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Determining Your Child’s Personality Type

Determining Your Child's Personality Type | SimplyGreater.orgDetermining Your Child's Personality Type | SimplyGreater.orgIs your child a lip-biting wallflower who withdraws around large groups of people?  Or maybe an outgoing performer who loves to be the center of attention?  A know-it-all who has answers for every question? 

For the most part, children’s personalities are hard-wired at a very young age, and according to experts, honing in on what makes them tick can be extremely helpful for parents as they learn to understand, guide and raise their children. However, just because your kiddo is predisposed to be overly chatty and super active, it doesn’t mean you can’t teach her to be more reserved.

Is it worthwhile to determine your child’s personality, especially if you already get along? The answer is yes. Gaining a better sense of his or her personality will enable you to set reasonable expectations for him or her down the road and encourage optimal development.

Personality typing, the science of categorizing people, has been around for nearly 2,500 years, when Hippocrates first identified four basic personality types: Choleric, sanguine, melancholy and phlegmatic. Today’s terminology, used by everyone from psychologists, human resource consultants, marketing gurus and Dr. Phil, may be different, but the basics have changed remarkably little.

Psychologists today prefer the word preferences to types, and there are four major groupings, each representing a scale: Extraversion and introversion; sensing and intuition; thinking and feeling; and judging and perceiving. Keep in mind that each child is different and may not be easily categorized if he or she is a mixture of the categories. The idea is to try to discern what comes naturally to your child, and then focus on ways you can highlight his or her personal best.

  • Extraversion or introversion refers to how your child focuses his or her attention. If your daughter has a preference for extroversion, she is outgoing and active, talkative and easy to get to know, finds it easy to express feelings and interests, prefers spending time with others to being alone and enjoys social situations and interactions. If your son has a preference toward introversion, on the other hand, he’s most likely quiet, shy and reserved, hates interruptions, likes to think things through before answering, has a small, tight circle of friends and likes to watch before getting involved.
  • Sensing and intuition relates to how your child uploads information. If your daughter has a preference for sensing she most likely responds best when given well-defined, step-by-step instructions, can be astoundingly good at noticing the smallest details and remembering facts, prefers toys that mirror real life, focuses more on the past and present than on the future and prefers to follow well-defined instructions and examples. If your son has a preference for intuition, he enjoys tasks that require imagination, favors unique toys and games, can be amazingly adaptable and resourceful, is future-oriented and may focus more on the idea than actually doing something about it.
  • Thinking and feeling refers to how your child makes decisions. If your daughter has a preference for thinking, she probably loves hard data and cause-and-effect analysis, values individual achievement more than group cooperation, loves to debate, places a high value on competence and uses hard logic to get across her point of view. If your son has a preference for feeling, he probably places a high value on relationships and is sensitive towards others’ feelings, looks for and naturally gives encouragement and appreciation, tends to please people, needs positive feedback and praise, and can be quite the little diplomat stating his point of view.
  • Judging and perceiving relates to how your child deals with the world. If your son has a preference for judging, he probably starts projects well in advance, appreciates order and structure, dislikes diversions or surprises, makes decisions quickly and easily, and finds it difficult to adjust to last-minute changes in plan. If your daughter has a preference for perceiving, she loves surprises and takes life as it comes, tends to let things slide then accomplishes a lot in a whirlwind of activity, is comfortable in chaotic and disorganized environments, doesn’t mind a change in schedule, dislikes rules, and has a habit of starting more projects than she can finish.

Whatever preference your child has, try to structure information, school, social situations and even leisure time accordingly. If you have more than one child, be a parenting chameleon and change styles with different children.

Sound hard? It doesn’t need to be.  If you have an introverted boy who’s just joined the Cub Scouts, let him sit and watch a few meetings before he joins in on the conversation and activities. If your intuitive daughter has a major project due, don’t bother her with lengthy, highly detailed instructions. Let her figure it out as she goes instead. Just make sure she finishes it!

Following your child’s preferences is a lot more work than a one-size fits-all approach, sure. But ultimately you’ll be rewarded with a happier, more secure, more motivated child. And you’ll be a happier, more secure, more motivated parent as well.

Information on eight preferences and four dichotomies adapted from the Myers & Briggs Foundation and MBTI test.

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Determining Your Child's Personality Type
Find out what kind of personality your child has with this free personality test, made from the Myers-Briggs model.
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