Parenting introverted kids well… this introversion thing has been a long process for me. All moms know how challenging, confusing and exhausting parenting can be. However, the ups and the downs are all part of a beautiful journey that grows us as women and mothers. With that in mind, I’ll never forget the afternoon several years ago, when I discovered that I was raising an introverted child. My sweet friend, Amy, made me aware of the obvious truth that I had been so blind to for so long.
Lindsay, she is an introvert. She was just upstairs with the girls and she needs time to regroup. She is an introvert.
Introverted Children: What is Introversion?
According to verywellmind.com, introverted children (and adults) may be described this way:
Introverts tend to be more quiet, reserved, and introspective. Unlike extroverts who gain energy from social interaction, introverts have to expend energy in social situations. After attending a party or spending time in a large group of people, introverts often feel a need to “recharge” by spending a period of time alone.
My Extroverted Mindset Needed a Shift
As simple as that sounds, it took me quite some time to wrap my extroverted mind around this concept. I’m an extroverted woman raised by extroverted women. It wasn’t sitting well with me that my my second daughter was showing signs of being “shy.” (By the way, being introverted is not the same as being shy.)
Loud People Aren’t Superior
At the time, I didn’t understand or appreciate her innate wiring. We live in a world that celebrates the social butterfly. Those who speak up and advocate loudly are the ones who tend to be exalted.
- In school, we show signs of our “smarts” by speaking up in class.
- Kids are pushed to have lots of friends and are seen as mentally unstable if they enjoy solitude.
Homeschooling Moms Not Immune To Peer Pressure
As a homeschool mom swimming against the current of traditional school, I had aggressively fought to render the “socialization” argument moot. My oldest daughter, like myself, is an extrovert and has always had tons of friends and play dates. (I now realize that so much of that was rooted in my own insecurities. A story for another time.) So when my middle daughter showed signs of being shy and sensitive, I didn’t get it.
Introverted Mom Friend Opened My Eyes
I am so grateful for Amy’s words that day. We’d been at her house for about 45 minutes. At the time, I had just my two girls as we had yet to adopt our son at that point. The kids were upstairs playing and Amy and I were enjoying some downtime and were chit chatting and breathing in the adult conversation. And then… I saw my little girl creep down the stairway and tiptoe over to sit next to me.
Honey, go and play. You are here to play with the girls.
Emotional Baggage Impacts Parenting
Looking back, I am embarrassed and ashamed at my initial response. I don’t know what it was about that moment. Like a stick in the mud, I was stuck in this belief that the value of a child is dependent upon how many friends he or she has. What a lie!!
This is me being really transparent. I grew up in a dysfunctional and parent-absent home. We moved 14 times before I graduated high school. As a child, I depended upon my social world to give me purpose and value. Like so many areas of parenting, God was helping me to work through my own junk in my journey with my precious girl.
New Perspective On Parenting Introverted Kids
God used Amy’s words to remove the scales from my parenting eyes. He was teaching me about my introverted child and my broken perceptions.
Lindsay, she is an introvert.
I’ll never forget that day. I began reading everything I could get my hands on about introversion and extroversion. Being an extrovert, I had a pretty solid grasp of what that meant. However, I was clueless as to how introversion was all around me. What I realized is that I’d misunderstood behaviors and interactions I had with so many people throughout my life.
The Best Book on Introversion: Quiet
Susan Cain‘s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking was so insightful. It taught me so much about my
- father-in-law and
- so many introverted children that were around me almost daily.
I later purchased Ms. Cain’s other book for introverted kids: Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverted Kids.
Reading & Seeking Advice from Introverts
Since then, I’ve spend years learning about introverted and other uniquely-wired kids. I’ve created A Heart for All Students to support our children who think and process the world differently. However, as so many moms know, we need one another in this parenting journey.
So I decided to seek the wisdom of some other introverted moms. I asked the moms in A Heart for All Students Facebook Group to answer the following question:
What would you like parents of introverts to know in order to best support and love their own introverted children?
9 Effective Tips For Parenting Introverted Kids
1. Give Them Breaks
Give them breaks! One of the best coping skills I gave my kid was an “escape room” or way out of anywhere we went. He learned he could step out and then I challenged him to come back in 5 or 10 min later. Eventually, he was able to take his own breaks or to tell me he needed one so I could help find him a quiet place.
– Katherine Fain, Homeschool mom of 4
2. Stop Making Them Socialize
Stop making them socialize all the time. Encourage them to socialize with the one or two people they’re comfortable with so they don’t withdraw entirely, but them let them take breaks even from that.
