5 Reasons parents need to use Myers Briggs

Every parent will be more successful if they understand their chid’s Myers Briggs score. It’s unbelievable to me that this information is not more widely distributed to parents because it’s so incredibly helpful in terms of becoming a good guide for your child.

1. All of corporate America trusts Myers Briggs.
Myers Briggs is a personality type indicator that nearly all college career centers and Fortune 500 companies use to help people find their best path through life. The test is a very reliable way to predict what will make someone feel fulfilled and how they approach things like interpersonal relationships, big ideas, and routine. It’s all right there, in their Myers Briggs score. Because that stuff is how you’re born; it doesn’t change after age 20, and it is pretty well evident as early as age five or six.

2. Schools don’t want you to know how effective the test is.
So Myers Briggs is an incredibly effective tool to help people create a good life for themselves, but we don’t use it on kids. Why not? Here’s why. Because school caters to kids who score an ISTJ on the test. This is about 10% of all kids. This means that 90% of kids are not doing what is best for them by learning in school. But what would be the point of making this information widely known when there is nothing schools can do about it?

To tell you how extreme this problem is, I just read research (unpublished and they don’t want me to quote them) from a team at a university that discovered that school caters so firmly to ISTJs, that by the time kids get to college, the polar opposite of ISTJs, which are ENFPs, are so run down by the process of school and so high risk for not finishing college that they should have a mentor assigned to them to help them cope with college.

What about all the ENFPs that are in school right now? Ten percent of you have kids who are ENFPs. It’s absolutely absurd to keep them in school because they are widely talented, especially kind and energetic kids who are getting crushed the hardest in school.

3. Myers Briggs testing makes for more confident parenting (and homeschooling)
My youngest son, pictured above, is an ESFP –similar to an ENFP with some differences. For example, typically ESFPs are obsessed with clothes and appearances and they are often stylists and designers. He has said to me, “Mom, you can’t wear that shirt. It’s just for the farm.” I would have been more snippy had I not known that since I’m an ENTJ, I don’t care about clothes, and he’s born caring way more about appearances than I am.

Homeschooling parents who are customizing school for kids would be crazy to not get their kid’s Myers Briggs score. It helps immeasurably as you steer your child through learning. You will know if you kid learns better in groups or alone. You’ll know if your kid learns with their hands or their eyes. If your kid prefers people or ideas. The world divides among these people. Everyone tends toward one side or the other.

Understanding Myers Briggs testing has made me so much more confident in my ability to choose what’s right for my kids. Even if I don’t make all the right decisions, I know way more about their learning style because I know their test results.

4. Myers Briggs helps parents understand themselves better in order to parent better. 
Adults function better if they know this about themselves — which is why so many institutions use the Myers Briggs test. And adults help kids more effectively if they know this about the kids.

Understanding personality profiles in Myers Briggs helps you understand how your personality and your kid’s personality work together. It teaches you to teach your kids better, guide them better, and stop clashing with them.

5. Customized learning requires knowing how the student learns. Myers Briggs tells us. 
School culture discourages you from understanding your child fully, because that would beg the question of why we do not have customized education. School doesn’t put your child’s fulfillment at the top of their to do list, so there’s no point in using Myers Briggs. But you spend your days wondering what, exactly, will make your child feel fulfilled — as a youngster and as an adult – and Myers Briggs has those answers.

So, guess what? I’m offering a four-day seminar on Myers Briggs that will show you your own Myers Briggs score and how to figure out what your children’s scores are. The cost is $195.

Sign up here.

Read more about the seminar here.

35 replies
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      You can take the test and read the results and see for yourself. It’s not like it’s snake oil. It doesn’t predict your future. It describes who you are. You can read the results and say, “No, that’s not me.” or you can say, “Wow, that totally describes my son.” Or not.

      So, given that you can read the results and judge for yourself, and every major company uses it and every major university uses it, I don’t need any more evidence that it’s extremely helpful.


    • EMJ
      EMJ says:

      Thanks for that link. I also like to think of the MBTI as the zodiac for nerds :).

      Embedded in the page you linked to is a link to a great takedown of the test by an actual psychologist.

      I think the test is fun, but I think it’s important not to take it too seriously.

      • Meg
        Meg says:

        That was fun reading! Thanks for sharing the link. I wish Penelope much success in selling her seminar, too. I love the astrology comparison. They do have a lot in common! Tarot, as well. And it is human nature to create systems of classification, impose them on reality, and then start to see reality in terms of our own classification systems. Then we get flummoxed when we find that the classification system is flawed, and get to work retro-engineering patches to keep our belief in the classification system. Archetypes are useful, to a point.

