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Raising an Introverted Child

Posted Sep 10 2009 10:08pm

NOTE FROM SUSAN:In a recent column, I talked about how I am an introvert and gave a definition of what being introverted really means. (Click here to read that post.) Although most of us fall somewhere between extroversion and introversion, the majority tend to lean more toward extroversion. Therefore, it can be especially difficult if we have an introverted child. Melissa Taylor, a writer, educator and extrovert, has found this out firsthand as she struggles to understand and accept her introverted daughter. Her story follows.

Raising an Introverted Child
By Melissa Taylor

My daughter started in a small preschool program when she was two. Each day I walked a block to the school to pick her up. I’d arrive at the row of cubbies and coats to gather her things -- leftover lunch, mittens, hats, notes from the teacher, and ... nothing else. Every other cubby stored much of the same, but they also housed large, colorful art projects, scribbled, painted, and stamped. I watched the other parents grab the handfuls of artwork, and stuff it into their children’s backpacks. My daughter’s cubby and backpack stayed empty of proof she attended preschool. No art. Ever.

“Why don’t you do the art projects?” I asked, looking around with envy at the other parents’ handfuls.

“I don’t want to.”

“What do you do?”

“Nothing.”

What? As a teacher and former teacher’s pet, not participating to the fullest extent horrified me. How is this possible? What did I do wrong?

“Do you like preschool?”

“Yes, Mom!” she smiled.

Now that was strange. Here was a child who watched everything -- the art, the singing, the games -- and liked it.

What I discovered (on a morning TV show interview with Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.) was a thing called temperament. Temperament basically describes our energy -- where we get it and what drains it. My daughter’s behavior was not naughty or weird -- yes, I did think that. But, rather, her temperament was normal ... and introverted.

Gratefully, I began to learn about introverts. After all, I wanted to understand my daughter and love her for who she was.

I learned that introverts’ energy is drained by people and recharged with down time. Introverts, like my daughter, prefer to observe before they participate. And, sometimes, introverts are slow to respond to questions. Can you believe that some mothers, like ME, find that (irritating) difficult? But it helps A LOT to know that my daughter needs longer processing time due to introversion, not rudeness.

Conversely, extroverts get energy from action and social situations. The majority of us are extroverts, but we all fall on a continuum of extroversion and introversion. (For more specifics, take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.)

The important thing for me as a parent and teacher is to genuinely embrace my introverted daughter as perfect -- not a failure to be an extrovert like me. I value extroversion -- participation, jumping into change, speaking loudly and responding quickly -- do you? Can I, can we as a culture, also value introversion? Do we give the introverts in our lives a fair chance? Understanding? Acceptance?

Look for the introverts in your life. In The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child, Dr. Olsen Laney describes some introverted characteristics: speak softly, act quiet in new situations, are tired after social outings, observe the action, look away when speaking, and need quiet time to recharge. According to Olsen Laney, introverts make the best scientists, problem solvers and artists. They develop high emotional IQs and make healthy life choices.

Do you know an introvert? Are you an introvert? What are your thoughts on introversion?


Melissa Taylor is a teacher, education writer and mom. She blogs at http://imaginationsoup.net about fun and easy learning activities for children of all ages. Her writing appears regularly in Colorado Parent magazine and other online and print publications.

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