Thursday, January 23, 2014

P is for Personality

When the twins were toddlers, life was exhausting, regardless, but there were some weeks that, by the end of the week, I'd be more exhausted than usual, and I couldn't figure out why. I'd look back over my week, and I'd have spent alot of time with friends, which logically, should have been more relaxing than staying home alone. My girls played well with others, so it seemed like sitting in a friend's living room visiting should be a pretty relaxing way to spend a day . . . so why was I so tired?

Then, when I hit a challenging age to parent, someone recommended Raising Your Spirited Child. While it's also an excellent parenting book, and one of the books I credit with keeping my from "killing" my kids when they were 3. An added bonus I took away from it was an explanation of introvert vs. extrovert.

The book was discussing it so we'd understand it in our children, but more valuable for me, was understanding it in myself. I'm a strong introvert, I used to assume that just meant I'd rather sit on the sidelines at a party, and things like that. What I learned from Raising Your Spirited Child is that introversion and extroversion is about how a person spends, and gains energy. An extrovert gains energy from being around other people. I have friends who either get really antsy or really depressed and down, if they're snowed in or otherwise can't be around people for more than a day or two. They need to be around people to be energized and happy. In introvert is drained of energy by being around other people. That doesn't mean she doesn't LIKE the people, or even being around them, it just means that, after being around people for a long period of time, she's exhausted. And introvert needs to be alone to restore energy.

That's what I was experiencing when the girls were toddlers and we had lots of playdates. Even though each of the friends we were visiting were people I truly enjoyed being with, by doing that for multiple days in a row, I was exhausted from the repeated energy drain, without alone time to "recharge".

Once I figured that out, I was (usually) more careful to make sure to spread out the playdates, and other interactions. I still "forget" sometimes. Just recently, I woke up one morning feeling sick to my stomach. I went to my required appointment, but then left hubby and the kids to enjoy the rest of the day's activities, while I went home and spent a few hours alone. Pretty much as soon as I got home and sat down in the quiet house, I felt fine. I think my body was just reminding me that I wasn't taking that oh-so-essential alone time.

Being an introvert and a homeschool mom can be tricky. . . thankfully, I've found that as long as I'm only with my husband and children, no extra people, it "counts" as "alone time. I don't "recharge" as quickly, when surrounded by my family, as I do when I get a few hours completely alone, but it works. . . and I think, has the added benefit, that those slower recharges encourages me to make sure we have plenty of time for just our family.

A couple of years ago, I expanded my understanding of personalities, by learning about the Myers-Briggs Personality Types.  This includes introvert/extovert but also looks at 3 other pairs of characteristics.  There are numerous free tests available, although I'm sure an "official" test would be more complete. I found that I got different results with different tests, but by reading the descriptions of the one I "flip-flopped" on, I was able to determine which one makes most sense for me.

Here's one of the sites that seemed to give me accurate results.

As I began to see how, understanding my personality type helped me to understand myself, and where I needed to be aware of areas I am weak in (being tactful, for example), and also ways I differ from others, I also saw value in better understanding my children's personality types as well. I was able to find this test for kids, ages 7-12. It only defines 3 of the 4 types, because kids are still growing/changing, but again, seemed pretty accurate for my kids (I went ahead and answered the questions, as best I could, for Little Bit despite her being younger than the recommended age range, to at least get a rough idea for her as well).

How does all of this help? In our marriage, it's helped hubby and me see where our communication is failing because what I say isn't what he hears, and vice versa. Likewise, in parenting, I recognize that each of my children is going to interpret my words and actions differently, and respond differently because of her personality type.

From the time Little Bit was itty bitty, I've noticed how much more she wants to please people, and how upset she gets when someone else is sad or upset. That is pretty different from the older girls, who never seemed to "get" that they should feel bad that they had done something to make someone else sad. As I discovered that Little Bit is a "Feeler" and the rest of us are "Judgers", that made more sense, and gave us a way to talk about it, and how, being aware that we don't naturally have that empathy, we need to still be kind and think more intentionally about how people feel when we do things.

All of this has helped my parenting. In a world that seems to bombard my children the message that they should be treated exactly the same or "it's not fair", personality types have been a tool to help them see that each of them are individuals and that it's more "fair" if I treat them each accordingly, instead of treating them all the same.

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1 comment:

Gena at said...

I'm an introvert homeschool mom, too!