Friday, February 19, 2016

On raising an introverted kid

It comes as no surprise to me that my son, Philip takes after us by being an introvert. I have no problems with this and in a way, I am confident that I can help him adapt to living in a very extroverted world. For me personally, I was never really given any guidance on this and as well meaning my parents were, they never fully understood. I don't want Philip going through life like I did.

I would like to offer some of my personal insight to other parents in similar situations and if anyone else has something they might like to add, I encourage you to do so in the comments!

(1) I will not coddle my child. I have read some articles over the web about parents asking their child's teacher to go easy on them when it comes to grading on participating because their kid is quiet, shy, and/or introverted. This pisses me off. My kid is NOT a special snowflake. As much as it may suck at times, in modern society, we live in an extroverted world. I prefer to voice my concerns with my son's teacher and ask how I could work with her on this. It is also very important to communicate your expectations with your kid on what is going on in the classroom. I very recently told Philip " Look, I know it sucks, I know you don't always want to participate but you must. It is not easy but I am here to help" We role play scenarios and I boost his confidence. At the end of the day, it is a grade in elementary school, I honestly doubt this will have any effect on his college application later on! Why stress? Which leads too...

(2) Do not go too hard. Just as mentioned above. I will not force my kid to do anything he maybe uncomfortable with. I know it sounds contradictory but there is a big difference to telling your kid he has to participate in group projects in class vs signing him up for the school play. At the playground, I don't force friendships. I will let him play on his own and sometimes, he plays with another kid.  I try to keep a healthy balance. My kid is always going to be an introvert (unless it is just a phase) so why would I try to change him into something he is not? 

(3) Allow him to have some down time. Introverts need time to decompress. While extroverts tend to feel recharged after being around other people, it takes a lot of energy on the introverts. When he comes homes after school, we have quiet time where he is permitted to watch some TV or he can play quietly in his room. If he wants to interact with us, he obviously can but if he wants to be by himself, we let him! I don't take it personal. Also, there are days, he is going to be tired and overwhelmed. Especially in the first few weeks of kindergarten and especially on a Friday night (though it happens during the week but its more common to happen on a Friday for me) where he would have a full scale meltdown. It would be something trivial too. I would tell him to brush his teeth or something and all of a sudden, he is screaming at me. I punish him and then he starts to cry. These are real tears too, not crocodile ones either. He then tells me all about the little things that bothered him that he had pent up. Some of them are quite trivial but I try very hard to just listen to him vent. These are very real issues to him. Sometimes I give advice but most of the time, I listen. I think he wants comfort more than anything. This is why down time to decompress is very important! He needs to work things out in his mind.

(4) Your child may not have a lot of friends and that is OK. The school may bring this to your attention and that is fine. I am not a professional therapist but I dont think you need to have tons of friends to be considered successful or "normal". I disagree with society and often think that sometimes, less is more. Us introverts prefer small groups and may not always be interested in being popular.

(5) In new situations, I let Philip evaluate his settings on his own. I don't force him to dive in. He sits next to me and when he is ready, he will engage with other people. We need time to evaluate our surroundings and access the situation.

(6) Philip struggles with this but I emphasize the importance of him sticking up for himself. I encourage him to say words such as "stop" and "no"  in a loud voice to his perpetrator. It is important for him to know that his voice needs to be heard.

(7) Your child may internalize problems. I try very hard to not make it sound like an interrogation and unfortunately sometimes fail! I try to ask him questions and mirror his responses in order to get him to talk about his issues.I notice that many people who are introverted do not open up easily.

(8) I think introverts make great listeners and it comes as no surprise my child is often rewarded at his school for listening and being attentive. I often feel like he prefers to observe than to engage. I try to find things to spark his creativity and imagination. He lives a lot inside his head.

(9) Your kid may not like to make small talk. For myself, my husband, Philip, and my other introverted friends, I noticed that we tend to prefer deep, profound conversations then idle chit-chat.

(10) Your child may have a very deep understanding of the world and maybe very empathic towards others. Embrace this but make sure they know boundaries. I try to slowly teach him that it is ok to care about other people but to be careful to not be taken advantage of either.

At the end of the day, I try teaching Philip that he doesn't need to be social 24/7 but there are times, such as in school, he needs to step up a little. I wish I could put him in a big bubble where he would not have to deal with this but unfortunately, I can't. The best I could ever do is try to give him the right tools in order for him to have a very successful life later on. I like to think I am doing a good job so far!


  1. I have an deeply autistic 7 year old son, and obviously he is introvert too, depending of a day. Some days he is very extrovert. For me as introvert person is is very challenging to courage him to be extrovert but I´ll try. My advice is just to take it easy and one day a time, we´re all different and it is ok.

