Is Your Shy Child an Introvert? 

by | Jan 20, 2022 | Family, Learning, Parenting with Purpose, School

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A Book Review

quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that can't stop talking.  book cover

Is your child an introvert? Are they shy? Do they like to play alone? Being an introvert, or a shy child, can be tough in a world that seems dominated by extroverts. 

Parenting your shy child, or introvert, can be challenging. But help is out there for you. “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain is a great read! This book gives introverts permission to be themselves. Especially in a world where you feel like you need to be an extrovert to do well or be liked. 

Shy or Introverted?

One word that is commonly used to describe introverts is shy. That is not necessarily accurate, but it is not a bad trait either. Shy people are usually more comfortable talking with just one person at a time. Having the skills to converse with one person is important to be successful. 

Susan Cain explains that according to psychologists introverts and extroverts differ in the level of outside stimulation they need. Introverts are good with less stimulation. Extroverts thrive on meeting new people and being with a large group. This is just the beginning of the differences between the two personalities.

According to Cain, one-third to one-half of Americans are introverts. Given that statistic, knowing how to parent introverts and your shy child is especially important. Parents who are extroverts are especially challenged to find the right skills to encourage their child’s socialization. The first step is to recognize your child’s innate personality. 

Introvert or Extrovert?

To correctly identify your shy child or introvert, you’ll need to understand some of the qualities of each of these personalities. We’ll start with the qualities of an extrovert. 

Life of the party– Extroverts tend to be more talkative. They want to be with people and enjoy having a lot of friends and/or family around. They like to create social fun. Extroverts often like to be the center of attention. They are comfortable with being the star of the show. 

Laugh loud– Many extroverts have distinct laughs. Their laughter is often contagious. Extroverts enjoy making other people happy and laughter is a good indicator of happiness. 

Make fast decisions – Extroverts often don’t hesitate when decisions need to be made. This can be a positive or negative skill, depending on their job. They are usually quick decision makers but sometimes don’t take time to think things through. 

Risk-taking– Extroverts are more often comfortable with taking risks. They are apt to try new things quickly. Their risk taking also means they are more willing to meet new people in social settings. 

Prefer talking vs listening– Extroverts are willing to share about their lives easily. They are comfortable talking about themselves, but not always as good about asking about others. 

Shy Child or Introvert

Many positive qualities make up the personalities of a shy child or introverts. These qualities can be overlooked in an extroverted world. But rather than trying to encourage your introvert to become more outgoing, try to understand and value their great qualities. 

Good listening skills- Introverts tend to be patient. They would rather hear from others than share their own story. Introverts ask a lot of questions if they are interested, if they are not as interested they just listen. But they do participate more in the conversation when it is about problem solving. That is when the introvert is more apt to ask questions. 

Qualities of Introverts

Do not like small talk- Introverts would rather just listen. They may choose not to participate but they don’t feel left out. Others feel like they should be drawn into the conversation but the shy child would rather not. An introvert may try to escape social situations through reading books or screen time. 

Devote time to close friends– Introverts usually have a small group of friends. They do not need many and are very happy with their limited circle of friends. They just need a few.

Leaders– Introverts lead differently than extroverts. They use their patience and listening skills as positive skills. They often want decisions to be correct the first time. This is partly because of being risk adverse. It could also be a sign of perfectionism

Creators– Introverts and your shy child may prefer to work independently on projects. They are less comfortable working in a group. 

Deep thinkers– Introverts use their good listening skills to develops their ability to think deeply. They can be valuable members of a team, especially when the team leader recognizes their skills. 

Build strong relationships– Because introverts are more comfortable with small groups their relationships tend to be strong. Introverts put a lot of time into their friendships. The payoff is strong lasting friendships.  

Introverts prefer to observe, think and take things slower. They may not speak up a lot or be assertive and prefer quietness. They prefer to work independently in solitude. This does not mean they do this all the time, but these are activities or traits that help them to recharge throughout the day. Do you recognize your child? 

So, what if you think your child is an introvert?  Celebrate it! It is about helping your child thrive in an environment that fits with their strengths. 

School Struggles

Schools are mainly set up for extroverts. At school there are many children together. Many subjects require group work on a daily basis. This can be overwhelming for an introvert. Be an advocate for your child by allowing them to work independently and seeking solitude. Talk to your child’s teachers about their strengths and introversion. Let them know they often prefer to listen and observe rather than actively participate.

Girl in window reading a book shy child introvert

Comments made from teachers:

  • They are shy.
  • I wish they would talk more.
  • I wish they would participate more.

Strengths of introverts (use these to help the teacher better understand your child)

  • Thinkers
  • Strategizers
  • Complex problems solvers
  • Prefer lectures
  • Need downtime
  • Excel at independent projects

Five tips to help your child

Some children prefer to play alone, read a lot and maybe only have one or two friends. That is okay. It is more difficult for parents when their child prefers those things than it is for the child. 

Recognizing what and when your child is happy is more important for them than having a large friend group or being involved in a lot of activities. Do what works for your child to be happy. Play into their strengths when they are children because when they get older they will have more opportunities to explore the things they like to do being an introvert.

1.       Expose your child to social situations: do not force them to do too much, but small steps. Parents want their kids to have a lot of friends, as if that gives their life value. Introverts don’t want that and often parents wonder what is wrong with their child. Your reaction may put guilt or shame on your child. 

2.       Do not call your child shy. Putting labels on your kids is always detrimental. Help your child to understand their shyness and to appreciate the qualities that come with being an introvert. Praise their patience. Ask them to make decisions and give them time to think about their choices. Set up social situations that allow them to be comfortable with their small group of friends. 

3.       Be a role model. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Help your child to see the qualities of both personalities. Help them to embrace their skills. 

4.       Talk in advance about what to expect when going to a social situation. In everyone’s life, extrovert and introvert, there will be difficult social settings. Be proactive in helping your shy child to prepare for ways to handle those overwhelming situations. 

5.       Patience. Give them time to process their thinking. Be understanding and supportive, especially if you are an extrovert! 

Is your Shy child an introvert?

by Dr. Kim Grengs, Ed.D., Parent Coach

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