Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Test? There are many personality indicators involved, but I want to focus on Thinkers (T) and Feelers (F). These indicators give insight on how you experience life. All people certainly think and feel, but we tend to lean towards one of these more than the other.
My daughter is a feeler. I mean she gets all up in her feelz. When she is upset, she feels heartbroken. She tends to withdraw. Once she is calm, then she is able to process her thoughts.
My oldest son is more of a thinker. He wants the scientific evidence, and he will argue to the death if he thinks he is right and others are wrong. Even as I was writing this, he clarified: “No, I will argue to the time-out.” He is so right. Also, when he becomes emotionally escalated, he tends to become critical of others. This is his way of trying to regain control over his situation. Once he becomes calm, them he can think through the feelings he was experiencing.
You see, thinkers and feelers both get upset, but the difference is how they approach these experiences.
So how do we comfort kids that experience life differently than we do?
First: We have to be honest about how our own brain is wired.
Second: We have to figure out how our child’s brain is wired.
Third: We have to ensure that we are in a good place to meet our child the way they most feel comforted. Really, this is a matter of where we start when we are helping them process difficult things. Remember that we need to hit on both feelings and thoughts. Either way we go, our job is validation before correction.
Typical Characteristics of Thinkers and Feelers
I am not trying to put anyone in a box. I think that everyone experiences many or all of these characteristics at times. The question is about what you tend to rely on more: thinking or feeling? What about your kids?
With my son, I have to start with identifying what he was thinking first.
Me: Hey bud, it looked like you thought your sister was against you and that’s why you got so mad. Is that right?
Son: Yeah, she was being pretty mean.
Me: It sounds like you were feeling unloved. Is that right?
In this scenario, I focused first on the thoughts, then moved into talking about the feelings. I know that getting at the underlying feelings is the goal. However, I cannot get there with my thinker until I validate his thoughts. Next, we can go to the feelings of others that he impacted. My goal with my son is to comfort him and help him to consider how his actions impact the feelings of others.
When my daughter is feeling upset, the very first thing I have to do is give her a hug and let her know that I am sorry she is hurting. Then I can ask her what she is feeling.
Me: Hey, Tweeter, I am sorry you are hurting. It sounds like you are really sad about what happened between you and your brother.
Daughter: Yeah, he was being so mean to me. I felt unloved.
Me: Oh, I understand that you felt really hurt and unloved when he yelled at you.
When I focus on the feelings first, I meet my daughter right in her moment. After we discuss what she is feeling, then we can talk about her thoughts about the situation. After the feelings are validated, then we can make plans for the future with critical thinking. My goal with my daughter is to process her feelings, comfort her, and help her to identify the thoughts of others.
When we allow our kids to process their experiences out loud with us in their own way, this helps us create genuine connection.
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