feelings continue long-term. That could mean anything from fifteen minutes to a year. Recognize when your child’s Feelings begin to feel like a flood to either of you and take a healthy time out when it’s needed.
- Feelers don’t need the Feelings fixed. They need the Feelings released like butterflies into the Universe on a sympathetic shoulder. Thinking about the Feelings cripples them and they will be around a lot longer than they needed to be. Your child may tend to turn to you as a safe place for processing because you won’t add too many Feelings to their Feelings…but Feelers of all ages usually need you to just listen and love them in the hot mess.
- Instead, do your best to validate the Feeling. This is not the same as agreeing with the situation that created the Feelings; this is reminding your child that the Feelings are real, they will pass, and the child is loved regardless. Practice making an observation as a good listening skill. “I see that you are angry” is an example of this.
- Feelers will Feel things for the rest of their lives. Get comfortable with it. Educate yourself in the ways different personalities interact and advocate for them in your family. Cultivate a sense of humor about it where you can, and remember: At the end of the day, hugs are one-size-fits-all.