INTJ: Creating Perfection
'This child was ready for high school in kindergarten.'
Understanding the real essence of INTJ children is a difficult task because they are not always easy to figure out and are almost impossible to control. All INTJs prize themselves on their individuality and on the uniqueness of their ideas and their thinking. Their most striking and highly developed characteristic is their inner vision and the internal connections they make. Intensely private, they do not like to be figured out, yet while they make not act like it, they do want their parents to understand them. But parenting, understanding, and accepting INTJs can be as rewarding as it is challenging.
The examples that follow are drawn from stories of real children. But since all people are unique, your INTJ may not demonstrate all of the characteristics described or may not demonstrate them with the same degree of intensity. But if your children really is an INTJ, most of what you read should sound strikingly familiar.
Preschool INTJsIntellectual and intense are perhaps the two most common attributes of young INTJs. Many parents remark that their INTJ babies seem wise – or older than their years. Watchful and observant, most INTJ babies are the detached observers they remain their whole lives. They are usually self-contained and calm, and cautious and slow warming up to strangers. They don't tend to be especially smiley babies and can seem a bit too detached for their parents' tastes, especially Feeling parents or first-time parents with expectations that theirs will be the giggly, cuddly, TV, Gerber baby.
Birth to Age 4
INTJs are usually happy to play alone for extended periods of time and are hesitant to get involved in the play of other children. Typically, they prefer to sit on the sidelines watching until they have gathered sufficient information to fully understand the game or the dynamics of the group.
- Nicole's mother remarked that it was as if Nicole never really was a baby. She seemed to be born an adult in a small body. She was rather awkward around children her own age and seemed to struggle with making friends. When they would go to parties while Nicole was a toddler, she would stand beside her mother (but never sit on her lap) and watch the other children. Even when they invited her to join in, she would refuse until she felt ready. Usually she did choose to play, but rarely with the freedom and sense of abandon that other kids had.
Early and very sophisticated language is another common trait of most young INTJs. Sometimes called intellectually precocious, INTJs frequently surprise and amuse their parents and other adults with their advanced vocabularies and complex sentence structures. At less than two years of age, it's not unusual for an INTJ to describe buttons on a sweater as 'difficult' or a hard puzzle as 'exasperating'. They seem to skip the baby-talk stage and move right into having intelligent conversations.
Most INTJs are much more fascinated with new experiences than with new people. From very early on, they like to play with toys that surprise them, like to create structures, and enjoy making art. Their highly develop imaginations give them a unique perspective on the world, and they enjoy testing their environment to more fully understand what makes it work. INTJs usually have rich inner lives and adore fantasy and myth.
- One of Chris's favorite activities when he was four or five was to place his full-length mirror on the floor and look at the world upside down. He could spend hours looking around and imagining living life on the ceiling.
INTJs usually love books. They love to be read to and are often early readers themselves. Many seem to learn to read spontaneously, and they tend to exhaust the resources of their environment at an enormous pace. Their curiosity about the natural world drives them to ask a lot of questions about why things are as they are. They are never satisfied with a superficial or vague answer and may persist in their questioning until they gain the full sense of the topic. Many INTJs love visiting museums – especially science museums – where they can discover the reasons and principles behind everyday occurrences, the things everyone else takes for granted. Most INTJs are happiest when they are given plenty of room and time to explore what interests them.
Another way that INTJ children can seem more like adults than kids is in their logical thinking and decision-making style. Many INTJs are described as fearless, and it does seem that little upsets or intimidates them. They appear detached and unaffected by the emotions or reactions of the people around them. They may be curious about why another child is crying but are usually more interested in receiving a clear and logical reasons for the person's emotions than in trying to put themselves in the sobbing child's place. Their emotional life is private even from their early years, and they don't cry as easily or as often as other children and often prefer to privately comfort themselves.
Even from their preschool years, INTJs are competitive with themselves. They have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and are thoroughly dissatisfied, and even disgusted, with anything less. They will refuse help or input on projects they are working on and may abandon them if others offer too much advice or make too many comments.
- Daphne's mom learned the hard way that while Daphne was working on a drawing, she needed to steer clear of her work space. If she made a complimentary comment while Daphne was still working, Daphne would frown and cover the paper with her hand. But offering a suggestion was really the kiss of death – Daphne would crumple up the paper, throw it away, and leave the room.
INTJs are usually comforted and comfortable with routines and structure around them. They like to know what's going to happen in advance and need plenty of preparation time to adjust to changes in plans. Some INTJs seem to have a passionate sense of order and may play at lining their toys or even organizing their socks. Others may want to be told which clothes match so they can pull together coordinated outfits but are content to live in a messy room. But INTJs do tend to take longer than one might expect to make a decision, needing time to gather the information necessary to be sure they are confident of their actions. They can be slow to engage or make transitions, but once they've made up their minds, they can be very clear about their positions and unwilling to compromise.
