Tag Archives: introvert

Different Parenting Techniques for Introverted and Extroverted Kids

I was one of those mothers who’s firstborn child made her look really good.  My firstborn was (and still is) a really easy kid, sweetly introverted, and geared at pleasing.  As a matter of fact, my first two children were really easy.   When the second one came along and was equally obedient, polite, gentle, and brilliant, he confirmed my suspicions about the world’s greatest parent thing.

What I asked them to do, they did.  When I told them where we were going, they were excited about it.  When I told them to go to bed, they did without fussing.  They made eye contact when being introduced, were quiet when I needed them to be, and were flexible with my schedule.  They were introverts who enjoyed just being with me, without trying to drive the agenda.

And then my third came along.  He was different from day one.  He was born with opinions about everything.  He cared about when he ate, he cared about the condition of his diaper, he cared about who was holding him, he cared about the position of his head and how he was being held.  He wasn’t a cranky child, but just an extrovert that came into the world with ideas about how the world should listen to him.

He made parenting an adventure.

And then my fourth came along.  From day one, she ruled the roost.  She was a healthy baby, but from months 3 – 10, she cried constantly if she wasn’t being held.  And being that she was my fourth child and I had 3 others to care for, she wasn’t held all that often.  Those months were very, very loud.

If I thought that my third born had opinions, I found that I was redefining what that meant based on my fourth child.  My youngest came born to rule, and she let everyone know it.

Very early on in the life of my youngest, we realized that we had to completely relearn how to parent.  Things that I took for granted with the other 3 were now complicated.  Ways that I enforced discipline had to be modified.  Styles and tones of communication had to change.

Some people call kids like my 3rd and 4th strong willed.  I choose to say it is having strong opinions.  The difference to me is perspective.

Strong willed has been portrayed as negative.  A strong will is just asking to be broken, to be put in its place.  It is a challenge to the authority of adults and must be taught who is boss.

But I believe that the opinions, leadership, and strength of a classic strong willed, extroverted child are gifts that will lead them directly into the will of God.  If we break them, sideline them, or communicate how frustrating they are, then we are running the risk of destroying the very gift that God has placed in them to accomplish things greater than we can imagine.  Their passion, emotion, stubbornness, etc are exactly the kind of traits that can be used in radical ways – and I want to be able to step back and know that I did nothing but encourage and shape those gifts.

My two extroverted kids are the spice of our family.  Their ideas are never-ending, their spunk is enlightening.  They have motivation and drive to accomplish anything to which they put their minds.

However, they also need to be parented differently than my two that are more compliant and introverted.  Every strength in our character/personality has an opposite side to it, and the opinionated kids among us are no different.

If you have an opinionated, extroverted child, you know that:

 – While they have the potential to be great leaders, they have a tendency towards bossiness.
The most opinionated of my children has the capacity to be the strongest leader among us.  She can walk into a situation, assess what needs to be done, and then with ease assign tasks to people.  What a gift!

And yet, as the youngest of four, she has no one to lead.  When she walks into a situation and starts assigning tasks to her older siblings, they look at her like, “Umm…who do you think that you are?  Do you realize that you are YOUNGER than me?!? ”  They are quick to remind her that she has no authority to be bossing them around.

Without the maturity of tact and relational skills, leadership becomes bossiness.  With no one around to train a young leader how to be tactful and strategic with people, they will grow up to be the condescending, tactless boss that we all know.

I believe it is my role, as her mother, to train and develop those tendencies within her.  It is my job and privilege to help my gifted daughter to temper her strength with character, patience and love.
* * We do that with many reminders throughout the day.  From a very young age, I have found myself so very often asking her to take another shot at whatever she had just said, saying it in a different, more loving, tactful way.
* * We practiced communicating kindly.  In non-stressful situations, I have had her practice phrases that would be more tactful options, and I have had her work through various circumstances where she could either jump into a situation and take over, or jump into the same situation and lead tactfully.
* * We found places for her to practice her leadership gifts (she became a teacher’s helper at dance class, for example).

 – While they are able to express their opinions with great passion and emotion, they have a tendency to be moody.
My two younger children walk in extremes.  I have often said that when there are tears, you don’t know whether they just stubbed their toe, or cut the whole toe off.  The emotions are the same for either situation.  If you cross their wills, even if it is just a simple command that they don’t wish to fulfill, the emotion you’ll get is as if you just asked them not to save the world from a cataclysmic catastrophe.  It can be exhausting to try to reign in an opinionated child.

