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As Parents

I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and advise them to do it.
-Harry S. Truman


A message regarding an INFJ mother:

I just want to say I agree with you, Vicky Jo, that Ni-generated insights can fall on deaf ears if it's not the right time. My mom tried to guide my life choices in ways I didn't value when I was in my late teens and early 20s, and at the time I was so irritated with her for saying she "just knew" that some of the things I wanted to experience right now (or wanted to pursue) would be "wrong" for me, or at least wrong for right now. I didn't like fighting with her, so either I snuck around and did my own thing and then hid my disappointment with the way things turned out from her (in case she might say she told me so), or I caved in and secretly felt resentful. 

I've SINCE then discovered that she had a better sense about what I really, ultimately wanted for my life than I had myself. That realization came as a bit of a shock, because it was this weird nonverbal "knowing" that popped into my mind and totally rearranged my thinking about her. I feel that Mom and I have a much better relationship these days, thanks to that realization. It just took a long time for me to get to the point where I could trust her intuitions.

-an ISFP daughter

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It's invaluable to know the Temperament/Type of your child.  It will give you an inkling about their core needs and values, and can thus define so much about how to best parent them.  Here's the current bible for achieving that:

Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child's Personality Type - And Become a Better Parent, by Tieger & Baron

The most important advice I can give you is to keep an open mind and be objective about your child's type.  Don't pluck a code out of thin air and try to project it onto the child, or duck the type codes you have bias against.  (If you do, as sure as I'm sitting here, the code that makes you uncomfortable is the code your child will turn out to be!)

You may be pulling your hair out trying to cope with Improviser (aka "Artisan") children, who can sometimes be particularly challenging and who are often diagnosed as suffering from ADHD or labeled "at-risk."  And of course there are the challenges of Theorist (aka "Rational") children with deplorable social skills who get diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome or even autism.  Following are some helpful resources, and the cool thing is that they are effective with ALL children, not just "problem" children:

Positive Discipline, and Positive Discipline A-Z, by Jane Nelsen

Choice Theory by William Glasser, M.D.

I like the STEP (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) book a lot!  And they offer a comprehensive training program besides. 

The original theory came from Alfred Adler, and was shaped by Rudolf Dreikurs.  (This approach to Improvisers is highly recommended by interventionist and Temperament expert Dr. David Keirsey.)

This outfit relies on Adlerian techniques for child-raising, and their products are highly recommended.

I also like the Gordon book and program, Parent Effectiveness Training, though I prefer using the "Choice" approach over "Active Listening," but I believe they work well together.  (The STEP materials combine the two.)

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If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.
                                             -C.G. Jung

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Diana Haskins wrote a wonderful book titled Parent as Coach.  She brings a message to parents from teenagers:

--  A Message To Parents --

If you RESPECT me, I will hear you.
If you LISTEN to me, I will feel understood.
If you UNDERSTAND me, I will feel appreciated.
If you APPRECIATE me, I will know your support.
If you SUPPORT me as I try new things, I will become responsible.
When I am RESPONSIBLE, I will grow to be independent.
I will respect you and love you all of my life.

Thank you!


Diana refers to this communique as the "seven ways to coach teenagers," and claims that each line delivers a step for coaching.  (The hardest step is often the first one.)  

I found the first chapter of her book to be compelling:

Being a parent is a lifelong commitment that begins with the birth of a child and lasts through all phases of life.  As our children change and grow, what do we as parents do to evolve with them?  We can't stand still.  While the primary relationship remains the same, the role needs to change for the parent as the child develops.  Imagine yourself passing through three distinct phases, or parenting roles, over the course of the first twenty years of your child's life:

Think of your first role during the formative years of the young child (approximately 0-6 years) as PARENT-TEACHER.  You are your child's first contact with mental and physical learning.  You literally spend thousands of hours together in day-to-day activities, feeding, rocking, reading, and playing.  It is a time of physical intensity in response to the child's need.  It is a time of nurturing.

At about six or seven years of age, the mental transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn" has occurred, and the child can begin to absorb information independently.  In the middle years (roughly 7-12), your child begins to initiate activities and create social groups, and needs an adult to help organize events and provide transportation, among many other supportive functions.  Without completely abandoning your role as parent-teacher, you take on the additional role of PARENT-ADMINISTRATOR -- managing your child's schedule and enabling him to explore his growing interests.

In the early teen years, a child's intellectual process expands with new capability for abstract thought.  As your child begins to manage her own scheduling and decision making, you may be fired from your role as administrator on the spot.  Then what?  Your job as parent goes on, but the role you play must change.  At this point, you must make a conscious decision:  Continue to monitor homework, nag about picking up clothes, meet your teen's silence with your frustration -- or accept nature's changes and take on the role of PARENT-COACH.

