How the Enneagram can help in parenting

Raising kids is one of the most challenging jobs on earth, for many reasons. As parents we are passionate to make it right and most of us do our best – according to our own standards. But what do we mean by ’right’ and how can we know that our standards are correct? Also, parenting is a long-term experiment where you cannot just push the ’replay’ button if you end up discovering you should have done something differently. Having good intentions is essential but surely not enough, getting to know our kid better and discovering their motivations and true needs can take much further.

All children long to be loved and appreciated. And they all need help in getting to know themselves better in order to be successful in life.

Having compassion towards our kids is probably one of the greatest gifts we can offer them in this challenging journey called growing up.

Why are some kids easier to figure out while others give us a lot of headaches? How can I discover my kid’s strengths and get them come to terms with their blind spots, in a compassionate way? What lurks behind my kid’s actions and where can I find a user’s manual to manage stressful situations?

The Enneagram gives answers to these questions by shedding a light on their true motivations which often remain hidden – before them and us as well.

Each of us is unique but there are certain distinctive behavioral patterns which are shared by those with the same Enneagram number. And what type is my kid?

Below are some traits and behavioral patterns to look for when observing your child.

Before jumping to any premature conclusions, it might be worth stressing some important guidelines upfront, about the use of the Enneagram.

  • Behavioral patterns are very useful hints but it is not these patterns that define one’s true type. The Enneagram aims to uncover your genuine motivations and internal driving forces – which explains why it is easier to type ourselves than anyone else. Therefore, I would strongly suggest starting by typing yourself first.
  • Most probably you know your child better than anyone else, which makes it easier for you to attune yourself to your kid easier than anyone else. Yet, this should not misguide you – make sure to observe them thoroughly and in various settings, before arriving at a type.
  • It might be useful having your kid take a test first and narrow the options down to a few types, then observing your kid with this knowledge in mind. Kids in their late teen years are old enough to take an Enneagram test – use one which evaluates the results by percentage points.
  • Once you uncover their true type, use this knowledge to provide a safe space for your kid, and also to teach them how to love themselves better. But do not use it to put them in a box and judge or blame them because of their type.
  • Like any other individual, you child may display the characteristics of another type when in stress or at their best. Do not forget about the arrow movements when observing.
  • If you are still hesitant, check out this blog about the Harmonic Groups, which is about our typical reactions to stress. This knowledge helps narrowing down to possible options.
  • Use this knowledge to understand why your kid behaves differently compared to you (if you indeed belong to different types). They are just wired differently – and not necessarily because they are mean, want to hurt you or are against you on purpose.

What drives my child?


TYPE EIGHT KID – The Challenger

Eights resist being controlled and want to be the one in charge of most things. They are rather assertive and strong willed. They love challenges and are ready to stand up for the weak if they spot injustice. They strive for self-reliance but hide their vulnerability.

TIPS TO SUPPORT THEIR GROWTH: help them deal with their confrontative energies in a constructive way; teach them how to access their vulnerability; talk about anger and control of anger; do not expect of them to sit still for long; show them how to show respect and discuss alternatives to aggressive attitude; assure them of your love and care.

TYPE NINE KID – The Peacemaker

Conflicts and disharmony are things that type Nine children want to avoid. While they are not necessarily lazy, they have trouble focusing their attention on what is important or what needs to be done. They are prone to withdrawal and passive/aggressive behavior. They tend to put things off and can get easily distracted. They like to go with the flow to keep the peace. Yet, they can be very stubborn if they really want something.

TIPS TO SUPPORT THEIR GROWTH: be fair to them and remain calm in their company; engage them in physical activities; encourage them to take action and keep on the momentum; discuss occasions when they tend to withdraw and become passive/aggressive; do not push them too hard but teach them to keep focus on priorities; assure them of your care and love; support them get out of their comfort zone and set goals; assist them in discovering their inner landscape and help express their true needs.

TYPE ONE KID – The Perfectionist

Doing things right and being a good boy or good girl matter a lot to Ones. They can even act like adults sometimes e.g., correcting others or telling/showing them how to do things right. It is not uncommon for them to demonstrate a ’know-it-all’ attitude as well. They can blame themselves for failing to do well on a school test. They can get frustrated if other kids or family members do not try as hard as they think the other should.

