How introvert parents help extrovert kids

This is a guest post from Sarah Faulkner. She is a homeschooling mom in Washington state. She has five kids, ages 13, 11, 9, 5, and 2.

I grew up an only child and until about six months ago I thought I was an introvert. But really, it’s my mother who’s a severe introvert, and my confusion came from how poorly she parented me, her extroverted child. If you’re in the same boat she was, here’s how you can do a better job.

1.  Teach your child how to be alone.
I was very lonely. My Mother hated to have people over.  She tried to pretend like it didn’t drive her nuts for me to have friends visit, but it did.  Being such a strong introvert she felt worn out and drained from her job in customer service.

I would cry because I felt so lonely, but even at school I did not have many friends. Friendships grow outside of school. In school you are busy going from point A to point B, not playing and being friends.

The greatest gift an introvert parent can give an extrovert child is the gift of learning how to be alone. There is a value in being self-contained and self-comforted that only introverts fully understand. Extroverts do not always know how to entertain themselves and they will frequently feel bored, but it’s fine to let them be bored.  Being bored forces your brain to grow and learn new things.

2.  Help your child maintain one or two close friends.
My mother put me into daycare.  She was worried I was not getting socialized enough.  I hated it.  I hated going to daycare, and later I hated going to school.

What I wanted was to have good friends, and to socially interact with people on my own terms.  I did not need groups of people, all shallow relationships, day in and day out. Your extrovert will be the most happy and content if you focus on helping them maintain good friendships.

3.  Teach your child how to speak to people in public
My mother hated it when I would speak to people in public. She couldn’t stop me, so she taught me how to be polite and not embarrass her. I can feel charged and energized from chatting with people. I do not always need to have a close friend over.  Sometimes just going out and connecting for a few moments is enough.

I have two extroverted children as well.  I take them with me and teach them how to speak to people, how to maintain eye contact, and ask good questions. I am most comfortable helping keep a conversation going, learning about that person.

For an extrovert to be happy, they need meaningful friendships—not many, just a few. For them to recharge they need moments of chit chat with other people. They don’t need hours away, locked into large group settings.  They don’t need hours of doing an activity. They simply need relationships.

13 replies
  1. jessica
    jessica says:

    I’m so sorry your mom didn’t understand your needs on a deep level. That’s horrible and creates so many issues for a kid; like first off- not being heard and understood. There are difficulties with competing personalities, but like you point out being an I and an E doesn’t mean the relationship has to suffer. My children are one vivacious E that loves deep connections with close friends (as you describe) and is intense like P’s boys running, sword fighting, wrestling and the other is a complete I that can (so far) be magically happy all on his own. They respond to different things. I enjoy both immensely and like that they are different in that way. My husband is an intense I. And that can be hard to navigate at times, like in social situations when he doesn’t want to converse. I think I straddle the line of I/E. In a way though, because I’m so aware of it (e and I) I think it aides in how I approach everyone in my family. It’s part of the intuition that comes from experience and knowing someone closely.
    I hope things have improved with your mother. That’s tough. :/

  2. Laura
    Laura says:

    As an I raising an extreme E, I’ve observed that he enjoys having many shallow relationships. Really, his goal as an E is to have as many people around him as possible. For me, it is a nightmare of noise, overstimulation and loss of privacy. The worst part is he will never understand or appreciate the sacrifices I have made to accommodate his need for speed.

  3. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    What are some examples of “good questions” you teach your children? I’m the I here, trying to help my I child that wants to make friends, but struggles.

    • sarah faulkner
      sarah faulkner says:

      I read, “How to Win Friends and Influence People ” by Dale Carnegie. I would strongly recommend the book. It laid out simple tips for talking. Normally it is teaching the kids to say the basics and how to respond with a follow up question.

      IE: I like your shorts. Your dog is cute. Do you like the weather? Did you have a nice weekend?

  4. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    Phew. I think I’m doing okay if I get 2.5 out of 3 with my E kid. I hate that it’s exhausting to have kids over, but it is. I just try to tell myself to suck it up, it’s a sacrafice, and I won’t have to do it in 10 or so years. It’s not even that I don’t like the kids, I actually really enjoy them, but the loudness, the squealing and brash laughter and constant movement… after hours I’m just plain worn out.

