Recently I’ve been thinking about going back to family therapy.
Everything’s been fine at home. Things have been really good, actually. But I’ve been a little concerned about one of my kids. This kid, by nature, is super-cautious, and he wants advance notice for everything. If we’re going to the beach in August, he wants to know in January. He wants to know on Sunday what we’re having for dinner Friday night. He does not want to take a new way home from Grandma’s house. Ever.
This child of mine is not like me. I fight routine, I reluctantly embrace structure (if at all), I like to improvise in the kitchen.
When I was a new mom I read something that’s haunted me ever since. It was in a Dr. Sears book, and he said something like “goodness of fit” between mother and child is an important factor for the success of that relationship, yet it’s very difficult to control.
I wanted to visit our old therapist because I needed a confidence booster. I wanted someone outside the situation–yet someone who had a history with our family–to verify that I was nurturing this very important relationship well. I wanted to hear that I wasn’t screwing my kid up. I wanted to learn what I could do to help ease his anxiety, and to make sure I wasn’t fueling it.
I just wanted to hear that I was doing okay.
Before I got around to making the appointment, I happened to pick up a book that’s been hanging out in my to-read stack for a while now: Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey. It’s a great little MBTI primer.
I flipped straight to the chapter on parenting, and it didn’t take long to identify my child in its pages. I’m parent to a little Guardian, an SJ who–according to MBTI lore–builds his self-esteem on his dependability, is prone to guilt, and has a security seeking personality.
Tellingly, SJs “respond happily to well-established, clearly-defined routines that bring them predictability.”
Mine sure does.
The book goes on to describe how different parent and child types interact with each other. The descriptions say where we’re likely to complement each other and where we’re likely to drive each other crazy.
As an Idealist, I’m likely to try to make over my child in my own image, until I eventually realize that he’s “a both-feet-on-the-ground little person who is unusually concerned about responsibility, security, authority, and belonging, but who displays little of [my] romanticism or enthusiasm.”
I’m realizing it now.
My kid doesn’t need fixing. He’s doing great; he’s growing into the person he was bound to be from the beginning. I can encourage him, but I shouldn’t try to change him.
I can’t even begin to explain to you how freeing that is.
I’m a big believer in counseling: a good counselor can change your life. I’m a big believer in books, too, and sometimes a good book can do the same.
Maybe we’ll go back to family therapy one day; I don’t think it could hurt. But for now, I’m satisfied that we’re where we need to be.
And it feels good.
Does anybody else geek out about personality profiles like I do? Has understanding personality improved your relationships?
P.S. I wrote a book about personality! In Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, I walk you through 7 different frameworks, explaining the basics in a way you can actually understand, sharing personal stories about how what I learned made a difference in my life, and showing you how it could make a difference in yours, as well.