“Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles” Understanding Introverts and Extroverts

We are up to Chapter 10 in our wonderful book, “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.  I love this quote, “We don’t get to choose our children’s type, but we can help our kids understand their style and what they need, and teach them how to work with us, especially if our styles are different.”  

The authors looks at the characteristics of extroverted children (or yourself):

  • Need to go outside of themselves, talking and interacting with others and the world around them in order to figure our how they feel and to find the energy to cope.
  • They tend to share thoughts or feelings as they strike them
  • Wants feedback or affirmation – this doesn’t necessarily mean they have low self-esteem; they just process better with others and with a consensus
  • Extroversion doesn’t mean they need people all the time;  in fact they may be cautious in new situations or in meeting new people.  They like to do their thinking by talking and energized by activity and interaction.
  • Too much time alone leaves them drained and irritable.
  • When they are upset, they don’t want to be alone.
  • Not likely to give you a break without them right there!
  • Extroverted children may ask a lot of questions, talk a lot, interrupt

Characteristics of introverted children (or yourself):

  • Need to go inside of themselves in order to sort out feelings, process, recharge
  • They need space, unstructured time, and quiet
  • They can be social people and strong leaders.  Introversion and extroversion do not describe social skill sets.
  • May learn  best by watching first
  • Often talkative in the evening after having time to reflect on the day
  • May be told to “hurry up” or that they take too long with decision making.
  • Introverted children have a strong sense of personal space – they will choose who and when they will allow in their space.  This doesn’t mean they don’t like affection!
  • Noise and crowds drain them
  • Introverted children may need to come home after school and just be – playdates after school might be a disaster!

These traits are on a continuum, just like all personality traits.

So, how do we work with the extroverted child?  The author gives fantastic suggestions starting on page 165.  An extroverted child may talk about an issue over and over, and it can be exhausting for those listening.  We need to help extroverted children set limits that include respecting the other person.  The author also mentions that if the parent is an introvert and your child is an extrovert, they may need extracurricular activities and visiting friend’s homes because you may not be able to meet that child’s needs for interaction all by yourself without exhaustion! Extroverts always want your attention because they are at their best working and interacting with others.  You need to work with them – they may never want to clean their room alone not because they can’t do it, but because they don’t want to do it alone.  It isn’t that they can’t be independent, they just like others to be with them.

We can coach the introverted child in a different way.  Introverts may pull away when they need space or quiet to pull themselves together.  They aren’t shutting you out, they are recharging.  They may get into trouble by running around with other children and telling them all to be quiet, or when younger, they may even bite or hit to get others out of their space. You may have to work and do something else while the introverted child is taking their time to tell you what happened that made them upset.  They may also need time to practice something privately, like the words they would use when they are upset, before they get into that situation with someone else.  They may also need to be taught how to say hello and greet others or how to enter into a large group.  You cannot push an introverted child into a group, but you can teach them to say, “I need to watch first” or how to say, “I need space.”

This is a fantastic and practical chapter!  I hope you are enjoying it.  Our next chapter is about sensitive vs. analytical personality traits in processing.  I hope you will join me for that one!

Many blessings,

Carrie