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Last Updated on February 17, 2017 by Diane Hoffmaster
For 16 years I have been raising an introverted child and it is just as stressful for me now as it was when they were toddlers. Many years ago, my family went up north for a family wedding. My son was 5 and my daughter was 3. We were staying with my brother in law and with all of the siblings in town there were a lot of kids underfoot. At one point, we shooed all of the assorted cousins outside (who ranged in age from toddler to about 10) and watched as they played. A huge crowd hung around the play gym, digging in the sandbox or swinging on swings. A few ran around chasing each other and rolling around in the grass. My son was alone under a tree in the corner of the yard with a stick in one hand and a rock in the other as he studied the dirt in front of him. One of the adults nearby asked me if he was okay so I took a closer look from where I stood on the deck. Stick in hand, talking to himself and studiously examining the ground under the tree...he was happy as a clam. No one understood why he didn't want to play with his cousins over on the crowded swing set but he had always been happiest alone in thought. As he has grown from little boy into a much larger teenager, I have come to realize that my introverted child will never become a social butterfly but that he will probably never care.
Raising An Introverted Child:
Alone, yes...but lonely maybe not
I have started to do more and more research about characteristics of the introverted child and how to raise them. I honestly worry that my son would happily spend every moment alone if I let him. That can't be healthy, right? His friends call one another to play ball or walk in the woods. They head out on a nice Saturday afternoon in search of friends to socialize with. They do not spend all day wandering around in the yard talking to themselves and creating elaborate stories in their heads. It isn't like is he is plugged in all day and would rather play video games...he spends a lot of his time reading or outside in the back yard with the dog. BUT, he is rarely with friends and that worries me.
When we get together with friends who have kids he knows there is no shyness at all....an introverted child is not the same as a shy one. He has no trouble talking to his peers or to adults that he knows, he just seems to have very little need for them. The only time he calls his friends is when we tell him to. Is it bad that we tell him he HAS to go find a friend to play with? I feel like if I don't force the issue then he will lose his friends completely. I have asked his teachers if they suspect any problems. They say no...he has a small group of kids he hangs with at lunch or walks with in the hall. He is quiet and not the most popular kid in class but neither do they worry that he has any underlying emotional issues. He is laid back, happy, gets good grades and is well liked by those who know him. Shouldn't this be enough? I'm not so sure.
There are a ton of parenting websites on raising an introverted child, how they differ from children that are shy, and what parents can do to ensure that our introverted children turn out 'normal'. What are some characteristics of an introverted child? I found these characteristics listed online and honestly, they fit my kid to a T:
Characteristics of an Introverted Child :
- Has only a few close friends
- Does more listening than talking
- Talks to family members, but not to strangers
- Likes solitary activities, like reading, or activities with only a few people
- Likes to spend time in own room with the door closed.
- Watches a game or activity before joining in
- Likes creative or imaginative play
- May get crabby after spending a lot of time around other people
- Does not share feelings easily
- Becomes deeply humiliated after making a mistake in public
It is also interesting to note that introverts make up about 60% of the gifted population but only about 25-40% of the general population. My son has been in the gifted program since he was in first grade. An interesting correlation! Raising an introverted child who happens to also be gifted presents some unique challenges.
I found a great video about raising an introverted child in my research that gave one author's look at own introverted personality. She has a great book out (an you can shop with my affiliate link here!) called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. It is a resource I am definitely going to have to read in order to get a better understanding of my son's personality. You should definitely check out this short video that gives her ideas about introversion in our society.
Do you have experience raising an introverted child? I would love some tips from other people on the subject!
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She has two college aged kids, one husband and more pets than she will admit to. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire but left her career in science to become a stay at home mom. Years of playing with LEGO and coloring with crayons had her craving a more grown up purpose to her life and she began blogging and freelance writing full time. You can learn more about her HERE.
As an introvert adult, I have found that the following help me functioning in an extravert world :
-Facebook is God sent ( I keep it light & friendly there)
-having different social circles (university, colleagues, library, park)
-sticking a smile on my face & having 5 minutes chats with strangers
-doing some sport is vital (stress release)
- aiming for average instead of perfection when chatting (40%)
- speaking about tv shows, clothes, the weather, etc.
