Since society seems to favor the extrovert ideal, I want to make sure my child understands that introverts are just as valuable.
A few weeks ago, my five-year-old son asked me to draw him a picture of his “best day ever.”
“Okay,” I offered. “How about a day at the beach?”
I am no artist, but I managed to render a passable image of what I imagined would be his ideal beach day — stick figures of our family of four, our dog, and some of his many preschool friends. Ice cream cones in everyone’s hands, portable speakers, and beach toys abound, too. My son is a total extrovert and I am sure his dream day would include as many stick figure friends and stimulating activities as I could cram into one piece of construction paper.
“Now draw one for me,” I requested.
He grabbed a piece of paper and got scribbling. A minute later, he looked up at me.
“You like to be quiet and alone, right, Mommy? I am going to draw you a picture of you at the beach — by yourself.”
I laughed: My son knows me so well.
Turning Reality Into a Teachable Moment
As an introverted mother of two, a day at the beach — with nothing but a book — sounds like a dream.
But I also knew this was a great teachable moment.
We live in a society that often undervalues introverted traits, and I want to make sure this isn’t the case for my son. This was an opportunity to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions about introverts. It was also a chance to allow me to teach him how I thrive, and how my introvert tendencies are part of what make me his amazing mom.
These are some of the things I want my little extrovert to know about introverts.
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4 Key Things I Am Teaching My Extroverted Child About Introverts
1. They get their energy in different ways.
While anyone who has spent time on social media knows this is one of the big differences between extroverts and introverts, I am the first person to teach this to my son.
After a recent playdate, I asked him how he felt. “Happy and crazy, like I want to play all day and night,” he answered. Besides adding another reason to the list of why I hate playdates, this was a perfect segue to talk about different types of personalities.
I explained that after I have a playdate, I often feel tired and stressed (it’s as though I have an “introvert hangover”). If I want to feel “happy and crazy,” I need to take some time by myself, like by reading a book or going for a walk.
2. They love spending time with those in their “inner circle,” friends and loved ones (especially their kids).
This is an important one. Our extrovert-dominant society tends to depict introverts as grumpy hermits who only want to be alone. As a parent, this is particularly noticeable because children demand so much time from us, so any alone time can be seen as selfish. So it is important that my son knows that isn’t the case for me, or for the other introverts in his life.
As a shy introverted child, I remember feeling left out on the playground because I was not as outgoing as some of the louder, more extroverted kids. I want my son to know that, especially in the case of his young friends, being introverted doesn’t mean someone doesn’t want to join in on the fun. They just may need to be invited to play, more breaks, or a quieter game. I am hoping he is learning to include all of his classmates in ways that are fun for everyone.
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3. Alone time is important — and it isn’t a punishment.
Living in an extrovert family, it is important for me that my kids understand that being alone isn’t a punishment. When things get a bit overwhelming, we tend to avoid time-outs, offering some quiet time/“time-in” instead.
I do my best to offer this without anger, offering my son the opportunity to “take a break” before a situation escalates. There are many reasons I believe this is important, but one of them is for him to see that taking some time by himself is nourishing for his own well-being and for the well-being of all the members of our family.
4. Even extroverts need alone time.
My son has truly been an extrovert since babyhood. At age five, he walks down the street yelling bilingual, “Hello/Salut!” to every stranger we pass on the 15-minute walk to school.
Yet, more and more, I catch him needing his own internal recharge. Especially since his baby sister has become more mobile, I occasionally catch him taking some books and placing himself in the corner to read.
As his mother, I’d grown used to his extroversion, so the first few times he did this, I worried he was sad and tried to coax him out of doing it. But, since then, I’ve realized that he is doing his own inward recharge. Now I just take a moment to highlight it, noting that he seemed to have enjoyed his quiet time reading, so I point out the importance of these moments for everyone.
Creating the ‘Best Day Ever’ for Everyone
These are ongoing lessons, and our picture-drawing session was a great opportunity to reinforce them. I explained to my son that I love spending time with him, as well as with his sister and father. I just have more energy for such activities if I also have time on my own. I reminded him of the playdate analogy to help him understand where my energy comes from.
His little five-year-old face furrowed in concentration as he leaned back over the paper. A few minutes later, he looked up and presented me with my drawing.
“Here you go, Mommy, I drew your best day,” he said as he handed it to me. “Here you are, and you have ice cream and your book. And here we are, on the other side of the beach. When you have enough energy, you can come play with us and share your ice cream.”
I smiled and may have even teared up as I accepted his beautiful picture to hang up on the fridge. That really did sound like the perfect day (minus having to share my ice cream cone with anyone else).
I am glad to know that in a society that so favors extroverts and extroverted tendencies, that at least one little extrovert will know how to include his introverted peers and family members in his “best day ever.”
You might like:
- How I Parent My Introverted Child vs. My Extroverted Child
- The Top 8 Misconceptions About Introverts
- How Not to Overschedule Your Introverted Child
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