November 22, 2017

Does Your Child Prefer Structure or Spontaneity?

By Karen Harvey

This is the last of a 4-part look at your child’s personality.

The final piece of personality looks at how your child organizes life.  A child either likes to make plans and have things decided (a “judger”) or to be more spontaneous and have options open (a “perceiver”).


The words are misleading.  The “judging” child isn’t judgmental, but likes things settled and known.  Likewise, the “perceiving” child isn’t necessarily perceptive, he just likes his plans to be flexible, and he enjoys gathering information more than making decisions.


Here are some clues to help you recognize your child’s type:

- Does your child tend to like order and structure (J) or flexibility and spontaneity (P)?

- Would you describe your child more as productive and responsible (J) or playful and impulsive (P)?

- When plans are made for an upcoming activity, does this make your child happy (J) or would she rather leave her options open as long as possible (P)?

- Would your child rather start a project (P) or finish one (J)?

- Does your child find rules to be comforting (J) or limiting and irritating (P)?


This characteristic can be difficult to assess in young children, who are naturally playful, curious and open to new things.  By preschool age, however, it may be easier for you to make a determination.


If your child is a Judger:

  • She likes being in a structured and organized environment, and wants to be part of the general decision-making process.
  • Recognize, especially if you’re more of a P, that a J child feels uneasy when things are up in the air for too long.
  • He doesn’t especially like changes in plans, and may need more time than a P child to transition between activities (particularly if he’s also an Introvert).
  • She wants to be on time for things, and wants you to be on time as well.


If your child is a Perceiver:

  • She welcomes the chance to try something new, and is comfortable with the unexpected.  Too many plans make life boring.
  • Making a decision can be stressful.  If he says yes to one activity, he can no longer choose other options, so he may instead avoid a decision and let it be made for him by circumstances.
  • She may have trouble finishing tasks, especially ones which don’t especially interest her.  If you’re a J, you’re likely to butt heads with your child over the way she chooses to do chores; she’s likely to get distracted, and you may be happier staying out of the way and letting her do things her way.
  • He may need help recognizing the importance of deadlines and commitments.
  • As a parent, you’ll have to focus on choosing your battles and being consistent, to avoid continually correcting and reprimanding your child.


This series of articles is based on the four aspect of personality as defined by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  For more information on personality and children, Paul and Barbara Tieger’s book Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child’s Personality Type – And Become a Better Parent is an excellent resource.  To take a free online test and learn more about your own type, visit 


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Karen Harvey, CEC, is a life coach and mother of two who specializes in working with moms.  Visit her website at


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