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Helping families make the most of personality differences.

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Not the typical gift
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TAGS: Boundaries, Differences, Encouragement, Parenting, Rewards

Not the Typical Gifts for Our Kids

Elizabeth Murphy, Ed.D.
ELIZABETH MURPHY, Ed.D., is a psychologist and type expert whose research focuses on verifying the development of normal personality differences according to the theory of psychological type. She works extensively with families and teams of people to improve communication and resolve relationship needs.
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Selecting a gift for those under the age of 5 is pure joy.  They like almost everything.  From that age on it is a challenge and by adulthood gift giving is like climbing Mt. Everest.

One gift for a new parent that seems ideal to me is the Night Nanny.  New parents get no sleep.  Prince William said when he heard of the birth of Prince Harry's son that he was "...pleased to welcome Prince Harry to the Sleep Deprivation Society of Parenting."

Night Nannies can help with that.  These nannies are terribly expensive, so this becomes a role for family, friends, and trusted others.  The Night Nanny is not coming to visit so there is no need to clean, to feed them, or to act as a host.  This person arrives when the parents are ready to go to bed.  This person feeds, changes, and attends to the baby all night so the parents can get a full night's rest.  When the family awakens to begin their day the Night Nanny leaves so there is no lingering.  I cannot think of a better gift to give once a month or every other week to parents with a newborn.  

A gift that grandparents can give that parents cannot is dedicated time and attention.  I was visiting and observed a grandfather sitting at a table with a three-year-old for over an hour.  I wondered what they were doing and saw that he was playing picture memory matches with her.  He must have played over 100 games and was smiling and enjoying the child who loved repeating the game over and over.  (Sensing children seem to do this more than Intuitive children.) I thought he earned "Grandparent of the Year" for that experience.


Another grandparent took the grandkids to Walmart.  Each had $10 to spend.  The gift was they could "shop" for as long as they want.  There was no time limit.  When they decided what they wanted they would pay for the purchase or keep their money and then everyone would go out for a meal together.  Usually, the parents said something like, "You have 5 minutes.  Hurry up and decide."  The grandparent had no time limit.  They could take forever to decide.  The temptation of the meal after shopping was to motivate closure but it is amazing how long children can explore toy shelves.

Another grandparent gift is to take the children places the parents are less likely to explore with them.  We went to the US Mint, the Dr. Pepper museum and did the treasure hunt there, watched how to make stained glass (and made dad a Father's Day mug), went to the airport park to watch planes take off and land using binoculars, and even went to Chucky Cheese.  Most of these are a once-in-a-lifetime adventure because you only need to do them once.

Grandma Camp or Grandpa Camp was always a favorite.  This can be a day camp or an overnight camp or a week-long camp.  The children move in with the grandparent and together they develop the activities for the week.  Parents are not involved and get a chance to miss their children who are being well-cared for and loved by others.

When the grandchildren are little it is much easier.  As they age the role of the grandparent switches from entertaining the child to attending events to watch the child play soccer, play tennis, run, perform musically, artistically, etc.  These are moments of pride and fun but not really a gift.  So, what do you give the parent of the older child?

My best guess is you give them the gift of respecting their way of rearing their children even if you have other ways you think are better.  They may have rules you would not set or no rules when you would set them.  They may choose different food habits or sleep habits than you chose for them when they were little.  Your expectations of the parent and the child may send an indirect message of judgment or criticism.  Acknowledge that you would have chosen differently but also acknowledge it is their turn to parent and they get to make the choices.  Offer interesting information when you find it.  Step in when you think something is hurting the child or the parent.  Most of the time that is not the case.  When there is no harm being done give the gift of respect and allow your child the chance to parent their child.

Gifts are fun to get but more fun to give.  The age of the recipient only dictates the way the fun will be experienced, but gift-giving never goes out of style.




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TAGS: Guiding, Boundaries, Choices, Communication, Mothering Styles, Parenting, Problem Solving, Teenagers

Helicopters and Snowplows

Elizabeth Murphy, Ed.D.
ELIZABETH MURPHY, Ed.D., is a psychologist and type expert whose research focuses on verifying the development of normal personality differences according to the theory of psychological type. She works extensively with families and teams of people to improve communication and resolve relationship needs.
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A recent article referenced a new style of parenting called "Snowplow Parenting." 

