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Helping families make the most of personality differences.

11 Results tagged "Problem-Solving"

Failure might be an option
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TAGS: Guiding, Listening, Relationships, Problem Solving, Self-awareness, Teenagers

Failure is not an option - or is it?

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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In the movie Apollo 13, when the NASA team on earth was trying to determine a way to get the astronauts home, the team leader says to the group, "Failure is not an option." It sounds good in the movie but let's see how that plays out in real life. Here are some examples from Wanderlust Worker:

  1. Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because his editor felt Disney "lacked imagination and had no good ideas."
  2. Oprah was declared "unfit for television" by a TV producer.
  3. J.K. Rowling had 12 publishers reject the Harry Potter manuscript.
  4. According to reports, Colonel Sanders had 1009 people reject him when he pitched his chicken recipe to restaurants.
  5. Michael Jordan failed to make the varsity basketball team.

The list goes on. The website lists 48 overall successful people who failed.

Michael Jordan said, "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed." He was still inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Thomas Edison once told a reporter, "I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work." Failure can be part of the path to success.


With all that said the moment of failure feels miserable. Emotions are all over the place and the brain is not thinking at its best. We each need to have a regrouping strategy to get us through the immediate impact of the failure.

Those with a Feeling preference need reassurance that the failure will not impede the relationship. When someone with a Feeling preference feels like a failure it tends to be accompanied with another thought. They worry that they let someone down. "Mom wanted me to get that scholarship." "I thought I could do this for you but I can't. Now you don't believe in me." The younger they are the more convinced they are that a revealed flaw means others in their life may reject them.

For some people with the Feeling preference this translates into an intense pressure to always do things right. You can help: hug them. Acknowledge the failure is there but the connection with them is solid. Offer to support them if they decide it is something they can try again. Take a moment and have fun interacting with them. Your presence matters at this moment.

Thinking - Feeling

Those with a Thinking preference see failure as a personal flaw that threatens their competence. Even when they know they are still competent they fear others will think less of their skills. They don't mind doing things over if the situation or the problem with the task improves each time but, when the end is there and the problem is not solved, frustration sets in for the Thinking child.

A hug is not the right tool at this time for this child. Reflective listening and honest assessment help more. Acknowledge that losing or failing at a task is frustrating because you thought you could do it. Remind them that although this is a failure, failure is temporary. It only lasts until a new solution is found or the task is mastered. Make this an interim moment when possible. Suggest that once they get their energy back you will problem-solve with them if they are still interested. Take a break to get that energy back by doing something else that is fun, by watching a video, or by taking a nap. Let the brain get some rest before tackling what seems like an impossible task.

Some children fear failure so much they develop into "failure avoiders." This is a learned coping strategy and can be unlearned. These children either try the most difficult task (no one is expected to be able to do it) or the easiest task (anyone can do it). Instead of following their interests they follow the path of greatest or least resistance. This solves the problem for the moment but does not teach the child how to deal with failure. Research supports that the only thing that motivates a failure-avoider is success.

One young man was failing math. His last test grade was 29. Success in his family was defined as having a test grade that was higher than the previous test score. He bought into that plan and improved each time but was still failing by school standards. It took almost the entire school year, but he brought his grade up to a C on his final test. This can be an ST approach if the strategy for improvement works. For an NF child you will need to monitor and praise each gain and celebrate the progress.

All children fail sometimes. Emotionally it is exhausting to fail for all types. We need to help our children recognize that failure is temporary. The way to help the Feeling child is not the same as the way to help a Thinking child. In a person's life story if you want to know if they were a success or failure it will depend on what chapter of their life you are reading.




PeopleStripes.org article
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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.





Problem-solving
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TAGS: Decision Making, Guiding, Listening, Relationships, Choices, Communication, Encouragement, Problem Solving, Teenagers, Timeout

Toss That Time-Out Chair: Use the Z-Model

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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While you are clearing away decorations from the holiday and putting things back in place consider tossing that Time-Out Chair. Replace it with a Problem-Solving Chair.

Time-out is a staple in the set of parenting tools for managing a child's inappropriate behaviors. Children are emotionally upset and go to time-out. Children are aggressive and go to time-out. Children are destructive and are sent to time-out. When their time is "up" the parent asks if they are sorry or if they are ready to behave. Most children say, "yes." Many may not know what they are going to do differently but they are sorry they got into trouble. Time-out was a good alternative to spanking children but we can do even better.

Changing the chair to a Problem-Solving chair still removes the child from the moment and allows them time to regain control. The Problem-Solving chair requires the child to solve the problem and have an action or coping plan if the problem occurs again. The parent needs to take 3-5 minutes to talk with the child so the parent is more involved in the process than they are with the time-out method.

To successfully complete the problem-solving process the child would use the Z-model by looking at the problem from the perspective of the Sensing, Intuitive, Thinking, and Feeling approach.

