September 14, 2015

How to Encourage Your Introverted Child

The tricky thing about being an introverted homebody in an extroverted, social society is that you really need to be part of a support group, but then you'd have to leave the house and be around people.

As a passionate introvert, I'm so thankful my sweet husband and daughters are willing to be my built-in, live-in support group. (I pay them with chocolate-chip cookies.)

If you're the parent of an introverted child--especially if you are an extroverted parent--here are a few things you might want to consider editing out of or adding to your conversations with your son or daughter.


"Come on! You'll have fun at the party once you get there." Please try to understand: "fun" and "party" are often mutually exclusive terms for introverts. 

This is not about disliking people or being rude. It doesn't mean the introvert cares nothing about others or about the occasion behind the event. 

This is about the DNA-determined reality that introverts get their energy from being alone. 

Extroverts are charged up by being around other people, but introverts fill their mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical tanks through solitude.

We're not talking right-or-wrong here; we're talking this-or-that.

While your son or daughter may, in fact, end up having "fun" at whatever event is looming, that is not actually the point. The dread of being in a large, socially charged setting is often the worst part of the whole gig. (And this is where you might want to clarify: if the event is a small gathering of people your "I'm fine by myself, thanks" child knows well, tell them so. Some introverts look forward to these kinds of intimate interactions.)

When you are teaching your children to live beyond themselves and prioritize the feelings of others over their own, they will often have to do what they don't necessarily want to do. Tell your child this is one of those times. Explain why they need to do this...who they will honor or bless or what milestone or accomplishment they will help recognize. But be careful about undermining their legitimate feelings by trying to talk them into thinking they'll enjoy something outside their comfort zone. 

"Don't be so shy." I'm sure you know this, but here it is for the record: being shy and being introverted are not the same thing. 

I don't consider myself shy. In fact, I love drama and being on stage and performing. I adore public speaking. All this usually leads people to argue with me when I declare my affinity for fellow introverts. What they are missing is that I love to do my act...and then get the heck out of there and go home and be by myself.


Telling your child not to be shy also implies that they are making a choice about who they are and how they feel about social interaction. It assumes your introvert can simply choose to turn on some "I love being around people" switch at will. Not true.

If you are an extrovert, can you simply decide that you like being alone and that solitude is what energizes you? Of course not. Same rules apply for the other team, too.

"Keep trying...you'll grow out of it." Your child doesn't need to grow out of their hair or eye color. Neither do they need to outgrow their introversion, because it is not a personality flaw, sin, disease, or other undesirable attribute that requires repairing, fixing, or changing. 

As they grow up in a social, constantly connected culture, they may learn to better balance their desire to be alone with the needs and interests of others. But they may never derive their energy from interaction with those others. Which is fine. Fine.

By now, you might be wondering what you are supposed to say to your child whose life motto might well be, "Please, do me the honor of not requesting my company." Based on real-life research (e.g., being me), here's what I think they'd love to hear...

"You only have to stay 30 minutes." Or an hour. Or whatever relatively short span of time is reasonable enough so as not to be rude. I can usually psych myself up for people-time if I know it has a definite end and is not going to stretch on ad infinitum

Telling your introverted child "you only have to stay this long" gives them a grip on the chunk of time they'll need to summon up a little extroversion from some recessive gene before they can recharge their solitude-fed batteries. 

"I know this is hard." Which is not at all the same as "I understand why this is hard." If you are an extrovert, you may not have the slightest idea why having a tooth pulled without anesthesia sounds less painful than, say, going to a family reunion. ("Look how you've grown!" and "what are you doing with your life that's exciting and impressive?" and all that.) 

But you do not have to empathize to sympathize. You only have to accept that introverted is how your child is, which makes certain necessary life events uncomfortable.

"You are wonderful, and I love you." Of course, this is what we all need: to know, via words and actions and expressions, that we are cherished and appreciated and treasured--not merely tolerated or accepted with resignation. 



Your introvert longs to know that you will support and cheer them on while they figure out how to walk the line between doing what they want and doing what will bless and encourage others. They have to be taught that life is not all about them, of course, but at the same time, they crave reassurance that you are for them and on their side.

Reassure your son or daughter that they do not have to "convert" to extroversion in order to be valuable and valued. 

Teach them that introversion is not a weakness; it is just part of their uniqueness--and that you are crazy about them just the way they are. 

