Understanding Extroverts and Introverts

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

~Aristotle

At a recent parenting class I was teaching a mom shared the following with our group:  Many of my son’s friends have play dates right after school but my son usually just wants to come home.  The few play dates we’ve had ended with my son melting down.  He loves his friends so I don’t understand why he has such a rough time getting along with them after school. 

extroverts and introvertsMany parents could relate to her comment which really speaks to how children have different ways of replenishing their energy throughout the day.  All of us, including kids, tend to be more of an extrovert or an introvert.  Understanding whether your child leans towards extroversion or introversion will give you insight as to how to meet your child’s energy needs throughout the day.  When kids’ energy is consistently replenished throughout the day they tend to be calmer, get along better with others and are just generally more easy going.  In contrast, when energy becomes depleted, kids are prone to more meltdowns and conflicts and are easily frustrated.

Introverts need rest from outside activities throughout the day in order to replenish their energy.  A full day of school can be exhausting for an introvert.  Afterwards, he refreshes by having some quiet time and space.  If he gets the down time he needs after school to recharge, he will have an easier time engaging with others later in the day.  As the parent in our group witnessed, if the child doesn’t get quiet time between activities his energy will be sapped and play dates won’t go as smoothly.

Kids who easily go from school to play dates to gymnastics class are most likely extroverts.  Unlike introverts, extroverts get their energy by being around others.  If extroverts do not have the opportunity to engage with others, they become drained and irritable.  In other words, an introverted child might have a perfectly pleasant time spending the day at home doing crafts, reading and just having some quiet time to play.  An extrovert might be bouncing off the walls if not given the chance to talk and express themselves with others.

It’s important to note that children and adults can have both extrovert and introvert tendencies, but we generally prefer one over the other.  As parents, we need to recognize both our child’s and our own preferences so that we can work to keep both of our energy levels up throughout the day.  If you happen to be an extrovert and your child is an introvert you can make a phone call to a friend and refuel by engaging with someone at times when your child is in need of down time and space.

Our society often sends subtle messages that being an extrovert is ideal.  But, the truth is that both extroverts and introverts have a wealth of positive qualities.  The key is to tap into and honor our children’s specific temperament and help them recognize the great gifts they possess by being exactly who they are.  When we do this, our children will embrace their true nature and begin to recognize and cultivate their unique strengths and talents.

If you would like to read more about how to support an introverted child, two of my favorite books are The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child: Helping Your Child Thrive in an Extroverted World by Marti Olsen Laney and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

“Isn’t it refreshing to know that what comes perfectly natural for you is your greatest strength? Your power is in your nature.”

~Laurie Helgoe

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Posted in Children, Emotions, Family, Parenting, Temperament