Have you ever wondered why you parent the way you do? Why you freak out if your kid watches too much tv, but you don’t really care if he eats too much sugar? Why some parents want to be more like their kids’ playful friend, and others are strict rule-enforcers? Why are other people’s houses always so much neater and more organized than mine?
Before my kids were born I had visions of what the perfect mother looked like -- a mixture of television and real life influences that all added up to a woman who had it all together, kept her children happy, her home neat and organized, and got along with everyone. And pie. There’s always pie in this mental image. Because, well, pie. It never occurred to me that most of my parenting ideals were based on role models that didn’t actually share any of my personality traits.
Is personality important?
Many people don’t take into account the importance of knowing your personality before venturing into the parenting journey. In most other areas of life -- college/university, jobs, dating/marriage -- we take the time to to discover who we are, what makes us tick, and then we proceed to work within our strengths and (lie about cover up) work around our weaknesses. So why wouldn’t we do the same for a role that is effectively a life-long, 24/7 commitment?
Expecting yourself to fit the mold of a universal ideal parenting style is a little like expecting every fruit at the grocery store to taste like an apple. If it looks like a kiwi, feels like a kiwi and came from the kiwi tree, why on earth would you expect it to taste like an apple?!
Most of us are aware of some basic personality differences, like Type A and Type B. Or we recognize traits like super organized or fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. Even these vague descriptions can indicate what kind of parent you are -- the point is, we know we’re different, so why not understand our unique personalities as parents and celebrate how it helps us to rock this parenting gig?
Where to begin . . . and what not to do!
There are hundreds of personality tests out there, and while it might be fun to take those online quizzes, I wouldn’t recommend relying on the social media varieties for any reliable information (the only reliable information happening there is the data they are gathering about your likes and dislikes for the next pop-up ad on your screen, just saying.)
Below are my Favourite Four with a brief description and links to interesting information. This is just the tip of the iceburg, but they are a great start to understanding how to make the most of your parenting personality.. And remember -- there is no way to be a perfect parent, but there are thousands of ways to be a good one.
1. Myers-Briggs - The MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) is a well-known, intensive personality test based on psychology C.G. Jung’s personality theory that categorizes people into 16 different personality types, based on preferences in four major categories. Many free tests are available online (like this one: click here although the most accurate results can only be tested and administered by someone trained in this method.
This website Personality Growth gives great examples of how each type will exhibit a different parenting style.
Another helpful website that outlines the MBTI and parenting styles is the Parent Society
2. Colours -- The Colours personality test is a much simpler system that divides people into four main camps, or colours -- orange, blue, gold, and green. According to Parenting by Colors each of us -- parents, kids, and teens, have a unique personality type, or colour. Each colour has a different set of values, needs, stressors, and motives for behavior. Understanding what motivates us or why we do the things the way we do, can help us to work together as a family.
3. Love Languages - Dr. Gary Chapman has written a series of books on the Five Love Languages -- how people express love in a variety of different ways. According to Chapman, each of us is naturally drawn to one of five particular ways of giving and receiving love -- words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. Comparing these to languages, with the premise of wanting to understand each other’s language to better communicate our feelings to each other, the books help navigate romantic love and parent-child/teen relationships. For our family, this information has been absolutely invaluable in helping us to be better parents according to our children’s needs. Hugging a child or buying them lots of toys when they are longing to hear words of affirmation is like telling her in German that you love her when all she understands is French. It also helps to understand what you need as a parent to feel loved -- keeping our emotional tank filled up is key to burning out!
This website offers some great insight on how to apply the “love languages” to the parent-child relationship: Good Therapy
4. Birth Order - It doesn’t take a PhD to know that there are some pretty major differences between an oldest child’s personality and a youngest’s. But Dr. Kevin Leman has written some fascinating books on Birth Order Theory and the lifelong implications of its impact on our lives. Most of the information available about Birth Order is about understanding your child’s birth order and parenting them accordingly. Some great tips here: but I believe it’s also imperative to understand your own birth order and capitalize on your strengths to create a good parenting situation.
A springboard, not a crutch
There are many other ways to understand your parenting personality. These are just a few. The key is not only understanding who you are, but accepting who you are not. And then, after that, not using your personality as a crutch, but as a springboard to become the best version of you that you can be for your family.
Monica deRegt has a BA in Psychology, is a freelance writer/editor and an imperfect mom to three children aged 6, 10, and 11. She is married to Marcel deRegt and they have spent their 15 years of marriage moving across the country and back, living in BC, Alberta and Ontario.