Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom
It wasn’t until years after becoming a mother that I really understood myself. I grew up feeling “different,” but I never understood my differences or how to handle them.
My well-meaning dad would sometimes say “Why don’t you go out with a few friends?” Yet that didn’t appeal to me at all after a long day at high school, followed by hours of dance practice. I wanted to stay home, read books, and watch movies–which wasn’t what supposedly interests your typical American teenager.
I took personality tests in both high school and college. I found them fascinating, but the word “introvert” always seemed like a negative to me. Thanks heavens, we now live in the midst of an Introverted Renaissance.
I not only understand myself, I love how I was made! I finally appreciate the giftings I have that others don’t. Want to know the best part?
I can help my own introverted child love and know himself from the start. Here are a few gifts we can offer the little ones who share this aspect of our personality.
1. Give your introverts the refueling time they need.
“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured…Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.”
― Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
As a mother teaching two extroverts and one introvert, I need to tailor our time differently so that each of my children get what they need. For the introverts among us, our afternoon rest time is vital to our days (It’s when I’m typing these words, in fact!).
But throughout certain seasons I’ve sensed that my seven-year-old introverted Elijah needed even more alone time than usual. I began letting him play outside while Trishna and Jonathan had their daily video time. When the videos ended, all parties switched: Elijah came inside for his video time while the other two headed outside.
(An important note to mention: My sweet little introvert didn’t always want to do this, just like we don’t always want to do what’s best for us. We worked to create this new habit, but there was a learning curve before it felt comfortable to everyone. We also stopped doing this when it appeared Elijah no longer needed it.)
2. Give your introvert role-playing practice, but let them be themselves.
“The purpose of school should be to prepare kids for the rest of their lives, but too often what kids need to be prepared for is surviving the school day itself.”
― Susan Cain, Quiet
Elijah’s extroverted, much louder brother and sister sometimes unintentionally overshadow him. When we have friends coming over or we’re headed somewhere, Elijah likes to role-play some of the things he might want to say or do. I take turns asking questions and letting him think of answers.
But I also need to allow my son to not only be who he is–we need to celebrate who he is! He’s unlikely to start jabbering on in long conversations with strangers and that’s okay. You’ve probably noticed the world lacks good listeners–we could use a few more of them.
3. Give them the chance to shine–alone.
“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers — of persistence, concentration, and insight — to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems. make art, think deeply.”
~ Susan Cain, Quiet
Our children have not been enrolled in many classes or lessons yet, but when I recently found an African drumming class nearby it seemed like the perfect chance to let Elijah shine on his own.
It was the first time in his little life when he wasn’t surrounded by brother and sister and he did great.
4. Give them the gift of understanding themselves.
“We know from myths and fairy tales that there are many different kinds of powers in this world. One child is given a light saber, another a wizard’s education. The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted.”
― Susan Cain, Quiet
I’ve already had many conversations with Elijah about what it means to be an introvert–always in empowering, positive words. We talk about our strengths. We talk about enjoying people, but also needing time alone. We also talk about being who we are with boldness and confidence.
We don’t actually spend many days at home in our pajamas, but I am ever so thankful to the good Lord for sending me one introverted child to identify with, bond with, and relate to.
Elijah, you’re amazing. Mommy loves you.
Are you an introvert homeschooling an introvert? How are you helping them understand their personality?
Jamie! I just love reading about how you parent and homeschool your three kids. I’ve written this before, but you and I are like twins separated at birth, because our lives are so similar. Having three kids so close in age is such a challenge sometimes. I, too, have had to separate one for a time (and she didn’t like it at all!). I may have written this before, too…….when I told my husband how much it seems like we are alike and that we could be best friends, his response was “yeah, but since you are both introverts, you’d never call each other!” He’s probably right! 🙂 Have a blessed day with your three blessings! 🙂
I talk with my girls about how God created them. I don’t remember my parents having these kinds of conversations with me. I want my girls to take their personalities into account when they are thinking about their future. So I talk with each about how much she loves being outside and observing nature and how much the other one likes to nurture and take care of. I want them to be aware of what I see in them and to appreciate how God made them so we talk about it.
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I am an introvert mom with one introvert child and one extrovert child. The book you referenced, Quiet by Susan Cain, was an excellent resource and encouragement for me. For both my children, I try to meet them where they are at. Currently, I don’t use the terms introvert or extrovert with them, but in our family we all are aware of who has lots of energy and need to expend that energy (the extrovert) and the one that needs lots of quiet time. So we give space for those needs. I think understanding your children and then being confident in meeting those needs is key to being a blessing with those differences. I’ve been enjoying these homeschooling posts for some time. Thank you!
I appreciate this post, and want to recommend books that have helped us (a family of 5 introverts) immensely: The Highly Sensitive Child and The Highly Sensitive Person, both by Elaine Aron.
shelli : mamaofletters
Yes, I’m an introvert homeschooling an introvert, and I think my youngest may be an introvert too, although it’s hard to tell at age 3. I love your post, and I like the idea of role playing before we go out into groups. (Actually, I think I need someone to do that with ME!) I did write about this because I read another helpful book about introverts by Laurie Helgoe: http://mamaofletters.com/2012/07/08/introverts-and-coffeeshops/ I do recommend her book too. I learned so much about myself – like you, I learned all this after I had kids! I want to help my kids learn it much earlier!
shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: From my egg makers to yours…
I have no idea what my children are. I know what I am, and what my husband is. But not my kids. How can I tell? Maybe it will just be apparent with more time, but I can’t even tell what my oldest (7) is.
