Parenting Introverts


7 November 2012 by thaliakr

An Introvert's Bag of Books

An Introvert’s Bag of Books (Photo credit: jurvetson)

Remember Susan Cain? You may have seen her fabulous TED talk that I posted a week or two ago, based on her book, Quiet: the Power of Introverts.

The guru on introverts in an extraverted world, she gives ten tips for parenting introverts on her website.

For me (an extravert pretending to be an introvert at the moment, married to an introvert), the most useful three were:

  • Calling introverted children ‘shy’ stigmatises them and makes them see social nervousness as a fixed trait rather than an emotion they can manage
  • Get to big social occasions (like birthday parties) early so it feels like other kids are joining your child rather than that she has to bust into an established group.
  • Teach an introverted child to stand up for himself.

See the full list on her website.

You might also be interested in Adam S McHugh’s The Introverted Church, a website (and book) dedicated to making Christian communities more hospitable to introverts.

Scot McKnight at JesusCreed hosted McHugh introducing his ideas here; he also linked to this recent article on how introverts and extraverts use language (differently, it turns out).

Back to parenting introverted children: I’d be keen to hear your ideas and experiences, as a parent of an introvert, or as an introvert yourself, reflecting on your childhood and adulthood.

  • How do you help an introvert thrive at different stages of development?
  • How do you speak to them about being introverted?
  • How do you speak about them to others to help them understand and nurture them?
  • Any other thoughts?

11 thoughts on “Parenting Introverts

  1. Marilyn says:

    Some thoughts:
    I recognised our son’s introvert personality from a very early age. We would go to coffee mornings with other mothers and children and S would stay with the group for 30 minutes or so and then he would disappear and I would find him sitting next to a book shelf looking at books or fiddling with the family stereo – the beginning of a fascination with buttons and levers etc. He was content to be on his own rather than with the other little people. He was about 18 months old when I first noticed a pattern with this behaviour. As he grew we realised we needed to encourage his social skills. He is very intelligent and has been very successful throughout school and university but all the way through his growing up years we have encouraged his social interaction – realising that he needs to be able to interact socially with others no matter what he ended up doing with his life. At times he was resistant to this encouragement but mostly he took it on board and now he is well adjusted socially and can hold a conversation with most people quite successfully. He still needs time on his own and he always will. He has made the comment of being ‘familied-out’ after we have visited him.
    I’m not sure I really like the classification of people as introvert or extravert except when it is recognised that it is a continuum and people have a tendency to be somewhere towards one direction or the other. But this can change depending on the situation the person is in.
    If you are parenting a child who tends to be introverted I would suggest that your child is probably processing their surroundings and doesn’t have to talk about it constantly. Their processing is internal rather than external. You may have to draw them out at times but it is very important that they are allowed to be who they need to be. An introvert is likely to be internalising their thoughts and will come out with something profound if the extroverts will be quiet long enough to let them speak. If you are parentlng an extrovert then your child may need to learn to be quiet and be happy with their own company. This may be more difficult than drawing out the introvert.
    While labelling children can have some advantages in that parents can read relevant research and maybe understand their children a little better because of it the most important thing is to get to know your child well and understand the things you need to help them with but otherwise let their personality develop into the person they are meant to be.
    Well done if you have read this through to the end :-)

  2. Spaghetti says:

    A friend of mine posted a “How to care for Introverts” image on fb and most items rang true for me, even a few that I’d experienced, but never quite put into words – Items 2, 4, 5 & 6/7 in particuar:
    1. Respect their need for privacy
    2. Never embarrass them in public
    3. Let them observe first in new situations
    4. Give them time to think, don’t demand answers
    5. Don’t interrupt them
    6. Give them advance notice of expected changes in their lives
    7. Give them 15mins warning to finish what they are doing
    8. Reprimand them privately
    9. Teach them new skills privately
    10 Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests & abilities
    11. Dont push them to make lots of friends
    12. Respect their introversion, don’t try to make them into extroverts
    I think 2 probably had the most impact on me growing up – even now if I’m unexpectedly and publicly told off for something. I guess for parents, recognising when your child has been ‘shamed’ and not playing it down would be a good start, as well as helping your child to understand the ‘why’ behind the telling off. (Introverts like to know “Why?”) :)

  3. As I’ve read your various posts about introverts the first thing that always jumps into my mind is “Don’t embarrass me in public”. Of course by this I really mean “Don’t put me on the spot in public and expect me to come up with an answer to whatever you have asked of me because I will simply clam up, glare at you, make myself and you look foolish, go beetroot red and for the rest of your/my life every time I see you I will remember that moment and shoot daggers in your general direction!!” Just sayin’.

  4. Daina says:

    How about a list for introverts parenting extroverts!

  5. Cat says:

    Stumbled upon this post and made me think of a couple of experiences, 1 mine and 1 my son’s : in school aged about 10 our teacher explained the terms introvert and extrovert and then asked us all which we were. Out of say 25 kids 23 reckoned they were extraverts. Only 1 boy and myself put our hands up as introverts. I can’t remember how she described the 2 terms but assume she made extravert sound highly appealing! I wasn’t proud to call myself an introvert, just a very honest wee girl! This was 25 years ago, so happy attitudes are changing!
    When my son was 2 a well-intentioned but very in- your-face guy started working in our local minimart. Every time we shopped there he made a huge deal of trying to get a smile out of my son, which of course had the exactly opposite effect! But my son in his newly-developing vocabulary, labelled him The Shy Man – meaning the In-Your-Face Man – he had the innocent self-confidence to be able to see that the problem lay with the man’s behaviour, not his own. I felt like he taught me something really profound!

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