Introverts have some basic rules. If you understand what they are, parenting them will go much smoother!
Parenting an introverted child can be confusing if you’re not an introvert yourself. You may not even realize what you’re doing wrong. Why is she (or he) so upset? What did I do?
The truth is, all introverts have some basic rules. If you understand what they are, parenting them will go much smoother!
Especially if you’re an extrovert, your introverted child might completely baffle you. I’ve worked with parents who’ve said things such as, “We are so outgoing. How did we have such an introverted child?” and “What should we do to help her?”
For starters, she doesn’t need help. At least not for being an introverted child. Being an introvert isn’t a problem in and of itself. We are all wired differently. Some of us get energized being around others, and some of us get depleted. Many of us understand these types of kids because we are introverts ourselves.
The bigger problem emerges when extroverted parents don’t understand their introverted child. When you birth a child who is wired completely differently than you, parenting can become a struggle.
To give you a quick cheat sheet, here are 15 things you should never do to your introverted children.
Never Do These Things to Your Introverted Child
1. Embarrass them on purpose
Some parents have a jokey personality. They like to tease and poke fun at their kids. They aren’t doing it to be mean — they’re doing it to be funny. It’s never a good idea to embarrass any child, but for introverted kids, this is even more true. Unfortunately, your introvert might completely miss the humor in this type of interaction. Or worse, it has the potential to make her resent you.
2. Force them to have discussions with others
I get it — you want your children to be social. You want them to talk. But forcing them to talk with others isn’t going to work. An introverted child needs to feel comfortable in order to open up. If he is pushed into talking too soon, he may withdraw completely. Help your child to step out of his comfort zone occasionally, but also respect his need to go slow in new social situations.
3. Orchestrate social interactions
Maybe you see another quiet kid on the playground. You think this is your time to help your child make friends. You call the kid over. Introduce the other child to your daughter. You wind up talking for your daughter, and the conversation goes south quickly.
There is nothing wrong with helping your child jump-start a social interaction, but know when to back off and let the conversation naturally flourish or die a quick death.
4. Make fun of them in front of others
Similar to #1, there is only one thing worse than making fun of an introverted child — and that is making fun of him in front of other people. Introverted kids can be highly self-conscious and more likely than extroverts to get embarrassed over things you might think are no big deal.
5. Put them on the spot in front of others
Did your child forget to do a chore? Did she say thank you too quietly or not at all? Again, putting your child on the spot and scolding her in front of others will just make her want to curl up and die. There will be no learning curve in these moments. If you want to correct her behavior, address it after the audience has left.
6. Ask them to perform in front of other people
Maybe your daughter has the most beautiful voice or your son tells the funniest jokes. Most introverts don’t want to be on stage (at least not without advanced warning) and do not appreciate an unwanted spotlight on them. Avoid putting them on display and spontaneously asking them to perform for others. You might think it’s cute, but most likely they will not.
7. Talk for them (when they do not want you to)
Maybe people ask your child a question, and you, meaning well, are quick to answer for him. He’s just too quiet. He’s just too shy. He just won’t answer quickly enough. Rather than jumping in and taking over the conversation, give your child some space to talk for himself. Introverts need opportunities to get comfortable speaking to others, but they won’t get them if someone is always doing it for them.
8. Over-schedule them
These days, many kids are over-scheduled, but some kids actually flourish with an abundance of activities. Not so for the introverted kid. In general, an introverted child needs more downtime than an extroverted child. He will get overwhelmed with too much stimulation and need to recharge at home.
9. Plan back-to-back activities with no downtime
If you have a busy day, be sure to plan some downtime between activities. Think of your introvert’s social energy as a battery. Every time she is out, her battery is getting depleted. Your home is the charging station. Just like adult introverts, an introverted kid needs to be recharged frequently.
10. Force them to go outside and play when they want to recharge inside
A seven-hour school day can be completely exhausting for an introverted child. He might want to come home and just collapse. You might feel uncomfortable with your child just sitting on the couch or lying on his bed reading. However, that might be just what your child needs after a long school day.
11. Belittle their quiet demeanor
The worst thing a parent can do is demean their child for being an introvert. I witness this all the time, and it makes me cringe. Telling your child, “Stop being so quiet” or “Just go up and talk to them!” doesn’t help and will only make her want to withdraw even further.
12. Consider them rude when they have a hard time saying hi to acquaintances
An introverted child may have a hard time saying hi to acquaintances. People might walk past him, and he might ignore their greetings. He’s not being rude. Introverts can have a hard time being friendly to acquaintances. Instead of scolding them, teach them that a nod or a smile would be the polite thing to do.
13. Be loud and draw attention to yourself when you’re around their peers
An introverted child can be acutely self-conscious around others. When you are loud and rambunctious around their peers, that might absolutely mortify them. (I mean, is there any kid who likes this?)
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14. Ask their peers questions
All kids are on high alert around their peers, but this is even more true of an introverted kid. When you swoop in and start asking her friends questions, this can be unnerving for your child. She might worry about what you might say or do. You might be thinking, What could I possibly say that would be embarrassing? But remember, your idea of what is embarrassing and her idea of what is embarrassing are two completely different things.
15. Disclose personal information in front of other people
You might think it’s no big deal to talk about the silly things your child did as a baby or what cute mistakes he made when he was younger. But to the introverted child, this can feel like ridicule. Even the most mundane facts about an introverted children can be perceived as personal and private information to them.
Not all extroverted parents do these things to their introverted kids, and you don’t have to be an introvert to successfully parent an introverted child. Taking the time to read your child’s cues and respect his or her boundaries will go a long way. Even if you don’t understand why introverted kids get embarrassed so easily or why they don’t talk as freely, respect their feelings. This is huge!
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A version of this article was originally published on my blog, AnxiousToddlers.com.