Two different children; two different responses:
One loves shopping at the mall, going from store to store, seeing all of the displays, and engaging with other customers.
Another child avoids shopping and gets quickly frazzled, annoyed by the constant noise, overwhelmed by all of the choices, and frustrated by the crowds.
The second child, who is drained by the same situation, is labeled an introvert.
Originally conceptualized by Carl Jung and then developed by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Meyers, the concept of extraversion vs. introversion describes innate preferences for interacting with the world.
Children can fall anywhere along the continuum from extremely gregarious and outgoing to intensely introspective and thoughtful.
As a parent, you can help your children manage their disposition, but you will not be able to alter it. Whether they are more extraverted or introverted greatly influences your children, their behavior and your expectations.
What are the traits of extraverts?
Extraverts get their energy from being around others. A day alone can leave them tired, moody and uncooperative. Extraverts outnumber introverts three to one. In general, your extraverted children will have lots of friends, be easy to talk to, have lots of energy, and be quick to tell you what they are thinking and feeling.
Your children are probably extroverts if they:
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.”
What are the traits of introverts?
In contrast, introverts become exhausted from social interaction. It is not that they do not like other people or that they lack social skills, but rather that being with others leaves them drained. They need quiet time to refuel. This requirement for alone-time appears especially true after a long week of school, a trip to a crowded store, or a full day of parties.
If pushed beyond their tolerance, these children tend to work on “empty.” At that point it is more difficult for them to handle the ups and downs of everyday life; melt-downs, inflexibility or irritability are likely to occur.
In general, your introverted children will have a smaller group of close friends, need to reflect before they are ready to share their thoughts, will need time to be alone, and may have trouble sharing what they are feeling.
Your children are probably introverts if they:
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.”
Things Parents Can Do
As mentioned earlier, this information has implications in many of your interactions with your children, from your assignment of chores, to planning trips or family gatherings, to completion of homework, and to scheduling your holiday plans.
Given the unique and very different approaches of extraverts and introverts, the best way to plan for some situations is as follows:
- Extraverts will want to interact with other people and so they will be happiest with chores such as:
Assisting you in completing a task
Working with a sibling
Making phone calls
- Introverts will want to work alone and so they will be most comfortable doing such tasks as:
Caring for plants
Extraverts may love the excitement of the outing. You may need to let them know beforehand how long the trip will last as they will become more energized as the excursion continues.
Introverts may become exhausted very quickly. You can plan for success by breaking a larger outing into several smaller outings. If this plan is not feasible, you can also build in little breaks where you could rest and relax, sit by a fountain and listen to the water or find a quiet seat to have a snack and “refuel” both physically and emotionally.
Extraverts may come home from a full day of school too drained to do work. They may need to talk to friends or play or retell their day to you before they are ready and able to complete their homework.
Introverts may find the same day absolutely draining for the opposite reasons. A day of having students in their personal space and a potentially noisy bus ride home can leave them needing quiet time, rather than activities, before they can begin their homework. Sometimes a walk around the block or swinging on the swings or a little TV can give these children the break they require before they sit down to do homework.
Extraverts are in their element in social gatherings. Interacting with others can leave them so excited that sometimes the greater difficulty is settling them back down after the outing.
This energized reaction is true of any situation that involves others, be it a full social day, a birthday party or special outings to the zoo or circus. The sights, sounds, noises and people invigorate these extraverts.
Though they may still enjoy parties, introverts need time to regroup. After a while, they may request to go home. If possible you can limit the number and length of social engagements you attend in a day.
If that is not feasible, you can plan for down time, perhaps stopping at a park between parties just for quiet time, or finding places to “escape” to at a party, perhaps going into a back room to read. Additionally, introverts may be drained even by having guests in their home; they never feel quite relaxed until everyone is gone.
What does this mean for you?
How children interact with their world and with you is heavily influenced by whether they are extraverts or introverts. How easily the environment supports your children’s preferences is often based upon your own style.
If you are an extravert:
You may innately understand your extravert children’s desire to go out and socialize. If your children are introverts, however, you need to respect their need for down time and build it into your routine.
If you are an introvert:
You may naturally build in down time, but find your extravert children’s continual requirements for outside stimuli to be draining on you. You will need to find ways to allow for this interaction, while still respecting your own need to refuel. For example, you may arrange for your children to have other people to talk with or play with other than you.
The concept of extraversion and introversion is one way of understanding your children’s behavior. Temperament and learning styles are additional methods of explaining how your children naturally relate to their environment. All of this information helps you to interact with your children in ways which support their innate tendencies.
In the end, by recognizing whether you and your children are more extraverted or introverted will enable your daily routines to run more smoothly and will increase your chances for success.
For more information about introverts and extraverts, check out the following books. Purchasing from Amazon.com through our website supports the work we do to help parents do the best job they can to raise their children.