Or, as only the brilliant Dr. Seuss could put it, "Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”




35 comments:

  1. I love this post I wish my mom had spoken gentler words to me growing up. I have been trying not to do the same thing with my introverted son. #Mom2Mom Monday Link-up

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    1. Thank you, Meaghan! I'm so sorry you missed out on some of the gentleness you are now giving your son. But what a gift you ARE giving him by learning from your past and speaking love to him in a language he understands. Blessings to you, sweet mama...thank you for stopping by!

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  2. Elizabeth….oh, how I love this post! Love it to share, tweet, and pin! You speak straight to my heart and explain it all so well. I am this introvert, just like you. "I don't consider myself shy. In fact, I love drama and being on stage and performing. I adore public speaking. All this usually leads people to argue with me when I declare my affinity for fellow introverts. What they are missing is that I love to do my act...and then get the heck out of there and go home and be by myself." I can't believe the title caught my eye again, and it was you again! I'm convinced you're daily inside my head! Blessings, Friend!

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    1. Heehee. Bonnie...when I read your lovely posts, I always think YOU are in my head! ;) I read them and say, "Yes, yes, yes! " Thank you so much for your precious comments. I admire and treasure your writing and the wisdom behind it, so your words to me mean a great deal. Blessings back to you from one musical-theater veteran/introvert to another!

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    2. <3 Hope that shows up as a heart! :)

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  3. Thanks for the advice. I have a non-shy introvert. I am guilty of saying the "you'll have fun" line too much. I think I'll scale it back and try to explain the reasons for going to functions instead!

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! :) I am certainly not trying to be critical or make parents feel bad, only to help moms (especially extrovert moms) know what might encourage their pumped-up-by-alone-time children! ;)

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  4. It's funny I just watched a Ted Talk about introverts. The speaker was an introvert herself and she was speaking about how in grade school today it's all about working in groups, even desks are now in groups - kids clustered together. We go off to work and we work closely together in these cubicles. Introverts need their space and time alone. That's how they prefer to work and this should be taken into consideration. My husband and I are the introverts and our kids are the extroverts. Interesting topic and great tips on encouraging an introverted child!

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    1. Great information, Kristi! Since you and your husband are the introverts, maybe you should have your extroverted children read my post? ;) Thanks so much for taking time to stop by!

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  5. Hi, I wish I had had this list when our 19 year old was 6! I'm still needing this encouragement - altho it's helped her to realize her worth and joy from being who God made her to be - much like her daddy! Thank you for your post.

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    1. Thank you, Sue! I appreciate you taking time to read and leave your feedback. Blessings to you and family--both the introverts and extroverts among you! ;)

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  6. Great post, Elizabeth! I would like to point out, though, that not all introverts dislike or have a hard time going to parties. I am an introvert, but I love going to small parties or Bible studies where I have lots of friends to talk with. I think it can depend on the type of social event (Do I know anyone? Do I have to make small talk with strangers?), because I only find large parties full of strangers draining, whereas small groups are super fun. Of course, I also work much of the day alone, so I do get plenty of introvert time. :)
    Great ideas for how to talk to other introverts without coming down too hard, those are definitely important to learn!
    Thanks for a great post!

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    1. Thanks for the first-hand, enlarged perspective, Hannah! Admittedly, I write this (and, well, everything else) from the point-of-view of an EXTREME introvert. I am really only comfortable at home around my husband and daughters. This doesn't mean I don't love anyone else or value anyone else, only that I am not comfortable around them. I'm afraid that no matter how small the gathering, I would never describe any event that requires me to leave the house as "super fun"! ;) That doesn't mean it isn't fun for everyone else or that there's anything wrong with all the people there...just that there's so much wrong with me! Mostly, I just want parents to know that their introverted children are wonderful just the way they are and do not need to be "fixed" or "healed" anymore than we all, as imperfect sinners, need that! Thanks again for taking time to read and comment!

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    2. I appreciate your points though, I have a good friend who is much more introverted than I am, and some of your points have given me a better idea of what she must be thinking, which is really good because I have not always been as supportive as I could be. Thanks for writing so thoughtfully on this subject!

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    3. Thank you, Hannah! I very much appreciate your unique perspective...thanks so much for sharing it. The bottom line is that whether we're full-on introverts or full-on extroverts or somewhere in between, we all need to give and receive understanding and grace! Thanks again for stopping by!

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  7. Girl, you read my mind! I am an introvert, but my mom is an extrovert. So we have had to learn to appreciate our differences. I was a teacher and have no problem getting up and speaking in front of others, but a group setting where I have to mingle wears me out. These tips are right on point!

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    1. Girl, YOU made my day! :) Thank you so much for your very encouraging feedback. I don't want to come across as a know-it-all or mean-spirited. I just want to give a little shout-out to my fellow introverts! So glad to know we have this in common, Queen Emily. Thanks for reading and responding!

