Thoughtful Parenting: Introverts and extroverts

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— Maybe you’ve taken the Myers-Briggs Inventory or heard about introverts and extroverts in passing conversation with friends. Introversion and extroversion are personality traits that are largely based on biology, affect how we behave and can vary depending on a situation. If you feel tired after socializing (or want to avoid it), feel refreshed after being alone, talk after careful reflection and like space, you may be more introverted. Extroverts regularly seek social interactions, readily verbalize thoughts and experiences, feel irritable if alone for too long and want to be around others when upset or excited.

Thoughtful Parenting

This weekly column about parenting issues is written by local early childhood experts. It publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

Kids experience introversion and extroversion, too. Being mindful of your own, and your child’s, introverted and extroverted qualities helps with parenting. If you tend toward extroversion, you may be confused or hurt when your introverted-leaning child is quiet or wants to be alone. If you tend toward introversion, you may feel exhausted by your extroverted-leaning child’s persistent talking and reluctance to give you time alone.

We want to work with children’s natural tendencies, not try to change them. Giving the message that kids should be different than what they are inevitably leads to shame, guilt and low self-esteem.

Here are some ideas:

• Talk about your child’s personality in a positive way. “You really need to talk out your feelings.” “You prefer being alone to think.”

• Help your child get what they need. If she needs time with friends to feel good and less grumpy, schedule play dates or sign up for activities. If he needs time to think before telling you about a stressful experience, give him time and let him know you are available to support him when needed.

• During an emotional or behavioral outburst, consider the emotion your child is experiencing and try an “I wonder” statement. “I wonder if something happened that made you angry.” “I wonder if you were so excited that you forgot to slow down and think carefully.”

• Set limits on aggression. Qualities of introversion and extroversion show up when energy levels are drained or exacerbated. “I wonder if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Maybe some time to yourself would help. You may not hit me. Take some time away, and when you’re ready, we’ll solve the problem together.”

• Talk to your child about others' needs (including your own) for quiet time and reflection or tendencies toward talking, interacting and high energy. Consideration for and understanding these differences is key to children (and adults) respecting and showing empathy toward one another, rather than thinking or saying that something must be really wrong or one quality is better than another. Introverted and extroverted qualities are each important in our society.

To learn more about these ideas, check out “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.

Barbara Gueldner, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Steamboat Springs. She is a member of First Impressions, Routt County’s early childhood council. Read her blog at www.successfulkidstoday.com.

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