As a speaker, writer, and Certified Enneagram coach, Jenn Whitmer understands how who we are affects our parenting. Discover the gifts and cautions of each type.
Parenting is being pecked to death by chickens. Mostly because kids are tiny, imperfect humans who need just so much from us as grown, imperfect humans.
I’m continuing to learn my parenting improves as I gain a deeper understanding of why I’m reacting to the pecking in unhelpful ways. I can move past reflexive reactions and develop responses that benefit both my kids and me.
One of the best self-awareness tools I’ve discovered is the Enneagram. “Ennea-what?” you say? The Enneagram is a personality framework with nine core types identifying what motivates our behavior. It observes and reflects our inner world without judgment.
You know your personality affects your parenting. You like things organized and kids, well, typically don’t! You need time alone, and tiny fingers are sliding under the bathroom door. Each Enneagram type brings particular gifts and limitations to parenting. And no matter the personality’s gifts and places of caution, we all want to respond in healthy ways with our kids.
Fair warning! One type may ruffle your feathers more than the rest. Pay attention to that one. It may be just the one to help you the most with the pecking.
Enneagram Type One: Reforming Perfectionist
Gifts: You intensely love what’s right and good. Your kids learn responsibility and exceptional ways to manage their lives from you.
Watch-outs: Remember, your children are not a reflection of your ability to keep it all together. Your children will never meet your standard of perfect, especially in the tidiness of their rooms or loading the dishwasher. Let them struggle to find their own methods and resist the urge to go behind them and fix it. Practice turning down the volume of the voice inside your mind telling you you’re a bad mom. You are a good mom.
Enneagram Type Two: Considerate Giver
Gifts: You are a warm hug and a willing servant. Care flows out of you. You clothe and feed and make everyone feel welcome. Your kids learn service from you.
Watch-outs: It’s a challenge to feel your own feelings first, but you cannot feel your children’s emotions for them. It’s actually healthy when your child is angry with you. It usually means they’re learning to emotionally process appropriate boundaries that you have set.
Enneagram Type Three: Successful Competitor
Gifts: You are a walking motivational poster! Your levels of management are unmatched. Your kids learn excellent goal-setting and efficiency from you.
Watch-outs: Learn to communicate to your child that you love them separate from their achievements. Learn how to embrace the different gifts children bring that aren’t the typical achievements. Average is ok. (I know you may have just died a little, but I promise, it’s ok.)
Enneagram Type Four: Romantic Individualist
Gifts: You welcome each gift. Every difference makes a child unique and valuable. Your children learn the value of all the emotions, even painful ones, from you.
Watch-outs: There comes a point when you have to help your children, not wallow. Be careful to notice when they need to hone skills to learn from pain and move on. Also, your child may want to just fit in sometimes and not be as unique as you.
Enneagram Type Five: Investigative Specialist
Gifts: Your love of learning is deep and wide. Your life is likely full of books, podcasts, and docuseries on a variety of topics. Your children develop a healthy sense of “there’s always more to learn” from you.
Watch-outs: Learn how to manage your energy and communicate your needs with your children. Develop practices of alone time during the day. Be free from guilt about not loving all the touching and needs of young children. You don’t have to learn all the things yourself to be a good mom.
Enneagram Type Six: Loyal Skeptic
Gifts: You have a gift for preparation and questions. Your kids learn to understand the context and what is required in any situation from you.
Watch-outs: You tend to ask the anxiety side of the question, “What if?” Be cautious about passing anxiety to your children. Develop ways to help them see the possibilities, not just the danger. Children are easily exhausted by questions, especially preteens and teens, so be careful to limit your questions when you sense your children retreating. Know this: You can trust yourself as a mom. You have what it takes to make great decisions for your kids.
Enneagram Type Seven: Enthusiastic Visionary
Gifts: You can make joy and wonder out of a tin can! You can find the good in any circumstance in no time. The imagination and problem solving you demonstrate will serve your kids well.
Watch-outs: Find routines to give your children predictability and stick with them when it’s not fun. Let your kids feel their emotions—even the negative ones and the feelings that seem illogical. You may have to be especially careful when your memory and emotions around a past event do not match your child’s memory.
Enneagram Type Eight: Protective Challenger
Gifts: No one does Mama Bear like you. And, you feel comfortable sharing difficult truths. Your children learn justice and strength from you.
Watch-outs: Be careful what you tell your kids. Children rarely need as much information as adults think they do. Learn how to manage anger in healthy ways, especially in front of your children.
Enneagram Type Nine: Peaceful Mediator
Gifts: You like easy-going and low-stress. You can ride the waves of change that accompany daily life with children. Your children learn how to see and value other perspectives from you.
Watch-outs: Your go-with-the-flow posture means you can disengage in unhealthy ways. Create structures and routines that help you check in with your child when you would naturally want to retreat. Keep your own needs and wants yours, rather than merging with your kids.
Jenn is a speaker, writer, Certified Enneagram coach, and all-around joy-bringer. She and her husband, Michael, moved as newlyweds from Kansas City to St. Louis more than 20 years ago. They now live in Clayton, but she still can’t answer the question, “What high school did you go to?” Michael and Jenn have two sons aged 17 and 16 and two daughters who are 14 and 10 (Teenagers like to remain anonymous unless it’s their own social media!). Using decades of experience in education, coaching, and connecting people, Jenn runs a consulting business focused on conflict resolution, the Enneagram, and leadership. You can find her at jennwhitmer.com or probably laughing over coffee with a friend.