Single Parenting: Understand How Your Personality Can Benefit Yourself and Your Child

By: Janet Levine

Are you an organizer or a protector? Do you like to keep the peace or to question? Is your greatest talent that of being a helper, or do you take a moral stance to ensure everything is “right”? Are you an observer tending to stand on the sidelines and watch what unfolds? Or do you see life as a game, to be played for your entertainment? Are you dreamer always wanting your child to be happy? These are some qualities of the nine different personalities found on the Enneagram (E-model). The E-model describes with amazing accuracy the motivations behind our behaviors. And the different personalities impact how you parent.

Single parents tend to take on the responsibility of being both mother and father to their children. This can be stressful. You try to model behavior that is often foreign to you. It is more reasonable and beneficial to try to understand yourself fully, and to use your personality to best benefit yourself and your child. This way you don’t have to role model Mommy and Daddy, you can simple be who you are. Learn about your strengths and weaknesses and the personality gifts you bring to your children.

As you understand how to build on your positives, among them—modeling ethical behavior, empathy, and reliability—you’ll also learn how to overcome the negatives such as evasiveness, being authoritarian, and avoiding conflict. You can cultivate an understanding of how you function as a parent. Here are some examples:

If you are an Organizer you are always moving into action. Your attention goes to breaking up projects into tasks and making lists; this way you can get things done. Achieving goals is your primary behavioral motivation. Doing is great, but done is better. This parenting style impacts the way you organize your family. They become the project and you run the danger of becoming a human doing, not a human being. Your children can feel reduced to but another item on your endless list of tasks as you push around the pieces of the puzzle. Learn to show and tell your emotions and appreciation. Don’t rely on them to know what you feel for them by what you DO for them. You have wonderful leadership skills, and as a single parent you can lead your family into the full flowering of their potential. Never neglect the emotional side of any interaction or situation.

If you are an Observer you tend to move away (at least in your head) from people. Aware of the fact that you have to manage your energy, you don’t like surprises and you minimize participation. If you are a single parent you have to put out more energy and interaction than may be comfortable for you. Yet you are the focal point of family dynamics. This is not the time in your life that you can take a back seat, your children need to know that you are in control and visibly active on their behalf. You don’t like to fuss. The less time spent on the daily routine, the more time to explore your mind. Your gift is rationality; you keep a cool head in a crisis. But your children may need a little more fussing. If they don’t know what you have in mind when you try to organize (them), how can they relate to you? Remember to share the details with your children, and make an effort to meet their emotional needs. Go much further than halfway to meet them. The younger they are the more emotional affect they need from you.

If you are the Protector you live with an innate sense of power and control. As a single parent you may feel vulnerable and this is scary for you, so you try to exercise ever more control to hold the pieces of your life and your child’s life together. You manage family life as you do most of the other pieces: my way or the highway. With this behavior you run the risk of not listening to them and bulldozing through all their objections. Despite their reasonable input you can make them feel that they are either on your team, or against you. You are fiercely protective and love them unreservedly, but they may only know how you push them around. Learn to be more open, and own up to the moments when you feel vulnerable. Try not to see the world in such black and white terms, look for gradations of gray. Allow your children to help you. Instead of pushing them away to show you are the boss, embrace them in a great bear hug.

Hopefully this parenting advice is clear and helpful for single parents. It is but the tip of the iceberg for these different personalities, and, on the model, there are six more personality types and parenting styles. In addition, with the E-model there are many suggestions on how to identify and develop your own personality gifts. Above we are introduced to only a few of the many practices.

These are interior mind states, and parenting has internal as well as external drivers. How you motivate your self and your parenting practices, are calibrated around the impetus for the way you behave. With a clear understanding of this personality model, you will gain invaluable self-awareness. Then you can learn how to cultivate that awareness for your own emotional resiliency—your general well being and that of your family—and bring joy and stability to the way you parent.

Janet Levine, international Enneagram authority, workshop leader, educator and author, brings her wealth of experience with children and parents to her groundbreaking work on parenting in her new book Know Your Parenting Personality. She has written for publications such as the New York Times Magazine and The Boston Globe. Her previous books include The Enneagram Intelligences: Understanding Personality for Effective Teaching and Learning. Levine is founder of Transforming Teaching Workshops, and is founder and first President of a professional association of Enneagram teachers. Her work can be reviewed at and

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