So, get ready.  When your child makes the shift into the teenage years, it is time for your role to shift as well.  Though you may think you've arrived at the parenting plateau -- your child's physical needs have lessened and she is taking on more responsibility -- you find you have to change your ways, and you may not be ready to do so.  During this evolution, stay committed to your long-term parenting relationship, and allow your role to change.

Diana's philosophy is summarized here:


Parent as Coachsm changes our global perspective from "Teenagers--Oh No!" to "Teenagers--How Cool!"

  • From the parent-coach viewpoint, the parent-teen relationship moves from conflict and opposition to encouragement and support.

  • The end result is that our children are raised to fill their "adult shoes" with the skills and maturity necessary to live as functional and responsible members of society.

We are calling on you, parents and adults, to honor and respect teenagers for who they are right now--vital young people who need your guidance on the journey from childhood to adulthood. Nurture them and coach them in building their lives.

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An associated website is this one, Coaching4Teens.  Sarah shares the chilling story of her experience with Luke (a pdf) that moved her to make drastic changes and become a coach for teenagers.  Her story is painful, but clearly demonstrates how many of us need to change our approach to dealing with teens.

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You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts.  You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.  You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.  For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.  You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

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INFJ - The "Know Thyself" Mother

"I believe the joy of motherhood is self-discovery--for them and for me."

Sensitive and family-focused, the INFJ mother looks for and encourages the unique potential of each child.  Self-knowledge may be her byword.  Her aim is to help each child develop a sense of identity and cultivate personal growth.  In fact, she may value the mothering experience as a catalyst to her own personal growth and self-knowledge.

The INFJ mother spends time observing and understanding each child.  She is drawn to intimate conversations and seeks a free exchange of feelings and thoughts.

Sympathetic and accommodating, the INFJ mother strives to meet the important yet sometimes conflicting needs of each family member in harmonious and creative ways.

She is conscientious and intense as well.  Probably no one takes life and child-raising more seriously than the INFJ.  She approaches mothering as a profession requiring her best self.


Connecting one-on-one with each child.  The INFJ mother listens, observes, and reflects to develop an understanding of who each child really is.  She "knows" her child and desires a close relationship.  She connects and keeps in touch with each child as a unique individual.

Providing her children with emotional support.  The INFJ mother is sensitive to her children's feelings, not shying away from helping them deal with even their heaviest emotions.  She seeks to smooth out the rough edges of their experiences with a comforting presence and her broader perspectives.

Profundity.  Focused on understanding values, spirituality, culture, and society, the INFJ mother provides awareness and insights into the subtleties and lessons of life beyond a child's immediate experience and questions.

Creativity.  The INFJ mother can dream up unusual, fun projects her children can do to occupy their time and enrich their day-to-day experience, such as fantasy games to play, theme parties, or special snacks to make from healthy foods.


Details.  The INFJ mother may gravitate toward the idea of getting the family and household organized and in order, only to exhaust herself with nitty-gritty follow-through.  Regular baths for small children, weekly laundry, daily meals, picking up clutter, and ongoing repairs can be overwhelming.

Real life versus the ideal.  Because she lives with an ideal in her mind, the INFJ mother often has unrealistic expectations of herself and others.  She may feel inadequate and critical of herself when reality falls short of her ideal.

Giving too much.  The INFJ mother may be prone to over-accommodation and self-sacrifice as a way to maintain family harmony.  She struggles with the ramifications:  a child who is too dependent and a mother who is depleted and resentful.


Although she is drawn to people, the INFJ mother must remember that she needs time alone on a regular basis.  Since her children are greatly affected by her mood swings, she is also giving to her children when she accommodates her Introversion.  Time alone to meditate, journal, listen to music, and enjoy nature as well as intimate discussions with close friends can do wonders to bring peace to herself.  For the INFJ especially, "If Mom ain't okay, ain't nobody okay."

The INFJ mother needs to try to take life less seriously ... to lighten up and take time to look at what life "is" rather than try to make it what it "should be."  By living in the moment rather than the future, she can also help curb her tendency to take an isolated fact and extrapolate a catastrophic outcome.

-Excerpted from Motherstyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths by Janet Penley & Diane Eble

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Eleanor Roosevelt compiled a short list in 1927 regarding the "Ethics of Parents":

  1. Furnish an example in living.

  2. Stop preaching ethics and morals.

  3. Have a knowledge of life's problems and an imagination.

  4. Stop shielding your children and clipping their wings.

  5. Allow your children to develop along their own lines.

  6. Don't prevent self-reliance and initiative.

  7. Have vision yourself and bigness of soul.

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