1. Sensing: Ask "What happened? What was happening before that?"
2. Name the problem.
3. Talk about ways to solve the problem.
a. How have you solved that problem in the past? What have others done? (Sensing)
b. What else could you try? (Intuition)
c. Are you able to do your idea? Do you have the skills, the time, the tools? (Thinking)
d. How will others react when you solve your problem the new way? Is it important for you to learn a new way to solve the problem? (Feeling)

For example, imagine the child got frustrated because he could not get his truck to work. The wheels kept getting stuck and would not roll so he threw the truck against the wall. He is sent to the problem-solving space.


Tell him when he is ready to talk about solving the problem you will be ready to talk with him. If you are in the middle of doing something when he says he is ready, tell him you will be ready, too, as soon as you finish stirring the sauce, for example.

Then sit with him in the same space. Be at eye-level if possible. Ask question #1: What happened? What was happening before that?

Ask the child question #2: name the problem. If he is unable to say what the problem was, give him two choices and let him select. For example, you might say, "Is the problem that the truck's wheels were not working or is the problem that you do not like playing with trucks?"

When the child selects that the truck's wheels were not working say, "Let's decide how to solve that problem if it should happen again."

Sensing: Is the truck broken?  Can it be fixed?  Can you learn to fix it?  Will you need help to fix it?

Intuition: If the truck wheels cannot be fixed can you think of other ways to use the truck?  Can you think of other games to play? 

Thinking: Is this a special toy?  Is this an expensive toy?  What is the best way to get toys repaired?

Feeling: Is this toy important to you?  Is the wall important to the family?  How will people react to you if you ask for help or decide to fix the truck or to play with something else?

If the wheels on the truck do not work next time what will you do? 

Now you have a plan that will show you how to make good choices.

Invest the time to not only remove the child from the stressful situation but to use the moment to teach them problem-solving skills that will serve them for their lifetime.  This strategy also causes development as the child uses their personality preferences.


Family Meeting
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TAGS: Relationships, Siblings, Communication, Compromise, Differences, Problem Solving, Teenagers

Family Meetings – Creating a Safe Environment Where Everyone has a Voice

Yvonne Nelson-Reid, B.Ed., M.A.
YVONNE NELSON-REID, B.Ed., M.A., is a mother of 5, writer, teacher, depth psychologist, and career coach. As a certified MBTI and MMTIC professional, she uses typology as a tool for helping others understand differences and communicate more effectively.
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The other week, I could see tensions rising among the members of my family. There are many of us, 7 to be exact, and when dynamics are out of sorts, it can be felt in a huge way!

Family meetings are one way we try to work through frustrations and misunderstandings. Sadly, busy schedules, and everyone going in different directions, which is becoming more commonplace the older the kids get, have made it nearly impossible to find the time to talk.

We all know the importance in getting together and how it helps to keep us in balance. Having reached the critical level, a mandatory family meeting was set. We typically go around in a circle taking turns sharing our concerns, however this time, emotions were heated and those who are more vocal took center stage.

With my own emotions activated, I found it hard to keep order and structure, and more importantly, a safe and respectful environment, which is typically my role in the process. It is natural for me to pick up on the feelings of others and vital for my own sense of harmony to make sure each person is heard and respected. Keeping the peace became more challenging as this meeting took on a life of its own.


I knew deep down that there was more going on here than just a dinner squabble, and if we were ever going to get to the real issue, we needed to go deeper. Deep breath everyone! Not everyone can share their thoughts and feelings in a quick manner because some people need time to process before discussing their concerns. In a heated situation, those who are quick to react tend to get the floor, which isn't always good, as they may blurt out comments that don't necessarily reflect their true thoughts and feelings, or may represent them now but not later.

As the conversation turned to deeper hurts and a reveal of miscommunication and misunderstandings, tensions calmed. At least that is how it appeared on the outside, but what was really happening was that the vocal kids were feeling better having had the chance to express their issues, whereas two of the quieter family members who felt unheard had already left. The one who remained couldn't contain herself any longer, and firmly yet passionately, stated that no one ever listens to her, that she never has the chance to state what is on her mind or if she tries is often cut off.

Wow... this is our child who is accommodating, seeks harmony, and typically the peace keeper of the family, and sadly, due to this is she often overlooked because she won't speak out for fear of hurting someone. We listened now with our full attention and were enlightened by her wisdom and honesty.

In past groups that I have either led or participated in we often used a "talking stick" that would be passed around the circle. Speaking only when you have the stick in hand is the premise of this process.

Two major realizations came to me upon reflection of this particular family meeting, first, we need to meet more often before tensions reach maximum, and second, in order to meet the needs of all family members, we need to appreciate the differences in how we take in and process information. In other words, allow time for those who need to "reflect before they speak," and allow those who "speak before they reflect" to process as they speak.

Yes, it does seem that a family talking stick might just be the tool needed to help everyone feel listened to, and hopefully heard, throughout the process. I'm happy to say, we got to the real issue, shed tears, hugged it out, and now feel peace and balance in the house.

That is, until the next time!



PeopleStripes.org article
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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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