What to Do When Raising an Introvert


being an introvert

I have a confession to make: I’m shy.

It surprises people when I admit this fact in conversation. I emcee events, host a daily radio show, and have even been the featured speaker at a number of women’s retreats. So how could I be…shy? In my mind, I’m still the little girl who hid behind my mom’s legs when people tried to talk to me, and “the quiet one” among my group of friends during my teenage years. As I watched my more talkative and outgoing friends mingle, it made me wish to be more extroverted. But I’ve had a long time to process being an introvert.

Now, my “bookend” children are more introverted and definitely my “homebodies”. And I want to help guide them as they deal with growing up shy, so they can feel comfortable in their own genes, so to speak.  If you have shy children, here are some guidelines to encourage them as they grow:

1. Understand the shyness

I want to encourage you, parent to parent. Don’t worry if your child is an introvert. Yes, it’ll seem like the outgoing kids get all the cred. (And doesn’t it seem like it stays that way even as adults?) But don’t feel you need to be a helicopter parent to be sure they don’t get hurt or overrun by their peers.

Let her know shyness is not a fault, it’s a trait; it’s nothing to feel ashamed of as she becomes more aware of herself.

2. Affirm, don’t apologize

You have the choice to speak life or tear down through your words. So don’t make excuses for your child’s shyness, especially in front of your child. Don’t apologize by telling friends, “oh he’s just shy.” Being shy doesn’t equate with having a problem. Many shy people are naturally peaceful and have a strong self-concept.  Do let her know that you have faith in her and what she is capable of. And also teach her to be confident in herself, even if she’s not as talkative as the kid who sits next to her. Teach your child to repeat to herself that she can be confident in who she is, and it will be more likely she will believe it!

3. Encourage the uncomfortable

It’s all too easy to give up when you feel uneasy. For an introvert, even a simple conversation is hard to handle.  So if a situation makes your child feel unworthy, don’t encourage him to leave. You’re just reinforcing the shyness. It’s not easy, but he’ll be stronger when he faces the situation head-on. Turn the fearful situation into a place of introspection and personal growth. You can teach your children to engage with others with this list of communication skills.

4. Accept the way they are

As your shy child grows, encourage them to do things they’re passionate about. Perhaps it’s more behind-the-scenes, or even an activity out of his comfort zone. My oldest plays varsity basketball and my youngest competes in gymnastics, despite their natural tendency to stay in the background.

Let her know the fear of rejection is natural, but not to let that overcome the decision to try something new. {Tweet This} We all experience rejection – no matter how old we are or how outgoing we are. Remind her she is not alone and it is part of life and our learning process.

Don’t label your child as shy. Let them know they are unique, beautiful, and list the traits you love about them. And leave it at that.

What are the best qualities of your introverted child?

Comments


  • Mae

    Introvert and shyness are not the same. Please do not use these words interchangeably. Introverts enjoy the peace and calm that comes with doing solitary things. Time alone is what energized them. They can be social with others (hence, not shy) but it is often draining for introverts to have long periods of time requiring interaction with others. Introverts need to be understood and celebrated, not changed. Being shy is usually a quality that is frustrating for individuals and they often desire to reduce their shyness. Please recognize that an introvert personality and shyness are two very different things.

    • dana

      Is your comment from personal or professional perspective? If professional may I the source for reference? Thank you
      Dana

      • Mae

        My comment stems from researching introversion for personal reasons and reading a wonderful book on introverts: “Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. Thank you for reaching out for clarification.

        • dana

          Awesome! Thank you very much, my Sweets.

    • Cheryl

      I would wholly disagree with this comment. Webster’s provides synonyms for introverted, which include bashful and shy. I am 46 years old…an introvert…and shy. Social events are not just draining–they are altogether awkward if made up of strangers. However, like the author of this article, my career requires me to be out-going (a synonym of extroverted) and did not come natural and almost with resistance. While in law school, my goal was to deal with paperwork–contracts, wills, trusts. When I began working my current job, court was not optional, it was a must. Fifteen years later, I have made it as a very out-going trial attorney and have only lost 2 cases. But do not let a stranger approach me in the grocery store and strike up a conversation–awkward! No…it is not frustrating for me. It is who I am. My frustration is with those who mistake shyness for stupidity. Just because we don’t WANT to talk to you doesn’t mean we CAN’T talk to you.

      • Mae

        Introverts can certainly be shy. However, many introverts are not shy. How wonderful you have had a successful career.

  • Joanne Miller

    I agree that being an introvert is different than being shy. Although Webster sees their similarities, the words are not interchangeable. An introvert will always get recharged by being alone and exhausted by too much people time. A shy person is hesitant to initiate with others. I think we can help our shy kids by rehearsing social situations, and practicing greetings and social dialogue. It helps them to feel more comfortable if they know what to expect. Preparing ahead helps to build confidence to face uncomfortable situations and may in help them build courage in new situations.

  • B.B. Pace

    Because our culture has always linked the lab
    el shy to be a negative attribute, I always referred to my introvert children as being reserved. In certain circumstances they could be very outgoing, but mostly they were reserved. This more positive description helped them to not feel negatively about their personality and gave them the power to reach out when they could.

  • jen

    my husband is an introvert but I don’t think he’s shy. He just doesn’t want to talk to everyone like I do. I’m not afraid to go up to strangers, but he is mortified by the thought. I want to understand introversion, shyness, and not use my words to harm in any way. So I appreciate articles like this that trys to communicate the opposite of extroversion. 🙂 thanks to the author and those who commented.