I have always been fascinated by personality tests, birth orders, and how this affects relationships.
My freshman year of college, I took my first Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test and discovered I was an ENFJ.
ENFJ: Extroversion, Intuition, Feeling, Judging
I took the test again 5 years later. Same results. Here’s the description:
Warm, empathetic, responsive, and responsible. Highly attuned to the emotions, needs, and motivations of others. Find potential in everyone, want to help others fulfill their potential. May act as catalysts for individual and group growth. Loyal, responsive to praise and criticism. Sociable, facilitate others in a group, and provide inspiring leadership.
This is an accurate description of me. I think most people close to me and who know me would agree. I then discovered the book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron (affiliate link) and I had an Oprah-like “A-HA” moment.
In 2017, I dug into Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies book (affiliate link). It confirmed that I was an “Obliger”—not shocking at all. The last piece of the puzzle for me was taking a free Enneagram quiz and discovering that I am a 2.
Now it all made sense.
I am literally a ball of feeling all the feels, wanting to help and encourage people, highly sensitive, empathetic to a fault (sometimes) and just want everyone to get along. I mean, really, is this too much to ask?
Suffice it to say, my three kids are very different from me. They are their own people. They have a mix of me and their dad and HUGE dollops of their own uniqueness.
However, what happens when one of your kiddos is basically the South to your North? The Oil to your Water? The Day to your Night?
Let me back up a bit. When I first started homeschooling, I was bright-eyed and had a brood of three kids ages 5,3, and 3. Sure, their little personalities were still breaking through, but when their days were spent playing, mama reading to them, crafting, and watching PBS Kids shows—it wasn't not too challenging. In fact, we had a blast.
Simply Convivial describes ENFJ homeschool moms this way:
The ENFJ is a natural homeschool mom. She loves to teach, she loves to reach her children's hearts and see them grow, and she loves to put together a plan just right for her family. She has energy and enthusiasm and she understands the big idea. She wants to be close to her children and be a part of their lives in their childhoods and as adults.
As the kids got older, I noticed that I was struggling a bit more with one of my children. I will use the term “they” to keep it general and not name boy or girl, as I have children of both genders. They would basically do the exact opposite of whatever I had planned for the day. Or question everything. Or, or, or…you get the point.
This was really hard for a rules-following, go-by-the-book, authority respecting, uber-feeler to understand. I mean, why wouldn’t they just go along with what I was doing? Why would they try to flip everything on its head? Was I a bad parent? Was I not strict enough? Was I royally screwing this kid up for all of eternity?
Did I mention I can be a bit dramatic sometimes?
You might have one child like this, or 2 or 7. I don’t know your family. And I don’t know your personality. But I do know that taking a step back, doing some self-reflection and loads of self-care can help.
And heaps upon heaps of grace.
And hot tea.
7 Ways to Embrace Homeschooling Your Polar Opposite Child
- Get to know yourself: Knowing what drives you and what lights you up are key when you’re homeschooling. In addition, having a good handle on your weaknesses is important. This will give you insight into areas or subjects in your homeschool that might need to be farmed out to online classes, co-op class, a mentor, etc. Take a few of the assessments I mentioned above or grab a book or two about personalities.Share your results with your kids. If they are old enough or interested, talk to them about what makes YOU tick. Don’t ignore yourself in the name of following a particular homeschool ideology or “way” just because your friend does or because your favorite homeschooling Instagram mama said you should.for a while I ignored my own personal desires and strengths in the name of creating an almost exclusively child-led homeschool. This backfired on me. Many times. It also ended up frustrating my kids.
- Get to know your child: Become a student of your child. Have her write down her strengths and weaknesses. Ask her to share her goals and dreams. One of the greatest things about homeschooling is that we get to spend so much time with our kids and see what works and what doesn’t in terms of how they learn. If they are old enough, you can also give them one of the assessments I mentioned above, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Have some good conversations and take note of the areas where there is conflict between the two of you. Address it with them. Figure out a plan to not just co-exist, but to thrive.
- Get some expectations and goals—for you and your kid: During the summer, I usually do some high-level homeschool planning. I used to come up with detailed plans and check lists. But guess what I forgot to do? I never asked myself and my kid what we each expected in our homeschool journey. What did I want them to study and what did they want to learn for the upcoming year? How could we work together to realize everyone's goals? Once we started doing this and working together, I was able to tweak plans AND my expectations.
- Get some laughs: When the going gets tough, the tough need to get some laughs. Lately, my kid and I have enjoyed listening to a family-friendly comedy station on the satellite radio, watching funny shows, and watching YouTube Video. Doing this breaks the tension and creates connection.
- Get some friends, hot tea and chocolate: These are my trifecta when I’ve had a particularly rough day with my kid. Taking time to decompress, sip something comforting, chat with my friends and break into my secret chocolate stash always helps to reset my mood. It’s okay to take some down time if you’re having a challenging day or week. In fact, it is necessary. Our kids can sense when we’re feeling off and this can snowball into other issues not even related to homeschooling. Make a list of activities or things that bring you rest and relaxation—and then DO THEM!
- Get some connection: As hard as it can be, sometimes (okay, maybe most times) what our polar-opposite child needs is connection. He or she might be fully aware of how different the two of you are and this can definitely affect self-esteem. Try to schedule one-on-one time outside of homeschooling time to do something fun. Go to a movie or out to dinner, take a walk around your neighborhood, find an art project to do together, or just play some games and talk. Kids will remember this long after the math battle you had 1:34pm on a Tuesday.
- Get some perspective and a bubble bath: Perspective is something we all need when we’re in the thick of things. You might be questioning if homeschooling is right for you, your kid, or both. You might be worried that you cannot possibly have a parent-child relationship if both of your differences are going to be so dramatic and challenging. When this happens, it’s time for a bubble path and perspective. It’s time to quiet your mind and grab a journal and really think through your concerns. Will your kid always be this way? Will you? What can you do to support your needs as well as your child’s? How can you step back and let your child thrive and grow in a way that is unique to him? Knowing that we are all capable of growth and change can be a reassuring fact. It just takes time.
Embrace the Kid You Have
Let’s be honest—if we all had the same personalities, life would be boring. We’d never be challenged or be able to look at something from a different angle. When you’re homeschooling a child who happens to be your polar-opposite it can be a struggle. You can put your foot down. He can too. You can talk about WHY you need things to be done a certain way until you're blue in your face. He will too. You will have incredible conversations and you will hit the wall on other days. My last piece of advice? Don't take it all personally. Our kids are not meant to be carbon copies of us. Embrace the kids you have right now in this season of life.
Find balance. Find commonality. Find connection.
And don’t forget to find your chocolate.