Little Type Four Kids at Level 6

Some teachers I know are working with a couple of dramatic and melancholic Type Four kids whose need to be different and special have both blown up in the last few months.  From what I can tell about their Riso-Hudson levels of health, they're both at Level 6, flirting with Level 7.  The Red Flag fear at Level 6 is "I am ruining my life, I am wasting my opportunities".  Although, in a young child, I wonder if the wording is a little different, like "No one is noticing me, even as I twist myself into knots to demonstrate my dysfunctionalism, and maybe my friends don't even care that I am dysfunctional, and now I have no other tricks up my sleeve to get the special attention I'm craving."  Or now that I look at my notes, one of them might even be dipping down into Level 8, I don't know.  Level 8 is a pretty tormented headspace.

One child is a quiet Self-Preservation 4 with a social blind spot and is hurting fellow students physically, and the other is a loud and dramatic SX-SO or SO-SX 4 with a SP blind spot and is making big emotional scenes in class and out on the playground.  Both are interrupting the flow of class and the teachers and parents are wondering what to do. 

I can type the kids, and I can explain the logic of their pyschic structure, but OMG, how do you intervene?  I can tell the teachers that Fours need to feel special, and they need one-on-one time with their teacher to emote, explore their feelings, they need to do creative things, they need to feel seen for their depth and sensitivity, but when a child is engaging in such anti-social and awkward behavior that it interrupts the class several times a day, and the teacher is already giving them special attention, and the child still dissappears from class so that people will come looking for them, and you've already spent hours following them around the halls, calling their name, telling them to come back to class, do you just let them dissappear?  You can't- it's a school and you're legally bound to take care of them. 

This doesn't work all the time, but sometimes they'll perk up when they get to see the school counsellor and the principal.  OMG, as rediculous as they're behaving, Type 4s are the most articulate and functional little people when they get to talk about their feelings.  It's like having a field day- as long as the principal and counsellor are being authentic and are truly seeing their suffering!  But it's a catch-22 because if they're trying to help TOO MUCH and want to actually solve the problems, then where does that leave the little 4?  The four has no identity left if there's no "issue" to set them apart from the rest of the class.  So if the coaching is behavior-based, and the child is praised for functional behavior, it gets the child circling back to square one: "Nobody understands me" because they sense that they could suddenly lose their special status by being too functional.

What I'm thinking about now is the Harmonics; how you need all three ingredients to solve a problem.  So for example, you need the logic of points 1, 3, and 5; you need to be able to talk about how a problem impacts you emotionally like at points 4, 6, and 8; and you need to be able to land in a happy place with a positive outcome l$ike at points 2, 7, and 9. 

This book is more helpful for teachers who are on the path, as it talks more about teaching styles from the different Enneagram points, but there are some hints at the back of each chapter for working with children of the different types.

This book is more helpful for teachers who are on the path, as it talks more about teaching styles from the different Enneagram points, but there are some hints at the back of each chapter for working with children of the different types.

This book I bought once about the Enneagram in the classroom has some suggestions for dealing with type 4 children, one of them being, "Help even out mood swings by structuring situations in terms of facts and logic and not emotions."  So when listening to a Four emote, I think making reference to the rules and the logic around what happened is important.  Which is so obvious but I've spent so much time creating empathy around the suffering of the Four, coaxing the teachers into their heart spaces that now I'm aware that I've barely outlined solutions from the head and gut. 

But it's not like you can just give a teacher a script or behavioral goals to get the child to agree to.  You can't just say, "Tell the child that if they don't follow the rules, they'll get in trouble!"  The teacher has to develop a visceral footpath between the heart (where the child will feel heard) and the head (where the child will see that you care about the rules, like a Six) and then the gut.  So you listen with the heart, and then you become present to the head centre and tell the child how they need to face consequences because they broke the classroom rules... you can't talk about punishment from the heart centre, neither can you listen from the head or gut centre.  If you do, the child will 1) run circles around you or 2) feel absolutely deflated because they're not feeling heard and will up the ante with their behavior to really get your attention.

So in conversing with the child about what's going on, I'm developping an awareness of what it feels like to talk from the head and what it feels like to talk from the heart, and then what it feels like to execute the outcomes from the gut centre.  Over time, as awareness of my body increases, the footpath between the three centres becomes more and more worn, so eventually it's easy to go back and forth between the three centres as the need arises.  One of my trainers, Ginger Lapid-Bogda, did an exercise around this in her coaching class- have the client talk out a problem from the head, the heart, and then the gut.  It made the point that body awareness plays a big role in the outcome of a conversation.  It's subtle, though, and I mean it takes a couple years to develop a mindful awareness of your body, so the expectations of oneself shouldn't be too high too soon. 

Logic is so hard for a Four to swallow when it runs contrary to their sense of entitlement, their belief that they're above all the rules, but at least for myself, if it's applied by someone in touch with all three centres- the gut, the brain, and the heart, it goes down easier.

These past few months have made me nostalgic for when schoolyard bullies were the biggest problem in the 1980's and 90's.  I mean, back then it wasn't easy, but mothers and teachers eventually came together and created all sorts of programming around bullying and now there's a public space for dialogue around it.  Who knows if we'll see mothers and teachers rallying around creating programming for Type 4's and mental health... because Fours are mainly bullying themselves and that's bad enough, but they're also hurting those around them.