We know that Helicopter parents hover near their children to be part of every moment of the child's life.  They are there "just in case" the child needs them.  Snowplow parents predict which obstacles will be in their child's way and remove them so the child is able to proceed successfully - at least that is the hope.  

Every parent adopts a style they believe is in the best interests of their child.  Parents everywhere want their children to be happy, successful, and confident.  As far as I can tell Snowplow parenting does everything to undermine confidence.  Handling their own problems reinforces confidence in the child's own abilities.  Instead of teaching the child how to manage their life needs, the snowplow style of parenting sends the message that the child is not capable and needs the parent to prepare the way for them.

When a child has no opportunity to manage their world, they become less competent to manage life on their own.  A strong ego expressed as confidence comes from surviving faults and solving problems. 

What constitutes a problem can be very different for the various personality types, and each type has a certain set of skills to learn in order to be successful in life.  Everyone is born with strengths and everyone is born with stretches.  These are not the same for all the personality types.  So, what works for one child in the family may not work equally well with another child in that family.

  • Sensing types enjoy gathering information. That part is easy. Their challenge is to pull the information together into patterns and innovative ideas.
  • Intuitive types enjoy generating innovative and unique projects or contributions.  Their stretch is completing all the parts. They need more assistance during the work or implementation phase rather than during the design phase.
  • Feeling types start life trusting with a naïve innocence that makes them vulnerable to be fooled by false relationships. Their stretch is to learn to discern and be alert to the disingenuous.
  • Thinking types enter life independent. Initiating on their own is a strength. Yet they want to be competent at everything and struggle with accepting and enduring the frustration of failure.

A Snowplow parent removes all the obstacles.  If that happens, the Thinking child will not learn to cope with incompetent moments, the Feeling child will not learn the signs that a person is not to be trusted, the Intuitive child will not learn to pace their energy to keep working when things become boring, and the Sensing child will not learn how to organize all that they know so they can use the knowledge in new and productive ways.  The child develops from doing the work.  Being directed on what to do is not the same as solving the problem and coping with the consequences.

Resilience is a characteristic most parents want to see in their children.  This skill builds over time and is more securely established when experiencing many little blocks of problem solving rather than when the first real challenge happens at age 20.  

So, parents, when you are tempted to solve a problem for your young child (e.g. work the system to be sure your child is "on the team" or "in the play") you may be working against your goal: a competent individual.  Celebrate their achievements but also celebrate their handling of the bumps along the way.  These may have a larger impact on the child's character development and resiliency than any of the successes.


Guide your child rather than direct your child.  Give options and examples but allow the child to make the decision.  Teach them how to cope with the consequences if their choice does not work as expected.  The developmental goal is to teach children HOW to decide by looking at the issue from multiple perspectives, using Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, and Feeling rather than telling them WHAT to decide. (See the article on using the Z-model of decision-making.)

As the parent, when your child fails or has a problem (and they all will) you may need to decide what you will do to hold back and allow their learning process to occur.  

The hardest part of parenting is watching our child be in pain, but a very joyful part of parenting is watching them handle their pain and handle the problem.  We must give them the freedom to try.  Use the snowplows for snow.





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TAGS: Decision Making, Guiding, Relationships, Boundaries, Choices, Chores, Communication, Differences, Homework, Mothering Styles, Parenting, Problem Solving, Self-Management, Teenagers

What’s Your POS (Parent Operating System)? And Where Does it Come From?

Mollie Allen, M.Ed.
MOLLIE ALLEN, M.ED., is a certified coach, teacher and consultant working with groups and individuals. With undergraduate degrees in Child Development and Special Education and a M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision she worked in schools and in private practice with students of all ages and levels for 25 years.
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A major challenge for some parents is learning how to support your children without forgetting about yourself. I developed habits and policies - my Parent Operating System - through experience and reflection. A foundational piece came after one of those "my project is due tomorrow" events.

It was after 10 pm and I found myself on a dark, wintry road driving to anyplace that had poster board. I was frustrated! It wasn't my project! It wasn't the first time this had happened. Why was I here? On the return drive I pondered: what was going on and how could I make it different? I had to find a way to reduce or eliminate my frustration without feeling like I'd left my child in the lurch.

Over the next few days I reviewed my internal conflict. I like learning and taking classes. I wanted my children to be successful in school and I wanted their projects to be fruitful learning experiences, not times of regret. I resented being taken off track and dropping home and work obligations to run errands at the last minute. I wanted to be positive and interested in school activities but on some occasions, I was not a happy camper and it showed.

