Show your introverted child that quiet is beautiful and powerful, not an “abnormality” that needs to be fixed.
As parents, we naturally want to help our children. We feel rewarded when things go well for them, and we feel their pain when things go poorly. However, when parents are introverted — and also have introverted children — decisions can be clouded by anxieties or feelings of doubt.
I’m an introvert and am all too familiar with the pains of growing up quiet in an extroverted world. I’m not shy or weird (okay, maybe just a little bit weird), but I am sensitive to the insecurities of not fitting in and the societal views of being an introvert. When I had children of my own, I wasn’t expecting all of them to be introverted (or for all three of them to be girls), so I often find myself questioning how to instill confidence in my introverted daughters.
I want my daughters to understand the power of being quiet and how to be confident young women in a world where “quiet” is not often viewed in a positive light. Although I have made mistakes along the way and unintentionally interfered with them being introverts (sorry, girls!), I have found some successes over the years to help foster their confidence. Whether you have daughters or sons, here is how to instill confidence in introverted children.
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How to Instill Confidence in Your Introverted Child
Share stories about your childhood as an introvert.
Come on, you know you have some stories to tell: funny ones, sad ones, awkward ones. Let your feelings flow! Your kids need to hear that life can be a mix of emotions, and what better way to relate to life than to hear stories from their parents, especially if a parent is an introvert, too.
Using your life stories can help your introverted children understand events that might be happening in their lives. When one of my daughters was in preschool, for instance, the “leprechaun” destroyed her classroom. During this traumatizing event, the little green guy left footprints in the bathroom. Well, guess who would not ask to use the restroom out of fear of the little critter — and the uncertainty of speaking up for herself — when she needed something? Yup, you guessed it: my introverted daughter.
Luckily, I pulled a similar story from my childhood about how I would not ask an unfamiliar supervising adult to use the restroom before my dance recital — which, in turn, resulted in the inevitable (and mortifying) “accident.”
Through our embarrassing stories, my daughter and I were able to connect, and she was able to overcome her fear and uncertainty of asking questions when she was in need of something. (Her fear of the leprechaun, though? Um, not so much.)
Give them space to do things their way.
My first instinct as a parent is to jump in and “save” my introverted children from their quiet nature when things aren’t going as planned. This intervention could be something as simple as speaking for them to a more complicated scenario, such as fixing a problem with a friend.
Let’s take a trip to the past. My oldest daughter was a figure skater, and although she had a nice relationship with her coach, she didn’t interact very much with this person. I usually got an earful from my daughter after practice about issues she should have discussed with her coach. My first thought was to intervene and speak with her coach on her behalf, but about what, really? There weren’t any pressing issues that needed to be addressed, and I would be speaking for my daughter. So I came to my senses.
I realized my introverted daughter had her own unique relationship with her figure skating coach and own way of communicating. She wasn’t going to have an outgoing and outspoken relationship with this person of authority, because it just wasn’t her way. Instead, I learned that talking my daughters through their problems — and the possible scenarios of a situation while letting them take charge — produced a better outcome. In this case, my daughter talking to me about practice was just normal venting and she didn’t need me to butt into her student/coach relationship. This would have left her skating on thin ice! (Pun intended!)
Don’t force interactions, like making them talk to someone.
Even as an introvert myself, I want my children to be as “normal” as possible. It just seems easier, right? (Really, I am laughing, because is there a “normal”?) Anyway, I am an elementary school teacher, so it’s not uncommon for me to get plenty of hugs from my younger students in school, and even hugs when I see them out and about. I myself have never been a hugger-initiator and, by all means, I don’t expect my own children to be either; except, according to my daughter, for this one time in particular.
Let’s set the scene: a crowded store (as if that’s not bad enough) with my daughter’s elementary teacher visible in the next aisle. Eye contact is hesitantly made, and I suggest that my daughter go up to her teacher and give her — wait for it — a hug! (Eek, the horror!) I vaguely remember this encounter and my huge mistake. How in the world could I, an introvert who would never run up to someone for a hug, expect this behavior from my own introverted child?
Well, it turns out that, as an introverted parent, from time to time, I do get caught up in societal expectations and “norms.” But I’ve learned to come back to my senses and face the realities of the introverted life my children lead. After all, I try not to make it too obvious when I do things like run the other way when I see people in a store, which brings me to my next point…
Model socially acceptable behaviors, like saying hi to a friend you run into.
