While other kids seem to like running with the pack, your child prefers having just one or two besties. You also notice that your child is quite happy playing on his or her own, and teachers may comment on “quietness.” Your child seems to be at least somewhat introverted and you’re wondering if you should be worried or try to “correct” a characteristic that is often seen as a failing. The good news is that introversion is often misunderstood – and although some people may attach negative associations to the word, you may not have too much to worry about. We share some thoughts on introversion in children and how parents can best understand the “quiet” child.
Introversion is OK – Even if Your Child Doesn’t Outgrow it
A child’s personality is very much a work in progress – so much so that many authorities think it best to avoid drawing conclusions based on psychometric tests. But even if children settle into a typically introverted mindset as they grow up, it’s unlikely to present a problem.
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is often used in adolescents and adults as a gauge of introversion versus extroversion. A look at descriptions of the introverted personality categories, for example, the ISTP meaning, indicates that personalities with introverted leanings include some pretty solid citizens.
Having said that, don’t rush to get a personality test for your kid. It may set expectations that will be limiting. Personality changes over time, and with children still discovering who they are, trying to box them in is unfair and possibly even harmful.
Up to 40 Percent of People are at Least Somewhat Introverted
Getting hard figures on how many adults are at least somewhat introverted is hard to do – more on this later – but some sources say that up to 40 percent of the people you know may lean towards introversion.
The key to understanding this statement is “at least somewhat.” A balanced personality will have some characteristics of both introversion and extroversion. Some experts avoid the debate altogether, maintaining that most people are so-called “ambiverts,” people who sit nicely on the fence between the imaginary line that separates introverts from extroverts. Even Carl Jung who coined the two, seemingly opposite, terms conceded that there are plenty of in-betweeners, and noted that a pure extrovert or introvert would not only be extremely rare, but likely insane.
When Reserved Behavior Could be a Symptom of a Real Problem
Many people confuse introversion with social awkwardness and shyness, but that’s not necessarily the case. Even being shy isn’t necessarily a problem – but if your child’s shyness is causing practical problems like severe anxiety or distress, it’s time to reach out for help.
You should also be concerned if there has been a sudden behavioral change – your ordinarily outgoing child suddenly shuns company or a confident child suddenly becomes painfully self-conscious. This could be an indication that something bad has happened. Perhaps he or she has fallen victim to bullying or has experienced some emotional trauma that is being hidden from you. Be gentle and patient, do what you can to make your child feel valued, and make it clear that you’re a safe person to talk to.
Different isn’t the Same as Bad
To sum up, a child who seems introverted and quiet doesn’t need any correcting unless you suspect that something is the matter or the characteristic prevents him or her from living normally. Keep loving shy, quiet children for who they are, provide guidance when it’s necessary, and be the best parent that you can. But that’s what you’re doing already, isn’t it?