The TYPE Reporter, Excerpt from No. 47, written by Susan Scanlon

When a child does something annoying or troublesome, the first thing parents hear in their heads is a voice saying: “The kid needs discipline. He needs a firm hand. He needs to be put in line.” When a child doesn’t do something that children are supposed to do, the voice jumps in with: “The kid’s just lazy. He needs to be pushed.”

That’s “The Old codger” talking. Although Carl Jung never named The Old Codger as one of the archetypes, I wish he had, because I’m sure his voice is in all of our heads, and has been around since the beginning of time. What The Old Codger advises is that when confronted with a troublesome behavior from a child, adults not bother to understand the origins of it, or see the situation from the child’s point of view, or change their own behavior in any way. “Just make them stop doing it, as soon as you can,” says The Old codger. The Old Codger is definitely an adult’s point of view, and for the adult’s convenience only.

Even the most enlightened parents have Old Codgers in their heads, and argue with them daily. And even the most enlightened parents let Old codgers get their way when they’re tired, or they can’t think of anything better to do. But there’s a new voice that is getting louder in people’s minds, especially people who think in terms of psychological type. And that voice says, “Children have good reasons for doing what they do, it’s not just ‘naughtiness’ or ‘laziness.’ If you want to raise children intelligently, you must try to understand those reasons, and take them into consideration when trying to change a child’s behavior.”

If there is anyone in the type community who understands children’s “reasons,” based on their psychological preferences, and can give alternatives to The Old Codger’s advice, it’s Elizabeth Murphy. Murphy is a licensed psychologist who has been working in the field of education for 21 years, as a teacher, an administrator, and a school counselor.

While doing her graduate studies at the University of Houston, she began working with Charles Meisgeier to create The Murphy-Meisgeier Type Indicator for Children, which was published in 1987. She has written several booklets about type for teachers and parents, and has just finished a book called The Developing Child: Using Jungian Type to Understand Children (Consulting Psychologists Press, 1992). Murphy is an INFP and the mother of two children, Erin, 18 and Keith 16.

For this series, we first interviewed parents and asked them what kind of problems they would like help with. Next we thought about what The Old Codger would say. Finally, we asked Elizabeth Murphy for alternatives to his advice. We hope this series will arm you with plenty of ammunition to use against The Old Codger in your next debate with him. You’ll probably never get him out of your head entirely, but you can let him have his way a lot less often, and your children will be happier and realize more of their potential because of it.

EXTROVERTED KIDTYPES… They want to talk to people and touch things first, before they reflect. Adults spend a lot of energy trying to keep Extroverted children under control, making them feel frustrated.

Parent: The teacher of my 10-year-old Extroverted son says that he cannot sit still and be quiet when she is lecturing, or when the children are supposed to be doing their seatwork. She says that if she reminds him, he says, “Yes, ma’am,” and sits down, but a few minutes later he’s forgotten and he’s up again or he’s whispering to the kid next to him.

The Old Codger says: Children should sit still and be quiet in a classroom. Tell the teacher you’ll support her efforts to make him be quiet.

Murphy says: Extroverted children learn best when they are interacting and sharing their thoughts. There should never be a time in a “learning environment” where they can’t do that. After all, in the “real world,” adults who want to talk to someone can just get up from their desks and go find someone to talk to. In this case, we’re expecting more self control from children that we do from adults.

Although it may be an obvious problem for just your son, it’s likely that many of the other students in his class would benefit from having their Extroverted learning style taken into consideration. Some teachers have discovered techniques to help Extroverted learners, such as giving a lesson, then after 10 minutes asking them to turn to their neighbors and tell them what was just said. Or they let the children work with partners during seatwork, or they take more frequent breaks during lectures for questions and answers.

You should meet with the teacher to discuss the classroom dynamics and how to adjust it to accommodate to an Extrovert’s learning style. If the teacher continues to treat it as a behavior problem instead of a learning style, take a firm stand. Tell her that you will try to get your son to be still and quiet, but you don’t think it’s fair that his learning style is ignored. Present it to your son as a conflict of style with this teacher, not a problem just within him.

Parent: My 7-year-old Extroverted son sometimes embarrasses me when he’s around other adults. He talks too much to them and I can see by the people’s faces that they’re bored with this yacky kid. I’m an Introvert, so I admire the fact that he’s not afraid of adults and looks forward to talking to new people, and I don’t want to do anything that would change that about him, but I can’t stand to see my bright, intelligent boy look like a bore to people.

