Understanding Your Introverted Child

October 23, 2014

6 min read


How to stop power struggles, genuinely connect with them and help raise them to meet their full potential.

The more we know about a child's temperament and personality, the easier it is for us to get along with our child, stop power struggles, genuinely connect with them and help raise them to meet their full potential.

Understanding our child’s temperament also provides us with a deeper understanding of our kid’s misbehavior. Quite often their behavior is perfectly normal for their age or reflects inner conflicts due to their personality and temperament.

A child who cries and whines in a crowded room is usually not misbehaving. He is probably a sensitive kid who is overwhelmed with the stimulation around him. A high-energy child who is fidgety and starts to run around at the doctor’s office is not “bad;” he’s just acting on a very real need to move.

Introversion is often misunderstood. Kids who are introverts are called shy, nerdy, or bookworms. It is hard to appreciate our introverted kids because they seem so awkward in social situations, sometimes to the point of rudeness. They won’t be convinced to kiss Aunt Ethel when she comes to visit and sometimes when they have a friend over, they’ll play by themselves, leaving us to entertain their friend.

Younger kids might even bite their peers if they have moved into their personal space. This can be the cause of many power struggles and frustrations. But if we understand how their minds work, we can learn to respect their needs and work with them to help them reach their potential.

Introverted kids need quiet, alone time, their own space and time for reflection. That is why they don’t answer questions right away; they are listening but need time to come up with an answer. These kids need time to read and play quietly without interruption. They like to watch before joining an activity and they need lots of time to get comfortable in new situations.

Introverted kids do not like crowds. They may talk a lot with family members but not with outsiders. They are not being rude; they are just conserving their energy, besides they do not like small talk and are likely to pursue more meaningful relationships.

An unrecognized need for time alone is one of the major triggers of tantrums, fight with siblings or why a child may get nasty. An introverted kid cannot usually handle being around too many people, or involved in too many high energy activities. They aren’t being bad; they’re just trying to get their very real needs met.

How to Help Them

The best thing that we can do to help our introverted kids is to help them recognize their needs. We need to teach them to appreciate themselves and express what they are feeling. We need to tell them:

“It’s hard for you when too many people are around you.”
“Sometimes you like to play and be by yourself.”
“Dreaming is important to you.”
“Thinking is fun.”

In order to help engage our introverted kid’s cooperation (so that we don't run into the power struggles that are so common with them) we can watch to see if they have had too much people time and make sure that they have breaks. If a fight is starting out between your kids, one an introvert and one an extrovert, instead of running to punish them, you can ask your introverted child privately, “Have you had enough? Do you need some time alone?” You can then tell your extroverted child, “Sometimes people need time to play alone. If we take a break for a bit, your brother might be able to play again soon.”

Introverted kids also need to hear, “You might not feel comfortable right away with your new teacher, wearing your new sweater or swimming in the pool, but you will start to feel comfortable soon.”

It is also essential that introverted kids get one on one time with their parents. They can connect better in that way. They also tend to be quieter and can get lost in the shuffle of a large family.

Not only do we need to protect their quiet and alone time, we need to teach our introverted kids to recognize their own triggers and take care of themselves. We can teach them to say, “You are too close to me, move away.” “I want some quiet now.” They can also be taught more positive self-talk. Instead of, “This party is so stupid!” We can teach them to say to themselves, “I don't like the loud noise of this party, but if I go to the corner arts and crafts table, or I find one friend to talk to, I might find that I can enjoy myself.”

We can also teach them to plan ahead in order to avoid problems. We can say, “Tomorrow you are going on a class trip for the whole day, on a noisy bus, what do you think you could do if it gets too much for you?”

“Cousin Sara is visiting tomorrow, how can you be polite until you get comfortable with her?”

Introverted kids often feel different and may be insecure about the fact that they might not like the things their peers do. In order to build their confidence it is helpful if we praise them:

“You felt you needed a break and you found a quiet place.”
“You said hello and made eye contact with our new neighbor, that’s called being friendly!”

Do not describe them in negative ways. We can call them bright, dependable, a steadfast friend with depth.

Introverted kids certainly come with their own quirks and habits, but all kids do. If we appreciate them for who they truly are and teach them to appreciate themselves, the rewards can be great.


Sheedy Kurcinka, M. (2003). Raising Your Spirited Child Workbook. NY. Harper Collins.

Sheedy Kurcinka, M. (2006). Raising Your Spirited Child. NY. Harper Collins.

Olsen Laney, M. (2002). The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. NY. Workmen Publishing Company.

Faber, A., Mazlish, E. (1999). How To Talk So Kids Will Listen. NY: Harper Collins.

Next Steps