-doing new activities once for the sake of having something to talk about (seeing a boxing match, going to the opera, etc...)
-avoiding the label "Introvert" & resisting educating people. If I have to explain people how I work, I am doomed. Excuses are my buzz word : I wont go to a party because I have a relative at home- or a baby to nurse, etc... In these days of FOMO (fear of missing out) where people overcommit, last minute cancellations are only to be expected.
- challenge myself to going to at least 3 outings per week
Being exposed to a drastically introverted environment also helps introverts appreciate their extraverts counter parts.
Last but not least, socialising with fellow introverts is essential. The goal is not losing oneself; just mimicking some extraverted traits to acquire a companion, a job & a few friends.
Find some introverted mentors for your son.
These are wonderful tips. I think I will go over them with my son and see what he thinks about them. I have found that sports that are less 'team based' work best for him. Singles tennis and track....you are ON a team but the actual work is done independently. Thanks again for your insight. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment!
My parents went through this sort of thing with me. I had a small group of friends and spent a lot of time alone doing things I enjoyed. Im not sure I can speak for all introverts, but being alone does not mean we are lonely. Sure, like anyone we get that itch to interact with others, but I'm just as content doing something by myself. Both my parents are extroverts and assumed that because I was in my room by myself that I was bored and lonely. Normally, I was on xbox live or on the computer playing games and talking to people on there. When I did go out with friends on the weekend I did have fun, but after a day or two of constant interaction I always felt that I needed my space. I have a sister who is an extrovert and we talk a lot about the fact that I enjoy being alone. She doesn't understand it, and always tells me that she couldn't live how I do. I always reply that I don't understand how she does it either lol. The biggest difference between my sister and my parents is that my sister respects my need for autonomy while my parents try to use the force method. Introverts and extroverts both know how they want to socialize. Just let them do what makes them happy.
I'm 17 years old, and have been introverted ever since I remember. My parents endlessly pushed me to find new friends, and teased me because they thought I was shy, to which I responded that I was simply not in the mood to deal with other people at the time. I have so many friends at school, and many more people seem to want to talk to me because I believe they find me interesting, however, it gets very tiring for me after school and usually have the worst attitude. I just want to lock myself inside and not deal with people for the rest of the day, and I get a lot of crap from that. A couple days ago a neighbor got very pissed and began asking me why I wasn't more friendly like my parents. I understand that he considered it a sign of disrespect, but no matter how much I tried to explain to him that I sometimes needed my time alone , he told me to suck it up and be friendly to anybody I see and make small talk. I gave up and just agreed and left so that I wouldn't have to deal with his childish attitude anymore. My point is, your son will seek out interaction when he feels it is necessary, and if his friends disappear and he has a problem with that, it will be his responsibility to find new friends if he wishes. Having an introverted child is truly a gift, we are fantastic thinkers, and when we're not with other people, you can bet that we are mentally exploring the depths of our minds, and that is after all the greatest gift of all.
He is definitely a thinker! The things he comes up with sometimes astounds me! Thankyou for providing your insights....I try hard not to worry but that is just what moms do! Having down time after spending a lot of time with other people seems to be vital for introverts!
