5 Things Every Extroverted Parent Should Know When Their Kid's an Introvert

shy child hiding behind mother's legs
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Instead of sharing (or throwing) play dough at playgroup, maybe your toddler prefers to chill in a corner and flip through a book by himself. Or maybe you have a preschooler who never asks for playdates. Or a kid who dreads birthday parties. Don't worry, none of these scenarios is cause for alarm -- unless, of course, you're an extrovert, in which case you're probably freaking out already.

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As parents, we can’t help but look for traces of ourselves in our children. If you're a social butterfly and find yourself parenting an introvert (i.e., a child who craves a lot of alone time), "it's easy to think something is wrong," acknowledges Michelle Gale, a mindful parenting educator and author of Mindful Parenting in a Messy World.

But nothing's wrong. The inner world of an introvert is just a different head space, Gale assures. "It tells different stories, experiences situations differently, and sees the world through alternate eyes."

It's a myth that introverts don't like people. Research shows that their brains are simply hardwired differently than their extroverted counterparts. While outgoing people get hyped up and energized by social interaction, all that stimuli overloads an introvert's sensitive nervous system.

If you're an extroverted parent, here's what you should aim to do when you have an introverted child.

1. Don’t try to change your child's natural temperament.

It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating: "When we spend our time trying to make our children be someone they're not, we only stress ourselves out and do a number on their self-esteem," says Gale.

For instance, let's say you overschedule your child in an effort to help him make more friends. All those music classes, moms' groups, and trips to the baby gym are probably going to backfire, warns Gale.

Since introverted children become overstimulated easily, they'll likely come home depleted and miserable. Even if your child's not old enough to verbalize how he feels, you may see him acting out in other ways.

2. See things from your child's POV.

If you heart being around other people and hate even watching Neftlix by yourself, it may be tough to imagine how introverts feel the opposite way. Look for concrete examples of when your child's truly happy and having fun, says Gale.

"If you were to write these things down, it may look like: 'They smile when they're reading,' or 'participating in individual sports brings them to life,'" Gale notes.

Prepare for these examples to look far different than what you consider fun. Still, they'll help you see your child a little more clearly.

More from CafeMom: Preemies More Likely to Become Introverted Adults

3. See what your child can teach you.

Instead of thinking, "I just can't relate to my child," try thinking "Wow, I have so much to learn from them!" suggests Gale. "Ask yourself, 'In what ways can my child positively influence me and the way I show up in the world?'"

For instance, maybe you struggle with a serious case of FOMO. Your little introvert's Zen attitude toward turning down playdates, leaving birthday parties early, or -- prepare yourself -- refusing to trick-or-treat may show you (eventually) that missing out isn't the end of the world.

4. Stop worrying about your child's future. 

"Don't believe the popular assumption that extroverts are necessarily happier or will be more successful in life," says Susan Newman, PhD, a social psychologist and author of Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day.

The fact that your child digs so much solitude can be a sign of emotional maturity and can help foster their creativity.

Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt were introverts. So are JK Rowling, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. Need we say more?

5. Look on the bright side.

Although you may never understand why your child clings to your leg rather than playing freeze tag at the playground, don't let your frustration show.

"Instead of pushing a child to be what you hoped, accept and celebrate the ways in which your child's different from you," says Newman.

There are plenty of silver linings. In this case, think how lucky you are that your little one loves being around you. (Enjoy it while it lasts; they grow up way too fast.)

"You want your child to feel accepted and loved for who he is," says Newman. "Anything short of that can breed a rocky road in the parent-child relationship for years -- even decades -- to come."

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