Yes, yes, I’ll admit it: Sometimes I discreetly avoid people in public places, you know, praying I don’t make eye contact so I don’t have to have an awkward encounter. Not because I dislike the people I see, it’s just… well… if you’re an introvert, you know exactly what I am talking about.
However, there always comes a time when I must come face-to-face with a person or two, either because it is polite or I have not run away fast enough. All kidding aside, I realize the need to set an example for my daughters. Because our children learn by example, I try to set a positive one and step out of my comfort zone when necessary by modeling more “acceptable” social behavior and viewing it as a learning point.
Thankfully, my girls are older now, so we are at the stage where we can laugh about many of our introverted insecurities. However, it is still important for me to model behaviors and help prepare them for social interactions. This is because, even though we introverts don’t want these interactions to happen, they inevitably will, and I want my girls to have the self-assurance to handle themselves. These days, it’s really up to my daughters whether or not to go with the norm on social interactions and to figure out what feels comfortable and natural for them.
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Don’t raise a people-pleaser.
I’ve been there myself, you know, agreeing to do things I really didn’t want to do. Sometimes it seems an introvert’s quietness can be taken advantage of because society knows we will not complain (not out loud anyway). Plus, many of us have people-pleasing tendencies. The number of times I have been a “yes” person when I wanted to be a “no” person is probably countless, and I have seen my daughters cave under the stress of saying “yes” to please people. I’m not implying that I want my girls to be rude and say “no” to everything, but I do want them to stand up for themselves when it counts.
Were you the quiet kid who always got seated next to the “problem child” in class — you know, the kid who wouldn’t stop talking or annoying others for pleasure? More often than not, my youngest child has been placed next to this kid. As a parent, a teacher, and an introvert, I know why these seating arrangements exist; unfortunately, it is because the quiet kid is less likely to complain.
Usually, my youngest daughter accepts any seating arrangement and goes about the day minding her own business. But one day when the problem kid really got to her, she came home in tears — not only because she wanted her sanity back, but mostly because she didn’t want to disappoint her teacher by asking to be moved. After a long talk and some convincing, my daughter went back to school the next day and held a private conversation with her teacher. The result: a brand new seat and a mutual respect between my daughter and her teacher.
So, rather than encouraging people-pleasing, I encourage my daughters to set boundaries. (Here’s how to set better boundaries when you’re a peace-loving introvert.)
Remind them that there is nothing wrong with being quiet.
Quiet is beautiful. Quiet is peaceful. Quiet is thinking. Quiet is powerful. Quiet is normal. I can’t say it enough. Let’s face it, the world is a complicated, noisy, extroverted place, and quiet is sometimes looked upon as, well, abnormal. My introverted daughters have heard their fair share of the typical questions: Why are you so quiet? and How come you never talk? I mean, do extroverts ever get asked why they talk so darn much? Maybe it’s time to reverse the question. I think we introverts hear these insensitive remarks about being quiet so often that we begin to believe there must be something “wrong” with us. There isn’t. Definitely not.
When my daughters would ask me why they were viewed differently for being quiet, I would first roll my eyes a bit (to myself) and think, not those questions again. Then I would explain that everyone has a different way of thinking. Some people (not introverts) think out loud without internalizing their thoughts, and others (like us) tend to ponder a bit and only say the important stuff. Neither is wrong: They are just different approaches to thinking and communicating. Over time, my deep-thinking daughters began to appreciate their quiet, and sometimes solitary, natures — eventually accepting (for the most part) their introverted traits. My introverted daughters appreciate who they are and embrace being introverts!
Remind Your Introverted Child That Quiet Is Power
There are multiple ways to approach raising amazing and self-confident introverted kids, and these are just a few things I have found that work with my daughters. Although my first instinct is usually to be the savior, I realized that jumping in prematurely wouldn’t help my daughters’ confidence. They really do need space to figure out their limitations — and a helicopter mom interfering with their mojo just isn’t going to work.
I can, however, help instill confidence by modeling social behavior and sharing personal stories with my introverted children. Then it’s up to them what they do with all of my introverted expertise (cough, cough). The main thing that I want my daughters to know is that quiet is POWER! (The rest of the world just hasn’t caught up yet.) Because we live in a society that views being quiet as different, my introverted daughters need all the confidence they can muster, and positively embracing their introversion is definitely a step toward success.
My fellow introverted parents, how do you instill confidence in your introverted children? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
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