Disclaimer: I write this piece as a Mama with my kids in mind. I don’t intend to argue against any of the parenting methods nor enforce a particular set. I do intend to share my own learnings and hope that they may be found of some use.
But first, who is an introvert child?
- Oftentimes mistaken as shy (read post: Shy or Introvert?). Usually quiet. Listens/Observes more than talks.
- Can be talkative and outgoing, but usually selective in who he/she talks to and does so in short periods of time (needs time alone breaks).
- Prefers isolation over interaction. Enjoys alone-time.
- Prefers playing in the corner (either solo or side-by-side another playmate without interaction) than joining a big playgroup.
- Prefers solo activities, like reading.
- Slow to warm up. When walking into a party, observes and processes the environment first, instead of participating immediately.
- Does not like to be reprimanded in public. Does not like attention. Does not like to be forced to join a playgroup or to immediately socialize.
- Avoids the spotlight.
- Not likely to start a conversation or make new friends.
- Needs time alone to recharge. Being with people drains their energy.
These are merely examples meant to show a pattern of behaviors that can hint that a child could be introvert. Additional research is recommended to confirm if your child is one.
HOW TO LOVE YOUR INTROVERT KIDS?
- Love them like your other kids, but parent accordingly. Your parenting style must be child-centered, mindful of their uniqueness. Practicing the same parenting method (and expectations) to your extrovert and introvert kids may not generate the same results.
- Be mindful of your own predispositions. If you are an introvert, be careful not to expect that what worked with you will work with your introvert kid. If you are an extrovert, be even more conscious (and open-minded) about your differences. I am extrovert, and when we go to parties, my instinct is to immediately go chat up with friends, while encouraging the Toddler to mingle with playmates. I didn’t realize that this could be very stressful for an introvert kid, who needs a little more time processing the environment before starting to interact.
- Respect their pace. Introverts need a little extra time to warm up. That’s because they observe first and process things inwardly. Make sure they go to their classes and social events a bit earlier. When we enrolled the Toddler to a soccer program, we noticed that she tends to enjoy the class more when we come in earlier than the other kids. She happily cooperates and follows the instructions. The opposite happens when we’re the last ones to arrive. She would be self-conscious and constantly asks to be carried. She would not participate in the activities and easily gets crabby.
- Honor their quiet time. Let them enjoy their solitary activities. Give them little breaks during a long period of group activities. Make sure they’re not constantly surrounded by people. Being with people drains their energy, and the quiet me-time gives them a chance to re-charge. In daycare, our Toddler wakes up from her nap and just enjoys being by herself, reading a book or staring at a poster on the wall, instead of instantly joining her classmates.
- Respect their space. Be considerate of their solitary space. Find out what they enjoy doing when they spend time alone. If they prefer reading, stack books in their “space”. Give them a space at home. If they’re playing in the corner, let them enjoy it. Do not force them to join the other kids who seem to have fun. They’re also having fun, just different from the outgoing kids. Be cautious when asking the kid to participate/perform in a group circle. They tend to avoid being center of attention. At the soccer program, our Toddler does not like joining the activity where the kids go to the center of the circle. However, at daycare, the teachers have no problem getting her to participate. I suspect it’s because she knows her classmates longer and she spends more time with them unlike her soccer crowd.
- Be mindful of your idea of fun. Usually, we make the mistake of insisting that the kid joins the “fun games” and force them to run around with the other outgoing kids, thinking that their solo playtime makes for a boring childhood. But to the introvert, these games they choose are as fun, in fact even more.
- Watch out for the labels. Oftentimes, introverted kids are inappropriately labeled as shy, snobbish, unfriendly, loner, outsider, boring, serious, moody. These labels, worsened by dismissive tones and behaviors from the adults, are very hurtful to the introvert kid (both to their feelings and self-esteem), usually with the adults unaware of their impact. Be subtle in rectifying the labels to avoid making these conversations even more awkward and stressful for the kid. Likewise, check how the kid sees himself.
- Celebrate. Don’t just accept, as if in defeat, your child’s introverted nature. Celebrate it, honor it. Usually, the introvert carries a burden because there is a general expectation (preference, even) for outgoing, bubbly, playful kids. Babies are expected to respond in their cutest way. Toddlers are expected to be friendly and talkative and entertaining (to love the spotlight and perform to an audience). These expectations can easily crush a child’s confidence. Be sure that they are as happy of their introversion. Be proud of their unique traits. Highlight the strengths that come from their introversion — thoughtful, observant, attentive to details, and many more. When my daughter was a baby, she was not as responsive as the typical baby. She would just stare at our friend’s face, frowning. I eventually realized that it was her “thinking” face. She’s analyzing and processing the new face (inward), instead of interacting (outward). So, when she does this, I tell her what a bright kid she’s going to be, because she likes to think and to analyze.
- Cultivate. Spend time to get to know them. Learn together. Find programs and activities that nurture their introversion. Instead of (loud) team sports, they might enjoy solo or intimate sports like golf or tennis. If you think they need to build on their confidence, consider that enrolling them to a public speaking class may not be the best right away. Perhaps they need to build on their confidence first on the areas where they really shine, like writing, painting, solving puzzles. Discover talents that can be honed by their introverted nature, like those that require intense concentration (archery, solving complex math problems) or periods of isolation (painting, calligraphy). My daughter enjoys reading. To honor that, instead of taking her to a busy playground, we take her to a quiet library where she explores in her own pace.
- Validate. Do not insist on changing them (to become extroverted). This sends a hurtful message that something is wrong with them. This attacks their authentic self and hurts their self-esteem. But do not give up either. Continue to expose them to situations and experiences that they typically do not prefer. Give them opportunities to work on their social skills, to interact with a large group, to participate in public performances. This is not changing them, but stretching them in order to see how far they can go outwardly. When my Toddler was invited to join a kids’ fashion show, I did not insist it on her. But I made sure we came to the event prepared. I told her what it is about days before. When the fashion show started and she was allowed to process what is to happen, I did not have any difficulty convincing her to walk the runway. She had so much fun, despite the attention, the loud audience, and the literal spotlight. In fact, she did a repeat in the runway, even accompanying another kid. That was my proof that my kid is not shy, and introvert that she is, she can still confidently work it.
Recommended Reading: http://www.workingmother.com/content/6-tips-raising-introverted-child
//What do you think of these tips? Would you like to add to the list?