by The Growing Room
The topic of introversion versus extroversion has received a lot of press over the last few years. Personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Newcastle Personality Assessor, and others have dominated social media and the Internet. Are you an introvert or extravert or a combination of both? What about your children? Many social scientists view these tests as pseudo-science; we may even hold similar views ourselves, yet as we respond to test questions that indicate our social and environmental preferences it does allow space for introspection. As patterns emerge, we may come to recognize dominant traits in our personalities as well of those of close family members. While the tests are not based on hard science, they may reveal interesting insights about the manner in which those closest to us choose to operate in the world. Could these revelations help us better understand and parent our children? The answer is yes.
Parents often marvel at the differences between two siblings raised under the same roof: two different children, two different responses. One loves the hustle and bustle of a busy shopping mall, excited by the visual displays and actively engaging with store clerks and customers. The other child seeks to avoid shopping altogether and quickly tires from the experience. He becomes frazzled by visual and aural stimulation and is annoyed and frustrated by the crowds. Children who are energized by being around people and activity are considered to have extraverted personalities, whereas children who prefer calmer environments and are more introspective in their choices and actions are considered introverted personalities. Personalities can fall anywhere along the continuum from extremely gregarious to intensely introspective and thoughtful. And, while there are no hard and fast rules, if your child exhibits the following traits, they most likely fall into the following trait category.
- derive their energy from being around others.
- prefer people and things over ideas and images.
- feel comfortable in groups and like to work in them.
- have a wide variety of friends and acquaintances.
- tend to jump into new activities quickly.
- are described as “outgoing.”
- become exhausted from social interaction.
- prefer ideas and images over people and things.
- feel comfortable being alone and like to work by themselves.
- have a few close friends that they tend to know well.
- tend to reflect and ponder before starting a new project.
- are described as “introspective.”
What This Means as a Parent: Know Yourself and Your Child
Understanding your children’s and your own environmental preferences has a profound impact in creating the optimal peaceful family life. In revisiting the shopping mall scenario, an extraverted parent may find herself overly frustrated and impatient with what she views as the noncompliant behavior of her overly stimulated introverted child. Conversely, an introverted parent may find himself extremely frazzled and emotionally drained (i.e. impatient or cross) when having to keep up with the demands of an extroverted child that he perceives out of control. Paying attention to how you interact with the world will better assist you in supporting your child’s preferences and needs. An introverted parent may build downtime into her own schedule that will benefit her introverted child, yet not adequately address the needs of her extraverted child. If you are an extraverted parent you may innately understand the social needs of your extraverted child, yet inadvertently neglect the needs of your more introspective child. They key is creating an environment that allows parents to refuel while honoring their children’s needs. Arranging for a playdate or signing up for team sports will help support an introverted parent of an extraverted child. Remembering to allow downtime and alone time in a busy schedule will help an introverted child thrive.
Understanding your child’s temperament and environmental preferences provides valuable insights for a smooth and happy family life. Expecting an extraverted child to remain agreeable in a household void of social interaction is unreasonable and will result in a moody, disagreeable child. Expecting an introverted child to spend extended hours in the company of others is equally unreasonable and will lead to a similar outcome. The concept of extraversion and introversion provides a framework to effectively parent and interact with your child. Remember, a child needs refueling to interact positively with the world. Whether that means alone time or time with others, it is an important part of their emotional and physical health.
Honoring Traits Leads to a Richer Home Life
When parents honor their child’s environmental preferences, home life can become a safe and happy haven for all! Once, you have gained an understanding of what makes your child “tick”, you can interact with him in a way that will resonate and diminish resistance. This goes for anything from chores, homework, or family vacations.
When considering chores for your children, gear them to their personality preferences. An introverted child may prefer solitary or quiet activities such as sorting laundry, organizing cupboards or drawers, dusting, sweeping or vacuuming or gardening. Your extraverted child would respond to those activities as well as long as you or someone else was doing it with him! The key to success with these children is social interaction.
Paying attention to the demands of the day can aid in determining a successful homework environment. Extraverted children may need time to wind down after a busy day at school. They will also need time to interact with those at home before digging into their homework. These children may do well studying in close proximity to others (if it isn’t too distracting). Introverted children may need time to wind down also, but for the opposite reason. A day surrounded with others in close proximity can be draining for an introverted child. Allowing the child to recharge through some solitary activity will go a long way toward helping them concentrate come study time. These children may also benefit from studying in a quieter environment.
The extravert thrives in these kinds of environments. One trick that will help these children is to give them a timeline of the events, so they can prepare for the excitement and also for the inevitable wind down as the festivities end. The introverted child does not always relish these types of events. Sometimes even extended family members in their own home causes discomfort. It is important that parents allow kids space to separate from the crowd. Having a safe space where children can enjoy some privacy and less noise is important.
While it is possible to manage children’s behavior and elevate their moods by paying close attention to the environments that surround them, it is not possible to change those inherent personality traits that contribute to their unique temperaments, nor should you try! Both personality types—introverts and extraverts— possess wonderful attributes that ensure a fascinating one-of-a-kind human being that will be your honor to nurture.
The Growing Room Academy’s collaborative partnership with Village Music School allows our students and San Ramon Valley families to participate in an exciting array of expanded music education classes. This alliance allows Village Music School to extend their successful studio music program from the Diablo Valley to the San Ramon Valley. Village Music School classes are held within the walls of Growing Room Academy and will be housed in two rooms solely dedicated as music studios. Classes are offered weekday afternoons and evenings, plus Saturdays.