The other day I found myself locked in the bathroom and briefly – just briefly – considered staying in that bathroom forever and ever and never coming out. Staying in there indefinitely, sitting on the cold tile, with my back against the door, making sure nobody breaks in. Guarding my peace and quiet.
Mind you, in this context, “making sure nobody breaks in” means ensuring that nobody can wiggle the lock until it unlatches and bust in asking me to pretend to be their horse and neigh on command. Or to act like I’m interested in what happened in the latest episode of Paw Patrol. Or to exclaim with enthusiasm every five seconds regardless of what is going on…
Yes, yes, yes! I’ll admit I sometimes want to hide from my own kids. That’s what happens when you are an introvert with extravert kids.
I’ve always known that I’m an introvert and that I need a lot of alone time to recharge. But when my husband and I started thinking about having kids, it never occurred to me that my introversion would become an issue. I mean, what kind of person would need time away from their own kids? And won’t they just be little mini-me’s anyway? We’ll just quietly sit around reading books, like when I was a child. Right??
Yeah, go ahead, laugh at me. If you have your own kids, you are probably peeing your pants right now rolling on the floor with laughter. I was so incredibly wrong and ignorant and naive. 🙂 But let’s just say that’s a good thing, because it led me to having three amazing kids who I wouldn’t trade for any number of peaceful Sunday afternoons with a stack of books. (Although I do admit I dream of those.)
One of my kids is an introvert and two are extraverts. Parenting the extraverts has actually made me realize the extent to which I’m an introvert, because for most of my pre-kid life, I managed my introversion kind of on the side, with minimal effort.
Now it takes effort.
Constant interruptions, non-stop talking, endless need for activity and attention. Play with me! Look at this! Come here! It’s not an easy task to balance my desire to be there for my kids with my brain’s need for occasional quiet time.
And what is probably even harder is the nagging feeling that somehow just being me isn’t enough – that I should be putting on an act. Like many introverts, I’m quiet and understated by nature, but what the kids seem to want is someone animated and lively. Someone more like them.
If you are an introvert parent with an extravert child, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It frustrates you, exhausts you, brings you to the brink. And makes you feel guilty to boot, because they are just kids and you are the adult responsible for their well-being.
But there is hope. It is possible for an introvert parent and an extravert child to have a great relationship without completely sacrificing either side’s needs. Here are some tips that might help:
1. FIND OPPORTUNITIES FOR ONE-ON-ONE TIME
Introverts tend to do better with one-on-one interaction than in groups and I believe this extends to parent-child relationships. I have by far the most difficulties when I’m trying to spend time with all three of my kids at the same time. They all have competing needs and wants and I get overwhelmed when I can’t properly focus on any of them. (These are the occasions when I end up hiding in the bathroom.)
If you have multiple kids, try one of these tactics for getting more one-on-one time and really connecting with each individual child:
- Taking turns. For example, if I have an hour with my three kids, I’ll spend a 20-minute block with each kid one-on-one. The other two kids play with each other, while it’s not their turn with Mom.
- Splitting the kids among parents. For example, one parent takes a kid along to run errands, while the other parent stays home with the second kid.
2. BE PREPARED WITH ACTIVITIES
Introverts are often not good at thinking on the spot, but they are awesome at making plans. Create a list of art projects, games, and other activities to keep the kids busy. This lets you be in charge of how time with you is spent and helps you avoid the kids running the show with games that stretch your tolerance the most (i.e. you being the pretend farm animal). When the kids are busy doing stuff, it also takes the focus off you having to put on the enthusiastic entertainer act, which doesn’t come naturally to most introverts.
3. DO FUN FAMILY EXCURSIONS
Introverts are famous for being homebodies, but if you are an introvert parent with extravert kids, it might actually be easier to venture away from the hearth pretty regularly. Same as keeping kids busy with activities at home, going out to children’s museums, zoos, parks, or family-oriented events will keep the extravert kids stimulated, while taking some of the focus off you to be the sole entertainer. (Just remember to allow yourself a long nap afterwards to recover from the overstimulation. 😉 )
4. GIVE YOURSELF BREAKS SO THAT YOU CAN SHOW UP WITH ENERGY
Speaking of naps… When you have young kids, it can be incredibly difficult to make yourself take a break even when you know you need it. But try to remember that your kids will never see the best parent you can be if you always show up with your energy drained. Take a break! Just do it!
5. MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR STRENGTHS…
So many times I have wished that I could be a different kind of Mom. The Action Adventure Playing Is So Much Fun Excited About Everything Mom!!!
But while I may be able to act like that Mom for a few moments, it’s exhausting to always pretend to be someone you are not and it’s not sustainable in the long term.
I’m not the Action Adventure Mom, but I have other strengths. I’m a great listener and I’m always going to strive to connect with my kids and understand them as individuals. I’m emotionally available and a shoulder to cry on. I love learning and I love sharing my knowledge of the world with my kids. I’m creative and enjoy planning fun activities for us to do together as a family.
Need help figuring out what your strengths are? Check out the book MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths by Diane Eble and Janet Penley.* It’s an awesome book packed with encouragement.
6. …AND LET OTHERS HELP WHEN NEEDED
Your job as a parent is to make sure your children’s needs are met to a reasonable degree. This does not mean that you personally have to be the one to meet every single need at all times. As long as you regularly spend quality time with your kids and maintain a good connection, the other kinds of stimulation they need can come from elsewhere. Play to your strengths and let someone else fill in with the circus act when you need a break:
- YOUR EXTRAVERT SPOUSE – An introvert-extravert marriage can create its’ own separate set of challenges (read all about that here), but it really rocks to have an extravert spouse if you are an introvert with extravert kids. Send your extravert spouse out into the world with the kids to run errands, while you stay back to take care of chores at home. And even better, send your spouse to all the birthday parties, school events, and play groups that were created to make extraverts feel all warm and fuzzy and introverts miserable. 😉
- BABYSITTERS – We often turn to babysitters when we have plans to go out, but how about sometimes hiring one just so you can hole up in your bedroom to read a book for a couple of hours?
- ORGANIZED ACTIVITIES – Sign your extravert kids up for classes and summer camps that suit their interests. These kids love to keep busy with activities and you’ll get a breather waiting in the sidelines (with a book!).
7. TEACH YOUR KIDS TO ENJOY ALONE TIME
There is a lot written about pushing introvert kids to become more outgoing, but a lot less about helping extravert kids turn inward.
To function well in the world, we all need to be able to use both – our extraverted and our introverted sides.
When your kids are old enough to stop napping, institute a daily quiet time when kids retreat to their own space to read or play quietly. Your extravert kids will probably never cherish this time like introverts do, but it’s still important for them to be able to do it.
8. TEACH YOUR OLDER KIDS ABOUT PERSONALITY TYPE
When your kids are old enough to understand, start teaching them that people are born with different personality types and brain wiring. This will help them not take it personally when you need a break. For example, my extravert first grader is old enough to understand that some people are less talkative and need more quiet time than others. We haven’t yet introduced the terms introvert and extravert, but she knows that her Mom and little sister need more quiet breaks than she or her Dad and little brother need. This is just one way in which people are different from each other.
9. REMEMBER WHAT YOU HAVE IN COMMON
Remember that introversion or extraversion is just one personality trait among many. You and your child may be very different in this one way, but you probably have at least some other traits in common.
My extravert daughter and I may have different activity level preferences, but we share a love of books and exercise and travel and art. We have a similar sense of humor – that kid can make me laugh like nobody else. 🙂 We are both feelers, tearing up at the same time in the movies.
Sure, I sometimes wish that she could stop thinking out loud for just one minute, and she probably wishes that I was more into chit-chat, but in the end, we probably have more in common than not.
10. TRUST THAT IT WILL GET EASIER WITH TIME
Introverts or extraverts, life with young kids is exhausting and overwhelming. Period. But it will get easier with time even if other parents sometimes like to remind us otherwise. The older your kids get, the less their need for constant attention, the more frequent your opportunities to get the breaks you need. It does get easier, I promise. 🙂
Are you an introvert with extravert kids? What is your biggest struggle? Do you have any tips to add to my list? I would love to hear from you in the comments below. 🙂
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