-Cheryl Springer, Extroverted Introvert (INFJ) mom of 1 very introverted, very freaking smart (INTJ) teen daughter
3. Stop Forcing Interactions That Don’t Fit
I let my introvert socialize on his terms and I don’t force it. Personally, I definitely have some introvert qualities. Often, I feel the need to recharge with alone time, but being around the right people can also give me energy. I’m also not good with forced interaction and am the one digging through her purse or going to the bathroom during meet and greets at church. 😬
-Meridith Curran, Homeschool mom of 2 (with one on the way)
4. Help Introverted Kids Take One Step
Not forcing kids to talk to people is a big one. It’s important to recognize that a longer period of time with a lot of people gets overwhelming. Sometimes an introvert struggles with including themselves. Encouraging them by helping them take a step to get involved with other people is critical. For example, walking with them to other kids and start a conversation that can include them, or introduce them and ask if your kid can play, etc.
-Colleen Webster, introverted homeschool mom of 4, 2 of whom are introverts
5. Check Your Adult Motives
I think it’s important to continually consider your social encounters and your motives for them. Did you say “yes” to the third night out this week because you felt obligated or pressured to please people? Or because it’s what’s best? I’m a recovering people pleaser, and sometimes that even overpowers my introverted qualities. So I’m learning to not be afraid to say no! And I echo all the comments above about not forcing speaking and physical contact on a child.
-Melany Boltjes INFJ (extroverted introvert) mother of one introverted little girl, Virtual Marketing and Administrative Consultant, and wife of a pastor in training. www.melbeevirtualsolutions.com
6. Be A Coach
I’ve found that sometimes my children need “coaching” in what to say. What is your favorite subject in school is a hard one for them–we homeschool and don’t really separate our subjects. We talked and now they have answers. And I have also found that many times it is the adult who needs the help 🙂 Adults can ask confusing or strange questions. You really need to know a child well to ask good questions that make them feel comfortable and able to talk to you. My children are shy to most people, but put them in a room with the “right” people and they will not stop talking! The same goes for me.
– Melanie Fulton, Introverted Mom of 4 Blessings, The Math Profs
7. Reassurance & Safety
I am very introverted and am also a pastor’s wife which can be a challenge because I have to get out of my comfort zone a lot!!!! Two of my kids are also introverted, one is on the spectrum. Parents need to realize that their children are not meaning to be rude when they don’t engage in a crowd.
Let your kids engage on their terms. Reassure them that they are safe. Let them stick extra close because at that point you are their safety. Their minds and bodies are telling them to run and hide. But they know you are safety so let them cling or hide behind you if they need. When one of mine was little he used to climb under my skirt if we were in a crowd. Rather awkward, but it was that or he would have a meltdown on the spot. As he got bigger, he learned that my skirt was not an option so he would hug me from behind and bury his face in my back. We would just sway and I could carry on the necessary conversations and he was okay.
– Heather Pittman, Introverted pastor’s wife and mom of 6 with 2 extremely introverted kids
8. Teach Skills & Seek Small Groups
I am an introvert. It’s ok if kids want to play alone at times and it’s ok if you aren’t the life of the party. Social situations can be super draining for me, so i have to limit how often I commit to outings. I do better in a very small group of people. Teaching social skills to introverted kids is very important. My mom did not teach me any social skills so making friends was very hard for me. I have had to learn on my own, in my adult life how to talk to people.
– Jennifer Reed, Introverted mom of 4
9. Accept & Celebrate Your Unique Child
Last but not least, Corinne shares her perspective from her own introverted childhood.
When I was younger, I was the only one in the family who liked music and reading to relax. So naturally, my parents thought that everytime I would go into my room to listen to music, that I was sick. It took many years of explaining that I wasn’t sick and that I just truly enjoyed being alone. My family likes to talk, which is exhausting for introverted children. All I ever wanted was acceptance that it was ok that I was not like them and for them to stop worrying about me. My brightest ideas were borne out of spending time on my own. If I hadn’t stayed true to myself and just caved in to the pressure of “pretending” to enjoy socializing, then I wouldn’t be where I am now – a place of contentment, peace and fulfillment.
-Corinne Rootsey, I blog about personal finance and wellness at https://myjearney.com/
Parenting Introverted Kids: Know Yourself
You may have noticed that some of our moms had interesting letter combinations behind their names. These ladies have found incredible value and insight into how God has wired them using a personality assessment tool called the Myers-Briggs. Like so many resources available to us today, this assessment does not define anyone of us, but is a tool to better understand oneself and others. Check it out and let me know what you think. 🙂
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