  1. Daniel Baskin
    Daniel Baskin says:

    I think about the MBTI score of my students (I’m a middle school music teacher) a lot, and it drives me up the wall students aren’t divided by personality, or even learning style, let alone interests.

    If instead of three classes of orchestra divided by grade, If I had three orchestras divided by personality type–despite the fact that the students would be at differing ability levels–I could get so much more done with each.

    But currently, I have to teach to the whole gamut of learning styles all at once. Granted, one could say that it’s good practice for the teacher–but it would still be a better use of time for the students if we could teach to everyone’s favorite learning styles all at once for everyone in each class.

  2. Cristina
    Cristina says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with this, Penelope. Have you also looked into the Enneagram? It’s a little heavy, but very accurate. I use it in every day life. It helps me understand the people around me and not get stuck in my own stupid patterns. I’ve been studying it for quite a few years and am so thankful to understand my children’s motivations (for example, why my son feels compelled to lie, or why my 4 year old only wants to lay down and suck her thumb all day, or why my 5 year old won’t try new things).

    I should get MB scores on my youngest! Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Satya
    Satya says:

    I’m surprised to hear schools are catered to ISTJs because that’s my type and I found it miserable. But knowing more about my type now helps me learn better as an adult, and compensate for the ways school made learning difficult for me (such as allowing myself recovery time after being in a group).

    • Kirsten
      Kirsten says:

      I’m with you, Satya. My son and my dad are both ISTJs and school was torture for both of them (I homeschool my son now). Comparing notes once they discovered a shared favorite school-day topic for daydreaming: most effective ways to escape. ;-)

  4. Jenn-ski
    Jenn-ski says:

    To Satya: My hubby is ISTJ and he didn’t think school was tailored for him either. For some reason Penlope keeps doing this over and over, first it was “schools benefit girls at the expense of boys” or something like that, and then introverts, and now ISTJ’s…. It stokes people up though, this pitting one group against another. Politicians seem to use the same tactics, and look what they accomplish! ;)

    To Universal Management: I would counter with this: who cares if MBTI is astrology, if it helps people! The same thing could be said of religion. I’ve often wondered at Mormons, their beliefs seem wacky but whenever I have met one they are so happy and upbeat and have good family values, so something is working for them.

    However I do believe there is more to MBTI than voodoo magic and if nothing else it reminds us that not everyone navigates this world the same way and we should be mindful of that.

  5. Naomi
    Naomi says:

    I’m surprised that you say that schools cater to Introverts. Maybe you mean the learning program, but who cares about that when you’re at school? Social adjustment is huge factor in success at school and Extroverts tend to thrive best in that environment.

    On the other hand, I totally agree with you about schools being inhospitable to Intuitive types. We should just be glad we made it to the finish line without the spirit entirely beat out of us!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Well, in the post where I suggested that school caters to introverts, it was my own analysis, and I was widely skewered in the comments by people who said they were introverts and hated school. (My husband is an introvert and hated school as well.)

      That said, now I am reporting research that says that school caters to the ISTJ. What that really means is that ISTJs like the following things:

      Following the rules
      Right and wrong answers
      Systems for getting measurable results
      Staying in the present, rather than worrying about the future

      All those personality traits seem well aligned with school. That doesn’t mean that every ISTJ likes school, but it’s an interesting way to think about school. Especially for parents on the fence about homeschooling.


      • AJ
        AJ says:

        This is so interesting (partly because my husband is an ISTJ and I am an ENFP). We are both teachers at the small, progressive, private schools our kids attend.

        Now that we are both teaching, I love working with kids and helping each child find challenging and interesting work, but I hate the constant attention to rules and behavior that feel impossible to avoid.

        I had planned to home school our 5 year old, but when the job presented itself I thought the opportunity to craft my kids’ education while being paid to do it might be better. I have a ton of freedom to make school a better place for my multi-age 4-8 year old classroom, but am having a hard time matching my ideals (autonomy, plenty of free play, project based learning, etc.) with the realities of working with a bunch of kids who have to do it all in the same room without tearing the place apart/ driving each other crazy.

        I am loving your blog and intuitively agree with so much of what you share about the benefits of homeschooling. I hope to turn my classroom into one of the few “good” examples. Pressure…

  6. victoria
    victoria says:

    That’s interesting about ENFPs. I am an ENFP myself (and it’s not borderline on any of the scales — I am *very* ENFP) and in most ways I was very “schooly.” I made excellent grades for the most part, remembered a lot of what I learned in school, etc., etc.

