Pointers for parents spur confidence & joy
Spending lots of time with the kids these days? Trying to figure out how you can better connect with them?
Parenting is Hard
Parenting is hard for everyone. It's not like it comes with a handbook or anything. Well - actually there are dozens of parenting books on the shelves. But few recognize the unique challenges and opportunities for parenting introverted kids.
Studies show our personality, including introversion/extroversion, is largely genetic with a smaller component being our environment as a result of traumatic events which often lay deep in our psyche creating mental scars for years.
Summer Camp Doldrums
I was sparked to share this post as I observed a summer camp of six 8-10-year-olds in a park at the midpoint of my Tuesday walk. The two teenage counselors provided some free time filled with tag, pool-noodle fights, and frisbee, followed by a competitive two-team obstacle course. Most kids were well involved, likely thrilled to be outdoor with kids that aren't their siblings. But one child, in particular, was clearly not amused. She drifted off to a gazebo on the edge of the green, happy for some alone time with her book.
I strongly suspect she was an introvert (40-50% of the population are) who found the high degree of interactive play draining. The frequent counselor check-ins to see if she was OK and the glances from the other kids clearly wondering what was wrong with her led to her further withdrawal.
More than likely, her parents were proud to have found an open camp that would give their daughter a chance to be with other kids outside, while also happy for a bit of a COVID-closeness reprieve of their own. Yet for the girl, she was certainly not happy.
Societal norms assume people want and need constant interaction and that if you aren't good at that, you are just plain weird. But this discomfort and those stares can develop into the experiences that stay with kids well into adulthood if not forever. Imagine if rather than feeling different this girl was championed for her strengths. What if, instead of parents, classmates, or counselors trying to change someone to conform to their view of happiness or success, they applauded her style? What a boost of confidence!
If you are considering camp for your introvert, find camps that provide a good balance of activities and downtime. Introverts will enjoy the interaction, sports, and playtime in small doses balanced with arts and crafts, reading time, smaller group activities, and some quiet, personal reflective opportunities. And a summer filled with camps may provide a reprieve for you but may be a summer filled with anxiety and pressure for them.
3 Steps for Parenting Introverts
As a parent of three fabulously diverse kids, my wife and I believe our job as parents is to love, support, teach, and prepare. it is not to change those we love into our vision of a better self, regardless of societal norms or our own experiences or perceptions. It starts with three simple steps.
Understand Introversion: Thankfully, common definitions like anti-social, loner, and not-normal have been replaced by one who gets energy from within or prefers alone time. However, I prefer to dispose of such cold and nebulous definitions and instead highlight common introverted strengths: listener, observant, creative, learner, loyal, empathetic, caring, team player, introspective, considerate, structured, planner, thoughtful, and comfortable with one's self. What great attributes to cultivate and be proud of!
Understand Ourselves: It's really not about defining yourself as an introvert, extrovert, ambivert, or other. We all actively float along the continuum based on time, place, and temperament. It's about understanding our own approach, our dreams for our kids, and preparing to let go enough for our kids to determine their own path, with you as a coach.
Understand Your Child: Observe their strengths and how they opt to use them. They must feel empowered to chart their own course.
Focusing on the Positives Spurs Exponential Growth
Too often, in the corporate work world and in our personal lives we choose to focus on our weaknesses and deficiencies and strive to patch those holes. But in reality, at best we endure such a negative process to only marginally close a perceived gap. Instead, if we seek to support our strengths, expand our capabilities, and then endeavor to use them in a wide variety of ways, our passion will enable us to exponentially grow our talents and our confidence.
Our challenge as parents is to learn about our kids and find ways to create supportive rather than traumatic experiences.
Encouragement & Empowerment Builds a Strong Adult
As kids grow up, we need to continue to observe, listen, and support by:
Asking about and encourage their hobbies (books, art, sports...).
Providing space and alone time. Alone time is not loneliness, it's an incubator for creativity, thought, and confidence.
Expanding their mind with other ways to leverage their strengths through new hobbies, classes, and eventually colleges and professions.
Giving them options to express their individual free will.
Allotting them time...to consider change and make decisions at a thoughtful pace.
Challenging societal norms that only the loudest wins.
Instilling pride and confidence in who they are and what they do.
Your kid's natural drive and passion to leverage their superpowers will drive them to push their boundaries to grow, build relationships, and accomplish the goals we all have for our kids, but more importantly, the goals they will develop for themselves
And the beauty of this week's topic is that these lessons don't just apply to our kids, but to the introvert inside all of us!