What parent doesn't want to raise a happy and well-adjusted child? We do our best to help our children be prepared to face life and be successful. We read parenting books to learn about all the best strategies for raising children and we look for advice from friends, family and even parenting experts. However, sometimes the tips and advice we get don't take into account the fact that some children are introverts.
Introverted children are often mistaken for shy children, but being introverted and being shy aren't the same thing. Parents may see that their child doesn't seem to socialize as many other children do. Their child may prefer to spend time alone reading or engaging in other individual activities rather than eagerly seeking out companionship of other kids. Wanting a well-adjusted child, these parents may apply tips that can help shy children become more outgoing, but they aren't going to change the nature of an introverted child. If you have a child you think is introverted, what are the best ways to help your child?
The first thing to do is to make sure that you understand what it means to be an introvert. Understanding what it is will go a long way in understanding how to parent an introvert. You can learn some of the more common traits of introverts to help you see that some of the traits your child exhibits are quite normal for introverts and nothing to worry about. For example, your child may prefer to spend time alone in her room with the door closed and may not share feelings easily.
People often worry that a child who spends time alone and won't talk about feelings is in some kind of emotional distress such as depression. It is true that such behavior can be signs of depression, but in that case, what we look for are changes in behavior patterns. Introversion is not a response to outside influences; it is a personality trait. In other words, an expressive and outgoing child who becomes withdrawn and silent did not suddenly become an introvert.
It is probably concern over emotional well-being that leads many parents (and teachers) try to get introverted children to "open up" and socialize more with other children. A list of traits of introverts is a good place to start gaining some understanding of introversion, but it's just a way to get a basic idea. What we want is a more in-depth understanding of what it means to be an introvert. A full portrait of an introvert can be extremely helpful. When you read details about their social behavior and interaction, their emotions and their verbal expression, you will have a much better sense of what it means to be an introvert and you'll have a much better idea of how best to parent one.
Respect Your Child's Preferences
Once you better understand what it means to be an introvert, you will be better able to recognize your child's preferences. And once you recognize your child's preferences, you need to respect those preferences. For example, introverts tend to have (and need) few friends. If you see that your child has just one or two friends while you see other children with five or more friends, you may start to worry that your child is having trouble socializing. You may feel that you should encourage your child to make more friends. You may arrange numerous play dates and invite several children over at one time. You might even try to talk with your child to find out what the "problem" is.
However, if you understand that introverts are happy with just one or two friends and that the lack of a large group of friends is not necessarily an indication of problems socializing, then you can be more comfortable with your child's friendship preferences. Forcing your child to spend more time than he wants to with other children and trying to push him into more relationships is not going to make him more outgoing. It is going to drain more energy from him and make him more irritable (which can make you think you're right that he has problems!) Instead, you can let your child take the lead on who he wants as friends and how much time he wants to spend with them.
Accept Your Child
Accepting your child just as he is shows your child that you love him. Think about how your child might feel by your responses to her behavior. You want what is best for your child, so if you see your child keeping to herself more than you think she should, it is natural to feel that you should encourage her to make more friends and to spend more time with friends. However, if you make her feel that her behavior is somehow not normal and that you find it to be a problem, that is going to translate to her in ways you really don't intend. She can begin to believe there is something wrong with her and she can begin to feel that you don't love her because of that flaw. Otherwise, why would you want her to be something that she isn't?
We need to remember that gifted kids can be emotionally sensitive, so what they feel may not always be what we feel about them. We love them, but when we try to change them, it may seem to them that we don't like them and they can interpret that to mean that we don't love them. We need to like our children as well as love them.
Support Your Child
When you understand your child's introverted nature, you may notice that others may not doing what what is best for your child. For example, a teacher may tell you that your child is having trouble socializing because he doesn't enjoy working with other students in group activities. She may be pushing your child to participate more enthusiastically. This is a difficult situation because group work has become such an integral part of education. You do want to support your child, but you don't want to try to convince the teacher to excuse your child from group work.
What you want to do is help the teacher understand why your child doesn't enjoy the group activities the way other children do. You could visit Personalitypage.com and take their free personality test for kids, which would give you a better idea of your child's personality, including the introversion. That can help you talk to the teacher about your child's behavior. You might even encourage the teacher to take one of the many free Myers-Briggs Personality tests online, such as those from Personality Pathways or HumanMetrics.
The point here is that you want to understand your child and help others understand. Introverts may never be the life of the party, but they are still quite interesting people!