  2. This post struck such a powerful chord with me. I am an immensely shy and introverted person, something that my parents were not (I wouldn't call either of my birth parents raging extroverts, but they were more extroverted than introverted by a long shot) and they did not understand this (or the fact that I'm an HSP) about me very well when I was a child at all. Each of these points spoke to personal experiences that I had growing up, especially #4. If I had a dollar for every time my parents said something like "Why don't you try to make more friends?" (Sometimes with "like your brother and sister have" tacked on), I could have retired before I finished high school. I always had friends growing up, just (usually) not a ton and to this day, I will never understand why that wasn't enough in their eyes. I was socially well adjusted and got along well with everyone, so the fact that I had some close friends should have made them totally happy. Goodness know that if I ever have a child who is an introvert, I will raise them a million percent differently in most respects than my parents did me (a point that extends far beyond introversion, I should mention).

    Thank you for penning this excellent post and for being so in tune with your son's personality.

    Big hugs & happy weekend wishes,
    ♥ Jessica

    1. I had the same issues growing up too and I am sorry to hear you had the same. You have an awesome blog and wonderful personality! I am so glad we are "blogging friends" :)

  3. I love my parents but I don't think they realised I was an introvert (and had anxiety) as I can be very loud and excited about things that do matter to me! I wish they could have realised 3 and 4. I still struggle with 6 and often vent at the wrong time and people!

    1. I read somewhere that introvert and anxiety often go hand in hand. I think when we were kids, there wasn't as much research out there as there is today. I went through similar situations growing up-don't get me wrong, my parents were great, just they didn't always get it.

  4. I'm an introvert who suffers from bad anxiety, but I do a lot of public speaking as an adult and enjoy it *shock*
    The thing I found most helpful was drama and acting. I'm not suggesting you sign your son up for the school play if he's adamant it's not for him, but I do think drama skills are very useful for introverts in many situations.

    I'm dyspraxic so my mum put me into dance and gymnastics classes as a kid to help my coordination, but I always preferred the acting parts of shows to the dancing. I can't sing though so I never got parts in musicals...

    I joined a youth theatre instead and after my first show in the chorus I auditioned for a part (with a LOT of help from my friend) and got a small part. I never looked back- my confidence grew so much in 5 years. I am so thankful I did it, because even as an adult with bouts of severe anxiety I can mostly pull up the confidence and front I need to interact in my public facing job (although of course it can be exhausting). 'Fake it til you make it' really works for me.

    Also theatre groups tend to attract a wide range of children, most of whom are 'different' in some way so they can be a good place to find those few close friends that get you through the horror of being a teenager!! I think it was especially helpful to have friends OUTSIDE of school too, because my high school was huge and as an introvert it was easy to be overlooked, singled out for not fitting in anywhere, or to find yourself tagging along with a group that only kept you around so they could make fun of you when they were bored (still safer than being alone in the jungle).

    I think you are an amazing parent and your son is very lucky to have you. Keep fighting the good fight =D

    1. I am sorry to read about your personal difficulties but I would like to thank you for your comment and advice. I would have never even thought that theatre could be such a positive influence! Thank you so much for sharing that!

  5. I was also fortunate to have a mom who was an introvert, so she understood how I felt and let me "do my own thing" with regard to friends and activities. I also found that I could be around large groups of people when I was performing (I was a professional bellydancer for almost 20 years), but I still always need a break from the crowd when I'm "just me".

    You sound like a great parent to me! Philip is a lucky kid. Keep it up, you're doing a great job!

  6. I agree with all your advices. My entire family is introverted, but my dad and I are extreme cases. Sometimes my mom would try to push me to go out and make friends or to take part in froup activities, but fortunately, both of my parents understood me well enough to find the golden mean. I'm very thankful for my parents for raising me the way they did, so I never had to feel like a weirdo, that doesn't belong anywhere...

  7. Introvert here! My mom always let me come home and go straight to my room for some "lonely time" as little me called it. My dad worked night shift so when I got home from school he was still sleeping so we had to be quiet. It completely worked for our family. I think with the support you're giving your son, he'll find his way just fine.

  8. This is great advice! Number three really sound amazing, where you take the time to talk about all the litle things that are bothering him.
    I am an introvert, while my mother and older brother are extroverts. I always thought there was something wrong with me for not being like them, and my mother was constantly pushing me to make new friends and try new things. I wish we both had read this list when I was a child.
    Our son now is an introvert, and luckely we have an amazing teacher. At our last meeting he told us that the academic stuff can always come later, and while we of course should continue to practice his letters, the most important thing this term was to practice asserting himself more.
    I second drama too! If nothing else you get to practice being someone else, and that can help in many different situations. I still use this as an adult when I'm feeling uncomfertable.



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