Once again, training kicks in.
* * We don’t overlook/ignore the emotional roller coasters, we discuss them.  Even as little kids with limited verbal abilities, we’d talk about where the strong emotion was coming from, and how they could manage it better.
* * We’d offer them tools to manage extreme emotion, such as, as little kids, jumping up and down, or as a little older kids, taking a few minutes alone to depressurize, reflect and pray.
* * We don’t let strong emotions bully us into changing our minds.  If the idea that an emotional outburst, or a display that they feel strongly enough about something, makes them think that they actually get what they want, then they will continue to do so without ever maturing and learning better coping skills.  We don’t allow for emotional manipulation in our home.

 – While they won’t settle for less than what they believe is right and just, they have a tendency to believe that everyone else is wrong.  

Unlike my more compliant children, my extroverted kids love a good debate. They love to take a rule and test the limits to see if it really applies to them. They love to see if you, as a parent, really mean what you say.  They are the toddlers who, when you tell them not to touch the lamp, walk right over to it, look you in the eye, and touch it.  As they get older, they are the kids that will take a boundary that you set and, without hesitation, will defiantly tell you that you are wrong or unreasonable.

While the other statements I previously made have been more about training the child, I believe this one is more about training the parent.
* * With an opinionated, strong child, you have to mean what you say.  You have to give direction and boundaries without hesitation, but don’t require something of this child that you don’t really feel strongly about.  The reason for that is that they will test you, cause you to question what you’re asking, and more times than not, will convince you you’re wrong.  If you’re  not careful, you will end up backing down on the majority of rules that you put in place.  Sometimes you’ll back down because you change your mind, but  more often than not, it will be because the requirement isn’t worth the fight you encounter.  On some days, this will be how you spend most of your day.
* * Pick your battles.  This is very similar to the suggestion above, but brings parenting outside of just the rules, and takes it to the specifics of your day.  An opinionated child can argue about anything:  whether they will wear their coat today, whether they want cereal out of the green or red bowl, whether they want their hair color to be green or red.  In each situation, decide whether or not this is a battle to be fought, or a situation to let go.
* * Offer them choices.  Choices where you can agree with either option.  Such as, “Do you want to wear the striped shirt or the orange one?”  “Do you want to ride with your leader, or do you want to walk home?”  Giving your child options helps them have an outlet for their opinions.  They will feel a little more in control of their lives, and you should have fewer arguments.
* * Find support for yourself.  Surround yourself with others who will either back you up on the stands that you take, or will be a source of encouragement and building you up.
* * Journal/write/be well rested/have you day well planned out.  Being organized, being at your best, and taking time to review your day are all helpful strategies to staying filled.  Being with a combative, strong child can be quickly draining, so you need to make sure you are ready and organized for each day.
* * Look for the delightful aspects of your child.  Maybe it is just me, but in the heat of a confrontation, it is easy to lose sight of the gentleness within your child.  It is easy to see your child as one-sided, as the one who makes life difficult.  Stop, take a break, and remind yourself of all of the beautiful things about that child.

 – In their weakest, most tired moments, or when they’re under stress, they tend to move into control.
I state this just so that you, as a parent, can be aware of it.  Most opinionated kids will become more bossy (controlling what others do), and more disagreeable (controlling their circumstances).  That doesn’t mean that you let all training slide, but it hopefully will give you understanding, that in turn will give you more patience, and therefore allow you to parent with more love.

I want to close with that idea that in our home, we place very high the value of knowing what our personality styles are and accepting each other for who we are.  We teach them that we were placed in this family together to make each other stronger, and that we are not to put down, belittle, or judge each other based on our weaknesses; however, we also recognize that we are not perfect, there are more areas of immaturity than maturity, and we don’t expect our kids to react lovingly every single time.  I hope that these ideas shared help you feel normal and give you some ideas on how to parent (and enjoy) your highly opinionated child.

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10 Survival Tips for Introverted Parents

Being an introvert can make parenting a challenge.  As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I had a personality/giftings expert tell me that, based on my personality alone, I should never have kids.  I function best with plenty of solitude, being able to start and complete a task in one sitting, and to have my day structured and organized.  In short, I am an introvert.  In this expert’s opinion, child raising and introvertedness create a difficult pairing that is almost too great to overcome.

While I wholeheartedly agree that being an introvert and being a parent create unique challenges, I also believe that it is absolutely possible to do, all the while remaining sane.  There are a few strategies that I’ve found can be put in place to help the process go more smoothly.  I wanted to take a minute today to submit several ideas that I’ve found that make parenting as an introvert a bit easier.

