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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.