The Old Codger says: Children should be seen and not heard. Tell him he’s boring the adults and to leave them alone.

Murphy says: Engaging people is very important to Extroverted children. And don’t worry, in time he’ll learn to recognize signals that his listeners are restless and bored, and he’ll learn to have give-and-take conversations.

You can give him some guidance now, though, as long as it’s not negative. You can say to him, “Do you know what I’ve learned about talking to people? I’ve learned that they only like to listen to one or two stories at a time, then they want to talk too. So after one or two stories I stop talking and let them talk, or I ask them a question so they can tell me a little about themselves.”

You can also act as his external control. You can say, “Would you like me to give you a signal when I think people have stopped listening? How would you like me to let you know?”

Parent: My 4-year-old Extroverted son needs to get his hands on as much of the world as possible. It’s OK at home but once we walk out the door it gets me in real trouble. At the doctor’s office the nurse got angry because he was moving the gauge on the scale back and forth. At the hardware store he was taking apart a rug shampooer, which I decided was OK since it was plastic and I could put it back together easily, but a clerk wearing glasses on a chain came over and snapped at him to leave it alone. At the department store, a clerk wearing a red carnation in his lapel told me I shouldn’t let my son play with the toy food in the refrigerators because it was part of their “merchandising.”

It sounds like this is some brat running uncontrolled through the world, but the truth is, my son asks permission to touch these things, I fell him what to be careful with, I stand behind him and watch him, he asks a lot of questions about what things are called and how they work, and I put everything back in its place before we leave. How do I deal with the fact that his explorations make people very nervous?

The Old Codger says: Children should not touch what doesn’t belong to them. Just tell him no, or leave him at home.

Murphy says: Extroverts need to interact with their environment. I think you’re right to let you son handle things as long as you take responsibility. When people give you a hard time about that, you could say something like, “I’ve been watching him to make sure he doesn’t do any damage to your property. What specifically are you concerned about? Are we breaking some rules that we didn’t know about?” Try to pin them down and make them identify what it is they are afraid of, and you’ll find that most of the time they can’t tell you; they are just reacting.

Or you might approach the sales people before they are angry and feeling protective of their merchandise. You could explain that your son needs to touch things to learn, but he’s pretty careful, and you’ll be responsible. Then thank them for being so understanding before you leave.

Parent: My Extroverted son hates doing homework, and I get the feeling that it’s because he has to do it alone. Sometimes I sit down and go through everything with him, which seems to make it easier for him, but I worry that he’ll become too dependent upon me to get his work done.

The Old Codger says: Children should study alone. Ignore his complaints and make him do it until he gets used to it.

Murphy says: Extroverted children study better with some interaction. If you have the time and energy to interact with him while he does his homework, it’s great. If not, you can let him work alone for a while and check back with him every ten minutes or so.

Watch out that you don’t become too directive though, pushing him through every step. Instead, when he complains, ask him to explain what’s giving him the problem and how you can help. If you focus on helping him with his thinking process, instead of just helping him come up with answers, that will encourage independence more than leaving him alone to work it out himself.

Parent: My 15-year-old Extroverted daughter has been saying some pretty outlandish things lately, that she doesn’t believe in God, for example, and that everyone should have premarital sex, as if she’s deliberately trying to provoke us into an argument. How are we supposed to respond when she talks like that?

The Old Codger says: Children should not question their parent’s values. Tell her she’s wrong and you don’t want to hear her say things like that again.

Murphy says: What Extroverts say is not always what they mean. It’s very common for Extroverts to say things before they’ve given it much thought at all; they are just telling you something that occurred to them. If you immediately challenge them, however, they have to defend a statement that they haven’t really thought through yet as a matter of pride.

Your role as a parent should be to facilitate your Extrovert’s “talking it through.” By that I mean that you should withhold opinions and strong reactions, and just ask questions that let your daughter “think” out loud. And be careful that you are not just listening until she thinks the way you do.

Children can’t talk through things if there’s no time to do it, however, and time to talk is something most families do not allow for. They consider five sentences exchanged a “conversation.” But I don’t know how you can help an Extrovert sort out her thoughts without giving her an opportunity to think out loud.

Publication of this issue: November 1992

(In our next issue – April 2007 – we will cover the Introverted Kidtypes.)