LET THE QUIET ONES SHINE
Introverts prefer being on their own. They prefer reading or listening to music than socializing. Sometimes everyone around them, including their own parents, struggle to understand them. Consequently, there always is a sense of dissatisfaction. They are unintentionally forced to fit in, even though they may be completely happy on their won.
If they feel pressured, they might end up becoming 'pseudo-extroverts' due to undue pressure to try and conform with society’s definition of an ideal personality.
We all want our children to be outgoing, bold, assertive, sociable, exuberant and confident. In one word - an extrovert. Actress Emma Watson shared in one of her interviews 'If you are anything other than extrovert you are made to think there is something wrong with you.'
Introverts struggle with invisibility. They are the quite ones who are not so social, popular, assertive or out there. They prefer hanging out with a couple of close friends or better still spending their break in the library. They avoid attracting attention. However, understanding the different temperaments or personality types of children is important.
Extroverts are energized by social interaction and being with others while introverts get energized by quiet reflection, reading and being on their own.
We also tend to confuse shyness with introversion when actually they are quite different. Shyness is a fear of being socially judged or disapproved whereas introversion is a preference of quieter pursuits. Many a times, through repeated messages that we give an introverted child, (s)he might become shy and starts thinking there is something wrong and develop a strong fear of social rejection.
There is a tendency of all of us to admire the extrovert ideal.
Schools are a perfect example of this bias. Children who shine on stage or in student councils are generally considered smarter. Whilst, introverts are hauled up for not raising their hands, speaking up for being bold enough.
We are not saying that we should not empower introverted children with the ability to socialize and speak up when required. Gentle nudges to go out and play, attend parties occasionally, participate in school events, speak up in class when necessary are actually helpful. Just as we need to train extroverts to be a little more reflective, learn to spend some on their own and appreciate their internal world. Children's temperaments are like a rubber band, they can only stretch a little. The trick is to accept, balance and then celebrate.
Introverts end up carrying a huge sense of guilt and anxiety for not being good enough, specially when parents force them to change their personality drastically in order to become an extrovert. Nowadays in schools, there is a lot of focus on group learning. The assumption is that collaborative work can make children learn effectively all the time. This is good for extroverts but what about introverts, who learn best in solitude? A child who understands 'I might be different from others, but I am fine', will be in a much better position to explore her/his strengths rather than wasting time in pretending who (s)he is not. Enhancing oneself is inevitably the most important step.
'We can’t underestimate the value of silence. In order to create ourselves, we need to spend some time alone. If we don’t, we risk not knowing ourself and not realizing our dreams.'
Try to gently encourage introverted child towards being a little more adventurous. Talk to her/him and help her/him understand that having 'people skills' is also important. Work towards agreement whereby (s)he could do one thing every week/fortnight/month that helps her/him build social skills. It could range from speaking at an assembly, preparing on a topic before a class discussion and participate in it. As long as the child is feeling accepted and there is a sense of ownership it will be learning an important lesson in life. This can only be done via gentle support and encouragement, not via judgement or scolding.
Can you imagine what our world would have been without amazing people like Premchand, J.K Rowling, and Steven Spielberg? These are incredible world-famous people who are introverts!
Introverts are thinkers, listeners, poets, writers, creators who love dwelling in their rich inner life. Known for being highly sensitive, they perceive and feel the world much strongly.
Go ahead and celebrate your introverted child. The child might not be the star of the party right now, but the sparkling mind can shine like none other if given the space to be.