9 Mistakes Parents Make With Their Introverted Children

an introverted child

Teach your introverted child that it’s perfectly okay to have a small circle of friends and to enjoy solo activities.

I have always felt like an outsider. As a child, I would sit anxiously in the corner of the classroom, observing the other kids chatting and playing. This left me feeling out of place and questioning my worth.

I was the child who needed someone. Who needed reassurance. Someone to tell me it’s okay to be who I am. Someone to help me see that I could lead a fulfilling, happy, and inspiring life in my own company.

Suffice it to say, it took years to understand myself: I am an introvert.

Despite the term introversion being coined in the early 20th century, true awareness about it remains limited. Many introverts struggle, feeling they should be more social or outgoing due to societal expectations.

This highlights the importance of parenting an introverted child in a way that encourages self-acceptance. Based my own experience, here are some mistakes to avoid if you’re raising an introvert

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9 Mistakes Parents Make With Their Introverted Children

1. They introduce them as “quiet” or “shy.”  

Introducing children as “quiet” or “shy” can have a significant impact on them. These seemingly small adjectives can affect their confidence and contribute to social anxiety. I know this firsthand. For years, my anxiety hindered me in situations like dates or job interviews.

Children often identify with their parents’ perceptions of them from a young age. Therefore, embracing your child as they are is crucial. If someone points out your daughter’s quietness, say something like, “She speaks when she feels like it.” This response avoids making a big deal about her silence, and she’ll take note of that.

2. They compare them to extroverts.

Comparing your children to others, whether it’s siblings or peers in the neighborhood, is always a mistake. This can hurt their ego and self-esteem. Remember, no two children are alike, especially when your child is an introvert surrounded by extroverts.

Growing up, I felt inferior when my parents compared me to my confident and extroverted sister. Although unintentional, the hurtful impact was (and still is) there, as I felt pressured to be more like her.

As a parent, it’s essential to understand and appreciate your introverted child without comparing them to extroverts. Your child doesn’t need to be like Jack or anyone else; they are perfect just as they are.

3. They shame them and make them feel inferior for being “different.”

Shaming a child for being “different,” whether they are introverted, extroverted, neurodivergent, or otherwise, is one of the worst mistakes any parent can make. Your introverted child might not be the most outgoing or popular at school, but that’s perfectly okay.

Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed parents publicly mocking their children, saying things like, “Stop being so antisocial,” or “Why do you hang out at home all the time instead of going out like other kids?” The child might laugh it off or show no reaction, but such remarks can leave a lasting scar, according to one pediatrician. “When the people you love the most, and whose opinion matters most, say bad things about you, it can be more than hurtful — it can affect your self-esteem in ways that can become ingrained and permanent,” writes Dr. Claire McCarthy.

Rather than shaming or embarrassing your introverted child, practice empathy. Understand that their personality might differ from yours or from other children’s, and recognize that this is completely normal and acceptable.

4. They don’t really understand introversion.

Even if you think you know your child well, you might not fully understand introversion. An introvert’s mind is wired differently, and their behavior might seem foreign to you at times. For instance, while you may enjoy having friends over every weekend, your child might prefer staying in their room, engaged in solitary activities like reading or playing video games. (You can read about the science behind why introverts love alone time here.)

My advice is to educate yourself about introversion. Continue to learn about your child’s unique characteristics and focus on these rather than what you perceive as negatives, such as their lesser desire for socializing. The more you provide a nurturing environment, the more they will thrive and feel comfortable in their own skin. (Speaking of, here’s how you can help introverted kids feel more comfortable in their own skin.)

5. They don’t teach their child what it means to be an introvert.

Help your child make sense of their introverted nature. Teach them that it’s okay to need alone time after a busy day at school or attending a social event like a birthday party. Help them recognize signs of tiredness and overwhelm, and what to do when they feel this way. Don’t leave them to fumble their way through these challenges on their own.

Also, show them how they can maximize their potential. Highlight their strengths, such as their exceptional focus and task completion skills, their natural ability to listen, their inherent creativity, and their contentment with solo activities and self-entertainment.

6. They don’t encourage their creativity.

Many introverts are highly sensitive people who experience deep and intense emotions and are often naturally creative. Therefore, if your young introvert prefers to spend the weekend painting in their room, mixing music, or writing short stories, encourage these activities. Forcing them to be more social can be restrictive in many ways, such as such as stifling their creativity, causing stress or anxiety, and making them feel misunderstood or pressured. Instead, consider joining them in their creative pursuits (unless they prefer some alone time).

7. They force them to be more outgoing.

It’s natural for a parent to want their child to have friends, be social, and join group activities like sports teams. However, for an introverted child, these things may be hard because they find large groups overwhelming.

While you can encourage them, avoid forcing them. Don’t say things like, “Why can’t you make friends?” or “You have to join the baseball team.” Instead, introduce them to sports or activities that might suit them better, like swimming or tennis. These can be more enjoyable for kids who prefer doing things on their own or in smaller groups. Show them how fun and rewarding these activities can be, without focusing too much on competition.

This approach respects your introverted child’s comfort zone. Remember, it’s about quality, not quantity when it comes to friendships. If they have one or two close friends, that’s perfectly fine. You might suggest having a friend over for a playdate or dinner, but don’t pressure them to make a bunch of friends if they don’t want to.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

8. They don’t spend enough quality time with them.

For parents, life gets harder after having a child, because you have more responsibilities and little time for yourself. However, it’s important not to let this prevent you from spending quality time with your children, as their well-being depends on it.

This doesn’t mean you need to be with them constantly. Your introverted child likely enjoys having plenty of alone time. But when you are with them, ensure you are fully present.

Show curiosity about their interests. Accept, encourage, and embrace these interests. Be a great listener, just as they often are. Encourage meaningful conversation by asking open-ended questions like, “What was the most interesting part of your book?” or “How did you solve this level in your game?” While introverts might shy away from small talk, they often relish conversations about topics they’re passionate about.

9. They’re overprotective. 

Balance is key in everything. It’s important to respect their needs, like when they feel tired or overwhelmed around too many kids and want to go home. But it’s also important to avoid being too overprotective.

Some well-meaning parents build a shield around their child. However, it’s important to lower that shield sometimes and allow your child to handle their own challenges. Practice this by letting your child indicate when they’re ready to leave a situation, rather than assuming they want to leave as soon as the room gets crowded.

Or, let them choose whether to participate in group activities, instead of automatically declining on their behalf, believing they would prefer not to join. This approach empowers them to make their own decisions and understand their comfort levels.

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