Raising an Introverted Child

standard October 8, 2012 4 responses

Until last year I always assumed that being introverted just boiled down to being shy, while being extraverted just meant being outgoing. 

On the surface it might seem like that, but really it’s so much more complex than that.

Extraverts get their energy from being around other people. We often speak before thinking, or at least while we’re thinking. We work best in teams. It has everything to do with how our brains function and nothing to do with shyness or outgoingness.

Other than keeping me from making offensive generalizations about people, learning about the ins and outs of being an extrovert also opened my eyes to how introverts operate.

Which is a good thing. Because I’m married to one and I parent another.

Unlike extroverts, introverts generally get their energy from being alone. They think before they speak, often only opening their mouths once their thoughts are fully formed and thought out.

If you’re aware of these differences, you’re golden. It means that after a party you won’t pepper your significant other with annoying “why are you so quiet? are you mad? did I do something? why are you mad at me?” questions that will elicit no response and eventually lead to a fight. It also means that you won’t rush in to answer questions for the “quieter” members of your team. You won’t assume that people are less smart because they take longer to answer a question. You will learn to breathe slowly as they work out their answers in their heads.

If you’re aware of these differences and you have introverted children you’re even farther ahead.

When C was a baby she always needed 30 minutes alone in her crib right after we got home from daycare. She’d lie in there, babbling at her mobile, happy as a clam all by herself. If I didn’t give her that alone time she was a wreck all evening.

I personally didn’t get it and it was hard for me to leave her be when I’d missed her so much all day, but forcing her to be with me, chattering at her, being all sorts of chipper and engaging always backfired. A mom has to do what a mom has to do to keep her baby happy.

As she’s grown her introverted tendencies have grown with her. She still needs her quiet time after school. Before parties she needs to be alone for a bit. And god forbid I should schedule more than one social event in a day!

I used to watch for signs that she was starting to become overwhelmed and over-tired so I could remind her to go be alone for a bit. Now she’s old enough to know when to take herself out of the action. It never fails to surprise her cousins when we’re visiting in Chicago and she just puts herself to bed in the middle of the day.

When I took her out of her tiny school (only 7 kids in her class last year and 60 kids in the whole school), I worried that she’d have trouble handling having 23 kids in her class, three classes in her grade, and three different grades on the playground all at the same time.  But it seems like she’s holding her own.

At times she hangs out in the library during lunch recess, and she’s learned to say when she needs time to think about something. And for those moments when she can’t either escape to the library or enjoy a quiet thought she’s found another way to protect her space and her energy.

To the outside world it looks like she’s just wearing a fun fashionable hat., but I know that she loves it because it’s her protective bubble. Behind that brim she feels safe and she can withdraw when she needs a break from the people around her.

She always emerges happy, smiling, and excited to jump back into the action.

I’ve worried that being an introvert would make her life harder. I think I was wrong to worry. She’s only 7 and it has already just made her more in tune with her body and brain’s needs.

Makes a mama proud.

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4 responses

  • Have you read Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain? It’s very insightful and very fascinating. We read it for From Left to Write earlier this year. I discovered that I’m an introvert. Everything seemed to make sense once I learned that! http://www.fromlefttowrite.com/book-club-day-quiet-susan-cain/

  • I always used to think that I am an introvert since I sometimes get intimidated by people, and everytime I am in a team, I spend the whole week after the team gathering at analyzing what I did and being shy of my behavior… After reading your blog, I realized that I am a complete extrovert, I often speak before thinking that’s why I often regret it, and when I am around people It’s either I suck their energy or they suck mine, that’s why it happens sometimes that I feel very calm around people… I speak a lot and annoy my bf with my questions, and once I start a conversation it can lead to hours of non-stop talking

  • Wow, mom – Brava! Brava! Brava!

    What a lucky child! So many introverts are made to feel “wierd”, “strange” – even aberrant…nevermind that many of the great minds were also introverts.

    I’m curious. Did you teach her the coping skills – like going to the library, or did she figure that out on her own because you do things like remind her to take a break when she’s getting overwhelmed..

    I am an introvert (and extreme one) – I joke that I’m a hermit with good social skills, and yet, I still feel like I have to apologize or make excuses for who I am…and then I feel like crud when I give in and don’t honor my needs. You have given your daughter such a GIFT!

    Ditto on the book Quiet – there’s also another called Introvert Power…but it seems you could write a book on parenting an introverted child.

  • I’m on the flip side of the coin. I’m an introvert with two little extroverts! I find it challenging to find the balance between making sure they have the input they need and having sufficient quiet time for myself. Some days — like the last several, when my husband’s been out of town — I just have to shelve my desire for a quiet place.

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