Ever wished your children would be more spontaneous and outgoing or tried to get them to talk to strangers? Extroverted parents can inadvertently make life very difficult for their introverted children. We are all unique – we are born with a specific type of emotional character that may be extrovert or introvert. Introverted children are not just ‘shy’ as uninformed parents often claim, (they do not suffer anxiety as a shy person does), they are simply wired differently from the extrovert but have their own strengths and abilities that to be nurtured and developed.
Why extroverted parents have problems with introverted kids
Parenting an introverted teenager can be utterly bewildering to extroverted parents, who cannot understand why their child is so quiet and different. Introverts are born that way and basically get their energy by focusing inside themselves and needs alone time to rrecharge their batteries, whilst extroverts will seek stimulation and energy by being with others. We live in a society geared towards extroversion – and unfortunately, a lot of perceived success is based on self-promotion and being ‘visible’ and ‘heard’.
Extroverted parents need lots of stimulating activities, plenty of social interaction and big gatherings; whilst their introverted children need exactly the opposite – it is a recipe for disaster unless you learn to compromise and plan to accommodate both personality types. Parenting an introverted teenager for an extroverted parent can be quite a challenge.
Having introverted twins makes for a very interesting time, as they naturally shy away from socializing, but being part of a set of twins set them up for intense social scrutiny – ‘ah! Look! It’s twins!’ – and you have to learn how to cope with their special types of interactions.
How do introverted kids interact with each other
You may feel like your twins are living in a world of their own – both being introverted, and twins naturally being drawn to each other, will have them figure out a way to interact with each other. Introverts are often awkward around other introverts and time together can quickly become just silence. However, introverted kids understand each other’s social rules. They are more likely to respect each other’s space, but social awkwardness may also lead to unintended slights that can leave them angry at each other.
Encourage them both to develop their own space, their own interests and to vocalize their needs.
Understanding introverted teenage daughters and sons is difficult for extroverted parents. In a world which seems to value only extroverts, it can be challenging to carve their own paths.
How to help your kids thrive in an extroverted world
- Positive reinforcement – You cannot change your children into extroverts, but you can help them cope
- with the world by giving them lots of positive reinforcement and strengthening their coping skills.
- No teasing – Teasing them about being quiet is just about the worst thing you can do – they will already
- feel left out in a world sporting 70% extroverted individuals whose strengths are valued and lauded, but
- also on ‘display’ because there are two of them.
- Sense of self and resilience – Honor your children’s uniqueness and embrace their special qualities. Your
- children may be highly sensitive, but if you provide the right environment and encouragement, they can
- build up a great sense of self and develop resilience against the onslaught of a noisy world.
Help them vocalize when they need a break – Help your children to vocalize their needs, especially when a break is needed. This will prevent melt-downs or the child shutting down completely and make them feel empowered and in control of their lives. Introverted children can become drained by socializing very quickly, and whilst an older child can easily excuse themselves to a quieter place, you may need to assist the younger ones by watching for signs of fatigue.
Nurture their passions and things that enthuse them – Introverts are great problem-solvers, visually creative, good at comparing and contrasting, and are passionate lifelong learners. Solitude is a crucial component for innovation. Provide reading material that will stretch their minds, ask ‘what else’ often, play creative games and puzzles. Let them make things for themselves, like a fort in a box or a tent from old sheets. Praise efforts to innovate. Encourage them to find creative outlets like art, or chess, or science club – whatever they show an interest in. Remember they may be twins but they will have different interests!
Ease up on social matters but encourage pushing beyond the comfort zone – they will typically have only one or two close friends but will form very strong friendships. Do not try and force them to join clubs or activities they have no interest in. Twins are normally very close, so watch that one does not make friends and the other not. However, you do need to help them push their boundaries and cope better in social situations, by gently easing them into it. Don’t avoid social activity, they need to be exposed to situations outside of their comfort zone but plan it properly and proceed thoughtfully. Arrive early, so they can assess the situation and settle down, let them stand to the side and observe first, next to you, until they feel safe enough to move forward. Respect your children’s limits – but don’t coddle and allow them to opt out of participating in the activity.
Teach them courage to face adversity – As they are highly sensitive and not keen to share emotions, it may be hard to know when your child is struggling, so you need to be proactive by teaching them that problems are part of life. One of the twins may take longer than the other to open up.
Build quiet time into their day – Be careful when planning your day so that you can build in downtime. This could be difficult with your schedule and those of the other kids.
Activities – Be considerate in planning activities for them as they will be much better suited to individual sport such as swimming.
Praise them for taking risks – so that they will eventually learn to self-regulate their wariness. Say something like: ‘I saw you helping that girl in the playground this morning even though it must have been hard for you. I am so proud of you.’
How to teach them to protect each other
Loyalty is a very important quality for the introvert, they form very deep bonds and will protect their friends valiantly. Being twins will already bond them on a deeper level than most siblings, so encourage them to protect each other from a noisy world.
They may not be keen to speak up in awkward situations, so you need to teach them how. One of the most important aspects of raising introverted children is to make sure they have a private space where they can withdraw to when needing to recharge. Twins will most likely share a room – if they do not have their own room, create a private reading nook somewhere in the house, and make sure that space is respected.
Teach the twins from a young age to respect each other’s personal space and differences in beliefs and opinions.
How to resolve conflicts between extroverted parent
Prevent conflicts between extroverted parents and introverted children first
- Share your differences with your children – It will help your children to understand why they are different from the rest of the family.
- Providing enough time and planning so as not to rush them
- The slightest reference to one of them being quiet may be conceived as criticism – a jokey parent may say something like ‘come on, go over and talk to that little girl, she won’t bite you’ not meaning any harm, but it can have major consequences for your child.
- Don’t tell funny stories about the children in company, it will be seen as belittling.
- Build up their self-confidence by honoring their strengths and not discussing their differences in public.
- Do not crack jokes about them being ‘double trouble’!
Resolve conflicts by
- Encouraging the child to explain what upset them in the first place
- Apologizing if you did something to upset them
- Relooking at your schedules to make sure there is enough recharge-time for the introverts
- Getting help with babysitting so that you can get out and socialize without upsetting them. Blow off some steam so that you can be more patient.
How not to scare your kids with your emotions?
Introverted children can be highly sensitive and very self-conscious around other people. Do not engage in the following activities in front of your introverted twins as it will mortify and scare them:
- Being loud and rambunctious
- Drawing attention to yourself
- Arguing in public
- Embarrassing them in front of peers
- Asking their friends or peers lots of questions (you may think it is normal, they hate it!)
- Teasing or joking about them being ‘quiet’
- Disclosing personal information to others
- Scolding them for being rude in public – rather teach them to nod or smile if they cannot say hi
- Making them interact with or perform for strangers or groups of people because it pleases you
A relaxed and attentive parent with oodles of patience is the best gift you can give your introverted children. Slow down the pace and relax – remember to smell the roses. Help your children to experience the world in a way that makes sense and provide empathy and understanding – it will be good for your whole family!