ISFJs are some of the most devoted, generous people you will ever meet. They have an innate sense of empathy and conscientiousness that makes them great listeners and incredible friends. As children, ISFJs can be some of the easier, more obedient children because they have a strong desire to please their parents and tend to naturally respect authority and rules. However, behind their sweet-natured charm and quiet thoughtfulness, ISFJs can struggle with feeling alone, unappreciated, and overwhelmed as children. They tend to be constant givers and can sometimes be taken advantage of or taken for granted. I want to talk about the most common struggles for ISFJ children, and what can be done to help them if you’re parenting one yourself!
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Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
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ISFJ Children and Sensitivity to Emotions and Criticism
ISFJ children are very aware of the emotions and moods of other people. Because they have auxiliary Extraverted Feeling (Fe) they can quickly pick up on even the most subtle changes in people’s moods. They despise conflict and will feel intense fear and distress if they are in an environment that is charged with anger or if they are exposed to bullying in any way. They also are very sensitive to criticism, taking it very personally and often beating themselves up over even the most minor mistakes. Parents who are more blunt and tactless can unintentionally hurt their young ISFJs feelings when they provide correction or criticism. Acceptance and family harmony are both vital ingredients in the home for a young ISFJ.
Keep in mind that this sensitivity to emotions and the strong empathy that ISFJs have is a strength to be appreciated. ISFJs can be incredible counselors, teachers, humanitarians, and activists. Rumor has it, after all, that Mother Teresa was an ISFJ.
ISFJ Children and Shyness
ISFJs are notoriously shy, and have a hard time approaching new people or starting at a new school. MBTI experts Paul D. Tiger and Barbara Barron-Tieger say this about ISFJs; “ISFJs typically need more acclimatization time than children of other types and may not feel comfortable trying something the first time it is introduced to them, nor are they comfortable venturing into social settings immediately, often preferring to hang back or watch from the security of their parents’ laps.”
More extroverted parents should be careful that they don’t push their young ISFJ into heavy socialization or force them to venture out before they are ready. ISFJs desire to have the comfort of someone they know as they explore a new environment, and with a little help and encouragement, they will feel braver. Also keep in mind that ISFJs enjoy their time alone, and often prefer the company of just one or two close friends. Their social needs may be far different from extroverts’ social needs, and it’s important to understand that.
One thing that young ISFJs struggle with is a tendency to become embarrassed easily or cry easily. They are very private individuals, yet they care a lot about what others think of them. Jokes made at their expense, ridicule, or criticism is taken very hard by the young ISFJ. It’s important as a parent to try to give them plenty of encouragement and listen to them when they’ve had a negative experience, reassuring them of their value and worth.
ISFJ Children and Change
ISFJs like to know what to expect, and they love the comfort of home and the familiar. Because of their strong Introverted Sensing (Si) they have a fondness for things of the past, for memories, nostalgia, and reminiscing. They have a hard time moving to a new place, saying goodbye to an old home, to old friends, and venturing into a new environment can be extremely stressful for them. While intuitives are more future-oriented and open to change, and artisans (SP types) are more excited by change, ISFJs find change unsettling and stressful.
Paul D. Tiger and Barbara Barron-Tieger put it well in their book Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child’s Personality Type – And Become a Better Parent“Change can be particularly hard for school-aged ISFJs. They can freeze up in unpredictable situations or when quick changes are required. Many even say they actually hate change. Some ISFJs have such a high need for routine and structure that they can be uncooperative and resistant when others around them are adapting and enjoying themselves.”
Try to bring up changes gradually and with compassion as a parent of an ISFJ. Don’t expect them to just ‘roll with the punches’ as easily as some other types do. Try to prepare them, talk to them, give them time to adjust and come to terms with the change. If possible, give them lots of information about what to expect in a new situation and practical ways to be prepared. Try to remind them of how a new situation is similar to a past experience – ISFJs rely very much on their past experiences, and comparing the two can be comforting for them.
ISFJ Children and Overwhelming Emotions
Young ISFJs have a tendency to become overwhelmed by their profound emotions. They are very private individuals, but they have a very hard time hiding their emotions. They despise cruelty and injustice in the world, and can have very strong reactions to being hurt emotionally. They may cry, slam doors, kick walls, and even hold grudges for considerable lengths of time. Because ISFJs use Extraverted Feeling (Fe), they often have a hard time understanding and coping with their own emotions alone. While Introverted Feelers have a strong awareness of their own emotions, Extraverted Feelers have a strong awareness of others’ emotions. This makes it hard for ISFJs to sometimes manage their emotions as well as they want to. They may need to ‘vent’ or write out their feelings to understand them better.
If you’re a parent of an ISFJ, give them time to talk about their frustrations and feelings privately. It may take time for the ISFJ to truly open up about all their feelings, but they will appreciate your understanding and having someone who cares enough to listen. ISFJs are excellent listeners so they tend to hear a lot about other people’s problems, and have a harder time finding someone who will truly listen to and try to understand them in the same way.
ISFJ Children and Giving Too Much
ISFJs are extremely generous, devoted individuals. If you’ve ever read or watched Lord of the Rings, you probably remember a lovable character named Samwise Gamgee. He’s an excellent example of an ISFJ, and demonstrates how far they’re willing to go for those they love. There’s almost nothing they wouldn’t do to help out a friend or family member, and because of this, they can often be taken advantage of or be volunteered for too many responsibilities. Paired with this dilemma, they also have a hard time asking for help from anyone. They hate the idea of being a ‘burden’ and may go through life carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders because they are too eager to help, and simultaneously too determined to never ask for help.
Responsibility and following through on one’s word are both hallmarks of the ISFJ personality. However, sometimes they need a little help saying ‘no’ to people. They also need a parent to step in and notice when they’re getting overburdened, or taken advantage of. Teach them from an early age that it’s okay to say no to something they don’t want to do or don’t have time for. Try to help them and listen to them so that they can get a break from always being the listener, and always being the helper. Try to encourage them to find friends who give just as much as they receive, and who don’t prey on the young ISFJs kindness and generosity.
Find out more about your personality type in our eBooks, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type, The INFJ – Understanding the Mystic, and The INFP – Understanding the Dreamer. You can also connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
What Do You Think?
Are you an ISFJ with any experiences or thoughts on these childhood struggles? Are you a parent of an ISFJ? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!
Want a complete course on your personality type? Personality Hacker has training and courses for each personality type, complete with webinars, a 14-page course, audio advice sessions and more here.
Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child’s Personality Type – And Become a Better Parent
Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type
MBTI Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, 3rd Edition
My True Type: Clarifying Your Personality Type, Preferences & Functions
Neuroscience of Personality: Brain Savvy Insights for All Types of People
Type Talk: The 16 Personality Types That Determine How We Live, Love, and Work
Article: Personalities in Children & Family