Learning the Enneagram encouragesparents to embrace their child’s unique personality. Otherwise some will pushtheir children to be replicas of themselves.
What needs to be said right away inany discussion of parenting is that parents do not create a child'spersonality type. All Enneagram teachers and researchers agree thatpersonality type is built on temperament and that, in ways we do not fullyunderstand, this is inborn. A child comes into the world with his or herpersonality type already determined by prenatal events, although we do not knowwhat all of these are. There are theories that type is determined by genetics,by in utero events, by the emotional state of the mother, or even bypast lives and the need for a soul to be a certain type to learn the lessons ofthat type. But the truth is, we really do not know all of the causes of type.
This is not to say that earlyfamily conditions and parental influences are not important: far from it. Whilethey do not cause type, they highly influence how emotionally healthy orunhealthy a child becomes. A child who is fortunate enough to be born into afamily of well-balanced parents will start life as a relatively healthy exampleof his or her type. Conversely, a child who is born into a relativelydysfunctional family will have to close down his natural openness, spontaneity,and vitality and need to erect defenses against the various forms of violationthat exist in the family. In the authors' terms, one child will be at ahealthier Level of Development, while the second child will grow up at asubstantially lower, unhealthier, Level. Hence, the second child will have moreemotional challenges than the first child.
In short, parenting does count—notto produce a personality type, but to influence how healthy a child of thattype will be. It is therefore not difficult to see that when parents work onthemselves through psychospiritual tools such as the Enneagram, they are notonly doing something good for themselves, they are making possible one of thegreatest gifts they could give their children—an emotionally healthy childhoodand a happier future.Parents who help their child develop self- esteem,emotional stability, open curiosity, trust in self, an enjoyment of life,strength and self-confidence, easiness with themselves, the ability to regulatethemselves, and empathy for self and others (qualities found in the nine types)set the stage for the development of all of their child's potentials and futureaccomplishments.
One of the most useful areas forparents to become aware of is thedifferences offitbetween themselves and their children. Not every child will be an easy fit forevery parent. If two parents are highly energetic, sociable, and extroverted,and their child is quiet, serious, and reserved, the fit between the parentsand the child can become strained. The child may unconsciously feel that he orshe is a disappointment to the parents, which can cause serious emotionaldifficulties for the child. The parents might try to manipulate or pressure thechild to be more like them. Or they might feel guilty or inadequate for notunderstanding their child—or even for not completely liking and enjoying theirchild.
Differences of fit between parentsand children can become more clearly understood with the Enneagram. This is notto say that understanding alone will be enough to undo any potential problems.But without insight and understanding there can be no solution to problems.Above all, parents need to see their children not as their possessions to bemolded according to their own emotional needs but as independent beings whohave their own value and are worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.
The following chart indicates a fewof the major expectations of each type of parent toward their children, nomatter what type their children may actually be. Being aware of theseunconscious expectations and not allowing yourself to manipulate your childreninto having to measure up to them will go a long way toward improving parent-childrelationships.
What Parents Expect from TheirChildren
May demand self-control,reasonableness, regularity, and the ability to delay rewards—that their childbe a Little Adult
May demand generosity,thoughtfulness, helpfulness, and attention to others—that their child be aLittle Helper
May demand being outstanding attasks, fulfilling family hopes, physical perfection, and popularity—that theirchild be a Little Star
May demand sensitivity, artistic creativity,emotional depth, and understanding—that their child be a Little Therapist
May demand independence,studiousness, intellectual gifts, and curiosity—that their child be a LittleGenius
May demand dependability,obedience, perseverance, and trustworthiness—that their child be a LittleTrouper
May demand vitality, good humor,resilience, and spontaneity—that their child be a Little Entertainer
May demand toughness,self-sufficiency, courage, and willpower—that their child be a LittleEntrepreneur
May demand quietness, lack ofdemands, gentleness, and non-needinesss—that their child be a Little Angel
One of the best attitudes forparents to have toward their children is an amazed curiosity to support thechild's own unfolding. In childrearing, only one thing is certain: childrenwill develop in unexpected ways. If parents try to block the child's naturalunfolding, they will not succeed. The unfolding will not stop but merely becomedistorted and neurotic. It is therefore always best for the parent to observethe child's type (with its innate gifts and capacities) and to elicit thebest aspects of the child's type rather than try to change him or her intosomeone fundamentally different from who he or she already is.