So both of my children have beautiful curly hair, want a dog and love music, but that is where the similarities end. The older they get, currently ages three and six, the more their personalities emerge as polar opposites.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids. One is super sensitive and the other just doesn’t care.”
That was my husband’s comment yesterday while walking across the room, shaking his head and looking defeated after a full day in the house with our two kids. You know one of those days where everyone still has pajamas on at 4 p.m., you jump into a panic when someone knocks at the door and random projects are half completed all over the house. To his defense, he made the insightful comment after both kids gave us a dose of their unique personalities.
By 4 p.m. I heard “Mommy” 5,019 times so I didn’t realize I was having a moment of silence when my husband found our son’s latest experiment. What resulted was putting our three-year old in timeout for putting three gold, glittery Christmas ornaments in the toilet. It must have been his way of telling us the Christmas tree should NOT still be up on January 2. We are not sure if anything was actually flushed. Only time and an expensive plumbing bill will tell.
Shortly afterward, our six-year old daughter was wiping away tears. A few minutes earlier I excitedly told her to re-read the sentence she just read out loud to me. I was so proud she nailed the sentence all by herself that I called my husband into the room. I’m a bit dramatic so I was probably loud with my request. She must have felt put on the spot when I said “now read it again so daddy can hear, too.” When he sat down on the couch next to us, she completely morphed her body language, looked down awkwardly and twisted her mouth with a half smile/half pout. Some may call it shyness. Others may say she froze. Whatever the proper term, I didn’t help the situation by saying “don’t cry” because that’s when the tears started. She eventually calmed down and confirmed that I had indeed embarrassed her.
My daughter is an introvert. Actually, I’m one, too. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert, yet, I know for a fact the word holds such a negative connotation. Descriptions like loner and socially-awkward come to mind that I don’t want associated with her because it’s simply not the case. Yes, she’s a naturally quiet girl who is super sweet, sensitive and does not seem to want attention from big crowds. At the same time, she can and will get loud and animated when in the comfort of her friends and family. She also will get up on stage and perform with her class with confidence when there is a routine and practice involved. Growing up as a quiet kid myself and all the burdens that come with it and then becoming a quiet adult, I’ve always thought of it as a sign of weakness to be a quiet person. I hope to give her a different perspective of herself.
Fortunately, my thinking has evolved! I’ve learned by reading an amazing book called ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ written by Susan Cain that being an introvert is powerfully positive. With a broad stoke of stereotyping, introverts see and observe things extroverts don’t because we listen better. We think before speaking and make better leaders because we give extroverts the opportunity to be themselves.
When it comes to my introverted daughter, here are three things I’m intentionally doing in the new year for her.
1.Give her personal, quiet time. Occasionally she will ask to go hang out in her room without her little brother (the extrovert). From my own experience (and according to Ms. Cain’s book), introverts recharge with quiet, peaceful moments, not by socializing. We are not sad or loners, it’s just how we are wired.
2.Remind her she is special. By now, she knows her personality is different than most of her extroverted friends in kindergarten. She also hears others talk about how funny and outgoing her little brother is in every situation. I will let her know that we have a lot in common and she is a lot like I was at her age. We may even start a secret club.
3.Don’t react negatively to her extreme sensitivity. If she has a moment of insecurity or embarrassment from getting unwanted attention, I won’t make it worse by making her feel bad about her emotions. I’ll just continue to praise her for victories and build her confidence when she does seek moments in the spotlight.
With all that said, my three-year old extroverted son needs a completely different parenting approach so the story continues…