You might know about that trick with Mentos and Diet Coke — when you drop the candy in the bottle, you get a splash. Something similar might happen when an extrovert tries to communicate with an introvert. In a situation where the extrovert is the parent and the introvert is the kid:
a) Communication happens rather often, so the misunderstanding rate is high.
b) The one who represents the wiser side of the family is still a kid and often doesn’t know how to deal with communication issues in practice.
c) The extroverted parent may not inherently understand the fact that introverts perceive the world differently due to their nature.
So, when it comes to communication, what are some common mistakes extroverted parents make? Here are four mistakes either I or my close friends have made:
1. Extroverted parents ask, “How was your day at school?” and expect at least a five-minute story but instead receive a quick “okay.” Extroverts, this question may be too abstract for many introverts. Maybe your kid has created a beautiful story in their mind, but they know you want to hear about what happened in the real world. Introverts often don’t know what’s worth mentioning in conversation, so you may have to be more concrete and creative. Try using other questions to ask the same thing, for example, “Did you see your favorite teacher today? How is he?” or “You have so much math homework. Is that okay for you?” However, if you know your kid spent time with friends and definitely has something interesting to talk about but doesn’t want to, don’t force them. Introverted kids may need more privacy — and time to process — than you do.
2. They want to be present in every part of their kid’s life. Extroverts’ lives are usually more homogenous. For example, when it comes to social media, they often befriend friends, teachers, parents, relatives, acquaintances, and even acquaintances’ acquaintances without thinking twice. Introverts, however, usually live in a more segmented world: “home,” “school,” “the hour from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.,” “friends on the Internet,” and so on. So, it’s possible that your kid will get confused — and uncomfortable — when you show up at school among their peers, for example.
You can argue that your presence in all parts of their life is necessary, since there are a lot of dangerous things your kid can be exposed to. No kid is immune to being bullied by classmates, receiving inappropriate messages from Internet perverts, and so on. There are even apps you can use to monitor an iPhone and read your kid’s text messages on iCloud, from any device, like a Parent 007. Well, it’s true that introverted kids are less likely to tell you about their problems than extroverted ones. On the other hand, introverts tend to be less influenced by other people, and they are less likely to fall in with bad company just to feel like they are a part of a community.
Of course, as a parent, you should be involved in your kid’s life. However, introverted kids would appreciate if you get closer in the most unobtrusive way possible: Ask their opinion on certain issues, including those you face at work, for example, or read a book and discuss it together. Make a start and the rest will follow.
3. They force introverted kids to socialize more. Extroverted parents do this because they think, “It’s so boring to be alone,” or “To achieve success in life, you have to be sociable.” However, since brains also contribute to your child’s success, your child will not necessarily fail if they don’t have a raging social life. Introverts often have many natural talents that they can use to build a career. For instance, introverts tend to dig deep and consider all the details. Also, they are usually capable of lateral thinking, which is highly prized not only in creative industries but also in the sciences, programming, and other fields. Even marketing, a field that for decades has been extrovert-oriented at its core, has been seeing a need for more introverts.
4. They try to help by initiating communication between their kid and other people. Yes, it’s true, sometimes introverts want to become friends with someone but cannot make the first step because of a lack of practice or shyness. However, that doesn’t mean your kid wants someone to do it for them. You run the risk of ruining the moment, and you may ultimately discourage your child from meeting new people if you keep stepping in. It would be better if you inspire your kid indirectly — by telling real life stories, so they understand how making friends works and what “algorithms” can be used to get acquainted with someone. Also, keep in mind that due to their uniqueness and mystique, introverts often attract people who are willing to make the first move.
Ultimately, as an extroverted parent, if you can learn to accept your introverted child for who they are, life will be easier. A parent shouldn’t demand a border pass into an introvert’s private space as a payment for everything they have done for the kid. Introverts have a right to be their true selves, to get energy from their own sources, to value things that matter only to them, and to make friends with people they really like. If you learn to appreciate your differences, extroverted parents and introverted kids can complement each other and learn a lot from each other’s perspectives.
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Read this: What Introverts Are Like as Kids