I am a natural planner and organizer. According to personality type as offered by the Myers-Briggs® instrument, I have a preference for Judging. I like things settled and lean toward making decisions; I tend to separate my work from play. I am one who keeps a calendar visible in the central living space. There is a clock in almost every room. I keep index cards, memo pads, greeting cards, envelops, pens, and pencils handy. I label, alphabetize and number color-coded files.


Clichés such as "things in their place" and "in a timely manner" were invented for people like me. Yet with all that modeling it didn't seem like my habits were contagious at all. In fact, some of my children were developing their own and very different KOS (Kid Operating System). In personality type language, I saw preferences for Perceiving emerging. There was a tendency to lean towards further exploration and combine work with play. That attitude towards curiosity meant alternatives were flowing until the last possible moment - then a decision was made.


There had to be a way for us to learn to live productively and positively with these differences without me abdicating my values (and carrying frustration) and without their projects becoming a series of crises. How to honor what I knew about myself while accepting and supporting their way?

During a discussion with my children I recapped that winter night errand and how frustrated and angry I was and why. I suggested we inventory supplies, designate a big cabinet to hold school and craft supplies and decide what would be appropriate to be on hand all the time. Things like index cards, tape, scissors, various types of paper, compass, ruler, etc. Then we generated ideas of what is used sometimes, yet good to have on hand: rubber cement, oven baked clay, glue sticks for the glue gun. Behind the cabinet we stored poster board of various sizes.

I moved my ever-present magnetized shopping list and walked them over to the refrigerator where it and a pencil were now easily accessible. I made it very clear that I would take responsibility for purchasing what was on the list and would no longer go out on the spur of the moment for supplies. In order for the supplies to be available, it was their job to keep an eye on the cabinet contents and to write what was needed on the list. Of course, there were a few slip-ups but overall it allowed for more family-friendly evenings in the after-supper kitchen/homework room.

The immediate reward was a reduction in my own frustration and an increase in my interest in their homework and projects without wondering if I might trigger something for me to do. An unexpected reward was the problem solving and solutions that came about from this very different way of operating. From calling a neighbor to borrow paper, to kitchen concoctions and last-minute costumes, this change fostered my children's progress towards independent learning, and often included some fun.

Once I began to "let go" it gradually became easier for me to set my responsibilities apart from theirs. This became essential as a parent of middle and high school students. One frustrating evening and a few days of reflection lead to a central piece of my POS, and years of positive difference.


You can learn more about the individual personality types of your children by having them take the MMTIC® assessment. Get a better understanding of your own preferences by taking the MBTI® assessment.



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TAGS: Decision Making, Guiding, Listening, Boundaries, Choices, Communication, Encouragement, Mothering Styles, Parenting, Problem Solving, Self-Management, Teenagers

Help or Hire?

Elizabeth Murphy, Ed.D.
ELIZABETH MURPHY, Ed.D., is a psychologist and type expert whose research focuses on verifying the development of normal personality differences according to the theory of psychological type. She works extensively with families and teams of people to improve communication and resolve relationship needs.
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Children love when we wait on them hand and foot. Who doesn't? Sometimes, without meaning to, we inadvertently encourage children to feign helplessness because we rush to help too soon. Here is a suggested strategy that works well for those occasions.

My granddaughter was scratching an itch on her hand and I suggested using some hand lotion to help with the problem. I told her the lotion was in my bathroom. She got up, went there, and then called "I can't find it."

Now, my first impulse was to get up and find it for her, but we have a policy in the home called "Help or Hire." Any time people need help because they cannot do the task, they overestimated their skills, or they are emotionally exhausted and just need some TLC, then Help is always there. But if the person is very capable and still plays the helpless card then they must HIRE the help.

I thought my granddaughter was more than capable so I answered her with these words. "I trust in your skills to find the lotion but if you want to hire my help it will cost you 50 cents."

She thought for a moment, decided to give it one more try and magically she found the lotion. We help when help is NEEDED but hire when we just don't feel like doing it on our own. The system works. Sometimes my fee is money and sometimes it is chores. I don't worry about always charging the same rate. I just tell them I am a consultant and my rates can change.

