How to Raise an Extroverted Child

Children having fun with friends
Ariel Skelley / Getty Images.

Parenting is wonderful and rewarding, but it also can be fraught with challenges. As soon as your child enters the world, you quickly realize that they are their own person with their own personality, quirks, and needs. But what if those unique characteristics do not gel particularly well with your own?

If you often find yourself feeling drained by your child’s high energy, it could be that you have a little extrovert on your hands. This means that, for them, they are re-energized by social interaction. This can be challenging for anyone to keep up with, but perhaps for none more so than an introverted parent, who can become easily depleted by too much external stimulation.

At times it might feel like you have to sacrifice your own needs for your child’s sake. However, it is possible to help your little one thrive without draining your own batteries. Gaining an understanding of both your own and your child’s personality traits is the first step.

What Is an Extrovert?

In order to know how to raise a happy extrovert, we have to understand what it means to be one. Extroverts and introverts exist on a spectrum, so it is possible to exhibit personality traits of both. However, extreme extroverts have needs that have to be met in order for them to function with optimum energy levels.

Characteristics of Extroverts

  • Need plenty of social interaction
  • Can quickly become bored or restless without stimulation
  • Crave new experiences and adventures
  • Prefer playing within groups
  • Adaptable to new people and situations
  • Process thoughts as they talk

“Extraverted kids tend to seek out and enjoy a lot of stimulation in their lives,” explains David Rettew, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine. “They enjoy being around people and are often quite active and energetic.”

Extroverted children also can quickly show positive emotions like excitement and joy. They also can sometimes be a little impulsive or take higher amounts of risk.

What Is an Introvert?

A common misconception is that being an introvert means that you are shy. But just as extroverts draw their energy from being around others, introverts recharge by spending time alone. They often crave solitude and get more energy from their own company.

“Introverts aren’t fuelled by social interactions, and are often drained by them,” says Jennifer Wolkin, PhD, an New York City-based licensed clinical psychologist. “However, it’s important to note that this doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy interactions, they just need to recharge and refuel from one interaction to the next.”

Characteristics of Introverts

  • Are re-energized by alone time
  • Crave solitude
  • Tend to be quieter with unfamiliar and larger groups
  • Process thoughts in their heads
  • Require quiet in order to deeply focus

Understanding Each Other’s Needs

Just as your need for quiet and solitude is valid, so too is your extroverted child’s desire for social interaction.

But instead of embarking on a never-ending push-and-pull of one or the other, Dr. Rettew, who penned the book “Parenting Made Complicated: What Science Really Knows about the Greatest Debates of Early Childhood,” advises parents to recognize their child’s temperament traits as well as their own and work with them.

“Having a basic understanding of your own temperament and your child’s can help families find a balance that works for everyone,” says Dr. Rettew. “Introverted parents may often need to take a deliberate step or two away from their natural introverted tendencies to help meet the needs of their child but at the same time can use their introversion to teach their child other ways of engaging the world.”

Depending on the age of your child, it might be appropriate to openly discuss your different personality styles with them, says Dr. Wolkin.

A good place to start could be by explaining to your child that sometimes, as a parent, you need your own time and that has no bearing on how much you love them or enjoy being with them. Younger children will be unlikely to understand or grasp this concept, but for tweens and up it could be a conversation you can have openly and respectfully.

“Of course, the key is to never shame a child nor yourself for your personality style,” says Dr. Wolkin. “Speak about it very concretely, and let them know that different people need different things, that needs are OK, and essential, and that you will work together as a team to make it work for one another.”

How to Help Your Extrovert Thrive

Thankfully, there are ways of meeting your extrovert’s needs without wearing yourself out. One of the main coping mechanisms for helping your little extrovert thrive is to create opportunities for them to interact that do not always have to include you, advises Dr. Wolkin.

“Maybe this means a playdate at another family’s house or time with extended family, or depending on the child’s age this can include group play online, for example, multi-player gaming,” says Dr. Wolkin

If you have a spouse and you are both introverts, you could schedule breaks at different times so that you are both able to recharge, she says. If one of you is an extrovert, be clear about your needs.

Make a point to celebrate and create an abundance of fun in the home. This will go a long way in meeting your child’s craving for big, exciting moments, Dr. Wolkin says.

One of the most beneficial things you can do for your extroverted child is to make a point of spending a certain amount of time giving them your undivided attention.

“This might be especially crucial during COVID times when playdates are farther and fewer between,” says Dr. Wolkin. “During this uninterrupted time make a concerted effort to show up intentionally. Make eye contact, put all devices down, have a back and forth conversation, [and] ask your child about their day.”

A word of warning, though—if you neglect your extroverted child’s needs for stimulation and socialization, it could result in negative behaviors, says Dr. Rettew. Children with higher levels of extroversion can quickly become bored or restless without the stimulation of company.

“It is certainly possible that if there’s a big temperamental mismatch between an extroverted child and an introverted parent that the child will seek out some extra stimulation on their own and either defy the parents or create some conflict,” Dr. Rettew says.

Your Needs Are Valid Too

As a parent, it is crucial to meet a child’s needs. However, no introverted parent can rise to this occasion if they themselves are not finding the time to replenish, says Dr. Wolkin. What’s more, it is important to recognize that seeking solitude does not make you a bad parent.

“The bottom line is that an introverted parent needs solitude and alone time to most efficiently parent without resentment,” says Dr. Wolkin.

Without small pockets of quiet time in order to recharge, the introverted parent’s nervous system is likely to become stressed.

This build-up of stress is a recipe for irritation and agitation. Sometimes parents might yell for lack of proper mental bandwidth, which could stress the child’s nervous system in return, she says.

You can also help teach your child to learn to respect other people’s needs for alone time by asking for some quiet time at home. By teaching your child to give you space, you are setting them on a path to respecting other people and their different needs.

“This is unlikely to transform a child’s temperament but can help teach important skills for how to function in less stimulating environments,” says Dr. Rettew. “Good parenting often involves finding a balance of things and, if successful, a more introverted parent could also help an extraverted child be able to appreciate quieter moments and activities.”

As a parent, if your needs are met, it’s more likely your child’s needs will be met as well, explains Dr. Wolkin. If you make sure your nervous system is regulated then your child is more likely to pick up on that and stay regulated as well.

A Word From Verywell

It is natural to feel guilty about needing to spend time apart from your child, but by no means does this make you a bad parent. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup.

While it is important to expand yourself to meet your little one’s needs, you also need to carve out time to recharge your own batteries throughout the day. Little pockets of solitude and time alone can go a long way in making this a reality.

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3 Sources
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