Priming by Indu Balakrishnan

My daughter made me take the personality test the other day. She took it and was really curious about what I would be like. What my choices would be. If she and I would match. We didn’t. While she was INFJ, I was ENFJ. For the uninitiated, the test is a lot of fun and could really change the way you see yourself and understand why you do what you do. There is no way you can trick yourself into a category because they are fairly smart too. They ask similar questions in different ways to make sure that you answer what you truly feel. 

Anyway, she was INFJ – introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging. She wasn’t too surprised. She does keep a lot to herself unless it’s her small circle. I got ENFJ – Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging. I tend to make friends easy and connect with strangers without trouble. I know how to make people comfortable and I take pride in that. 

But for some reason, I have never been able to get my daughter to just chill. Even as she was answering these questions, I had to really control myself from telling her what she should do. I guess the word parenting stems from the word priming doesn’t it? 

For instance, when someone comes home, I tell my kids to smile. It’s a sign of welcoming them home. My daughter might ask them to come in, but the smile doesn’t come easy. Seems like a very small thing to me but for her, it is a big deal. Why smile when you don’t feel like it – would be her point of view. My retaliation would be – how can you not smile? Shouldn’t it be your automatic reaction unless you have a reason not to smile? 

I find myself constantly telling my kids what they should do. And at the same time, tell them to make up their own minds. Isn’t priming complicated? How much of it is present in parenting? Are we doing the right thing in influencing our children to do what we believe in? Does the apple really not fall far from the tree simply because we won’t let it? 

With this lockdown in place and my face is all that my kids see all the time, they are bound to be influenced by my choices and behaviour unadulterated. Because, there is no one else around. No teachers to talk to. No friends to confess to (phone calls don’t really have that impact and is not the same as chatting with your friends at school, is it?) 

No wonder we as parents get so stressed all the time. Children are not delivered with manuals, only the added pressure of getting it right. There is no single-accepted parenting strategy. Everyone has an opinion, especially those without children. And these opinions more often than not come much later, and needless to add – when utterly useless. 

It is no wonder that we end up priming more than parenting. Is that the way it was meant to be? 

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