Personality plays role in parenting style

By SAMANTHA CRITCHELL Associated Press Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) Even the coolest, most confident mother has stolen a glance at the smiling, cooing baby in the next stroller and wondered, Hmmm, whats that mom doing that Im not?

Janet Penley makes the case in her book MotherStyles (Da Capo/Lifelong) that each mom has her unique strengths based on her personality type as determined by the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator but that most mothers share the same insecurities and feel the same competitiveness.

Moms need to play up their strengths, which, it is hoped, will lessen the blow when they realize they do indeed have shortcomings, she says.

The crux of the whole thing is that there are many kinds of good moms and there is no right way to be a mom, says Penley, who developed the MotherStyles profiles when her own children were just 3 and 6. Theyre now 22 and 25.

The Meyers Briggs Type Indicator is a tool commonly used in career counseling or leadership scouting.

The job of motherhood has become all-encompassing. Its just plain reasoning that people arent going to be equally good at each part, she says.

For example, a mom classified as an extravert likely does her best parenting when shes full of energy and out in the field, Penley explains, while shes more apt to be ineffective or curt, when shes tired or hungry, or, worse, both. She needs opportunities to connect with people. Conversation is important to her, but being isolated at home isnt her strength.

The flip side is the introvert, who uses peace and quiet to recharge. Penley classifies herself as this type of mother, recalling a story when her mother-in-law came for a visit when she still had toddlers at home. Penley says her mother-in-law persuaded her to go out to lunch with friends and go shopping without the kids. But Penley came home even more frazzled than when she left.

That was good advice for her, not me. I shouldve taken time for me. Alone, she says. That is what she ended up doing: Hiring a baby sitter on a regular schedule to take the children to the park so Penley could stay in the house and read a book.

If I skipped taking time for myself, Id lose it by the end of the day. But doing it, Id cut my yelling down by 95 percent, she says.

Thinking moms, defined as those who think with their heads and are most concerned with truth, justice and fairness, and feeling moms, who listen to their hearts and worry more about relationships and harmony, also have different approaches and can offer different things to their kids.

The gift of the feeler is providing the physical and emotional closeness, which feels very nurturing for a young child, Penley says. The thinking moms gift is giving psychological and physical space to grow their own personalities and become independent.

In all, Penley has categorized 16 types of moms, combinations of extravert vs. introvert, thinker vs. feeler, sensing vs. intuitive and judging vs. perceiving.

The strengths of each mom are things they do without reading a book that tells them to do so, Penley explains, things that come as natural as breathing. Once you identify those traits, youll also be able to minimize your deficiencies, she says.

One important arena to make an informed choice based on personality type is volunteering, something just about every mom is asked to do.

Volunteering is a huge part of mothering. Youre asked to chaperone, do the newsletter, be in the classroom, bake cookies. Knowing what type of mother I was taught me what to say yes and no to. I could say yes to working on a newsletter or one-on-one tutoring or baking cookies, Penley says.

I had one friend who said, Id rather analyze and restructure the school board then be the lunch mom on hamburger day. But then the mom thats doing the calling (for volunteers) should be doing that because shes someone who enjoys the personal connection.

She adds: I want moms to know they and their neighbors can do things totally differently and they all can be good mothers.

When Penley walks around her San Antonio, Texas, neighborhood at dusk, shell see one mother in her kitchen window dutifully preparing what surely is a wonderful dinner, while another mom is in the front yard playing freeze tag with her children. The chef probably is plagued with worries that shes not a fun mother while the freeze-tagger might feel guilty she didnt prepare a hot, nutritious meal from scratch.

What both mothers should realize, according to Penley, is that whatever theyre giving to their children is important.

Penley says about 80 percent of the MotherStyles system applies to fathers, too. The personality types, their strengths and weaknesses, are often parallel, except that dads typically dont worry about how others view their parenting skills. Instead, she says, they compare themselves to their own fathers.

They end up feeling good about themselves because theyre probably more involved than their own dads. They have more reasons to pat themselves on the back, she says.

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