When you provide introverted children with a nurturing environment, they’ll become more comfortable in their own skin.
I have felt like an outsider my whole life. As a kid, I used to sit at the corner of the classroom, anxious, and look at all the happy people chatting and playing with each other. I felt bad about myself and as though I didn’t belong, or that there was something wrong with me.
I was that child who needed someone. Someone who could tell him that it’s okay to be the way he is. Someone who could explain to him that people can live a fulfilling, happy, and inspiring life in their own company.
Suffice it to say, it took me years to understand who I am: an introvert.
Even though the term was first coined in the early 20th century, people remained mostly unaware of it and didn’t allow introverts to be themselves. There are still introverts out there who are unhappy with the lives they are leading, who may feel they “should” be more social or outgoing just because that’s what society leads us to believe.
That is why parenting an introverted child — so that they can fully accept themselves just as they are — is so important. Here are some mistakes to avoid making if you’re raising an introvert.
9 Mistakes Parents Make With Their Introverted Children
1. They introduce them as “quiet” or “shy.”
These little adjectives — like “quiet” and “shy” — can have a harsh impact on a child. It can affect their confidence and contribute to their social anxiety (just ask me). For years, I was not able to make the most of situations — like dates or job interviews — because my anxiety would get the best of me.
At a young age, children identify themselves very easily with what their parents feel about them. That is why it is so important to accept your child as-is. If someone asks why your daughter is being so quiet, you can say something like, ”Oh, she only speaks when she feels like it.” This way, you’re not making a big deal about her lack of talking, and she’ll notice.
2. They compare them to other (more talkative) kids.
Comparing your kids to one another — or to others at school or in the neighborhood — is a mistake. This can have a negative impact on their ego and self-esteem. After all, no two children are the same, especially when your child is an introvert in a sea of extroverts.
My parents used to make me feel inferior when my sister was around. They gave her the space to be more confident and made me feel as if I had to be more like her. I believe they did so unintentionally, but the impact was (and still is) always there.
As a parent, you need to understand your introverted child and never make the mistake of comparing them with their extroverted friends or siblings. He does not need to be like Jack or anyone else. He is already perfect the way he is.
3. They shame them and make them feel inferior for being “different.”
This is pretty much the worst mistake any parent can make, shaming their child for being “different.” Sure, they may not be the most outgoing or popular kid in school, but it doesn’t matter. I have even seen a few parents make fun of their children in public for these things. Their child may laugh it off or not react, but it can leave a long-lasting scar.
Instead of shaming or embarrassing your introverted child, try to be more empathetic and understand that their personality may be different than yours — or that of other kids — and there’s nothing wrong with that.
4. They claim to understand them — and what it means to be an introvert.
Even if you think you know your child completely, you may be wrong. Because of the way an introvert’s mind is wired, they may act completely foreign to you at times. While you may like having friends over every weekend — friends who bring their kids over to play with yours — you may find it odd that your child prefers to stay in their room alone instead, reading or playing video games.
My advice? Educate yourself on introversion. Continue to learn about your child’s unique characteristics and focus on those instead of the “negatives” (like the fact that they don’t want to socialize as much as you or other kids). The more you provide them with a nurturing environment and attitude toward their introversion, the more they’ll thrive as an introvert and be comfortable in their skin.
5. They don’t educate their child on what it means to be an introvert.
While it’s important for you to understand introversion, it’s also important for your child to understand it. You can help them understand why they are the way they are and how they can utilize their potential to the fullest — like how they may be very good at focusing and completing tasks, and are great listeners, naturally creative, and happy and content with entertaining themselves and being alone.
So nurture them and help them become the best version of themselves.
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6. They don’t encourage their creativity.
Many introverts feel deeply and are naturally creative. And because they take their time doing things, they give them their all.
So if your young introvert prefers to spend the weekend painting in their room, doing a puzzle, or playing with dolls, let them. When you try to force them to be more social instead, it is restrictive in so many ways. Instead, you may want to join them — that is, unless they want alone time.
7. They try to force them to be more outgoing.
It is natural for a parent to want their child to have friends, be social, and/or join group activities, like sports teams. But for an introverted child, these things may be challenging. So while you can encourage them, don’t force them. Don’t say something like, “Why can’t you make friends?” or “You have to join the baseball team.”
This will only make your introverted child feel worse. And, after all, it’s about quality, not quantity, so if they have a close friend or two, that’s fine. You can suggest that their friend comes over to play or for dinner, but don’t force them to make a bunch of friends if they don’t want to.
And if they prefer hobbies alone or with a friend or two vs. joining a sports team, so be it.
8. They don’t spend enough quality time with them.
Life gets difficult after having a child — not only does it mean many additional responsibilities, but it also impacts a parent’s schedule. But if that means you aren’t able to spend quality time with your children, that affects them (and not for the better).
That doesn’t mean you have to drop everything and be with them all the time. Besides, your introverted child probably likes having plenty of alone time. But whenever you are with them, make sure to be present. Be curious about their interests, accept, encourage, and embrace those interests, and be a great listener (just like they are).
9. They’re overprotective.
Balance is the key to everything. If you understand your introverted child well, then that’s amazing! You are doing a great job. While it’s good to know their limits — like if they’re feeling overwhelmed around too many kids and want to go home — it’s also important not to be too overprotective.
Some parents go out of their way to build a shield in front of their child. But a parent must know when to remove that shield and allow him to fight his own battles. You can practice this by letting your child tell you when they’re ready to go home vs. assuming they want to leave as soon as too many kids enter the room. That way, they’re becoming aware of their limits as an introvert and you’re there if they need you.