Imagine this scene: Your kids are building a fort, toys are strewn across the floor and loud screams of playful glee resound throughout the house. As a mom, do you:
- Join your kids on the floor and have a blast together.
- Get out your to-do list and figure out what else to buy for the perfect fort experience.
- Affirm your kids, telling them they are the best fort-builders ever and the world needs what they have to offer.
- Go all therapist with your kids, asking how they “feel” about their fort.
- Drill your kids on their philosophy behind fort-building, just in case you need to know how to do it yourself one day.
- Defend and protect your kids from imaginary villains, finding safety in the fort.
- Create a storyline centered around the fort narrative, with your kids as the heroes saving the world from devastation.
- Empower your children to build a bigger fort and then share the fort “greatness” all over social media.
- Invite the neighborhood kids over so everyone can have a peaceful play date.
The way you respond is an indication of your Enneagram type. What’s that, you ask? The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system that teaches there are nine different personality styles in the world, one of which we naturally gravitate toward and adopt in childhood to cope and feel safe. Each type or number has a distinct way of seeing the world and an underlying motivation that powerfully influences how that type thinks, feels and behaves.
Each Enneagram type has a unique set of strengths, which can be incredibly powerful when an individual is self-aware. But similarly, when life’s stressors get in the way, each type has pitfalls that can be unique to their Enneagram number, causing conflict on the home front. Here’s a breakdown of the nine types, plus the positives and negatives of each as it relates to parenting:
TYPE ONE: THE IMPROVER PARENT
Improvers are ethical, dedicated and reliable, motivated by a desire to live the right way, improve the world, and avoid fault and blame. However, when lacking self-awareness and feeling stressed, Improver parents can become overly critical, controlling and express anger in unskillful ways.
TYPE TWO: THE HELPER PARENT
Helper parents have a superpower of sensing and meeting their children’s needs in a wise and skillful way. When scoring low on the self-awareness quotient, their superpower becomes kryptonite. They become manipulative, smothering, proud of being needed by their children and confuse flattery for words of encouragement.
TYPE THREE: THE PERFORMER PARENT
Success-oriented, image-conscious and wired for productivity, Performers are motivated by a need to be (or appear to be) successful and to avoid failure. Typically, their kids experience them as dependable, motivating, optimistic, full of ideas about fun things to do. But when they’re operating on autopilot, Performer Parents can work themselves into relationship problems with their kids.
TYPE FOUR: THE INDIVIDUALIST PARENT
Individualist parents are empathic, compassionate, creative and can help kids get in touch with their feelings. Fours are intuitive about what’s going on in their kids’ hearts, and can model an appreciation for beauty and the finer things in life. But Fours can also be self-absorbed, melancholic and moody.
TYPE FIVE: THE INVESTIGATOR PARENT
Analytical, detached and private, Investigators are motivated by a need to gain knowledge, conserve energy and avoid relying on others. Many Investigators have told me parenting doesn’t come naturally to them. It requires effort and intentionality on their part. They’re balanced, cool and calm in a family crisis, and objective sources of wisdom and counsel for their kids.
TYPE SIX: THE LOYALIST PARENT
Reliable. Loyal. Down-to-Earth. Practical. Well-Prepared. Witty. Detail-oriented. These are but a few of the wonderful virtues Loyalist Parents bring to their family. Children of skillful Loyalists feel harbored and secure, and the Loyalist’s natural sense of humor ensures there’s always a lot of laughter in their homes. But when Loyalists lack self-awareness, their admirable qualities become overshadowed by predictable unhelpful behavior patterns. They can become self-doubting, alarmist, procrastinating and start hovering over their kid’s lives out of fear for their safety and well-being.
TYPE SEVEN: THE ENTHUSIAST PARENT
Enthusiasts are fun, spontaneous, imaginative, creative, energetic, optimistic and unrivaled entertainers who will captivate you for hours with the stories of their adventures. Who doesn’t want an Enthusiast for a parent? But as with all types, Enthusiast parents have blind spots that can undermine their effectiveness as parents—racing minds, distractibility and tendency to overcommit can lead them to lose track of time, show up late for stuff and unintentionally not follow through on promises made in the glow of the moment.
TYPE EIGHT: THE CHALLENGER PARENT
Challenger parents are energetic fireballs who are always on the move. When healthy, they’re protective, empowering and lead their children with kindness, humor and clarity. But when these parents are on autopilot, things can go sideways fast. They become impatient, blind and insensitive to their kid’s feelings, occasionally explosive, and they can make and expect others to follow rules that they turn around and break themselves.
TYPE NINE: THE PEACEMAKER PARENT
Self-aware Peacemakers are easygoing, unselfish, great listeners, accepting, generous, incredibly supportive and they see and value every family member’s perspective. What a menu of virtues! But, when they’re asleep to their own lives, Nine Parents can be conflict avoidant, stubborn, disengaged, in denial about their own anger and overly permissive with their kids.
Not quite sure what type you are? Take an assessment here, and start tapping into your strengths as a parent.
Ian Morgan Cron is the author of the bestselling book, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery. He is a psychotherapist, Enneagram teacher, Episcopal priest and the host of the popular podcast, Typology. Check out his parenting series on Instagram @TypologyPodcast. Through engaging interviews from parents who share their personal stories, you’ll learn how to overcome parenting challenges by tapping into your best self.