  5. Anna
    Anna says:

    I read recently that introverts have a drive to bring forth something inside themselves to the outside world, and extroverts conversely start out by perusing the outside world in order to achieve something inside themselves. This plays out in such a way that introverts spend the first decades deeply withdrawn to private worlds and then produce something of meaning and value. Extroverts explore and seek around them as much as possible for the first decades and then in the later years, discover themselves. Being an introvert myself, this helped me understand what motivates extroverts better, and if it is true, is a profoundly helpful insight.

  6. malaika
    malaika says:

    oh Sarah, I loved how simply and aptly you put it:

    “For an extrovert to be happy, they need meaningful friendships—not many, just a few. For them to recharge they need moments of chit chat with other people. They don’t need hours away, locked into large group settings. They don’t need hours of doing an activity. They simply need relationships.”


  7. Tony
    Tony says:

    Great advice. I am a huge introvert. My youngest son loves talking to people as much as I dislike it and I am constantly wondering how I am going to parent a child successfully that is my complete opposite

  8. Bostonian
    Bostonian says:

    I am in the position of raising two extroverted kids as an introvert. This seems like good advice, and I appreciate it.

    This part makes a lot of sense to me, and matches our experience: “I did not need groups of people, all shallow relationships, day in and day out. Your extrovert will be the most happy and content if you focus on helping them maintain good friendships.”

    My son found school to be absolutely horrible. I’m sure part of it was the way he attempted to connect with the other inmates, er, students. School is, it turns out, not a good place for that. Mobs favor certain types of behavior over others.

    Over the years we’ve been free he’s developed a very close relationship with another boy his age, and several more casual relationships with other kids. It is very important to him to see these people on a regular basis.

    He has also recovered the very open and friendly manner he had before school damaged him, which – coupled now with a bit more caution and judgment – allows him to make new friends and acquaintances easily.

    It is amazing to me how much happier and more able to focus my son is after he spends time with his best friend or newer friends.

  9. Erin
    Erin says:

    I liked this post. It’s informative & helpful. I have a follow up question, though: do you feel like this is the bare minimum of what an extrovert child needs? Or that most extroverts need exactly this? Or that it depends on the person/child?

    • Sarah
      Sarah says:

      Thanks Erin. I would say this would be a life goal to maintain, knowing that there will be time periods when they could use a good boost of people. The hardest part is teaching a child how to be alone, and self entertain. It is like eating a bowl of Ice Cream. Everyone always wants more, but never should. The extrovert is very poor at judging “to much people.” Reminding her what you just did, point out behaviors that show you the child needs space, and teaching them how to self entertain will help. Also, showing up coming things, like the store or the park. I have learned about every two days I need to get out of the house. My husband is about the same, maybe a day and half, he craves people more than me. :)

      • Anna
        Anna says:

        There is correlary for introverts — we are poor at judging “too much alone time”. We’ll go for it until we are way, way, almost hilariously too isolated.

        Also, the extrovert need for frequent interaction with a few close friends is interesting to me, as, as an introvert, I find that to be so draining. A lot of times, people say introverts like a few close friends, but it is more draining to me to hang out with a friend than to be in a crowd. This is because a crowd is anonymous, and I can analyze information in the crowd and the whole, overall situation (INTP here), but with a friend, there are the interactive, personal elements. So it makes sense that extroverts would like a few close friends they see often.

  10. Linda
    Linda says:

    Personally I am done with playdates at the house for a host of reasons. Instead we meet friends at the park or pool, at homeschool coop, etc. Darling son also goes to Boys & Girls Club for social and gym time. Meet-ups solve all my concerns about playdates.

    Some extroverts are driven to know everyone on the planet. The ENFPs in particular. So it depends on the person.

    My ENFP brother and ENFP son grew up in families of INTJs. Poor things, what a mismatch. My brother coped by seeking mentoring by the extroverted, businessmen fathers of his friends. For my son I look for opportunities for him to be in big groups of people because that’s what he loves.

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