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  8. Thank you so much for this post, Elizabeth. For most of my life, I thought there was something wrong with me, because when others (my brothers included) were flourishing in social settings, it more or less gave me hives. Even to this day, I have to explain to my mom that introversion isn't something I'm going to grow out of or need to work harder at overcoming. Sigh. Thank you for writing this and educating parents about introversion. It's not a disease! lol <3

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    1. Oh, my, thank you SO much, Kelsey! I feel your sigh. ;) All this reminds me of my favorite quote from the fabulous movie "Temple Grandin," where Temple's mom--and later Temple herself--insists that she is "different, not less." I'm certainly not comparing introversion to autism, but the "different, not less" approach does apply here, I think. Anyway, I do so dearly treasure your comments and perspective. I get a little vehement on this topic, so it has been reassuring to hear from other introverts, voicing their "amens"! Thank you for adding yours. :)

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  9. A great post! I was (and still tend towards) being introverted and being just happy at home. This really was an eye-opening article and hopefully it will shine a light on the best way to interact with and parent introverted kids. Thanks for sharing at #OMHGWW.

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    1. That is so encouraging to read, Donna...I greatly appreciate your feedback-from-personal-experience. I know our American society loves its extroverts, but introverts have their own strengths and gifts. :) And there is much to be said for being able, as you put it so well, to be "just happy at home." Thank you for taking time to read and comment!

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  10. Very encouraging, Elizabeth. Understanding (and having others understand) these things when I was little would have helped me gain confidence sooner. Glad your understand and are speaking up!

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    1. Thank you so much, Abi! My heart truly goes out to you. But I pray you are able to give now what you would have liked to have received then...one of the blessings of hindsight and maturity! Thanks so much for taking time to stop by!

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  11. I'm more introverted than extroverted. I love these tips on raising an introverted child. Stopping by from Motivation Monday and hope you'll linkup with us at Small Victories Sunday LInkup too!

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    1. Thank you, Tanya! I'm so glad my little ode to introverts made sense. I'm on my way to Small Victories Sunday right now...thank you for the invite! :)

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  12. I clicked over to read this because we are writing about introversion from a church perspective this week. Thanks for the wonderful thoughts about encouraging an introverted child. I'll share on our Facebook page this week!

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    1. Thank you so much, Helene! I would love to read your piece about "introversion from a church perspective." Indeed, church can be a very challenging place for introverts! :) Certainly, we all must do what we sometimes do not want to do or don't feel comfortable doing. If we only do what is in our nature, what does that say about victory in Christ? But understanding the differences in how introverts and extroverts view and approach life can make things better for everyone! Thanks so much for stopping by, and I look forward to reading your upcoming piece!

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  13. As an introverted parent raising another introverted child, these are spot on! It's easy for me to stay home with my little ones but I do know the importance of venturing out to social settings to help him develop skills to interact with others but I am pretty choosy about what types of events we go to because even I can't handle them! :) Thanks for linking this up at Intentional @ Home!

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    1. Yes! "Choosy"! And I'm happy to report than even though my girls (one tween and one teen) have grown up with a homebody introvert for a mom, they are very well-adjusted socially! ;) They are both more social than I am (who isn't?) but they also love to be home. Which makes me happy. :) Thank you so much for being such a gracious party hostess at Intentional @ Home!

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  14. My 10 year old son is quite the introvert so I found this post extremely helpful! Once upon a time, I was an introvert too-and I completely agree with your suggestions of what not to say. Thanks so much for linking up at Learning From Each Other!

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    1. Amy, thank you so much! Your encouraging feedback means everything to me, for what is the point of writing a post like this if it doesn't resonate with anyone IN this situation? Thank you, and bless you!

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  15. Great advice! Love that Dr. Suess quote. Thanks for linking up at the Thoughtful Spot Blog Hop! :)

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    1. Thank you, Alison! And yes, we could pretty much just quote Dr. Seuss and call it a day, couldn't we? ;) Thank you for taking time to drop by from the Thoughtful Spot!

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  16. This is awesome. I love your "what to says" just as well as your "what not to says". I just love the heart behind this as being accepting and loving and cherishing our kids (and ourselves) for how God created us to be! Your words spoke straight to my heart!

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    1. Awww, thank you so much, sweet Christine! YOUR kind words have blessed MY heart! I'm so grateful my intentions here came through...God makes His kids (of all ages) in lots of different varieties on purpose for a purpose! Bless you, my friend!

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!