    That said, while I happily worked my tail off when I had good teachers, I did get into a little trouble for times for (politely!) explaining to a teacher that no, I hadn’t done an assignment because I felt like I’d already met the objectives of the assignment and I’d be happy to take a 0 if it meant I had more time to work on my music. I wonder how much of that is personality and how much of that is just being…ornery.

    • BJ
      BJ says:

      Victoria, I am an ENFP of the same variety and I felt the same way! I loved school! But on reflection, I found school easy academically but I was terrible at organization and keeping track of papers. I really just like the crowds, the noise, the interactions and the activities + the extracurriculars.

      That said: I was terrible as a teacher. I loved teaching and being with my kids all day long, but I was a massive failure functioning within the parameters of an inflexible bureaucracy (which didn’t keep me from being namedTeacher of the Year for the district, weirdly.)

      • victoria
        victoria says:

        “But on reflection, I found school easy academically but I was terrible at organization and keeping track of papers. I really just like the crowds, the noise, the interactions and the activities + the extracurriculars.”

        Yes, this is me exactly! Even the years when school was really negative socially (and there were a few that were awful) I felt good about being there most of the time. And having seen what my brother and sister-in-law who are teachers have gone through with the bureaucracies there I feel confident I would’ve felt the way you did about teaching as a career.

  7. Paxton
    Paxton says:

    It has been an interesting and enlightening journey since I started reading your Homeschooling section after only reading your work blog for a while.
    You continualy address, analyse, and synthesize the problems that I have seen with school since I was a child. Right now it is impossible for me to homeschool my daughter. As things change over time and circumstances progress this may be able to change.
    I think it is very important to understand how a person learns and synthesizes information before you can teach them so I really like your idea of MB testing. I really wish I could take your seminar…maybe I can purchase sometime in the future.

  8. Becky Castle Miller
    Becky Castle Miller says:

    Will the seminar cover how to analyze MBTI for young kids? I’ve been reading about typing kids, and it seems that for kids 2-6 you only use 2 letters and for kids 7-12 you only use 3 letters. My four-year-old son is IP and my six-year-old daughter is EFJ.

    (I tried commenting earlier, but my comment got stuck in moderation, probably because of the links I included to MBTI tests for little kids)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yes, Becky. The same skills you’d use to peg an adult’s personality type are the skills you’d use to peg a kid’s personality type.

      The seminar shows how to accurately pick someone’s type without them taking the test.


      • Julie
        Julie says:

        Since I started reading your blog, I’ve made it a hobby to see if I can guess other people’s MBTI types. Both of my parents have taken the test as parts of their jobs. I accurately guessed my stepdad’s type, but my mom won’t tell me if I guessed hers right as well. I also guessed my husband’s right.

        My two sons are 7 and 3. The 7-year-old is an EN*P (I both guessed, and he took one of the online tests; also, I’m ENTP, and his personality is a lot like mine). I think my 3-year-old is an IS*J, and he has started refusing to go to school. He likes the structure but “there are too many people there.” Also, to him, a lot of the work seems to have no real purpose, so he won’t do it. He doesn’t understand why he has to color some picture, so he makes two or three crayon strokes on it and then he’s done. I’m homeschooling him now, too, along with my older son. It is somewhat challenging, for me, to satisfy the needs of two such different kids, different in virtually every way they can be except they’re both boys.

        • Gareth
          Gareth says:

          Maybe there should be a specialized test for determination of nerd zodiac for little kids. It could have questions like:

          Q: When you are given a picture to color, do you:
          a) color it all the way to the lines
          b) put a few token scratches in it and call it done

          Q: At school, are there:
          a) too many people
          b) lots of people and isn’t that fun

          Q: If you get exactly the same math worksheet as homework, is it:
          a) great because it’s really easy then
          b) symptomatic of incredible incompetence at your school

  9. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    Just a note regarding the very first comment that shared the article about the MBTI rebuttal and to back up Penelope’s assessment of MBTI. The author of that article stated that MBTI is not based on any testing or the work of any psychologists. If due diligence was done before writing that article, the author would know that neither of those things are true. The work is based off of Carl Jung’s work on psychological types. He was the initial creator of the majority of the MBTI dimensions. Myers/Briggs just added the J/P function to the equation as they found it was needed to get the best picture of the person. Any indiviudal who has taken the preference indicator with a certified person and finds the right type is blown away by the accuracy and the relationship dynamics it opens him/her up to.

