Hubbin and I are both introverts – Hubbin much more so than I. We both grew up being called ‘shy’ and had definitely had some emotional baggage because of the ways teachers and parents sometimes responded to that common misconception of introverted behavior. And because of that we were totally committed to making sure we understood the personalities of any children we might have. We not only wanted to better and more understanding parents, we wanted to be better advocates when our children attended school.
Tiny, however, is an extrovert. I still don’t know how two introverts could have such an extroverted kid. But boy did we get one.
Tiny began showing signs of being an extrovert very early on; I knew by her second birthday that she was more extroverted than me.
- She’s always been keen on figuring out the world around her; even as an infant she was so incredibly alert it was sometimes creepy. As she’s gotten older she’s become more and more adept at recalling her explorations in vivid and imaginative stories, too. Sometimes I’m awed at the ways which she interacts in the world and the skills she developed to articulate them.
- She loves to leave the house – no matter the destination – because she knows that she will get to see other people. Even if she doesn’t see other people she is stimulated in any situation; whether we’re walking the dog, going to the store, or meeting some friends, Tiny can’t hide her exuberance. I can also motivate her to help clean up a bit with the promise of a playdate. She is, as her little bitty bestie says, ‘electric’ when she is around people.
- She has a surfeit of personality and energy, which means running errands can be overwhelming and absolutely exhausting. She is energized by simply being in public. But she is not out of control. She doesn’t bite or kick at the park nor does she get destructive at the store. Even when she’s all over the place, it’s more like a pure energy rippling through her little body than a reflection of naughtiness.
- As much as she loves being in public, it is completely reinforced because people are drawn to her gregarious personality. Tiny attracts new friends wherever she goes. She is greeted by a mob when we walk into her preschool class at morning drop off. When we meet a group of friends at the park, she is welcomed by overwhelming cheers.
It’s hard to parent this kind of exuberance. She needs connection – constant connection – which is hard for me. She needs human connection in order to stay energized and focused, which means we spend a lot of time in dialogic conversation about things that feel ridiculously mundane. I must consistently remind myself that she isn’t seeking overly-stimulating activities, she just wants to share her experiences with me. She loves cleaning, doing puzzles, reading stories, and playing dress-up… she just wants me with her 100% of the time.
I’ve had to institute ‘afternoon quiet time’ because I need a break from non-stop talking and emotional connection. I need some down time to recharge. And, since alone time isn’t really an option most days, we watch a quiet show – often some sort of nursery rhyme songs – and snuggle on the couch with no talking allowed. She’s actually been very receptive to this. And, since there is no talking, her energy levels to slow down for a brief period, giving me the respite I need. Finding balance between being in introverted parent with an extroverted kid has been a challenge but it’s not impossible.
I know that I’m not the only parent trying to figure out how to best parent their children.
Extroverted parents with introverted children also face their own set of challenges. If you have an introverted kid it’s just as important to find a balance between your needs as a parent and to help them explore the world in a way that feels safe to them.
No matter where you are in this wide spectrum of personality types, here are some resources for you to guide your child in a way that will prepare them to be the best adults they can be.
I like this article about parenting when you have opposite personality styles.
Here are some articles and posts about discerning your child’s type and why it’s important. I found these ones really helpful.
- Focus on the Family (this is actually a series of articles on the topic)
- Bright Horizons
- Psychology Junkie
- She Knows
This is one of my favorite articles on the difference between an extrovert and being shy. I’ve shared it many, many times in my personal life.
And here are some other articles about raising an introverted child. Many of these would have been helpful in helping me develop my own vocabulary as a child and teen.
- Center For Parenting Education
- Very Well Family
- Psychology Today
- Washington Post
- Introvert Dear
And here are some of my favorite resources for parenting an extroverted child.
And, finally, here is a throwback Tired & Crunchy post about raising an introvert, which includes another Romper post.