April 23, 2019
Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, chances are that you already know you were born that way. But did you know that, according to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, author of “The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child,”babies begin showing signs of introversion or extroversion around four months of age—and they generally remain true to their nature as adults?
Thus, once an introvert, always an introvert, Psychology Today reports in a story on Dr. Laney’s work.
So what are introverts like as kids? No two introverts are exactly alike, but introverted children tend to share some characteristics—and their tendency to keep to themselves initially may worry their parents.
Indeed, Dr. Laney says, introverted children are often misunderstood. Engaged by their interior world, they’re often regarded as aloof. Easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation, they can be seen as unmotivated. Content with just one or two close friends, they may be perceived as unpopular.
Parents fret that they are unhappy and maladjusted. But the truth is quite different: Introverted children are creative problem solvers. Introverted children love to learn. Introverted children have a high EQ (emotional IQ) and are in touch with their feelings. They take time to stop and smell the roses, and they enjoy their own company. They are dependable, persistent, flexible, and lack vanity.
Overall, they tend to share seven strong psychological characteristics—among them:
- They have a vivid inner world. It’s always alive and present for them. They rely on their inner resources rather than constantly turning to other people for support and guidance. “In their private garden away from the material world they concentrate and puzzle out complex and intricate thoughts and feelings,” writes Dr. Laney. Introverted children enjoy imaginative play and they prefer playing alone–or with just one or two other children. They often spend time in their own room with the door closed, doing solitary things like reading, drawing, or playing computer games.
- They engage with the deeper aspects of life. Introverted children are not afraid of the big questions. They want to know why something is the way it is or what it means on a deeper level. Astonishingly, even at a young age, many of them can step outside themselves and reflect on their own behavior. Often, introverted children want to understand themselves—and everyone and everything around them. They might wonder, what makes this person tick?
- They observe first; act, later. Generally, they prefer to watch games or activities before joining in. Sometimes appearing hesitant and cautious, they stand back from the action and enter new situations slowly. They may be more energetic and talkative at home where they feel more comfortable.
- They make decisions based on their own values. Their thoughts and feelings anchor them inwardly, so they make decisions based on their own standards rather than following the crowd. This can be an extremely positive aspect of their nature because it means they’re less vulnerable to peer pressure. They don’t do things just to fit in.
- Quiet initially, it can take time for their real personalities to come out. Just like introverted adults, introverted kids warm up to new people slowly. They may be quiet and reserved when you first meet them, but as they become more comfortable with you, they come alive. Like introverted adults, introverted kids are generally good listeners—paying attention and remembering what the other person says. They may speak softly, occasionally pause to search for words, and stop talking if interrupted. They may look away when speaking to gather their thoughts but make eye contact when listening.
- They struggle in group settings. Sadly, the standards of being outgoing and assertive have been woven into every school and institution that an introverted child encounters. At a younger and younger age, children are spending time in group daycare and preschool. When they begin formal schooling, they may spend 6-7 hours a day with up to 30 other children, all the while being encouraged to participate and work in groups. This is challenging for introverts, who do better at home during their early years and adapt better to group settings as they grow older, writes Dr. Laney.
- They socialize differently than extroverts. They may have just one or two close friends and count everyone else as an acquaintance because introverts seek depth in relationships rather than breadth. They probably won’t spend as much time socializing as extroverted kids, and they’ll need to go off on their own after a while to recharge their energy. Like introverted adults, introverted kids have limited social energy. Too much time spent socializing might result in tears, meltdowns, and bad moods.
If you’re the parent of an introverted child, the best thing you can do for your child, Psychology Today reports, is to honor his or her temperament. Help your child understand why they feel tired and cranky after socializing. Teach them that there’s nothing wrong with needing to spend time alone.
Above all, don’t ever let them think there’s something wrong with them because they’re introverted. When we embrace introverted kids for who they are, we give them the confidence they need to fully show up in the world.
Research contact: @PsychToday