Make most of parenting personality

  • Samantha Critchell / Associated Press
  • Monday, October 27, 2003 9:00pm
  • Life

NEW YORK — When it comes to parenting, there rarely is only one right way to do things.

But, says author Janet Levine, there might be a better way of doing things depending on a parent’s individual personality: An "organizer" often works best when there is a goal to be accomplished while an "entertainer" thrives on working a lesson into a story.

Levine studies the Enneagram, an established model of personality based on a diagram with nine points, each one representing a personality type. Those points on the circumference also are connected with each other by inner lines.

The model, featured in Levine’s book "Know Your Parenting Personality" is based on patterns of thoughts, feelings, motivations and perceptions.

At first Levine, who teaches at Milton Academy in Massachusetts, applied the model to education but she says it also makes sense for parenting.

"There are some hard truths about parenting," she said in a recent phone interview. "All of us have a good side and a bad side. By finding out about your personality and motivations, you become aware of how to best take advantage of strengths and change behavior to downplay weakness."

Consider your strengths — empathy and passion if you’re a "dreamer," loyalty and logic if you’re a "questioner" — as gifts that can be used to enhance interaction with your children, advises Levine, the mother of two sons.

She says the Enneagram isn’t intended to pigeonhole anyone, it’s actually intended to expand a parent’s pool of resources to deal with each child individually. It’s also helpful to type your children, although Levine says that shouldn’t be attempted until children are teenagers because that’s when they truly become individuals instead of miniature versions of their parents.

"You will be the same parenting personality with different kids, but each kid — each with a different personality of their own — will bring out a different part of that personality within you," she explained.

Levine describes herself as "an organizer with a wing of helper." When she’s stressed, she takes on "peacekeeper" tendencies, and when she’s feeling safe and secure, she’s a "questioner."

The personality that these traits create often puts her at loggerheads with one of her sons, who is much more of an optimistic "entertainer."

"When I’d bring him back to earth, he didn’t appreciate it," Levine said.

Looking back, she would have been better off making cleaning his room a game that would appeal to his fun-loving personality instead of a goal-oriented task that she, as an "organizer," appreciated.

The nine-question, multiple-choice quiz that Levine uses to define parenting personalities (available in her book and on her Web site, asks things such as how a parent feels about a child’s last-minute decision to spend his birthday with friends instead of the family, and what children would say about a parent’s ability to deal with conflict.

When most people take the quiz, they are surprised by the triad they fall into — at least if they were honest with their answers, Levine reports. As with many self-administered tests, people sometimes give answers on what they think is "right" or based on the personality type they hope they’ll be, she cautioned.

Copyright ©2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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