Is your son cautious? Bravo! Has your daughter been told she’s shy? Good for her!
Society as a whole does not value introverts, even though introverts are variously estimated at 1/3 to ½ the U.S. population, more or less. Everyone is supposed to get out there and do whatever other people are pushing them to do. Well, the heck with that idea. “Just do it!” does not work for introverts. Never has. Never will.
In this world of extroverts, loudmouths, and various yakkity-yak people, coming across a person who is somewhat reserved is like a refreshing breeze at a clamorous, aromatic outdoor market. What a relief!
If your child is extroverted, your main concern – and it’s a Big One – will be to pull back on the reins so he or she doesn’t go off with a stranger or even someone you know.
On the other hand, if your child prefers to take in what’s going on in a room or at a backyard party before saying anything or deciding where to sit, more power to them. You probably have an introvert on your hands who is building their self-confidence one experience at a time. And Mom and Dad, he or she doesn’t have an illness that needs treating. Introversion is a trait, much like brown eyes, openness, curiosity, or freckles, anything that makes one person different than another. Many traits are a combination of genetics and environment.
Some older people like to call themselves ambiverts, meaning they can be extroverted or introverted. It all depends on the situation. I wouldn’t disagree with that, but mostly, introverts are the way they are throughout their lives. They may “come out of it” long enough to give a short talk at church, school or work, or chitchat with an extroverted, gossipy neighbor. They do that mostly because they’re expected to. But do they then want to spend an hour or an evening with that same audience? No, they really don’t. They’re drained from the experience and need solitude to recharge.
If you or your child seem unhappy, then perhaps it isn’t introversion. Do they ask why nobody wants to play with them? Do you ask yourself why you don’t seem to have any friends? Are you depressed and in need of a medical opinion? Did you just move to a new neighborhood? At first, it can take more courage than you have to step outside yourself and say hello to strangers, especially if you are or are not already meeting new colleagues at work. It’s often overwhelming, so imagine how your child must feel, even if they’re normally outgoing.
Is your child being bullied? Is she the bully? Are you a bully, and have church members, for example, walled you out? Ask discreet or probing questions. You probably already know how your child will likely react to each. Do you understand yourself that well?
If your son is perfectly content reading a book instead of getting bashed around on the football field, and he has at least one good friend, don’t worry. Personally, I would be overjoyed to have a bookworm instead of a jock. He might even grow to adulthood without serious physical injuries. But that’s just me. Every person born into this world is different. None of us should have to be like everybody else to fit in, and be accepted.
That said, a “clinging vine” person, male or female, can be a burden to others. We need to learn to be independent one step at a time. This can be a tougher accomplishment for an introvert but we can do it!