Image courtesy of Ned Horton
Celebrating Father’s Day this year, I am reflecting on the father I am and the father I want to be. I feel very fortunate to be married to my best friend who gets me and together we have three amazing kids. It is also fascinating that all three kids are very different. All three are being raised basically the same, but each has his or her own unique strengths, needs, and desires.
Understanding my own strengths and needs has been a long journey. Growing up, I thought something was wrong with me and didn’t understand my introversion or how my own strengths and needs impacted the way I interacted with the world. One of my goals as a father is to help my kids have a clear understanding of themselves so they can get what they want out of life and be happy.
I like how Marti Olsen Laney puts it, in The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child,
“Introverted children really are small wonders. Accept them as they are. By supporting their natural resources you will allow their gifts to grow. Being an introvert and being self-assured are not mutually exclusive. Confident introverted children will forge adult lives of meaning, value, and creativity.” tweet
My kids are not all introverts, and I think “extrovert” could just as easily be substituted in the quote above. The point is that whether your child is an introvert or extrovert, you nurture their gifts. You also show understanding and patience when needed, which can be difficult when your child is different than you. I am careful not to use labels, as I believe that labels can be harmful. But I think it’s helpful to talk about strengths and needs. I believe that helping your children discover what is unique or special about themselves, and then helping them develop those qualities is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.
I did have to laugh when my young daughter (who often listens to my wife and I discuss my blog) said to her brother, “I am an extrovert and I need people!” We have never told her this, but it is true. And as introverted parents, we have to be aware of her social needs – even though they are different than our own social needs. At the same time, we need to respect the need for alone time in our introverted children, but also encourage balance in exploring and interacting with others.
I’m definitely not a perfect father, but I really am trying to help my kids have confidence in who they are — and help them see wonder of the their own unique gifts. As parents, helping your children understand who they are and how they work best will go so much farther than trying to change their nature. When you work with your child’s strengths instead of against them, you will help them become strong!