Blessing Your Introverted Child

tears

In my continuing quest to make the world safe for Introverts, I’d like to turn the spotlight on our kids. Introverted kids are virtually a persecuted minority. Extrovert bullies sniff them out and unleash their torpedoes of nastiness, leaving the young introvert tongue-tied and humiliated. Unless an introverted child has exceptionally understanding and observant parents, that kids is doomed to grow up feeling like a freak. The fact that most parents, statistically, are extroverts, only compounds the problem. If your child seems “different,” before you pack him/her off to the therapist, please consider the possibility that you have been blessed with a wonderfully creative, smart, funny introverted kid.

Here are some pointers to create an environment of blessing in which they can flourish.

1. Never label your kid as SHY.

I’ve seen it happen so many times, it breaks my heart. “This is my little girl, Aquanetta.” [Girl hides behind mom.] “Yeah, she’s SHY shy shy shy shy shy shy shy.”

Shut up, in Christian love. Never let the S-word cross your lips again with regard to your child, in public or in private. Don’t even think it. You are wrong.

Introverted does not mean shy. It means relationally cautious. And for good reason. After all, extroverts have no clue how they suck the life out of introverts, and it pays to keep the shields up until a stranger is proven safe.

For the introvert, SAFE = FAMILIAR. This is the Introvert’s Prime Directive.

Wise parents create all kinds of time and space for their introverted kids to grow familiar and comfortable with their surroundings and the people around them. Back off. No pressure. Your kid is fine. Don’t treat him as a walking personality defect.

2. Never PUSH your kid to be first. 

The drama teacher asks for a volunteer, and extroverted mom is there, nudging her kid in the side, saying, “Raise your hand, raise your hand, raise your hand.”

And so another piece of your child’s soul drops into an abyss, never to be seen again.

Back off. Let your kid observe exactly how this teacher handles volunteers. Remember the Prime Directive. Once your son sees how the other kids kick the soccer ball around the cone, he’ll be happy to jump in. The name of the game is OBSERVATION WITHOUT PRESSURE. It is okay to encourage your introverted kids to get out of their comfort zones, especially as they grow older, but otherwise, you need to celebrate their hard-wiring, not treat it as a problem to be fixed.

3. Honor the SOLITUDE.

Dear Extroverted Mom and Dad… school and sports wear your kid out emotionally. The only way introverted kids can recharge their batteries is in a private space, alone, with books and/or art supplies, and/or a ball to bounce. It’s okay if they don’t go out and play all the time. It’s okay if they’re not the life of the party. You have to honor your child’s way of being by endorsing their choice to linger on the periphery as long as it takes. Yes, teach social skills. Yes, show how to greet a friend, show them how to invite friends to play. Of course. But don’t forget to give them their quiet space to re-collect the energy they spent dealing with the crowds. And be aware that, to an extrovert, that solitary time seems extraordinarily long. It’s not. It’s okay. Relax. Smile. Support.

[NOTE: if a normally extroverted kid suddenly becomes introverted, find out what happened. Bullying? Loss? Harm? That's not what I'm talking about here, but please do gently explore the cause for the change.]

4. Emphasize INDIVIDUAL sports and NON-COMPETITIVE activities. 

Team sports can be hard, especially on the younger introvert… all crowded together in the scrum. Instead of football, soccer, or baseball, think Tennis, Golf, Swimming, or horseback riding. [In the comments section, I'd love to hear more suggestions...] Try art lessons, music lessons, or a gardening club. I have a friend whose son, an introvert, raises fan-tailed pigeons. Perfect.

Introverts communicate on paper. Through art. Writing. Crafts. Hints. A wise parent gives them supplies, space, and the right to make a mess.

Your child can shine, in public and on the stage eventually, if you work with instead of against their natural bent.

5. Wipe away your DISAPPOINTMENT.

No, your youngster is not the life of the party… not yet at least. No, your introverted child didn’t volunteer to play the lead in the school pageant. Yes, they are sometimes a panic attack just waiting to happen. No, they don’t like the Sunday School class; it’s too big.