TIPS TO SUPPORT THEIR GROWTH: show them how imperfections and errors are a natural part of life; teach them to be less critical and show more empathy towards others’ mistakes and flaws; get them to come up with more than one solution to a problem; expose them to situation where they can relax and have fun; teach them how to delegate tasks; allow for them to express their anger in a direct way.


TYPE TWO KID – The Helper

These kids want to earn love and appreciation – both at home and at school. They are charming and easy to get along with. They like to be at the assistance of others helping out whenever they can. Social bonds are important for them: they love spending time with their friends and find it easy to connect to people and engage in conversation. Their feelings can get hurt easily, and they can have difficulty in saying no.

TIPS TO SUPPORT THEIR GROWTH: teach them to express their needs and emotions in a direct way instead of expecting others to figure these out; talk to them about how to set healthy boundaries with other people; allow for time for them to be on their own; encourage them to find constructive ways to give voice to their resentment and dissatisfaction.

TYPE THREE KID – The Achiever

Threes are driven by success and want to earn admiration by others. They care a lot about goals and competition and try really hard to give their best. If there is an area or subject matter where they fear failure, they give up the attempt altogether. They like trendy and popular staff. Often times they are the teachers’ pet. Type Three kids like to make a good impression by dressing well, behaving properly and doing what is expected of them.

TIPS TO SUPPORT THEIR GROWTH: appreciate them for who they are not only for their accomplishments; spend time with them to explore their emotions; help them deal with failures and shortcomings; encourage them to relax and slow down; pay attention to their sleeping and eating habits and introduce a healthy routine; spend time exploring what success means to them and talk about competitiveness.

TYPE FOUR KID – The Special One

Being authentic and special is important for type Four kids. They are emotionally rich, can get moody and easily hurt when they feel misunderstood about their feelings. They are prone to daydreaming and can get very sensitive. Very often they have some kind of artistic talent but if not, they definitely appreciate creative activities.

TIPS TO SUPPORT THEIR GROWTH: support them in finding emotional balance;  appreciate their sense of beauty and creativity; let them acknowledge when their moodiness and negativity „steals the show”; teach them how to keep focus and stay on track; value their individualism; help them deal with their angry outbursts and negativity; expose them to situations when they can experience the positive side of life.


TYPE FIVE KID – Silent Observer

Curiosity and thirst for knowledge characterize these kids. They enjoy learning about the world and finding out how things work. They are the ones that keep asking ’why’? They do not mind being left on their own to play alone and can get totally lost in whatever they are doing if that is something of interest to them. By character they are timid and introverted, and usually hide or refuse to express their emotions.

TIPS TO SUPPORT THEIR GROWTH: give them answers to their questions; do not expect of them immediate contact or quick decisions; allow for more time for them to made up their mind; encourage them to share ideas and themselves more often; teach them how to access physical sensations and instinctual energies; create a safe place for them to engage in physical exercise; provide them with support to handle feelings of emptiness; show them to express their view in a direct way.

TYPE SIX KID – The Loyalist

Safety and security are very important to these kids, both physically and emotionally. Compared to other kids they tend to be more anxious and vigilant in most situations. They are helpful, tend to stick to their friends and enjoy working in groups. They make good team players but can be indecisive when stress kicks in. They are hard-working, conscientious students who usually worry a lot before exams.

TIPS TO SUPPORT THEIR GROWTH: provide them with safety and security to lessen their anxiety; talk to them about their worst-case scenarios and get reality checks; assist them in facing their fears; get them to ask for assistance when feeling lost; teach them relaxation techniques so that they can calm themselves down; avoid being ambiguous and stick to agreed rules; do not take their suspicious attitude too personally; help them see the humor in life.

TYPE SEVEN KID – The Happy One

For this child it can be hard to sit still and focus attention because they get bored easily. They tend to jump from one activity to the other and usually resist discipline more than their peers. They like to have fun and try out as many things as possible. Chores and routine are not their cup of tea. They are up-beat, joyful and optimistic, usually surrounded by many friends.

TIPS TO SUPPORT THEIR GROWTH: appreciate their positivity and optimism; teach them to take responsibility for their actions; help them deal with their short attention span and learn how to keep focus; support them face and deal with stress and painful situations in a healthy way; teach them how to stay grounded and persistent.