The Joys and Challenges of Parenting Preschool INTJs
The fact that INTJs are a fairly uncommon type in the American culture makes it both difficult and fascinating to parent them. As young children, they lack the social experience to gracefully navigate through the complicated and contradictory waters of human interaction and relations. They can seem awkward or rude because they simply will not engage in conversation with others unless they feel comfortable or recognize a clear and compelling need to. No amount of pressure or encouragement is going to make them. In fact, they can be downright stubborn, and few can adequately match their strength of will. Once they take a position, it would be easier to hold back the tide than to change their minds.
- Because Jillian had lived in the desert Southwest for the first three and one half years of her life, she'd never experienced snow. She'd seen pictures and videos about snow and was both curious and excited about it. But when her family moved to the North and she experienced her first snowfall at age four, she hated it. The reality of the cold, wet stuff in no way matched her idealized fantasy of it. So, for that entire winter season, she refused to let her feet touch the ground. She insisted that she either be carried outside or permitted to stay home. She became literally and figuratively an immovable object.
Learning to accept the intractable positions of INTJs can be difficult, especially for parents who themselves were raised to comply without question. Unlike children of other types, they are usually unaffected by attempts to cajole or the use of guilt to get them to do what you want. Forcing an INTJ to obey almost never works. When told not to leave the table until they have eaten a food they dislike, INTJs are likely to still be there at midnight. It's both pointless and destructive to try to force this child into becoming more easygoing or less demanding. Acceptance is the first important step to better understanding and encouraging the development of their self-esteem.
- Mark's parents found that if they involved Mark in making decisions and asked his input on making rules, he was much more likely to follow them. They told him, in advance, of their plan to make changes. And they learned to patiently explain the logical reason for the change and let him live with the idea for a while before the new rule was put in place.
The outward guard of many INTJs can be difficult to penetrate. They are such even-tempered, internal, and emotionally contained children. They are rarely given to expressions of joy or rage and usually resist a parent's effort to comfort them, even when they are unhappy. When they become upset, their tendency is to withdraw even further into their own world. Although it can be painful to do, parents must learn to stand by, offering their support – only once – and then respect their child's need for privacy. If the child decides to share his feelings, it is imperative that the parent sit silently, listening, never offering comment or advice. Many parents of INTJs have learned the hard way that if they try to engage or press their child, they will be met with stony silence.
While the rich inner lives of INTJs is a source of great joy and satisfaction to them, they can be easily misunderstood by the world around them, since they naturally see things from a different perspective. They are most energized when thinking about different ways of doing things and are bored quickly with tedium or concrete tasks. And their natural curiosity can seem like intentional obstinacy or misbehavior.
- Beth's desire to take things apart exasperated her grandmother, who took care of her three days a week. She often persisted in touching things she was told not to or in scaring her grandmother by wandering off by herself at the park. Her mother quickly saw that the many accidents she had were caused by her intense need to discover things for herself. She took risks and was taken to the hospital several times before kindergarten for everything from breaking her arm to eating poison berries. It was difficult to find a balance between supervising Beth to keep her safe and giving her freedom to explore the world.
INTJs' drive to ask 'what if' is a very important piece of their self-image. Consequently, parents need to sometimes protect their child from the rest of the world that thinks this instinct should be reined in. Expressing a genuine openness and receptivity to alternative ideas encourages the INTJ's innate desire to explore the possible. Providing and respecting privacy for the child to express her creativity is vital. It is important to remember that the INTJ creates for herself, not for others. Not insisting or pressuring her to share the final product or beginning that it be displayed or discussed protects the enjoyment of the activity from being spoiled for the child and is a real gift of love to the young INTJ.
INTJs' naked honesty and directness can result in behavior others consider rude or unsociable. While they rarely are intentionally hurtful or mean, they can be rather self-centered and oblivious to the impact their actions have on others.
- Jeremy could be rather bossy with other children and especially so with his younger brother, Sam. He would agree to play with Sam only if Sam would obey all of Jeremy's rules. The game had to go Jeremy's way or not at all. And Jeremy was perfectly content to stop playing completely if he couldn't be in control. Even from about age five, he had a very superior attitude and would often say, 'I know I'm right, and I don't really care what anyone else thinks.
INTJs learn best, with age and experience, that there is indeed a logical consequence of selfish behavior. Over time, they come in to see that if they want to be included in games, they need to soften some of their bluntness and curb some of their need to be in charge. They are best left to discover things on their own, surrounded by parents who accept them as they are and love them no matter what.