BUT you have been gifted with an artistic genius. She will have deep and lasting friendships. Though avoiding small talk like the plague it is, he will learn to function well in society, and grow into a mature, self-assured young man. Introversion is not a problem to be solved. It is a gift from God to be embraced, nurtured, and respected. You are raising tomorrow’s inventors, artists, doctors, lawyers, musicians, authors, and pastors. Your child will form a handful of deep and meaningful friendships. They will go beyond the superficial. They will journey through a vast interior space, and from there give the world beauty and wisdom.

Your child needs approval from you, not the face of chronic disappointment.

Your young introvert needs approval from you, not an endless litany of suggestions.

Your kid needs approval from you, not a subtle message that he’s a freak of nature.

God entrusted you with a great kid. Make sure they feel like the TREASURE FROM HEAVEN they really are. That is job one for the parents of an introverted kid.

======================

I highly recommend Susan Cain’s book, QUIET, if you want to understand more about the beautiful trait called Introversion. Click here to see the book on Amazon. 

======================

Your turn… were you an introverted child? What helped? How was that experience for you? Any tips for parents? 

About these ads

16 thoughts on “Blessing Your Introverted Child

  1. Love this more than words can say.

    Spot on as far as recommendations, speaking as a formerly introverted child myself!

    I would say that a parents natural course of action is to push them when they’re young and then let them make decisions as to what they want to do, but it should be reversed. Let them discover who they are as a young child and when they’re old enough to make decisions, coach them to step outside their comfort zone in order for growth.

  2. My son is an introvert. So am I. This coming school year he will be entering 8th grade. For 8th grade graduation, a speech will be playing for each child as he/she walks to the stage, recorded prior to graduation, in each child’s voice. How do I know this? Because he is already concerned about it, even though 7th grade has not officially ended.

    My son is incredibly intelligent. Knowing this, I suggested another way to look at this project: as an intellectual endeavor. I told him to start watching documentaries, paying attention to the narrator’s voice. Notice the inflections used. Notice the strategic pauses. Pay attention to how words are sometimes a little louder, sometimes a little softer, sometimes come rapidly, sometimes…spaced…out. I asked him, “As a listener, how does this make you feel? Words can affect people. My stomach is so full of butterflies every time I have to go up to speak that I often feel like running to the bathroom rather than taking the stage.” I could see the wheels begin turning in his head, and a smile cross his face, as I promised him we’d work on this to make it something fun to record. Together, just the two of us. I’m pretty sure what he dreaded is now something he looks forward to doing.

    • Just noticed I didn’t complete my thought after asking him how the narrator made him feel, and mentioning the butterflies I get every time I have to speak. My point to him was that I switch my focus from, “Oh my goodness there are a bunch of people looking at me” to “Watch how people respond, remember voice inflections to keep it interesting. Breath and pause, it’s okay for there to be moments of silence. Vary the tempo.” In this way, public speaking becomes an academic endeavor, which the two of us both enjoy, rather than a dreadful experience.

      • Great fathering, Donny. Schools often don’t understand the pressure kids feel with this public activities. Good job helping him frame the public speaking as an academic endeavor. Good job.

    • Love, love this comment and the ability to turn your introverted child’s fear into something he looks forward to. What a great suggestion of how you lived out the author’s suggestion to let introverted children observe first. Thanks for sharing!

      • AND really appreciate the article as well, I should add, as I am re-reading it aloud to my husband regarding our introverted son

  3. I am an introvert. What helped me is coming to Neighborhood Church’s Women’s bible study, services, and also volunteering. This is where I really learned how to have the most rewarding and fulfilling intimate relationship with God, with whom “All things are possible!” and GRACE.
    I agree with Will your advice is”Spot on”.

      • Yes, Princess, thank you for your labor of love and service and patience at our Women’s Bible study :-) From another introvert (and I’m learning that is not a bad word!)

  4. Thank you Dr. Giovannetti for your blog on being an introvert. Most of my life it felt like a curse being an introvert, that I wasn’t like most other people, etc., but I know by the Word of God that I am fearfully and wonderfully made!!

    • I appreciate your kind words. It’s sad to me that anybody would feel “cursed” as an introvert. We have to change that! God made you perfectly! :D

Comments are closed.