I wrote the following to prepare for an interview with Julie Bogart, Creator and Owner of Bravewriter. She writes: “I love kids. I love parents. I love writing. She’s a BIG fan of the Enneagram. We talk often about how it impacts our parenting.
Hello Bravewriter Families! I’ve heard much about you and can’t wait to connect.
I was thinking about how I use the Enneagram in parenting and thought “I got into the Enneagram twenty years ago because of my three children.”
I needed to understand them so I could change them to do things just like me. Not my proudest moment, but it’s true.
As a child, I made my way in the world by rushing headlong into it. They were more careful and inward in their style. I would worry about things that I ultimately realized had a lot more to do with me than with them.
THE BODY/INSTINCTUAL CENTER:
My oldest was the quintessential good kid, rarely making waves. In the meantime, I knew there was a subterranean part of her that felt rich, alive and a total mystery to me. Not knowing was hard.
As time went on, I realized there was this instinctive part of her that needed to say “no” to my stealth ways of controlling her so she could maintain a sense of herself. A friend told me about the Enneagram and I was hooked.
I quickly saw her patterns and learned she is a Type 9, The Mediator. In Enneagram terms, this is a type structure that naturally lives in the Body Center. They sense and feel their way through things.
I learned that people who lead with Type 9 can be “self-forgetting” and finding their way to their own agenda and make decisions for themselves is difficult. Yet, finding their own personal north star is paramount in their life journey.
People who live in this Body Center want a sense of power and control in the world.
Mediators like my daughter tend to control in a benign way of not voicing an opinion. They don’t like to ruffle feathers. This helps maintain a sense of inner peace and comfort.
I needed to step back and allow her to find her own voice. With time, she found it: it’s a unique voice with a passion for justice and a heart for women finding their own power and voice.
THE HEAD/MENTAL CENTER:
While my oldest daughter was all about peace and comfort, my next child’s first words most definitely included “why?” He challenged me and questioned exhaustively. A low point was a shouting match about dinosaurs. “I’m a STEGOSAURUS! You ASKED me what kind of dinosaur I am and every time I tell you, you change it. I’m NOT a pterodactyl.” My son was 3. It was a prescient moment.
He told me later with his tongue in his cheek:
“I imagine that my opposition came from the fact that you didn’t care what type of dinosaur you were, you were just saying a name to placate me, and that a TRUE leader would have given me reasons that they were a certain dinosaur and would’ve STUCK TO THEIR GUNS.”
This is my son: Affirmations feel disingenuous. Positivity leaves out half the truth. Peace and comfort from mom is not only unsettling, but also elicits pushback and mistrust.
I used strategies in those early years that didn’t connect to his skeptical way of being in the world.
He had a sharp, inquisitive mind and I had no idea how to face his challenges to my directives. Once I learned the Enneagram, I realized directives from authority figures without any explanations of WHY are like nails on a chalkboard to a kid like mine.
Initially, I thought he was a Type 1, The Perfectionist as he was so hard on himself. As he got into junior high, I could see the authority ambivalence begin to surface so I read up more on Type 6, The Loyal Skeptic. I asked him to read it.
“Yes, that’s much more like me, he said. I’m not all about being the good kid. I just don’t want to get in trouble.” I learned there’s a big difference.
My son leads with the Head Center and so do I.
While it may not always look this way on outside, Head Types can feel like the world is bigger than we are. We respond by trying to figure things out, pull back and scan for safety OR go at it full on.
The Heart Center feels like an unknown, easily manipulated place. We want to connect with you, but how can we trust the shifting sands of the heart? (More on that in the interview with Julie!)
THE HEART/EMOTIONAL CENTER:
My youngest daughter was like a warm heart coming into the world. She loved attention and had an alluring quality that attracted people.
At dinner, when I asked the kids about their day, the two oldest would offer a few brief words while my youngest filled up the rest of the space with stories and a play-by-play of the world of relationship dynamics in the classroom.
As she got into middle school and junior high, I noticed how much her relationships impacted her schoolwork. I found myself riding waves of her highs and lows in a way I hadn’t experienced with my older two kids.
She was highly sensitive to what was going on in our family and her friend group and even more sensitive to rejection of herself and others. She had no problem standing up to mean girl behaviors.
TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HER TYPE!
When we first looked at Enneagram books, we thought she was a Type 7, The Epicure because we shared many similarities. But I couldn’t let go of my sense that she leads from the Heart Center. We thought she was a Type 2, The Giver until she got to college. This is where her need to be different and unique came to life. Finding work that suited her ideals became paramount.
She brought some college friends to one of my Enneagram panels and we had a mother/daughter “aha” moment.
She was listening to a group of young women who were Type 4, The Individualist talk about the ever present tendency to notice what’s missing in their life, their relationship, their art, their work.
I watched a lightbulb go off in her eyes. She walked to the front of the room I knew what she was going to say. She said, “Mom I think I’m a 4.”
She talked of how she never felt like everyone else in our family.
We talked of our conflicts how her mercurial nature confounded me. I never knew if I was up or down.
This was a turning point for us. My need to be upbeat and okay conflicted with her need to be authentic and true to her deepest self.
INTEGRATING HEAD, HEART AND BODY
My children are now adults. Two are married with children of their own. I’ve been teaching the Enneagram for 20 years and am still learning how important it is for me to balance my Head with my Heart and my Body in my relationship with myself and others.
I do practices that help me when I get stuck in my Head Center. The three centered Enneagram has helped me do what experts call “attachment parenting” where we build secure emotional bonds with our children. It helped me step into their world with respect.
Parenting from Three Centers!
My oldest daughter and I have talked about her parenting in comparison to how the educational system teaches. It focuses mostly on the Head Center which is only one third of who we are as human beings! She has a high energy son who needs to feel, touch and sense his way to learning.
As I read Julie’s blogs and Instagram posts, I’ve noticed how she encourages self-compassion. Raising children brings up all our own stuff.
I’ve learned to forgive myself and learned to distinguish between what’s their “type stuff” and what’s mine.
My family uses the Enneagram not to put ourselves in a box, but to help us understand one another. In a circuitous way, it has helped us break out of our self-imposed boxes.
It has helped me understand my husband, my kids, their partners and spouses. We get each other in a deeper way.
With time, we discover the parts of one another that have nothing to do with the Enneagram. It has to do with the unique aliveness inside each of us where we live our way into being who we really are.
Thank you to my children, Laura, Matt and Rachel who gave me permission and tips!