Children whose dominant process is N tend to be very imaginative, seeing possibilities, thinking of the future, frequently storytellers and often lost in their own world. They can be very focused on things others don’t notice, and still miss the obvious. These are the kids who genuinely don’t notice they’re stepping on the only book left on the floor.
Children whose dominant process is S tend to be very grounded and practical children. Their wants and delights are physical: bright colors or quiet spaces, building towers and watching how they fall. Their distractions and distresses, also lean to the physical: the cold, a stickiness, or stone in the shoe. They have a high attentiveness to the information gathered through their senses: tastes, textures, sounds sights and smells.
Children whose dominant process is F tend to be very aware relationally, either with regards to how their behavior affects others, or how others’ behavior affects them. Compassion, people-pleasing and cries of unfair are all things that seem to show up “early” in these children.
Children whose dominant process is T tend to be very confident. They know what they want and frequently how to get it. They value competency, proof, and proving themselves. They are often more interested in things than people, and can seem mature for their age, based on their lower emotional volatility.
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Unless we’ve trained ourselves differently, we tend to view differences as a threat. After all, they’re making a different decision. They must think my way is wrong, and where do they get off…?
It is frequently helpful to consider how many different “right ways” can exist.
There is a delightfully maddening story in the book All Creatures Great and Small where the author’s eccentric boss hires a secretary to manage the veterinary business’s records and billing.
When this tough, no-nonsense lady comes in, she nearly has a fit when she sees the way money is currently kept: spilling out of a pot on the mantle. She works everything into order, but the boss eventually takes her to task about how her cash box is no good when it doesn’t contain cash.
Ultimately, I think letting people be different is granting them their own dignity. A chance to fail on their own terms. Because at the same time you are giving them the latitude to succeed in a way you might never choose to try.
Some things we might scold a child for, or try to “train” out of him or her, can be early manifestations of preferences that truly are values-neutral. Just because they aren’t choices we’d make doesn’t (by itself) make them bad.
Assume for the purposes of this story that Suzy has picked something truly horrendous. Something that makes Mama’s toes curl in embarrassment and jump to redirect or insist the child change at once.
A child can acquiesce (which would indicate an outward–extraverted orientation– F preference: a desire to please, to conform to mama’s desires). Or she may resist. The resistance is the most interesting here, because it does not automatically represent a sinful, rebellious nature that must be dominated or re-directed for the sake of her own sacred soul.
I get that specific because there are those that indicate any deviation from parents’ choices is that dangerous.
At this level it could simply be an indication of an introverted F judgment: the child values something based on her own, internalized, judgment, independent of what the world around her values.
Now, this is where “type chemistry” gets interesting to me.
If this child is an introvert (likely if she’s showing Fi at such a young age) and mother is an extravert, odds are there’s already tension in the relationship, because Mother doesn’t understand Child’s orientation to life.
Mother will proceed to teach Child (either gently or not) that what Child values is irrelevant, that Child needs to conform to external expectation.
This doesn’t have to be bad; a swimsuit really isn’t wise at -40°. But in deference to the core-identity of the child, it is useful to begin making a distinction between “flexible” beliefs and inflexible ones.
For example, a child getting to wear her swimsuit whenever she feels like it is not a right inherent to her human dignity. Refusing to allow a stranger to touch her anywhere her swimsuit covers is a right inherent to her human dignity.
If you train a child that her entire role is to submit to authority, I think you’ll ultimately be disappointed. Our goal isn’t to raise children, it’s to raise adults. So a child having an opinion of her own is not something that needs to be treated as a threat.
Each parent will decide how much flexibility to allow these independent-minded children, but I believe some people will find it easier to be patient if they see that disagreement isn’t always about defiance or personal insult.
Most of the other processes (S, N, & T) aren’t as polarizing in themselves, but recognizing your child’s dominant process, and helping your child develop it in a way you can genuinely admire, will be a tremendous boost to your child’s self-esteem, and will strengthen your relationship together over time.
Children figure out when you really mean it, so show them something they can do that you’ll be proud of.
Some examples follow (from my own brainstorming). All of these will be enjoyed by most children, but I tried to categorize things where they most directly connect to a dominant process.
- Building with blocks, or pipe cleaners
- Teaching proportion (i.e., if you enjoy card-making or scrapbooking and Jr. wants to join in)
- Collecting color or texture chips (like from the paint store) and dividing them into groups (by shade or intensity or ‘temperature:’ warm and cool colors.)
- Learning the right way to pet kitty/puppy/molerat so we all can enjoy it
- Making rhythm instruments or playing drums with the kitchen options
- Read aloud: especially stories about children (or children-surrogates) solving real problems this child will face
- Provide dress-up clothes, or a rag-bag (which they’ll use just as well)
- Read aloud– especially fantastic stories with vibrant illustrations
- Once these are accepted you may even be able to move to less-illustrated books, because they’ll be ready to play out the action on the stage of their mind.
- Participate in their stories if invited, or leave them to build their own world (This is a place where introversion/extraversion can become apparent)
- Provide art supplies and a chance to proceed undirected, but have suggestions if they ask.
- Provide playthings to be characters in their stories.
- Listen to their ideas. As long as they’re not dangerous be silent rather than disagree– let them explore to learn.
- Strive for a peaceful environment. All children thrive in such settings, but F-oriented children can wither or become fearful of all the tension they may feel but not understand
- Talk about emotions. Give them names. Emphasize it is what you do with emotions that matters, not how you feel that can be “bad”
- Praise their desire to make peace, teach them negotiating skills
- But teach them to balance their desire to please others with a healthy awareness of who they are, separate from the people around them
- This might even be tricky for some parents, as they will be enjoying the benefits of a child who longs to please. Encouraging such a child to think for himself will make life more complected. But it will also make the child stronger.
- These are the kids to catechize, give songs and scriptures to memorize. All children will benefit from such training, but values and relationship are the currency of this child’s identity, so they must be nurtured.
- Because these children are weighted so heavily on the F-side of the spectrum, it’s a good idea to give them stories that illustrate healthy conflict, along with the cozy stories that make them feel secure.
- Provide multiple opportunities for mastery. (Again all children benefit from this, but the identity of this child is bound up in his/her competency, so it can’t be neglected).
- Emphasize the faithfulness in little things, and develop observation.
- Many of these children love puzzles (especially once they’re confident they have the tools to solve them).
- Explaining yourself (your decisions/rationale as a parent), and making fine distinctions between terms can be very helpful to these children. It tells them they’re worth an explanation, and that you respect their intelligence enough to expect them to understand.
- Obey *while* you ask why’ is our standard line to prevent questions from becoming a delay tactic.
- These children may be less tuned-in to the human needs around them, so stories about compassionate characters and learning to be flexible are a good supplement to the “hard science” books these kids might gravitate toward. This gives children the opportunity to observe relational interactions and parents a chance to talk about them and explain connections.
Can you think of more ideas? What was the most affirming help you got from your parents/caregivers?