    I agre with Penelope’s assessment and have built a coaching business around it. I am an educational and career coach I specialize in helping people understand your learning needs, create a personalized learning plan, and show them how to adapt those needs to different educational settings. Along with this, I work with a person to focus on improving skills and addressing external factors that may affect educational and work outcomes (relationships, environment, etc.). I use MBTI as a foundation so people can discover learning in a completely customized and adaptable way. I also want to coach parents on understanding their young children as well – both in learning and at home.
    Thanks for a great article that points out the value of MBTI, especially as it relates to education!

  10. Cindy Gaddis
    Cindy Gaddis says:

    I’ll have to agree that introverts typically don’t fare well in school. Introverts gain energy from being alone, thus, groups sap energy. Extroverts gain energy from being with people. There are social introverts, but they still need to re-energize by being away from people. School is great for extroverts.

    That said, about the M-B assessment, I thought it was pretty accurate for me when I tested as to what type of employee I am. I am an ESFJ. I did very well in school, and liked it. But, an interesting thing happened when I was first introduced to the M-B testing. I took a test designed to show what kind of parent you are using the criteria, and I came up the exact opposite of my employee style! My mothering was an INTP. What it showed me was that different parts of my personality come out depending on the environment and what’s important to me. I’m a very efficient, driven worker, but I’m a connected, observant parent. I wrote about my discovery on my blog here: http://applestars.homeschooljournal.net/2006/08/17/self-discovery-through-type-testing/.

    The research I’ve done over the past fourteen years is to see the impact on the labels of right-brained and left-brained learning types. Schools are centered around left-brained learning and the scopes and sequences support that. Right-brained learners tend to learn very differently than found in school, so they receive most of the learning disability labels to explain why these bright, creative children are not flourishing in schools. The answer is not that they’re broken, but that it’s a mismatched learning environment. Schools will never admit that, though. You and your children, Penelope, are most likely more right-brained, thus, why they love music and you are such a risk-taking entrepreneur. It’s my passion to advocate for right-brained learners!

    • Nonnie
      Nonnie says:

      We first heard about left-brain/right-brain beginning in 6th grade, and from the beginning it seemed to me like left-brainers were just depicted as boring calculator-heads. I felt like right-brainers got all the glory, but I guess in fairness I *did* get all the good grades.

      • Cindy Gaddis
        Cindy Gaddis says:

        Haha! Yes, Nonnie, I do have to be careful of glorifying the cool creativity and out-of-the-box thinking of right-brained people and not bringing up similar cool things about we left-brained learners. I guess because our society values the good grades and “success” of school, we get our natural “reward.”

        But, as I discuss at my website, there can be issues on both sides of the right-/left-brained paradigm as both sides of the brain are integrated by the ages of 11 and 13. For instance, take writing. I can be quite good at the grammar, sentence construction, spelling, report-driven left-brained tasks that get me those A’s in school. But, to be an effective writer, the gut stuff has to come first (which right-brained people are better at). So, when I wrote my book, I had to “turn off” my left-brained, schooled, formal side and tell myself to just write what I believe and know. AFTER that, then, I can go back and “clean it up.” And yet, I needed to learn not to clean it up too much so as not to lose impact.

        Further, the extrovert/introvert thing came into play. Writing in the traditional sense is an introverted thing. But, with technology, there are now more extroverted opportunities to put your writing out there. Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, yahoo groups, on-line video games are all places that one is writing TO people, so it engages the extrovert qualities more. So, I used that as the base for my writing my book, and then could introvert myself enough to put it altogether.

        Isn’t that all fascinating? Okay, I think so…haha!

  11. Meg
    Meg says:

    “You will know if you kid learns better in groups or alone. You’ll know if your kid learns with their hands or their eyes. If your kid prefers people or ideas.”

    Because parents can’t know this sort of thing about their kids, any other way. And we know that if businesses and institutions rely on it, it must be worthwhile!

    • Julie
      Julie says:

      It certainly isn’t the only way you can know about your kids. But very many parents seem to me to want their kids to be something the kids are not. They want their kids to be athletic, for example, when the kid is really a book nerd. Some parents want their kid to be a certain way that they are willing and able to completely ignore the evidence right under their nose, or they can convince themselves that if they just keep pushing the kid to be more like this, then eventually it will take. In my case, my mom really wanted a daughter who liked to talk about her feelings, but I am not that daughter. She tried and tried and it damn near drove me away from her forever. So, yes, parents *can* know their kids other ways; it’s just that many of them don’t.

