Your Parenting Personality > What's
My Type? > The Attacher
| The Defender | The
What Motivates You
Let's begin with nine simple questions. There are no right
or wrong responses to this well-tried methodology for identifying
the foundation of your personality, your dominant motivational
mode. Once you understand what motivates you, you'll be prepared
to discover whether you tend to be a Helper, Organizer, Dreamer,
Observer, Questioner, Entertainer, Protector, Peacekeeper,
or Moralizer. Following each question are three statements.
Choose the one that fits you most closely.
1. When you reflect on your own approach to parenting,
which of the following statements best describes your style?
parenting style has to do with interaction and energy, with
connecting to my children. I ask myself, am I getting through
on an emotional level? I try to feel where they are coming
from. Do they understand where I'm coming from? How do they
see me? It's important that we connect in a meaningful way.
parenting style is intuitive; I have a gut sense about what's
right and wrong, fair and unfair. I'm ambivalent about conflict,
but when I have something to say, I have a great need to say
it and to be heeded. I don't like being encumbered by extraneous
demands or the social expectations of others.
parenting style is intellectual, no question. I'm interested
in how children think, process information, and work with
ideas. I live in my head-conceptualizing, fantasizing, thinking
things, researching and proving--that's what's important to
me. "Rationality" is a big word with me.
2. How do you assess the way you communicate with your
you see is what you get. I don't use guile, or fancy gimmicks.
I talk about things the way I understand them; I give it my
best shot. My family gets my honest sense of how it is.
like to present things in the best light possible, not being
dishonest, but finding ways to connect, to make sure I get
a response--the medium is the message, that kind of thing.
So I try to put on a show in a way, highlight my ideas; find
the nuances of expression that will help me get through to
them. I use emotion and some dramatics, anything that will
help them better understand what I'm saying.
try to keep things as conceptual, uncluttered and intellectually
pure as I can. I love to ask questions, to practice skepticism,
to be a discerning thinker. I try to probe below the surface.
I want my children to learn to think this way. If we can stick
with what's rational and logical, we're on solid ground.
3. You try to teach your children how to solve problems
and make decisions, to encourage their positive personal growth.
What is most important to you about facilitating your children's
a. I facilitate
their growth through mental activity, finding answers, the
excitement that comes from seeing their minds open to the
possibilities, to big-picture connections, to new conclusions.
Their mental energy stimulates my own thinking. I like that.
facilitate their growth through valuing them as people. I
teach them the possibilities of all sorts of human contact
and connection: the emotional highs and lows, the feeling
of togetherness when we all click and experience some profound
interconnection in the moment. My family is a small world
complete unto itself; we play out our lives together--unity
built on empathy and human understanding, little else.
c. I facilitate
their growth by trying to steer them in a direction where
they can make a difference and lead fulfilled lives. People
need a sense of themselves, of where they stand. The world
is difficult to understand--you can lose your way all too
easily. Teaching them for me is giving them some skills, some
tools, some road maps to take on their journey.
4. Although you get along with your children most of the
time, every so often you clash. What would they say about
you in those moments?
a. I come
on too emotionally when I'm talking to them, they feel like
I'm trying to manipulate them into interacting with me. Why
can't I just say things out straight? I try to shine it on.
It's almost like I need their approval.
too abstract, too theoretical, too detached. They need more
emotional, personal interaction from me. We're talking, I'm
listening, but they have this sense that I'm not really there,
that I've moved to somewhere in my head. The harder they try
to know where they are with me, the more I distance myself.
They question whether anything gets through to me emotionally.
can come across as an immovable force, solid, implacable,
although I'm not usually aware of this. I know I can dig in
and nothing people say or do will shift me. I've been accused
of being overly defensive, stubborn, and critical. I'm not
usually aware of my impact on people.
5. Your child is in serious trouble in school because of
a grave misdemeanor. How do you try to help in this difficult
a. I try
to help by being rational, and not getting caught up in emotions.
I can explain the inevitability of the disciplinary decision
based on school rules. I can support her best by being logical.
Then we can have rational discussion, and I can help her see
all the reasons for this outcome. She knows how strongly I
love her; this has nothing to do with that-school rules are
try to help by being straightforward and down-to-earth, having
a face-to-face talk. We know where we stand, together, how
solidly I love her. This in no way affects that relationship-that
doesn't even come into the picture; it's the way things are.
She made a mistake. We all do. Face-to-face, saying it straight
without any extraneous talk, that's always the best way to
handle these interactions.
try to help by letting her know how much I care. I don't like
handling these situations. When my children are in trouble,
it strikes at my heart. I'm more anxious about this than I
want to admit--emotional upsets really get to me. I know her
so well, I know what she's feeling as if it were myself. Although
she's in the wrong--and we all know that--I'll try to get
through to them how much I care.
