THE BLOG
05/10/2013 06:55 pm ET Updated Jul 10, 2013

What I Know About Motherhood Now that I'm an Extrovert Raising an Introvert

Kriste Stevenson

Written by CTWorkingMoms.com Blogger, Kriste Stevenson

Last week was a difficult week -- the kind of week where I would have sold my child to the highest bidder had someone been crazy enough to make me an offer. Not really, but you get the idea: Everything elicited a tantrum and she was altogether disagreeable. If you said white, she said black. It wasn't just around her family. Buttercup was acting up at school, too.

I had several conversations with her preschool teacher to help figure out her recent nutty behavior. Her teacher told me that my girl does best when she's left to play by herself; that she is very content being alone. So much so that she will leave an activity if another child comes over to join her (if she doesn't scream at them to go away first). The teacher described the boys in the class as a tight-knit, rambunctious group and the girls as an outgoing, energetic bunch of fashionistas; girly girls who love to pose and show off their glittery outfits. And then there's my Buttercup. She doesn't fit into either of these groups. She wasn't describing a problem, per se, just a difference. It sounded to me like she was describing an introvert.

Am I blind? How have I known this child for almost five years and not realized that she was an introvert? If you know me, then you have to laugh at that. My kid? An introvert? I'm one of the most extroverted people on the planet. Sometimes, I talk so much that I annoy myself -- that's how extroverted I am. It makes sense, though. She often chooses to stay at home and play. When I ask her who her friends are at school, her answer is usually along the lines of, "nobody." I've always known that it takes her a little while to warm up to people. I always figured she was fine. But is she, really? Now, I have a whole new way to consider parenting her -- a way that is the total opposite of my extroverted instincts.

Here are a few things I've learned to do when it comes to my girl.

Introverts might get overwhelmed with too much stimulation and prefer quiet, solitary activities.
She needs downtime to recharge. I'll try not to over-schedule her and try to balance the introverted activities, like playing with Barbie Dolls, with the extroverted activities, like play dates with her friend Josh. No characteristic is absolute; both sides are good to have, so it's about finding the right mix.

It is important to accept your kid for who she is and what she likes.
She really does like playing by herself; she enjoys her own company. That's a good quality in an only child! I have to remember not to push her to be more outgoing by forcing her into group activities or team sports. (Hello? Dance class? That was all my idea. Oops.) When she is involved in activities with lots of other kids, I need to give her time to ease into them. Instead of just dropping her on the dance floor and saying "Go!", she would benefit from time to get used to the noise and the group before joining. (Aha moment!)

Introversion and shyness are not the same things.
Being introverted does not mean being friendless. (Phew!) Introverts usually pick a few close friends instead of befriending the whole class. This is especially evident in our lives right now, as we're gearing up for her birthday party. Most days, she doesn't want anyone from preschool to come to her party, or is very... selective as to who she thinks should come. But she always wants her friend JR there. They've known each other since birth, but now attend different preschools and don't see each other every day. That's good enough for her.

There are benefits to being an introvert.
Being an introvert doesn't mean there is something wrong with her! I know that, of course, but my job as her mom is to make sure she knows that. She's a great problem solver and comes up with the best ideas. She loves to do creative, artsy activities and is good at them. I need to seize the opportunities to praise her for ability to play independently, to be creative and think things through.

The differences between my daughter and me give us an advantage.
As she gets older, I plan to use them as a way to talk about differences, in general. Let's face it; she's going to need to understand me too. Or at least understand why she feels the constant need to roll her eyes at me. (Mommy, why are you talking to that lady at the grocery store?)

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For more posts in our What I Know About Motherhood series, click through the slideshow below.

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