Another version of this is the lost and found box. One mother said she put any electronics she found laying around the house or on the floor (IPADs, phones, Nintendos, Wii controllers) in a storage box. She tells her children the article has been impounded and they have to pay the fee to get it out of impound. She explains that is what the police do with cars they find abandoned. The parent can determine the amount of the impound fee. Again, I encourage you to allow the impound fee to be paid in money or chores. Tied to this is a clear expectation and awareness of the location where the electronics should be kept.

Be careful with impounding! Kids can also impound electronics that parents leave scattered around the home so do not start this system unless you want to follow it, too.

What if after your "Help or Hire" offer they say, "Never mind. I'll do without." That is a choice. You would not use this strategy if YOU asked them to do the task. It is to be used when they ask for your help.

Remind them you will always be there when they NEED you but you will not disrespect their independence by responding to requests they could complete on their own. We can always do nice surprises for those we love but solving every problem for our children sends a very different message. Rather than a sign of support, intervening too soon can actually send a message of disrespect.




Compliance and development
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TAGS: Decision Making, Guiding, Boundaries, Choices, Chores, Parenting, Self-Management, Teenagers

The Delicate Balance Between Compliance and Development

Elizabeth Murphy, Ed.D.
ELIZABETH MURPHY, Ed.D., is a psychologist and type expert whose research focuses on verifying the development of normal personality differences according to the theory of psychological type. She works extensively with families and teams of people to improve communication and resolve relationship needs.
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As parents, when we want compliance from our children, we should not give them choices. We give them rules to follow. They may have choices at times for HOW they follow the rule but not IF they follow the rule.

For instance, my children were expected to clean their rooms. My daughter would clean as quickly as possible to be done with the chore. My son would create games while he cleaned, and the process could take hours until a friend called to play and then the job was finished in moments. The rule was CLEAN YOUR ROOM. Their style came out in the way that task was completed.

Even rules as immediate as COME HERE NOW can be done with style. One child might bounce a ball as they walk toward you and the other might come moping and dragging. Because it was a rule, there is no question about whether to come now but how, is still an option.



Development is giving true choices. Whatever way the child selects is allowable. Parents might allow their child to select his/her own clothes. Parent might allow their child to choose to ride a bike to a friend's house or walk. Parents might allow a child to choose to play drums or flute in the school band program.

When a child makes an independent choice, development occurs. As much as possible we want to give children the freedom of wise decision making, but some decisions are not theirs to make. That's when rules apply.

When an appropriate situation arises, the parent first needs to discern if this is an opportunity for development or if compliance is required. Sometimes as a parent, I was just too tired to give choices. Normally, I would let the children choose their evening book for us to read together. Choosing a book could become a 15-minute exploration of their options.

Some nights I was too tired, so I chose for them. "Tonight, I choose the book. You can read with me or not, but I get to select." Today I would say the same thing, but I would tell them why. "Your way of finding tonight's book to read is a long process and I am very tired. I want to enjoy reading with you rather than sitting here waiting for you to decide." If I were not tired I would say, "Explore as long as you like. We have until 8:30 to finish our reading time together. You decide how much time you want to explore and how much time you want to read." Then I would set the timer on my watch.

One parent's rule may be another parent's development moment. One time you might use a rule while the next time, allow options. Those are the joys of parenting.

A rule should be considered non-negotiable in the moment. A child cannot change a rule when it is stated but can ask for time to discuss it for a future occasion. When you give a rule, it should not be challenged for compliance at that time. Negotiate later. Expect the rule to be followed now.

Perhaps you are thinking, what if my child does not follow the rule? What if they do not do as requested? Then restate the rule. "In our house when I ask you to come now you say OK and come right away. Come now." If your child starts to whine say, "You may not want to come now but when I ask you to come, you must do as I ask." Parents will want to be careful not to overuse this rule and to balance rules with opportunities for choices and development.

In family meetings, parents can ask children if there are any rules they want to negotiate. If they ask for the right to make a choice (such as bedtime) and it is not an age-appropriate choice for them (e.g. 4-year-old vs. 14-year-old), explain that there are three kinds of decisions in the family:
1. Parent decides
2. Child decides
3. Parent and child decide together

Then explain that bedtime for their age is a parent decision. Decisions appropriate for their age should be respected but that does not mean relinquishing decision making to a child who is not ready to make wise choices for that situation.


You can learn more about the individual personality types of your children by having them take the MMTIC® assessment. Get a better understanding of your own preferences by taking the MBTI® assessment.




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