As a parent, you’re always looking for little clues that reveal your child’s personality. Do they naturally have a sense of humor, or are they more serious? Are they a daredevil, or do they play it safe?
Are they an introvert or an extrovert?
According to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney in The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child, temperament is hard-wired, meaning, babies are born as either introverts or extroverts. Children begin to show signs of their temperament as early as four months of age. Here are nine clues that your young child might be an introvert.
Not sure what an introvert is? Check out our definition of introversion to be sure.
Signs Your Child Might Be an Introvert
1. They are curious about the world around them but cautious about exploring it.
Many introverts have sharp minds and are naturally curious. They wonder how the world works or what makes a person tick. They are not afraid of the big questions, as they are on a quest to understand why.
But introverts also tend to be observers, preferring to watch and reflect rather than jump in and do. Your child might be an introvert if they hang out on the edge of the play group, preferring to watch for a while before joining in. Generally, introverted children play it safe rather than take risks. They look before they leap and think before they speak.
2. They are sensitive to their environment.
As a baby, they cried or thrashed their arms and legs when they were in places where there was a lot of noise, activity, or novelty. In 2004, Harvard psychologists Jerome Kagan and Nancy Snidman found that babies who are very reactive to unfamiliar stimuli tend to grow up to be shy or timid adults. As your child gets older, they may shut down, cling to a “safe” person, or have meltdowns in the face of crowds, new people or situations, or busy environments. Compared to extroverts, introverts are more easily drained by stimulation.
3. They had a low birth weight or were born pre-term.
A study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood – Fetal & Neonatal Edition found that babies born low-weight or pre-term are more likely to be introverts as adults.
4. They clam up when meeting someone new but come alive at home.
Around an unfamiliar person, they avoid eye contact and go quiet. That’s because introverts are private by nature, and they often need time to warm up to new people; your child is no exception. However, at home, where they feel more comfortable, they won’t hesitate to tell you a story or be silly.
5. They easily become absorbed in solo play.
Many introverted children have a strong imagination and a rich inner world that is alive and present for them. If your baby spends hours lost in focused play with a certain toy, they might be an introvert. Older children will spend time in their bedrooms with the door closed, doing solitary activities like reading, drawing, or playing computer games.
6. They need a break after a play date or a busy day.
Introverts get easily drained by socializing and need downtime to recharge their energy. When your kid spends time with other children, notice how they react. Do they seem tired, cranky, overwhelmed, or zoned out after a play date — even if they had fun? If so, they might be an introvert. Similarly, they may throw a tantrum if they’ve had a very busy day with no breaks.
7. They engage with the deeper aspects of life.
They may ask profound questions that surprise you. They may have insights that go beyond their years. Astonishingly, even at a young age, many introverted children can step outside themselves and reflect on their own behavior.
8. They struggle to express their thoughts or feelings.
By definition, introverts are inward personalities. They tend to struggle with word retrieval, because, according to Laney, they may rely more on long-term memory than short-term memory. When speaking, your child may pause frequently, searching for the right word. They may get frustrated because they feel like they can’t express exactly what they mean.
9. They rely on their inner resources.
Generally, introverted children rely on their inner resources to guide them rather than constantly turning to others. “In their private garden away from the material world they concentrate and puzzle out complex and intricate thoughts and feelings,” writes Laney. The upside is they tend to be independent and self-directed. The downside is they may not ask for help, even when they would benefit from some adult guidance.
Introversion is genetic, and introverts will stay introverts for life. This means your child will always have a preference for calm, minimally stimulating environments (and ample alone time).
However, as the parent, you play a huge role in shaping your child’s personality — and science backs this up. Kagan and Snidman found that parents who were protective of timid children strengthened their shyness. However, when parents encouraged some sociability and boldness, the children became teenagers who showed less inhibition than their more fearful counterparts.
If you’re raising an introverted child, celebrate their quiet ways. Teach them to manage their energy and not feel guilty about needing time alone. And, help them gently push their boundaries. The world could use a little more of what they have to give.
More Parenting Resources
- What Are Introverts Like as Children? 7 Characteristics
- Help for Introverted Moms Dealing With Postpartum Depression
- How to Survive Being a New Mom When You’re an Introvert
- 7 Things Your Highly Sensitive Child Needs to Hear
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