Introversion and extroversion are comparable to left- and right-handedness, says Wendy Gelberg, author of The Successful Introvert. Neither is “wrong”—both offer positive qualities that should be celebrated, and you shouldn't consider introversion as something your child must overcome, she says.
Help your child embrace introversion and strike an optimal balance in and out of the classroom with these nine tips, offered by Nancy Ancowitz, author of Self-Promotion for Introverts:
- Work on conversation starters. For introverts, initiating the first connection with a person—a kid or an adult—isn’t easy. Come up with simple, friendly first lines for your child to use. Role-play with typical questions an adult would ask, such as “How was school?”
- Don’t put your child on the spot in social settings. Introverts often have great insights on topics that interest them, but they aren’t great at thinking on their feet. They need time to process their thoughts quietly before they speak. Don’t ask your child about a topic that’s new to him in front of other people. Instead, allow him to express thoughts he already has developed.
- Don’t overschedule your child. While extroverts can get energized by back-to-back activities and constant contact with people, your child may need downtime. Introverts often need a quiet moment and physical space to recharge and concentrate.
- Talk with the teacher. It’s natural to reward extroverts for participating in class, but many teachers don’t recognize the value their introverted students offer. If you feel your child isn’t treated fairly, be proactive and talk with his teacher about how to help him succeed. Ask that your child has the opportunity to reflect on a topic before giving a response, for example.
- Arrive to events early. The longer your child has to get acclimated to an environment, the more comfortable he will be. Show up early to places, particularly ones that are new to him.
- When guests come to your home, give your child a specific task. Let your kid hang up the coats, set the table or serve the appetizers. This allows him to be involved in social interactions without forcing a conversation. When guests say “thank you” or make other comments, your child will warm up to them and feel more comfortable.
- Practice phone skills. Since your child needs time to compose his thoughts before sharing them, the phone can present challenges, especially since the other party can't see him. Have fun together role-playing a few basic phone scenarios.
- Help find introverted role models. It’s important that your child sees that introverts can thrive, succeed and be happy as adults. Having positive, introverted role models reinforces to your child that nothing is wrong with him and that he can be himself.
- Compliment your child. Introverts have great skills that should be celebrated. They are good listeners, they’re more likely to do their homework rather than “winging it” in class, they’re often the go-to kids for deep knowledge, and they can have a calming influence on their classroom environment. Let your kid know how awesome he is!
You can build confidence in your child by accepting and nurturing introversion. When adults allow introverts to play to their strengths, they learn to cherish their uniqueness both in the classroom and in the classroom of life.