Parenting An Introvert In An Extrovert's World
When I used to take my first child to the playground, he would hide in the stroller. He would stick to my leg during our mother's group meetings when all I wanted to do was chat about things kids shouldn't hear. It was totally embarassing. He didn't like birthday parties, or loud movies and people would often characterize him as extremely shy.
But one-on-one he would flourish. He could play for hours with one or two kids. He would lineup cars in the backyard, he would do puzzles and read books all afternoon.
These days he tries to love the loudness of parties and wants to be in the middle of the social scene but is clearly uncomfortable. He tries because he understands that is what most kids are like. He has traded his puzzles for a video game controller, but he is still a reader. And one-on-one he is one of the most engaging 12-year old you will meet.
He is an introvert in an extrovert world. I see now that the word shy doesn't exactly apply to him. He is just overwhelmed in certain social situations and more comfortable in places with less stimuli. Psychologist Jerome Kagan says in Parents Magazine that shyness is a behaviour whereas being an extrovert is a deep character trait.
Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking is an introvert and is championing the introverts' cause in a world that loves extroverts. In her TED talk: the power of introverts (definitely worth a look, if you are an extrovert or an introvert), she says that schools are designed for extroverts at our peril.
She says that introverts come alive in quieter enviroments and schools (and workplaces) are now built around group activities. She says, the emphasis on "group think" does a disservice to all kinds of kid. It doesn't allow them the time and space to think deeply. Kids who may do better working on their own can be classified as problem kids, even though, Cain says, introverts have better grades and retain more knowledge.
Cain says that as an introvert, her foray into self-promotion has been the "year of speaking dangerously". I am glad that she forced herself to speak because it made me realize that our culture's emphasis on speaking up and group work may be the detriment of my son and others like him. (And also, that camp may not be the place for him.)
I hope that I can parent him in a way, that as Cain says, will give him the "courage to speak softly".
Are your kids extroverts or introverts? Have you ever worried about an introverted child?
Want more chaos? Last year, I wrote about some lessons I had learned from being in a ski class. None of them made me a better skier, maybe a better person though.