#1  Require a no-unnecessary-noise zone.
One way for me to cope well is to keep noise to a minimum.  I recognize that having kids around intrinsically means there will be noise, and often times fun and noise go hand in hand.  I realize that I can’t have (and really don’t want) a completely noise-free zone.  However, we do have a rule that there will be no unnecessary noise.  Unnecessary noise means things like tapping, yelling, repetitive mouth sounds, loud singing, etc.  The phrase, “No unnecessary noise…” is heard often in our home.

#2 No two noisemakers going at the same time.
This relates closely to point #1; however, it zeros in specifically on things that make noise that might compete with one another, such as:   TV, computer game sounds, radio, toys that make noise, instruments, videos, singing, etc.  In our home, no two noise makers are run simultaneously.  And yes, there have been many fights discussions as to whose noise maker wins out – but in the end, it is better for me to wade through the dispute and have a relatively quiet place to reside.

#3 Mandatory nap/quiet time.
This suggestion incorporates creating emotional and physical moments of rest. When my four were little, we had mandatory nap time.  As they grew older, we shifted to enforcing a mandatory quiet time.  That time included reading books, resting in bed, or drawing.  Any activity that involved me or involved a potential fight between the siblings was nixed.

#4 Early bedtime.
Of course the time is negotiable, but having your kids go to bed early gives you space to rebuild your reserves for the coming day. My kids’ bedtime was always 7pm.  Even as they got older, we still maintained that time.  (Even until they were 10 or 11, they still went to bed at 7.) They could read in bed, listen to tapes in their rooms or play quietly, but they knew that I was “off duty” at 7pm. Since the time that my kids have barely been able to have real discussions, we have talked about how their early bedtime was much more about my need for replenishment than their need for rest.  I explained that it was motivated by my personality, and that I would be a better mommy if I had time in the evenings to recharge and refuel.

#5 Having kids stay in bed in the morning until an agreed upon time.
Even from the youngest of their ages, my kids have had a set time when they could get up.  When they were really little, they were to stay in their beds until we came to get them.  As they got older and could tell time, they knew to stay in their rooms until the designated time arrived.   That gave me a predictable beginning to my day, and allowed me to get mentally and physically prepared to handle the busyness that was to come.

#6 Have the day planned.
For me, having a structure/schedule is essential to my peace of mind.  Looking at the day as a blank slate is paralyzing; therefore, having a general agenda planned is so helpful.  Taking the few minutes that it takes to plan out events is well worth the mental energy saved throughout the day.

#7 Plan quiet activities for yourself (journaling, walking outside, etc).
Having activities that provide refilling, that fuel the introvert within you, are so key to being able to stay positive and pleasant throughout the day.  Find those things that restore your soul and regularly participate in them.  Plan your day with those elements included.

#8 Find activities to do with your kids that replenish you.
It is important that you recognize which activities throughout the day fill you or drain you.  The activities that both entertain my kids and replenish me are reading to them, playing board games, going on walks, etc.  I encourage you to think through the activities that you do with your kids and pinpoint which ones have a better chance of being replenishing to you.  When you plan your day, plan more activities that fall into that replenishing category.  Recognize which activities are draining, and if trying to creatively craft (or something like that) stresses you out, schedule it in very limited amounts.

#9 Use your introverted strengths.
As a whole, introverts are good with attention to detail and researching. Schedule your day so that most of your energy is spent moving in your strengths.  In one of my previous posts, I talked about how one of my daughters wanted Valentine’s Day cards handmade.  Not considering myself very creative, I realized that I could use my strengths of research to look up what handmade crafts might be available on the internet.  Instead of stressing over completing a task that took me out of my natural abilities (which is always draining), I found a way to use my strengths to see her project completed.

#10 Be intentional about face time with your kids.
If you spend quality time with kids – make eye contact and listen actively – they will feel really heard and connected to.  Parenting children who truly feel heard makes the parenting interaction so much easier.  Throughout the day when they get annoying, try to stop and intentionally listen to them (instead of brushing them off or making it clear how busy you are).  You might just see that the escalation of distress will cease.

Your unique personality, whether it be a demonstrative extrovert or a reserved introvert, is a gift from God.  As a parent, you have unique gifts that you pass on to your kids, and understanding your personality and working with the gifts that you have make you more effective in your role as a parent.

Let me know what other techniques you use to thrive as a parent!

 

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