Raising an introverted child can be puzzling, particularly for extroverted parents, who can’t fully comprehend the silence, the alienation, and the seeming indifference to many things. What’s making things even more difficult is that today’s world appreciates extroversion much more than introversion. This puts additional pressure on children who feel extremely uncomfortable with assertively showcasing their skills and abilities.

Many parents make the mistake of forcing introverted kids into situations that could favor extroverted persons more, but what they fail to see is that introversion is not something that needs to be “fixed”. Introverted children have their own strengths that should be discovered and nurtured. 

Engaging in sports and active life can be really helpful in this sense, but only when the activities are selected and presented with care and understanding. Here are some tips that will help your introverted child embrace them.


What does being introverted mean?

Before you start offering your children their options for sports, you should try to understand what being an introvert means.

In the 1920s, Carl Jung described an introvert as a person who becomes mentally and physically worn out in social situations. Recent research suggests that the difference between introverts and extroverts lies in the way each group responds to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine energizes the extroverted children, but it overstimulates the introverts. That doesn’t mean the introverted children are never happy. They react better to acetylcholine, which produces positive emotions when you turn inwards.


How can you know if your child is introverted?

Before the age of three, you cannot make the assumption that children are introverted because they’re still developing their character and going through different behavioral stages. When introverts turn three, their reaction to dopamine becomes obvious.

You’ll notice introverted children prefer going to the movies over group activities. They are enthusiastic about reading a book and enjoying a quiet game. They need time alone to recharge their batteries and don’t seek stimulation from others. They are often quiet in bigger groups, they like to observe activities before joining in, they are good listeners, and they select their activities carefully.


The importance of family in the upbringing of an introvert

When parents learn their children are introverts, they often attempt to pressure them and instill the “right” behavior, when they should do just the opposite to avoid instilling an inferiority complex in their kids. Parents need to be supportive, nurture the self-esteem of their children, teach them the beauty of embracing who they are. Otherwise, children will inherently feel forced to pretend to be something they’re not in order to gain their parents’ love and approval.


The benefits of sports for introverts

There are obvious benefits of sports for children’s health, and as parents, it’s natural that you want your kids to participate in healthy activities. Children with poor fitness habits are likely to become obese, develop issues with blood pressure, and experience other health difficulties. They are also more likely to carry bad habits into adulthood.

Sports also play a crucial role in the development of self-esteem and help children learn the values of teamwork, persistence, and self-discipline.


How to introduce your introvert child to sports

As we already mentioned, you’ll cause obvious damage by forcing an introverted child to do something they’re uncomfortable with. The better option is to sit down with them and present all the benefits. You can also choose some specific sport and present its perks to get your child intrigued. You can demonstrate the sport by participating with them so they can immerse themselves in the experience before there’s any talk about teams and coaches. For example, you can try kayaking with your kids in a lake or a river. The boat fits two persons, so they’ll be with someone they know, they will enjoy the solitude of nature, and they will have a new experience they’ll likely appreciate.

The most important thing is to have patience and encourage the kids to pursue an activity they truly enjoy. Present them with options and if they want to, let them observe and try out different activities until they settle for the one they actually like.


Best sports for introverted kids

Introverts most frequently excel at sports that are individual or have less of a social component. 

We’ve already mentioned kayaking but think about other independent sports such as karate, aikido, skateboarding, running, tennis, and archery. While these sports allow more freedom and put less social pressure on kids, they still allow some social benefits. 

The solitary sports can contribute to building confidence, allowing the kids to ease into human interactions. They’ll also probably work more with other children, coaches, and even with their opponents. Another benefit is, of course, improved physical fitness and mental stamina. 


Encourage consistency, but don’t force it

Once the children are enrolled in a sport, they should be encouraged to follow up with training and build a routine. When training becomes a part of their routine, it will feel far less intimidating as they perceive it as a normal part of their lives.

However, if you notice the child is resisting and feels bad while exercising, maybe you should take on a different approach. Maybe that specific activity is not something the kid likes. Maybe the communication with the coach is not great. Take a breather and discuss the possibility of another sport, rather than jumping into a new activity straight away.


If they can do it, you can do it

Idolizing someone is never a good thing, but having a role model, especially in sport, will motivate your child to strive for excellence. 

There are many professional athletes who are introverts. They need their time alone to recharge, and they’ve experienced a personal struggle of learning to function in a team.

For example, Michael Jordan is an introverted person, even though he played a very team-oriented sport. Tyger Woods, who opted for a solitary sport, was often criticized for being a poor team player, but he is actually an introvert. Darrelle Revis is a beast on the field, but outside of games, he shies away from attention. 

Your kid can be one of them. Or not. What’s important is that physical activity is something everyone can enjoy.


The bottom line

Introverted kids shouldn’t be observed as an entirely different “species”. They are children with the same basic needs all children have. They want to have fun. They want to play and experience new things. They need friends. They need to be healthy and active. 

However, they also need their space and their quiet time. Introverts do require a different approach and understanding, especially when it comes to activities that call for participating in social occasions. Helping them embrace sports and active life is a difficult process, but a very rewarding one.



Author's Bio: 

Biologist by day, writer by night, and a huge geek. My fields of expertise could be summed up to health, psychology and lifestyle-related topics.