As a very introverted person, married to an introvert and raising an obviously introverted toddler, I wanted to add my personal experience. I greatly enjoy being an introvert. My inner life is extremely rich and I am always learning and exploring something new. When I make a new friend, it takes a lot of one-on-one time before I can feel comfortable enough to share my deepest, best self because that part is very private and precious to me. Admittedly this may feel like a lot of work to some people, but an introverted friend is usually a funny, thoughtful, and deeply committed person to have in one's life (provided you respect their alone time). Unfortunately, not a lot of Americans understand/respect/appreciate introverts. This is not a complaint, but simply an observation. All my life people have been asking what's wrong with me, both within my family and in social situations. After awhile this creates anxiety. You begin to wonder if something really is wrong with you. You begin to feel shy, angry, and lonely. Social situations become miserable because you feel that you have to play the extroverted game or be treated as if you have a handicap. It takes a great deal of effort for an introvert to overcome these feelings, stay true to herself, and still have a satisfying social life (I'm getting better at it). My parents didn't know how to help me do this and I am terrified when I think of the pain my own child may have to endure. What I do know is that as a mother, I have an incredible opportunity to cheer him on, to be the confident voice that I want him to develop internally. I know that if I ever feel ashamed of him or disappointed in who he is, he will sense it and it will do more harm than any thoughtless relative or well-intentioned acquaintance. The world will always be a challenging place regardless of your personal idiosyncrasies (because each of us is different in one way or another), but home and "mom" should always be the one constant safe place - and I have no doubt you agree! [I also believe that this kind of parenting attitude reflects the unconditional love that God has for each of us.] All that to say that as long as you stand behind your kid, he has a lot going for him and he will be just fine!
hi, stumbled upon your blog, and bookmarked it! I have a reserved, happiest at solitary play, chatty around us or in comfortable setting, don't make much effort in social groups, prefers Lego or sticker book time over music classes toddler! I know it's an early age to tell she'll be an introvert forever, but me being a social butterfly I find her quiet laid-back personality stifles my social life as most of her playgroups toddler friends are extroverts or into social play new ambience or not, flexible and no fear of strangers. Half the time I have to explain or defend my daughter to friends on her quiet behavior. Trust me at home, she's opposite of when outdoors, I exposed her since 5mos old to many classes, activities, playground fun, strolls, shopping trips, eating outs, friends gatherings but her need to be social hasn't improved much.
She can be contented with familiarity or with a long warm up time given.
I'm still researching more on raising her confidently, avoid her feeling out of place and I've learnt to stop pushing her to attend loud active music classes etc because she really hated it, sigh!
btw, my husband is an introvert, geeky and highly creative and imaginative!
As a mom, I want my kid to be happy and for some reason I equate that happiness with lots of friends and social activities. While what he really wants is to just play outside alone or do something quiet with only a friend or two. Thanks for sharing...nice to know I am not the only mom raising an introverted child!
Thank you for your wonderful article and especially for sharing Susan Cain's video. It brought tears to my eyes. My husband and I are both somewhat introverted, but we felt forced to adapt to an extroverted world to succeed. But we have a very introverted son who is - like your son - very happy being alone. The only advice I have is something you already know - to let your child be who he is and to encourage him to do what he naturally does best. The vast majority of my son's teachers have adored my son (he was brainy and respectful after all), but he had a couple who just didn't understand him and insisted that he was "too quiet." I wish now that I had set them straight that not all children gave the same social energy and that introverted children have their own special skills. Instead of treating it as a disability, it should be treated as a gift.
thankyou so much for your input. I really appreciate it. I still worry about his constant desire to be alone but when we do get together with groups he has no trouble interacting with his peers so I am trying to understand that it is just a quirk in his personality. Thankfully his teachers so far have loved him. Fingers crossed that he grows up fine!
Being an introvert, i feel that it is important that you encourage your son to be social and learn how to make new friends. that's always the hardest part for introverts. because once he gets older and his good friends start moving away for college or they no longer stay friends, he is going to find himself alone. while us introverts like being alone a lot of the time, we cannot be alone forever. he needs to learn the skills for making friends just in case that happens. and be open with him about why you are encouraging him to be social. if he sees you just pushing him into uncomfortable situations, he is going to become resentful of you. but if he knows it's a learning opportunity then he should be okay.
I try to encourage him to take the first step and reach out to his friends to get together. I keep telling him that if doesnt put in the effort that one day he will look around and wont have any friends left! It is a work in progress..
Yes, I get it. As an introvert myself all three of my kids are introverted. I used to push so hard to attend social gatherings and such. It is just exhausting to do so. I have since let them be in their own world and they have flourished.
I am also introverted and I feel so hypocritical telling my children to socialized when *I* have no interest in it!