As Bri’s 40th birthday drew near, her mother eagerly asked the same question she asked every year: “Are you going to have a big party?”
While it may seem like an innocuous question, it caused great anguish for Bri and made her doubt whether her mom would ever accept her as the introvert she was. She was tired of explaining yet again that an over-the-top celebration would be no fun for her at all and she preferred an intimate observance with just her husband and son.
Her mother, an extrovert, was crestfallen upon hearing the same answer again. Bri knew her mom had always wanted a daughter who was bubbly, chatty, popular, and outgoing–everything she wasn’t. It took her years of therapy to finally embrace herself as she was. Yet, it still wounded her when she felt unseen by her mom.
Feeling Unseen and Misunderstood
When she was growing up, Bri often felt sad, alone, confused, and invisible. She didn’t enjoy the same activities that her peers did. She didn’t like playing team sports. She avoided noisy, crowded places such as shopping malls and sports arenas. As a teen, she liked to stay at home and read books instead of going to parties and football games. She chose to hang out with just one friend rather than a group.
Today, she knows all her preferences while growing up were typical of an introvert. The behaviors she once considered weird were perfectly normal. Moreover, she now knows her childhood would have been so much happier if her mom had recognized and accepted her reserved, thoughtful nature instead of denying it.
5 Tips for Rearing an Introverted Child
1. Accept your child as they are
2. Understand the science on introversion
3. Know "introverted" and "shy" aren’t synonymous
4. Realize introverts need downtime to recharge
5. Point out successful introverts, famous and not
1. Accept Your Child as They Are
Contrary to popular belief, introverts are not a small, inconsequential subset. In fact, it's estimated that they make up one-third to one-half of the population. Sadly, though, many parents, grandparents, teachers, and coaches think introverted children need fixing. They see their reserved, thoughtful natures as an impediment instead of an asset.
By trying to change them, though, these well-meaning folks make introverted youngsters think something is wrong with them. However, nothing could be further from the truth.The inclination to rectify introverts is common in the United States because Americans extol extroverts more than introverts. We admire those who are boisterous and gregarious with a ready joke to tell and an amusing story to relate.
In other countries such as Japan, though, introverts are held in high esteem. They’re admired for their thoughtfulness, creativity, empathy, and sensitive natures.
2. Understand the Science on Introversion
Thanks to neuroscience, we can now confirm what we’ve long suspected; the brains of introverts are not the same as the brains of extroverts. One of the significant ways they differ is in their varied response to the neurotransmitter, dopamine, a chemical released in the brain.
Extroverts are less sensitive to dopamine and need more of it to feel happy. The more they socialize, the more they enjoy its pleasant effects. Therefore, they’re highly motivated to be around other people.
Introverts are more sensitive to dopamine and get satiated from just a little bit of socializing. Too much dopamine makes them feel overstimulated. Therefore, they want a break from interacting and crave time by themselves.
This explains why introverts sometimes complain about feeling used and put upon at get-togethers. They’re interpreting the situation correctly. Extroverts are indeed benefitting from the interaction while they’re feeling diminished by it.
The short but powerful video below explains the science behind extroversion and introversion.
3. Know "Introverted" and "Shy" Aren’t Synonymous
Unfortunately, many Americans use the adjectives introverted and shy interchangeably when, in fact, they’re quite different. In Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain differentiates between the two.
She explains that shy youngsters suffer because they fear negative judgment. It's a debilitating problem for them and they need help to overcome it.
Cain says the opposite is true of introverted youngsters. They aren't struggling but are quite well-adjusted. They simply require less stimulation than extroverted kids.
4. Realize Introverts Need Downtime
An extroverted child can thrive in an environment with lots of people and lots of commotion whether it’s a noisy classroom or a chaotic birthday party. An introverted child, though, can feel quite uneasy in such situations, finding them draining and depleting.
Such circumstances can leave introverted youngsters feeling exhausted. They need downtime afterwards to be alone and recover. They may want to play a game on the computer, read a book, draw a picture, or watch a tv show. They want to be in a calm, soothing environment.
Today, though, some parents overprogram their kids with structured activities. A school day is followed by sports practice, music lessons, tutoring, dance classes, and scouting.
Moms and dads should keep in mind that introverted kids need time to decompress after being with people all day. When signing up their introverted youngsters for extracurricular activities, they should remember that introverts often prefer solo pursuits such as swimming, running, painting, journal writing, and yoga.
5. Point Out Successful Introverts, Famous and Not
In our culture, we see high-achieving extroverts all around us: performing on the stage, posting on social media, entertaining on TikTok, speaking before crowds, and hamming it up on YouTube. Therefore, it’s understandable for introverted children to think being outgoing is required for success.
Parents can dissuade them of this notion, though, by pointing out accomplished introverts, famous and not. A list of well-known reserved folks includes Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steven Spielberg, Rosa Parks, Abraham Lincoln, JK Rowling, and Michael Jordan. Reading biographies of these people to your children will help them appreciate the strengths, talents, and triumphs of these celebrated introverts.
Moms and dads can also point out the talented introverts in their communities. Certain careers draw those who are quieter and more thoughtful. Jobs with a high number of introverts include engineers, scientists, writers, artists, librarians, graphic designers, and mechanics.
Are you an introvert?
© 2022 McKenna Meyers