Parenting is being pecked to death by chickens. Mostly because kids are tiny, imperfect humans who need just so much from us as grown, imperfect humans.
I’m continuing to learn my parenting improves when awareness of myself and my motivations expand. As I gain deeper understanding of why I’m reacting to the pecking in unhelpful ways, I can move past reflexive reactions and develop responses that benefit both my kids and me.
One of the best self-awareness tools I’ve discovered is the Enneagram. For those of you saying, “Ennea-what?” stay with me! A personality framework with nine core types, the Enneagram identifies different ways people see the world and what motivates their behavior. The Enneagram is like an observer, reflecting our inner world without judgment and inviting us on a path of growth.
You likely understand your personality affects your parenting. You like things organized and kids, well, typically don’t! You need time alone to recharge, and tiny fingers are sliding under the bathroom door. Each Enneagram type brings particular gifts and limitations to parenting. The greater understanding you have of why you act a certain way, the more opportunity you have to choose healthy responses. And no matter the personality’s particular gifts and specific places of caution, we all are striving for healthy responses with our kids.
If you have never heard of the Enneagram before these paragraphs, these tips still have value for you. Fair warning! One may land a little harder than the rest, ruffling your feathers more than the others. Pay attention to that one. It may just be the one to protect you the most from the pecking.
THE BODY CENTER: Eights, Nines, & Ones
Type Eight: Protective Challenger
Gifts: No one does Mama Bear like you. And few people feel as comfortable sharing difficult truths as you do. Your children will learn justice and strength from watching you.
Watchouts: Be careful that you don’t overshare with your kids. Children rarely need as much information as we adults think they do. Learn how to manage anger in healthy ways, especially with other adults in front of your children.
Type Nine: Peaceful Mediator
Gifts: You are easy-going and low-stress. You can ride the waves of change that accompany daily life with children. Your children will learn how to see and value other perspectives from you.
Watchouts: Your go-with-the-flow posture means you can disengage in unhealthy ways. Create structures and routines that help you check in with your child when you would naturally want to retreat. Be careful to keep your own needs and wants yours, rather than merging with your kids.
Type One: Reforming Perfectionist
Gifts: You intensely love what’s right and good. Your kids will learn responsibility and exceptional ways to manage their lives from you.
Watchouts: Remember, your children are not a reflection of your ability to keep it all together, and you cannot compare your children to other families. It’s unlikely your children will never meet your standard of perfect, especially in the tidiness of their rooms or loading the dishwasher. Let them struggle to find their own methods and resist the urge to go behind them and fix it. Practice turning down the volume of the voice inside your mind telling you you’re a bad mom. You are a good parent.
THE HEART CENTER: Twos, Threes, & Fours
Type Two: Considerate Giver
Gifts: You are just a warm hug and a willing servant all the time. Love just flows out of you. You clothe and feed and make everyone feel welcome. Your kids will learn service from you.
Watchouts: It’s a challenge to feel your own feelings first, but you cannot feel your children’s emotions for them. A difficult time is when your child is angry with you. It’s actually healthy, and usually means they’re learning to emotionally process appropriate boundaries of you have set.
Type Three: Successful Competitor
Gifts: You are a walking motivational poster! Your levels of management are unmatched. Your kids will learn goal-setting, efficiency, and excellence from you.
Watchouts: At the same time, you must learn to communicate to your child that you love them separate from their achievements. The mommy competition game can hit you especially hard. Learn how to embrace the different gifts children bring that aren’t the typical achievements. Average is ok. (I know you may have just died a little, but I promise, it’s ok.)
Type Four: Romantic Individualist
Gifts: You welcome each gift with open arms. Every difference makes a child unique and valuable. Your children learn the value of all the emotions from you because you are not afraid to sit in the pain with them.
Watchouts: There comes a point when you have to help your children not wallow. Be careful to not overlook when they need to learn skills to learn from the pain and move on. Also remember, your child may want to just fit in sometimes and not be as unique as you.
THE HEAD CENTER: Fives, Sixes, & Sevens
Type Five: Investigative Specialist
Gifts: Your love of learning is deep and wide. Your house is likely full of books and your playlist full of podcasts on a variety of topics. Your children develop a healthy sense of “there’s always more to learn” from watching you.
Watchouts: Learn how to manage your energy and communicate your needs with your children. Develop practices of alone time during the day. Be free from guilt about not loving all the touching and the needs that accompany young children. You don’t have to learn all the things yourself to be a good mom. In the midst of research, remember the wonder of stories.
Type Six: Loyal Skeptic
Gifts: You have a gift for preparation and questions. Your kids will learn to understand the context and what is required in any situation from you.
Watchouts: You tend to ask the anxiety side of the question, “What if?” Be cautious about passing that anxiety on to your children. Develop ways to help them see the possibilities, not just the danger. It’s easy for children to be exhausted by questions, especially preteens and teens, so be careful to limit your questions when you sense your children retreating. And know this: You can trust yourself as a mom. You have what it takes to make great decisions for your kids.
Type Seven: Enthusiastic Visionary
Gifts: You can make joy and wonder out of a tin can! You can find the good in any circumstance in no time. The imagination and problem solving you demonstrate to your kids will serve them well in life.
Watchouts: Find routines to give your children predictability and security, and stick with them when it’s not always fun. Let your kids feel their emotions—even the negative ones and the feelings that seem illogical. You may have to be especially careful when your memory and emotions around a past event do not match your child’s memory.
Visit jennwhitmer.com/enneagram for more resources including a free booklet—Why Do I Keep Doing This?
A shortened version of this article originally appeared in St. Louis Mom’s Blog, part of City Mom’s Blog.