I was listening to the radio on the way to work this week and the guest was speaking about parenting. She said something to the effect that parenting was the toughest yet most rewarding thing anyone could do. I have often thought this since becoming a parent. Parenting can also be difficult in the context of introversion and extroversion.
My wife and I are both introverts. We have a couple of extroverted children and an introverted child. These different dynamics can be challenging. For example, sometimes I can’t keep up with the amount of talking my extroverts need. Or I may be concerned that I am not speaking enough with my introverted child. And you may have different dynamics in your family, one introverted and one extroverted parent or two extraverted parents, and so on.
In The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child, Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D., writes:
“Speak with your children about temperament. Even very young children can understand that people are born with unique personalities. Explain that part of temperament is about where someone gets his energy and where he focuses his attention – inside himself or outside himself. Understanding the idea of temperament will help your child weather any perceived criticisms of his introverted nature; this way he knows there’s a reason for his responses and needs, and he won’t take things as personally. Give him the tools he needs to gauge other people’s temperaments. Accepting that others are different in their own way will enhance his people skills and tolerance.”
Since I’ve begun writing this blog, I have had more conversations with my kids about their temperaments. It is not about labels, but rather about their strengths and their needs. I may talk with them about my strengths and needs. I may talk with my introvert about his great thinking ability and sometimes how he may need to ask for time to think about something before responding. Or I may tell my extrovert that I need 15 minutes to unwind and then I will come watch the play that she is putting on. I will also encourage her to put on that play or that puppet show and use those great gifts that she has.
I am not saying to them you are an introvert and you are an extrovert, but rather talking about what is happening and what they are experiencing. I am finding that not only will this improve our relationships now, but it will also help them in future relationships. And most of all it will help them better understand and use their strengths to be happy and successful.