Kids are awesome. They have a unique perspective on life. Still naive and generally optimistic. They don’t know what it’s like to be mediocre. They have big dreams and big ideas and big plans for their life.
Until someone tells them they can’t. That it’s too hard. Or it’s not worth it.
We don’t set out to be negative to our children. We just want to be helpful. To help them understand reality. Sometimes we don’t realize the huge effect our words have on our children. It’s important that we communicate our ideas effectively to them without crushing them.
Every child is different. Some can handle practical advice. Others need a more tender approach. All of them need positive reinforcement.
If your personality differs from your child’s, it might be more difficult for you to find that common communication ground. Identifying your child’s personality type is helpful in this process.
Boy/Girl – Introversion/Extroversion
In the next two posts, I’ll be explaining several tips on how to communicate well with your introverted or extroverted children. I happen to have one of each.
In Part 1, I’ll be talking about communicating with your introverted child. Part 2 deals with the extroverted child. I reference the introverted child with the pronoun of “he” and the extroverted child as “she.” This happens to be true in my household, but introversion and extroversion has very little to do with gender. Girls do tend to be more talkative than boys, in general. But talkativeness does not equate to extroversion, just as silence doesn’t necessarily mean introversion. Everyone is different and has their own preferences.
1. Quiet doesn’t mean shy.
If you have an introverted child, the first thing to remember is that introversion does not equate to shyness. Introverted children are what we call high-reactive. Which simply means that it takes less stimulation to keep them in a contented state. Too much stimulation becomes unbearable and they have to retreat to solitude. Don’t call them shy or let others label them. Shyness is a form of anxiety which is different than being quiet.
2. Time to think.
Introverts spend a lot of time in their internal world. They might look quiet on the outside, but there is a cacophony of thoughts going on inside.
Introverted children will take a little longer to answer a question because they will need to fully form the answer in their head before speaking.
If you have a serious question, ask it and then give your child a space of time to answer. Not answering immediately doesn’t mean they’re hiding something. Badgering for an answer only frustrates their thought process and will leave you with no answer. Let them think on it. For several minutes. Maybe hours.
3. Quiet hobbies, complex interests.
Introverted children often have intricate hobbies. Things that make them think deeper. Whatever it is, get involved. Show interest and encourage them to continue. It might be geeky and you may not understand it. But remember, lots of our innovators were/are introverts. Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Michael Jordan to name a few.
4. No BFF.
Your introverted child my not have a lot of friends. Maybe one or two close friends, though he might not consider either to be a “best” friend. His friends may be several years older than he, simply because he relates on their level.
It’s easy for an introverted child to be left behind in a large group of kids. He feels like he won’t be heard over the noise of the chatter so he often becomes the loner in the crowd. He’s more comfortable by himself or with just one close friend.
Only those who care about you can hear you when you’re quiet.
Don’t force your child to be “social.” It may be very uncomfortable for him to go to parties or play dates. Social settings take a lot of energy and can be very draining. Instead, offer opportunities for your child to visit with one or two friends in a quieter setting. This will make your child feel more comfortable being himself with some of his peers.
5. Knowledge is security.
Introverts, in general, but also children, find peace and security in information. When it comes to trying something new, meeting someone, or going somewhere they’ve never been before, offer your child as much information as possible before hand.
Knowing what to expect is a big deal to quieter kids. Having no prior knowledge makes them feel very vulnerable to the outside world, a place where they already feel uncomfortable. Explain to them what to expect. Who will be there? What will it be like? How is it different? Are there any concerns?
My introverted child needs to know what to expect tomorrow before he can go to sleep at night.
6. Value their opinion.
When an introverted child shares their opinion or their feelings with you it shows a great deal of trust. They don’t share internal things without a lot of thought involved. Be prepared to listen without interrupting. Don’t be surprised to hear some wise thoughts and deep concerns. Introverts often communicate on a deeper, more sophisticated level. No matter what you hear, stay calm. Respond in a mild and positive manner.
Encourage your introverted child to share their ideas regularly. Help them to verbalize their concerns. Walk through the scenarios and possible solutions with them. Assure your child that their thoughts and feeling matter and others want to hear them. Be your child’s number one fan.
7. Give them space.
Remember that your introverted child needs quiet time and solitude to recharge. He may disappear in his room after school or a party. Give him some down time to read or chill after prolonged social time. Over stimulation for an introvert sometimes causes them to feel out of control and even depressed. Some may suffer physical ailments like headaches or fatigue. Make sure your child has regular opportunity to have their own space and quiet time.
Your introverted child is a treasure. He needs to be reassured that he’s not strange. Assure him that he has a lot to offer his community and he can do anything he sets his mind to. Give him space to grow and time to think. See how deep his roots go. With positive support he will become a tower of strength.
What does your introverted child do that’s absolutely amazing? How do they like to recharge? I’d love to hear about your kid’s awesomeness in the comments.