Let me ask you a question. Are you ashamed that your child is an introvert?
An honest answer to this question is a positive step toward improving your relationship with your introverted child, now and forever. How can you support your child in finding his or her place in this world if you are secretly disappointed that they aren't something they can never be ... the life of the party!
If you apologize for the fact that your child is introverted, even to yourself, you are not alone. Until very recently, introversion was looked at quite negatively. These are some of the qualities people have historically associated with the word introvert: shy, withdrawn, intense, anti-social, backward, reclusive, depressed and even mentally ill. More recently -- nerd, looser and geek.
It's time for a new look at introversion. It may come as a surprise to you that introverts are a legitimate personality type. Introverts comprise between 10-30% of the population. The problem is that their self image is defined almost exclusively by that other 70% (or more) extroverts who don't understand them and think they are wrong because they are different.
This is like saying a woman is wrong because she is not like a man. We have outgrown this rigid thinking in many areas of our culture, but the area of introversion and extroversion is one of the last frontiers.
As the parent of an introverted child, I hope you will join in the crusade to make sure that these children grow up with an accurate understanding of themselves and a positive sense of self. You can begin the process of building your introverted child's self esteem by learning more about introverts.
Let's look at some of the important characteristics of introverts, especially during the school years.
Introverts are territorial. They require peace, quiet and time alone in order to recharge their batteries. Your child needs a room with a door that closes!
Introverts give energy when they are interacting with others. This means that all those popular, outgoing extroverts take energy from introverts like your child when they are together in groups. Introverts can become drained during a normal school day that requires a good deal of social interaction. They get no personal rewards for this and are often so tired at the end of the day, they want to go to their room with the door shut! Please let them.
Introverts hate small talk. They learn by thinking things over, connecting the dots, reading and writing. Class participation is utterly meaningless to an introvert and an irritant. So is "group work". Nowadays teachers are more aware of children's different learning styles, but if the teacher is behind the times, at least you are there to commiserate with your introverted child when too much class participation is required.
Introverts need time to prepare and are especially mortified at public embarrassment. This means that you will want to "rehearse" your introverted child for major "public appearances" such as family weddings or holiday gatherings where they are required to shake hands and interact with adults. Think of a few appropriate phrases and help your child to rehearse them. This works like a charm!
Introverts have a few very close friends. They aren't interested in joining clubs, learning to dance, getting on the pep squad or other activities which they consider superficial and a waste of time. Please don't send your introverted child out to play with the other kids. Let them go to their room and shut the door!
The good news is that the percentage of introverts increases as you go up the intellectual scale. There are usually more introverts in college, among Phi Beta Kappa students and recipients of Rhodes Scholar awards than their 30% distribution in the population as a whole.
It's important to understand as well how damaging it is for you and other relatives to covertly expect your introverted child to "turn into" an extrovert. This puts an impossible burden on an introverted child and does much to destroy their sense of self worth.
Introversion is a legitimate personality type. Your child couldn't change even they wanted to and many an introverted child has been crushed under this expectation. Instead, learn the positive attributes of introverts and then help your child to learn them as well.
Introverts can focus and concentrate. They are able to tune out distractions. They listen beautifully and remember well.
Introverts have a rich inner world and need not be lonely. Many are content to read for hours and should be allowed, even encouraged, to do so.
Some famous introverts can be used to point out to your child that success is not related to introversion or extroversion but to hard work, learning, preparation and personal achievement. Famous introverts such as Michael Jordan, Queen Elizabeth II, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Warren Buffett and Steven Spielberg prove that introverts make contributions to the world we live in far greater proportion than their numbers.
Speaking of famous introverts, Hans Christian Andersen is an introvert who wrote a story all introverted children should read. There are few who will not relate emotionally to "The Ugly Duckling". Read this story to your child!
There is another thing you can help your introverted child with and that is to acquire enough of a "personality" that they can cope in social situations. A "personality" in this sense is a set of social behaviors that allows them to cope with the minimum societal expectations.
But never expect them to be someting they are not. The great analyst Karl Jung makes it very clear that the way for introverts to win is to become more consciously introverted rather than to try and be something they are not. Every spiritual teaching in the world would agree ... find yourself and be yourself. Your introverted child can do this with your help!
Nancy R. Fenn has been an intuitive counselor and coach for introverts for the past 25 years. She helps introverts identify their strengths and talents. Introverts can succeed in relationships and career by knowing who they are and being true to their inner world.