Is your child introvert or extrovert? It matters and here’s why!
It was last Christmas at our progressive dinner. When my friend arrived she asked if there was a quiet place her daughter could go to just relax and be alone. Her child was around 8 years old, mind you. The girl said she just couldn’t cope with the crowds and needed some rest time since her weekend had already been so busy. I let her play minesweeper on my computer alone in our bedroom where she wouldn’t be disturbed.
I thought about it for days afterwards. How emotionally mature is an 8-year-old who realizes their need to be alone after a busy few days? How many adults don’t even make that connection? My friend said she knew that her daughter was an introvert and needed that time to herself to recharge and recoop and that they had often talked about these things. I am still so impressed with their level of communication and awareness.
After that day I determined I’d do the same with my kids, no matter which way they leaned on the spectrum. Here are some ways we can begin to help our children cope with the way they were made so they are always full of energy and life and able to prevent burnout.
Introvert: a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people.
Extrovert: a person who is energized by being with other people.
1. Help them determine if they have innie or outie tendencies.
This may be easier said than done. I definitely have introverted tendencies, in that I use up my energy being around people and I re-energize by being alone. However, even my mother laughed when I told her that. She thought for sure I was an extrovert since I like to talk the head off of anyone who makes eye contact with me. That may be true, but I still need to be alone.
When our children are super young it’ll be hard to tell. Of course later, when you know for sure their persuasion, you’ll probably be able to say that you could see those tendencies even from a young age. As they get older you can ask them questions to help determine their tendency. This will be helpful because knowing about this part of them will help you understand their reactions, meltdowns and opinions on a great many things that come up in life.
2. Teach them about how that affects their moods.
Once your child has pinpointed if they are an introvert or an extrovert, it wouldn’t hurt to talk through what this means on a day-to-day basis. If they understand that their reactions are normal, okay and just part of who they are they will feel more secure and confident. One sibling might feel wrong because they don’t love the spotlight like another of their siblings. This will put things in perspective.
I’m an only child so I’m used to being alone. Plus I like to be alone. I will never forget the week I truly realized just how introverted I am. I was staying with my husband’s family of 5 (then my fiancée) at a cottage in Scotland. I naturally kept moving to rooms no one was in so that I could be alone. Then, one person would come in, then another, and after a while the room was full. I’d move to another room and it’d happen again. I laughed when I finally realized what was happening. It wasn’t that I was trying to get away from them.
It wasn’t even that they were trying to be near me. They were just used to being around others without feeling the need to talk or engage. They were relaxed. I was completely not relaxed because I felt that if someone was there, that I needed to talk. The introvert in me feels that being around others means that I’m “on” which is why its hard for me to relax. This is why it’s so important that I process and recharge.
3. At first, enforce the time, whether alone or with others, to illustrate the concept.
When you start to think you are sure where your child is coming from, help them to reap the benefits. If your child is an extrovert and you spend most of your days at home, begin to branch out and give him or her opportunities to be with others. If your child is an introvert and has been very busy of late, don’t feel bad letting them stay at home. I believe my 2-year-old is an introvert.
The other day I threatened her with time out in the bed and she actually stopped her bad behavior, asked to go into time out, and then sat there singing for ten minutes. She wanted to be away from everyone and alone, the poor little thing. That is why independent play is so important for her.
4. Communicate with them in a way that increases their self-awareness.
Maybe it’s because I’m an only child or maybe it’s because of my introverted tendencies, but I am extremely self-aware. During my masters I had to take multiple personality tests (multiple tests not tests to see if I had multiple personality… although some days I think I do) and I absolutely loved them. What a weirdo, I know. I loved getting the results and seeing that they fit me to a tee. If we learn to ask our children the right questions, we can help them know themselves better.
Self-awareness is a sign of maturity and really makes life easier. If you don’t know what you want then you are not likely to get it. Ask your children questions like “Do you prefer to be in large groups or with one or two friends?” or “When you are tired, do want to be alone to rest or do you want to play with your friends?” When your children express some sentiment you can begin to help them unravel it and explain to them what’s happening.
Ask lots of questions that begin with, “How does this or that make you feel?” Link together cause and effect for them. This works even at a young age. Linking hunger and tiredness to bad moods is particularly effective and kids can grasp the concept quicker than you think.
To this day I am so impressed my friend’s daughter was actually willing to forego playing with all of the other kids to have some time to herself. The other kids were screaming and yelling and playing and she sat happy as can be in my bedroom, alone, playing minesweeper.
She knew what she needed to feel together again and it gave her enough self-confidence and security to not worry about what others were doing.
To not worry about missing out.
And you know what? At the next house on the progressive dinner she was able to play with the other kids. It wasn’t self-imposed grounding, she was just doing what she needed to do to feel at peace. We could all learn a lesson.
Want to learn your parenting style?
Each of us have our own personality, temperament, and giftings. And, the truth is, we parent best when we work with these instead of against them. Take this assessment so you can work to your strengths, and be the mom you want to be for yourself and your children.
New to this community? Start here, friend.