How knowing your personality type can help adoptive parents

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I love personality tests. Always have. Turns out they also come in handy for adoptive parents when you’re trying to suss out your own foibles and how they affect the way you relate to others (spouses, children, friends, professionals…). And you can find hints about each type can best manage their self-care.

Here are some of my favourites and how I use them.

Myers-Briggs
I’m an INTJ: Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging. This type is sometimes labelled ‘The Mastermind’ – we like plans and theories and date-gathering and testing hypotheses. Pete is the same, which makes life easier – we are pretty much on the same wavelength about most things and tend to approach situations in a similar way: by weighing things up, having discussions that pull in all the evidence and work toward a conclusion and a plan of action, and then getting on with it.

intj

In terms of our parenting, this generally works in our favour. Yes, the introvert thing is a pain in terms of a support network (I’ve written more about this in my post about the need to have support to facilitate self-care). The intuition is great for tuning in to the girls, the thinking is great for the analysis of why things happen, and the judging means we are big on boundaries (read: strict) which Joanna and Charlotte really need so that they don’t get themselves into a spiral of hyperactivity and then crash into a meltdown.

Take a free Myers-Briggs type test.

Enneagram
With the Enneagram, you’re given a main number which represents your type, with a subordinate ‘wing’ number. I retook a version of this test (here) before writing this and came out as a type one with a two wing.

enneagram

Type one is labelled ‘The Reformer’. The website where I took the test says: ‘People of this personality type are essentially looking to make things better, as they think nothing is ever quite good enough. This makes them perfectionists who desire to reform and improve; idealists who strive to make order out of the omnipresent chaos.’ So, well suited to adoptive parenting then!

Type two is ‘The Helper’, which might sound a bit more appropriate. ‘People of this personality type essentially feel that they are worthy insofar as they are helpful to others. Love is their highest ideal. Selflessness is their duty. Giving to others is their reason for being. Involved, socially aware, usually extroverted, Twos are the type of people who remember everyone’s birthday and who go the extra mile to help out a co-worker, spouse or friend in need. … Because Twos are generally helping others meet their needs, they can forget to take care of their own. This can lead to physical burnout, emotional exhaustion and emotional volatility. Twos need to learn that they can only be of true service to others if they are healthy, balanced and centered in themselves.’

Interesting. The type one stuff does sounds like me. I like a plan and a system and I love looking for ways to make things better. I am very easily cheesed off with systems that are inefficient or poorly thought-out. During the adoption process I kept thinking of ways to redesign the system and computerise large swathes of it on a secure site like the one you use to do self-assessment tax returns. (Yes, that is my idea of a fun way to spend an evening.) And as for the type two stuff, I’m definitely not an extrovert, but hello, enormous need to remember self-care. That fits.

So this test is useful in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each type, and it’s not difficult to look at this with your therapeutic parenting googles on and apply your type to your family relationships. For me – no surprise here – the perfectionist/efficiency thing is both an advantage (multitasking? No problem!)  and a source of frustration when others are not wired in the same way. (‘What do you mean, you can’t sort laundry and cook the dinner and supervise two lots of homework simultaneously? You just need a better system!’) It’s useful to be reminded of that.

Take a free Enneagram test.

The Four Tendencies
This quiz, devised by Gretchen Rubin and linked to her book about habit-forming, Better Than Before, divides people into four types: Upholder, Obliger, Questioner and Rebel. She says:

‘In a nutshell, it distinguishes how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%).

Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations.

Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves.

Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.’

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I’m an obliger, which means I’m great at meeting other people’s expectations of me (such as work deadlines) but not so great at keeping commitments I’ve made to myself (such as diet and exercise). Pete is a questioner, so he is perpetually desperate to know why the children are making daft choices: ‘Why did you cover your bedroom wall with lip balm/hide a week’s washing down the side of your bed/steal things from your teacher’s desk?’ – which of course are the unaskable questions if we want to avoid meltdowns, so he is often exceptionally frustrated. Knowing this helps both of us to back off a bit. Sometimes.

Take Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies quiz.

Hogwarts
Also, I’m not sure this is good for more than a bit of fun, but according to The Guardian’s Sorting Hat quiz, I am in Ravenclaw, Pete is in Hufflepuff, Joanna is in Slytherin and Charlotte is in Gryffindor. (If you’re not a Potterhead, see this explanation of the Hogwarts houses.) Make of that what you will.

What type(s) are you?
I’m curious to see whether adoptive parents are more strongly represented by particular personality types. How do they affect your parenting and/or your self-care preferences? If you take any of these tests, I’d love it if you’d leave the results and your thoughts in the comments so we can compare notes.

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2 Comments

  1. 30 January 2017 / 7:58 am

    Of course I had to take the test, and It’s a nice way to stroke your own ego. But I’m quite surprised how closely the result matches me. According to the Myers-Briggs my personality type is The Advocate. As “Advocates You May Know” the site lists Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and weirdly House M.D. I should be so lucky ☺

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