The key is to give your little extrovert plenty of chances to fly while maintaining your sanity as an introvert.
We’ve already been grocery shopping this morning. We’ve already laid out her birthday party plan. We’ve played with little brother. We’ve made lunch together. We’ve had a picnic in our yard. We’ve had a dance party. We’ve video chatted with friends and family. We’ve done schoolwork together. Yet, as I click on the tea kettle, announcing my need for some downtime, she asks me if she can go to her cousin’s house.
“Nope,” I answer. “I’m kinda done for right now. Maybe tomorrow we can play with him.”
To which she replies by pouting and then asking,
“Can Maga (her name for Grandma) take me to Owen’s house?”
“Sure,” I shrug. “If she’s up for it. Do you wanna call her?”
A few minutes later, Maga has agreed to pick her up and my kiddo lets out a shriek of joy and practically flies to her room to get dressed: sparkly leggings to match her dress and face paint to match both, and of course, her light-up shoes. Then she parks herself next to me at the table and asks, as she bounces up and down:
“Mommy, can I put some cool music on?” Cool music is her term for upbeat, dance-style music.
I roll my eyes without letting her see.
“Sweetie, I just want some quiet. You can play music later when little brother wakes up.”
For the next half hour, she bounces on that seat and waits as patiently as she can. I offer to do something with her to pass the time: color, read a book, work on some math problems. Nope. She’s too excited. Occasionally she gets up and starts twirling and hopping around the living room, letting out high-pitched squeals of delight. She’s going with Grandma, who she sees almost every day, to see her cousins who live just a few minutes away — but she might as well be going to Disney World.
My MIL swings by to pick her up. After waving goodbye, I sit down at the kitchen table and pick up my mug of tea. I let out a contented sigh and lean back in my chair. Peace. I can think. I can hear myself think. I can just be.
Life as an Introverted Mom
This is my life as an introverted mom living with an extroverted child. She seems always ready to meet people, to be the center of attention, to get dressed and go out. I love that about her. I love the way she loves people and her confidence in interacting with kids her own age. She was born that way; I certainly did not have much to do with it. She is my little social butterfly, and I love her for it.
But every day brings a new challenge.
Of course, this was before COVID-19 and the quarantine. This was when I could still plan playdates and go to the library or the park or the movies. Social distancing seemed like a godsend until I realized I was trapped with an extroverted child who only had me as her social interaction.
How to Raise an Extroverted Child
So, here are some things I’m learning about being an introverted mom raising an extroverted child:
1. Understand how their extroversion manifests.
For my daughter, the time spent waiting to attend a social event is an event onto itself. Music is blasting. She’s asking about everyone who will be there. And she’s already planning how she will make her big entrance. I know this now, so instead of getting frustrated, I let her be…in her room…with the door closed.
2. Have a half hour or so every day of uninterrupted time with them doing something they want to do.
Especially now that she has no one else to play with, it’s so important for me to play with her. She needs that social interaction. She needs the back and forth of conversation, eye contact, and feeling heard.
I can see the difference in her attitude and behavior. On days I’m too busy and she’s on the computer a lot, she acts up and acts out. I used to think she was just doing it on purpose, but now I believe it’s her cry for help; her cry for social interaction. On days when we spend a chunk of time playing, doing crafts, baking, or dancing, she is the mellowest kid in the world.
3. Have quiet time every day.
I used to feel guilty about screen time, but now that my kid is too old to nap AND I have a baby, my kid gets to watch a movie or play Minecraft while I read and have a cup of tea. As an introvert, if I don’t have this time every day, I’m the one who starts to act out. I start resenting every little thing the kids do and I find myself yelling more and listening less. My quiet time is my secret weapon to being a better mom and overall human being. And it’s hopefully teaching my kid that even extroverts need some downtime.
4. Celebrate everything!
I’ve learned to just keep birthday candles and sprinkles and ice cream always on hand. We celebrate the end of our work/school week with a special dinner and dessert. We celebrate the beginning of the seasons and every holiday (like National Donut Day!).
There’s something about a big, shared experience that fills my kiddo’s heart. I’m thinking it’s the same reason some people love concerts and night clubs; something about everyone they love together having a good time at the same time.
And it helps me too: Celebrations help me stay focused on all the good things in my life, especially now when there’s so much bad news in the world.
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5. Don’t shame them for being who they are.
I had an extroverted mom who loved me but made me feel bad about being an introvert. She always tried to get me to be less shy and more charming.
(Here are some more things you should never do to an introverted child.)
So from the time my daughter could carry on a conversation, I have tried to explain that some people like Mommy sometimes need quiet to feel better. Some people like her need to be around people and music to feel better. She is free to tell me when she needs to play with someone (it’s usually me these days), and I will tell her when I need quiet.
6. Have something to look forward to.
Especially during quarantine, it’s been nice to look forward to our weekly special dinners. But we also look forward to camp-in nights, Daddy’s crepe nights, and movie nights.
I have learned — at least in the case of my little extrovert — she is not intrinsically motivated to get things done. It seems there must always be a reason for doing the things she considers mundane and boring. For me, I like to get my work done for its own sake; I love the feeling of a finished task. But if I need to get my kid to pick up her toys or do her schoolwork, there needs to be a reward at the end for her. So having special nights or trips or activities to look forward to helps with that.
It’s a Constant Act of Love and Learning
My husband and I knew when my daughter was 6 months old and happy to hang with complete strangers in the church nursery — without so much as a glance back at us — that she was going to have no problem socializing. There are days when I wonder if I’m giving her enough social interaction — especially in the winter or days when I get sick or need to get housework or computer work done. But my part in being her mom has been giving her plenty of chances to fly while keeping my sanity.
I’m praying that she’s learning how to be kinder to the introverts around her. I’m praying that she is seeing that introverts may be quiet but they are also intelligent, talented, strong, creative, and active because she’s watching her mommy be all these things.
I’m also hoping she’s learning to be kind to herself as an extrovert; that there is a place and time to dance and sing and blast music and celebrate life without fear of judgment. It’s a constant balancing act of love and learning — for both of us.
Are you an introvert parenting an extrovert? What works for you? Let me know in the comments below.