6. At the last minute your child tells you that he wants
to spend his birthday with friends, knowing full well the
plans you've made together for the day. What is your first
can't accept this at all. I know he has to grow and become
independent, but why now, why on his birthday? We've planned
this day for months. He knows how much I love birthdays. I'm
so disappointed; it's a heart-wrenching feeling. It'll take
time for me to get over this one.
guess I should have seen this coming. He made noises about
this last year. He's growing up--all the signs are there--I
just didn't think it would come down on this day. If you think
about it rationally and logically, it's a perfectly legitimate
request--shows healthy growth. I allowed myself to be blindsided
by my own expectations. I'll learn other good lessons from
this. Of course he wants to be with his friends, have his
own experiences and memories. I won't take this personally.
upset and angry about this. It's about honoring commitments.
It's that simple, you don't let people down at the last moment.
He should have given me an inkling, a clue, not go along with
making plans without a word. You get slammed in this world,
one way or the other, even by your own children. The anger
is overwhelming; I feel it in my whole body. I'll count to
ten, but she must know how unfair this is.
7. You want to be a great parent--your dreams reflect the
deepest parts of yourself. Your passion for your vision stems
a. A feeling
that I've got something valuable my children can relate to.
I believe I've got what it takes to put across my vision in
a way that's honest, good, and effective. It's all about people,
I'm in tune, and I understand people. I want my children to
have this, too. In my heart I know this is true.
hunch, an instinct that I'm in the right place at the right
time doing what I'm supposed to be doing, what I'm meant to
be doing. When my head, heart, and gut are aligned behind
something, I can trust that sense. I can put my full force
behind it. I would never commit to being a parent if I didn't
feel 100 percent about it. I'm a 110 percent parent.
knowledge that I have thought through first-rate ideas about
parenting that will be of benefit to my children. I wouldn't
be involved in anything if I wasn't convinced of the validity
of my ideas, hadn't thought things through, and this includes
being a parent. If I weren't absolutely sure of my thinking
I wouldn't be putting myself on the line.
8. You want to run for an open slot on the PTA. You feel
confident you can handle the job and make a contribution to
the life of your child's school, because:
my proven record as an ideas person. No one can question that
what I do is conceptually sound. My references attest to my
theoretical ability and know-how. I'm as intellectually solid
as anyone on the PTA.
my track record of getting through to people. Whether it's
coaching Little League, attending a meeting of the choral
society committee, or volunteering at the community center,
I've always been able to put across what I believe so that
people want to be part of it. I know people; people are my
life. I can get the world on board.
the fact I just know this is right for me now, I can fit myself
into the PTA. I have reliable instincts. I've proven it to
myself and others time and time again. Lots of people have
made good from my instincts. Only something that I believe
in 100 percent would get me into running for this election.
People know where they stand with me, and that makes them
9. Your child writes a paper for class on why you are the
best parent in the world. It's published in the school magazine.
What is your response?
is wonderful--it validates my parenting style. It's great
that my child appreciates the way I think through what I do
and my intellectual energy. She's picked up on the highly
mental approach I bring to all my activities, it's something
she can measure and write about. So, I'm pleased.
gratifying, but this is not about me. I'm not what I do. It's
about her, how perceptive and a good writer she is. This paper's
being published won't change things one way or the other:
it won't make me a better person, or bring more meaning to
my life, or change my relationship with her. I'll just go
on being the parent I've always been.
c. I know
I'm a good parent, so I deserve this validation, but there
are lots of good parents. What's important is that my child
wrote about me. That means the world to me. That she knows
me so well, values me, is connected to me, and wants to acknowledge
me this way. That really pleases me.
How Do I Think? How Do I FEEL?
Now that you've completed the exercise, locate your choices
on the chart below. Your dominant mode is reflected by the
area with the most choices. You may find you have some choices
that do not indicate this mode. There are sound reasons for
this that has to do with the shifts you make from your dominant
mode when you are under stress or in a particularly secure
situation. Nonetheless your dominant mode is the one that
shows the most circled choices.
Feeling Mode (Attacher):
1a, 2b, 3b, 4a, 5c, 6a, 7a, 8b, 9c
1c, 2c, 3a, 4b, 5a, 6b, 7c, 8a, 9a
1b, 2a, 3c, 4c, 5b, 6c, 7b, 8c, 9b
Research on personality shows that we make our way in the
world primarily as Attachers, Detachers, or Defenders. My
nomenclature--Attacher, Detacher Defender--is based on the
respected work of the pioneering psychologist Karen Horney
who, in her book, Our Inner Conflicts, describes three broad
personality patterns as those of moving toward people, moving
away from people, and moving against people. I developed the
terminology Attachers (who move towards people), Detachers
(who move away from people), and Defenders (who move against
people). People are a complex fusion of these three ways of
being, but one is always dominant.