I think with some children it’s more obvious than with others, Nola, but I think it’s around age 7/8 when it becomes more noticeable.
Jamie~Simple Homeschool’s latest post: Introverts homeschooling introverts (or the let’s just stay home in our pajamas post)
Thank you! I’ve loved your introverted series! I feel acknowledged and honored in my personality and I’m grateful for the tips on how to love oneself. I never thought of introverted as a gift! (too many extroverts around me…) your thoughtful writing has helped me see my children in a new way and think about ways to talk to them about their needs. It is alao giving me confidence to speak up about the space I need. Thank you again.
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So happy to hear this, Roselinde!
Ah, I glean so much for your writing, Jamie! I’m an introvert homeschooling introverts, BUT we have a full ministry life and we’re all fairly outgoing and we house-share, so we’re around people a LOT. So I really do have to be extra-careful because my kids burn-out on visitors and busyness FAST. Sometimes it feels like my biggest challenge homeschooling is making time for our family to be alone! (Which is funny since most people think homeschoolers never socialize.) We too have afternoon quiet time where Mama writes, one naps, and one reads and explores alone. That works well for us. Anyway, thank you for sharing this! I love this place!
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My daughter who is almost 7 is introverted and ever so content playing alone and self-directed. She also delights in playing one-on-one with another gentle child. She is also very confident and outgoing, especially in speaking with adults. I do believe homeschooling is a blessing for her personality as she gets quickly burned out in large groups of children. I see her personality as a positive, but have sometimes gotten pressure or doubt from other adults in group settings who seem to think it is pathological or rebellious to be content playing alone or quietly near the adults rather than joining the ‘fray’ of other children. Has anyone else encountered this? Do you feel the need to ‘explain’ why you aren’t forcing your child to join the group?
Rebecca – I have gotten others thinking something was wrong with my daughter because during a group setting after about an hour, she wonders off by herself for some alone-time. I also have heard others think that children like this will grow up to be something pathological – you know what they are saying! It seems like introverts are suffering from prejudice and I’m glad we are having an awakening of sorts about all this.
I am so enjoying these introvert/extrovert discussions. I am an introvert and find it so empowering to know that about myself…I haven’t always.
It is such a gift you are giving your children by teaching them about their introvert/extrovert needs. I wish I had had such accepting guidance!
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Great post! I am also an introvert homeschooling both introverts and extroverts. One point I’d add is that I think its really important to understand that all introverts don’t shy away from social interaction, and these especially have to be taught to recognize the signs of being emotionally drained before it turns into a breakdown. My introvert kids love playing with other kids, being out and about, etc, but the crucial difference between them and the extroverts is their tolerance level. These kids can’t, for example, go from homeschool co-op, to a friend’s house, to Costco, without their brains exploding. They get grumpy or weepy or just freak out from all the stimulation. Its not that they weren’t having fun, but there comes a point that they are suddenly completely worn out and MUST be alone to recharge. Even so, my kids are all 8 and under, and they don’t always have the ability to be aware of and self regulate their energy levels. So I enforce daily quiet time, try not to stack errands/lessons/social opportunities, and because they share rooms, I give them a designated “alone cave” that they can escape to if they are feeling overwhelmed (its my walk in closet with pillows on the floor and a lamp). I think a lot of people assume that if a kid isn’t super quiet or shy that they are extroverted. Lots of introverts are, but plenty are also chatty and loud and social. Its really more important to look at what is energizing – being with others or being alone – to really know their temperament. This is a topic so close to my heart – I wrote a post a while ago on introverted mothering here: http://runciblelife.blogspot.com/2012/06/how-to-be-happy-introvert-mom.html
Catherine’s latest post: “How to Be a Happy Introvert Mom” in Mitera Magazine!
I am so happy to have found your posts about introverts. I had a light-bulb moment recently when I started reading about introverts online and didn’t realize that all along I’ve been thinking I was an extrovert. I would rather be alone than in a crowd, although I’m “outgoing” and can talk to anyone – it is so exhausting to me. I know how to be a social person and people perceive I’m an extrovert but they don’t know how I have to re-charge at home with some alone-time.
Then, there is the issue of my daughter, who others have thought that something must be wrong with her. Let me explain: When we go to events or playdates, after about an hour she can be found trying to get away from the other kids and just wanting to sit alone. She has done this since she was just a toddler and I thought it was because she had no siblings and all the noise of the other kids got to her (like it did me). However, now that she is 9 and has a brother (noise), I’m realizing she is an introvert. She would cry and tell me that she didn’t know why but she just wanted some time alone during these group events. NOW…….I finally get it. Now, that I’m finding out more on who I am, I see her too. To think I thought something was wrong with her and to think that others think that as well, is disheartening. I totally understand the “why” that she needs to have that time to be alone, it is who she is and who I am too.
I look forward to any more posts you have on introverts or possibly you could write on a book on this -about homeschooling introverts, etc. I would love to read it! 🙂
Laura Grace Weldon
Wonderful post (says this friendly introvert). Elijah is a lucky guy.
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You’re the best, Laura, thank you!!
Thank you for this. My 10 year old son is a typical introvert who has not coped so well at school in the past few years. I’m realising he gets introvert overload and makes himself sick. My husband and I have struggled and clashed over the years as hubbie thinks he should be out playing team sports and going on social outings, but my son needs to recharge after school and on weekends. Considering homeschooling him or sending him to a smaller school