Parents who have introverted children wonder how to help them build a positive self image. We understand today that Introversion is a legitimate personality type. But not too long ago, introverts were labeled as “neurotic” or “loners”. Introverted children can be misunderstood at school and with relatives. It is our loving job as parents to advocate for our introverted children. But first we must understand and support their needs ourselves.
I recently interviewed Susan Harbison, an introvert and the mother of one year old Emma Kate, also an introvert. Listen as Susan describes her experiences with her daughter. Notice Emma Kate’s introverted characteristics. Already at one year old, she is territorial, intense, has the ability to focus and concentrate, gravitates away from people and things and is not always “friendly” by extrovert definitions.
Susan Harbison begins speaking about herself and her daughter, Emma Kate.
“As an introvert it is a delicate and thorny blessing to witness the new life process of my tiny daughter, an introvert as well. It is delicate when I smoothly do the right thing, easily solve the problem or brilliantly stop the tantrum because I understand her so well.
“It is thorny when I say ‘she is an introvert’ and people shush me quickly saying ‘you don't know that yet...maybe she's just taking it all in and she'll be the life of the party when she grows up.’
“I did not know that what I am, what I identify with in my own child, is something to be avoided. The more people make excuses for Emma Kate’s intensity, the more I am offended for myself. Like her, I was never mean-spirited or spoiled, loud or obnoxious, grasping or needy ... and like her I was pitied. People held out hope that I would some day be nothing like myself and everything more like them….
“For some perverse reason, human beings are attracted to someone that won’t pay attention to them. This poses a problem for my one-year-old daughter who can entertain herself and like most introverts, gravitates away from people and things. Emma Kate is a magnet for people who want to pick her up and have that attention for themselves. The minute they get it, they put her down somewhere else because they have lost interest.
“I always try to be mindful of Emma Kate's existence as a sentient being. I am careful about moving her around especially now that she is walking and can do this for herself. I recognize that she has the ability to concentrate and that frequently I must interrupt her. I try to encourage her concentration by putting her back where I found her playing, or giving her back the toy I had to take away for a minute etc. For example, if I recognize before she does that it's time for a new diaper, I take her in and change her, then put her right back where I found her. Emma Kate doesn't throw a tantrum about having her diaper changed. If I have to take a toy away to wash her face, I return the toy immediately after I am done.
“I try to treat Emma Kate like a person with excellent powers of concentration - just like me. I recognize this for the wonderful opportunity that it is and I use those moments when she is totally engaged in an activity to get my other work done. In return, she treats me gently. She is not gentle with everyone. She is friendly and smiley and laughs but she is not always gentle. I have to assume that she feels I am gentle with her and she returns the favor. It is a blessing to be able to do that.”
Like most introverted children, Emma Kate moves away from stimuli such as people and things. She focuses and concentrates at an early age. She is intense and territorial. She is exhibiting the normal behavior of an introvert. Once you understand the characteristics of introverts in positive terms rather than thinking they are just failing at being extroverts, you can support them in their natural self expression.
Submitted by: Nancy R. Fenn *
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