Parenting With The Enneagram with TJ TeemsOct 25, 2023
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I admit, I’m a little obsessed with the Enneagram. And, of course, I’m also obsessed with tools that can help you in parenting. Today, we’re combining the two (along with some expert advice) on parenting with the Enneagram.
The Enneagram is a personality test that explains how we react to and relate with the world. In this episode, my guest TJ will share a little bit about the Enneagram and how you can apply this tool to parenting.
TJ Teems is a counselor, teacher, Certified Enneagram Educator and mom to three teenagers. She is passionate about pursuing personal growth throughout life, and has found the Enneagram to be especially helpful in this goal.
What Is The Enneagram?
TJ explains the Enneagram as a personality theory that describes how we see the world. It’s like we each have our own set of binoculars, and depending on our Enneagram number, there are certain things that we see and understand very well, while we miss other things that are sort of like blindspots.
The goal in learning your number is to celebrate what you see well and open your mind to what you might be missing, what is still there for you to learn.
She says it’s a tool that is used for personal growth, self-awareness and relationships. It has a ton of different applications, and it’s been around for over 2,000 years!
Parenting With The Enneagram
TJ reminds us that no Enneagram number is better than another. No number is good or bad. It’s just information that encourages you to notice your strengths, blindspots, what you tend to focus on and why you do things the way you do.
Each Enneagram has a “superpower” and a “downfall”. It’s often when we over-use the superpower that things can get distorted and become a downfall.
As we work through each of the 9 Enneagram types, TJ shares how they show up in parenting, how you can use your strengths to better support your kid and what to look out for. She also helps us to simplify it further by grouping the 9 types into three “stances”.
Note: If you want to find out your number before going any further, you can take a test here and, as usual, there are even more details and tips in the full podcast episode.
The Dependent (or Earning) Stance includes Enneagrams 1, 2 & 6. These types make sense of the world through relationships. They tend to be emotionally intuitive, compassionate and concerned with the greater good.
While they are all caretakers, 1s care more for their environment, 2s for individual relationships and 6s for the group.
Enneagram 1 is "The Perfectionist/Reformer" They seek a perfect world and work diligently to improve both themselves and the world and people around them. They are often very organized and driven to make the world a better place. The downside is that they can be overly critical and focused on details that don’t really matter to others. This parent might be concerned with needing to do it all and do it almost perfectly. This might show up in homework, grades, chores or extracurricular activities.
Enneagram 2 is known as "The Helper/Befriender". They want to be liked, try to meet the needs of others, and attempt to orchestrate the people and events in their lives. Enneagram 2 parents can be really warm and encouraging. They tend to be very intuitive and relational and connected with feelings. On the flip side, because they also want their kids to be liked, they can tend to micromanage their kids and overdo things in an effort to “help” them. A good question for Enneagram 2 parents (like me) to ask themselves is, “Is my helping helping?”
Enneagram 6 is "The Questioner/Loyalist". 6s have insightful minds, are prone to worry, and create worst-case scenarios to help themselves feel prepared in case something goes wrong. This makes them vigilant and protective parents. However, they can tend to communicate to their kids that the world is unsafe. Loyalists are also the do-ers. They’re very group-minded, show up and get stuff done.
The Independent (or Aggressive/Assertive) Stance includes Enneagrams 3, 7 & 8. These types make sense of the world through action. They tend to be high-energy, direct and persuasive.
This group is really future-oriented. They are about forward motion and energy, but often struggle with feelings. Feelings can slow progress down and make things confusing. They must work to balance feelings with actions.
Enneagram 3 is called "The Succeeder/Achiever" . They're really focused on being seen as successful and organize their lives to achieve specific goals. Notice that the focus is not just on being successful, but appearing successful in order to gain the respect and admiration of others. 3s have a lot of energy and capacity and can get a LOT done in a day. They’re great cheerleaders and encouragers to their kids, but problems can arise when their kids are not interested or able to do things to the level the parent expects.
Enneagram 7 is "The Adventurer/Enthusiast". 7s crave the stimulation of new ideas, people, and experiences. These parents are great at having fun, being spontaneous and thinking outside the box. They can really open their kids’ eyes to what is possible. However, because 7s avoid pain, they might also avoid discipline. They can also struggle to deal with sadness, boredom and other unpleasant feelings - in themselves and in their kids.
Enneagram 8, or "The Asserter/Challenger", pursues truth, wants to make important things happen and tries to keep situations under control to suppress their vulnerability. 8s value strength and justice and see things in black-and-white terms. They fight to protect their kids (like 6s), but it is from a viewpoint of having full confidence in their kids, rather than their kids needing their help. They’re supportive parents, but it can often be a little intense and alienate their kids. 8s might also struggle with emotions and push for action, no matter how their child is feeling at the time.
The Withdrawn Stance includes Enneagrams 4, 5 & 9. These types make sense of the world through ideas. They tend to be curious, observant, self-aware, imaginative and insightful.
When problems arise, people in the withdrawn stance go deal with it, then retreat back inside to their safe place. They often need a lot of that “inside” time alone.
Enneagram 4 is "The Individualist/Creative". They desire deep connections both with their own interior worlds and with other people, and they feel most alive when they authentically express their feelings. They want to be unique and different, rather than settle for the status quo. As parents, 4s are great at giving the gift of creativity and imagination, as well as talking about life and feelings with their kids. However, if they have a child who wants to fit in, they might feel like they’re letting the parent down. These parents can also tend to focus and dwell on sad or negative feelings.
Enneagram 5, "The Observer/Investigator'', has a thirst for knowledge. They’re driven by a need to understand things on a deeper level. These parents might have knowledge on a ton of different subjects. Because 5s tend to be unemotional, these parents can be very calm problem solvers. On the downside, they can get bogged down with information and details and overexplain things to their kids (who usually just check out). They can also detach emotionally from others, including not valuing their kids’ emotions.
Finally, Enneagram 9 is known as "The Peacemaker/Mediator". 9s seek harmony, and positive mutual regard. They give off a vibe of peace, and they don’t want anything to disrupt their equilibrium. These parents are able to be accepting, nonjudgmental and inclusive. Wherever their kids are coming from, whatever they’re dealing with, they are truly seen. 9s are also really good listeners. Because they want to maintain peace, they try to avoid conflict, tension and ill will. This makes it difficult for 9s to advocate for themselves, and they struggle with disappointing their kids because they want to protect that connection.
With any Enneagram number, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to use your number to your advantage in parenting:
- What are the positive ways my Enneagram shows up in my parenting?
- What unintentional message might I be sending to my kid?
- What expectations am I sending to my kid?
Keep in mind, TJ cautions us about trying to type our kids (or anyone else, for that matter). She says that the Enneagram is not just about behavior, but the motivation behind it. Assuming who someone is based on their behavior alone can be harmful, and just feels really yucky. We want our kids to experience the journey of self-discovery for themselves.
Knowing yourself is the priority with the Enneagram. It’s a framework for understanding all these different viewpoints, and that is what will give you compassion for your kids.
As we bring the Enneagram into our families, it’s an opportunity to be curious about the behaviors we see and the thoughts and feelings that are driving them.
- My Enneagram number and why I was a little embarrassed about it at first
- How to learn your Enneagram number
- Strengths and weaknesses of each number when it comes to parenting
- 3 questions to ask yourself related to parenting with your Enneagram
Connect with TJ & the Enneagram
- Learn more about TJ’s upcoming retreat, private and small-group coaching and speaking engagements at tjteems.com
- Follow her on Instagram @growingwiththeenneagram
- Learn more about the Enneagram
- Take the test
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