  12. Katie
    Katie says:

    I just took your seminar on Myers-Briggs and got a lot out of, so I am wondering if this seminar will be different enough to justify taking it. For example, will the seminar discuss how to best home school based on the types? I have an ENFP 9th grader who loves classroom interaction, has a good peer group, is enjoying the overall school experience and not getting into trouble, but…he is failing. Like, pretty much everything. And it doesn’t really seem to bother him. Me (ENTJ) and his father (INTJ) are not really sure what to do.

    His school is an excellent private school and tuition is free (long story, but it is not at all merit based– it involves family members), so we probably won’t home school him. But sometimes I am tempted because I hate that this is 4 years of his life that are basically just about lunch and band time. And despite the overall happy outlook, I can tell that he is kind of rattled that he is struggling so much and it is only going to get worse over the next 3 years. At any rate, we have a 2 year-old and a baby on the way and I’m seriously leaning toward home schooling for the next round of kids.

    • Cindy Gaddis
      Cindy Gaddis says:

      I’m not Penelope, but here’s the thing. I feel we live in a society that wants to categorize everything so that hopefully that categorization can give us a roadmap or an owner’s manual that we all desperately would think would make life easier. The thing is, we’re complex, individual humans that are dynamic.

      That said, I’m a huge proponent of the left-/right-brained knowledge. Only because it enlightens about certain attributes of who we are. That would be the same thing with the Myers-Briggs categorization. It enlightens, but it can’t be the answer.

      I homeschooled my children with no labels. Only when I realized others with personalities like my children were struggling and mine didn’t did I go look for the reason why. My children are all right-brained learners, and most of these learners in school struggle because the way they learn doesn’t line up with the way schools teach or the order in which they present information or the right focus of subjects (http://www.therightsideofnormal.com/2012/04/16/the-natural-learning-development-for-right-brained-children/). Your son being extraverted is why he likes being in school, but it’s probably his core right-brainedness that makes him not succeed there (thus, why he loves band, for instance…a core creative outlet for right-brained children is music).

      My advice is to use these things to enlighten you, but to really individualize education for your children and to help them flourish, you must collaborate with them at a snowflake level…no other person will be exactly like your child, but there are lots of common traits and foundations that you can begin with. I like right-brained/left-brained, extrovert/introvert (so Myers-Briggs can be fine), and the Five Love Languages as a core. My thoughts and experiences…

  13. Mindy @ DenSchool
    Mindy @ DenSchool says:

    Love this!! I can’t wait to share this with my husband – he is a grad student in social psychology and is focusing a lot on the differences with homeschoolers and the way the program can be catered to the actual needs of the child.

  14. Katy
    Katy says:

    I don’t think I know a single ISTP who liked school, unless it was the auto mechanic class at the VoTech center, or deep-sea diving training or…I daydream about quitting my job and going to the local gunsmith school. Or building all the houses in my head.
    I don’t think there is a remedy for us besides just getting the hell out of school and doing something with our hands.

  15. tosha
    tosha says:

    I think the comment about ENFPs is overstated. I’m (super) ENFP and (public) school was far from “crushing”. In fact, I excelled at it.

    A parent’s decision about whether to homeschool their child is deeply personal, and needs to consider many factors, including their child’s personality type. To state simply that if your child is ENFP, then it’s “absurd” to keep them in school is unfair.

  16. Stephanie Pease
    Stephanie Pease says:

    So, I took the MBTI as a freshman in college, and got a pretty drastically different score than when I retook it ten years later. I tested as an INFJ. I now test solidly as an ESFJ. I answered innacurately as a college student because I didn’t know myself well at the time. I answered the questions the way I wanted myself to be, the way I thought I was, rather than the way I actually was that I recognized as an older wiser person. I think parents testing their children’s MBTI run a similar risk. They can see what they want to see in their children’s behavior, instead of what actually exists. Children often unconciously repeat behaviors and show interest in subjects simply because they produce maximum appproval from their parents (I ABSOLUTELY did this), misleading the parents into thinking the children find these behaviors naturally comfortable. Also, when children are told they fall into a certain typing, it can become a self-fulfilling prophesy, that follows them into adulthood and into a life path that isn’t necessarily optimum for them. The types don’t change much after people turn 20, not after they turn 5. Its not that I don’t think this has educational use, its just that I think it could be a little dangerous in the long term.

  17. jporridge
    jporridge says:

    MBTI is a pseudoscience that boxes people in. Even by it’s use, it would be unwise to use it on people in high school as they are only starting to develop their first preference then, and life events will shape them… What they like as a teenager might disgust them later on, and so forth. Bad idea IMHO. Keep this pseudoscience to the HR people. No real psychologist or neuroscientist takes this serious.

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