I wasn’t always cool with being an introverted parent. I wanted to be one of those moms who thrived among children—the mom who’s always on, always available emotionally; the mom who invites all the neighborhood kids over for snacks every day. But that’s just not me. I love my kids, but there’s a reason I’m always suggesting we play hide-and-seek. (There’s something about a dark closet…)
I viewed my introversion as a parental liability, a flaw I had to overcome. Lately, though, I’ve been wondering: could my introverted personality be a benefit? Does it actually, in some ways, make me a better parent?
The answer, I think, is yes. When I look at my skillset as a parent and the areas where I feel confident, I can see where my introversion is an asset. This isn’t to say that introverted parents are automatically the best kind of parents—or vice versa. Not at all. But for my sake, it definitely helps to celebrate some of the ways introversion makes me a better mom. For example:
I stay in tune with my kids. I tend to analyze everything—someone’s comment on Twitter, a weird facial expression from my husband, a friend’s text. I put as much thought into what others are saying as I do into what I’m saying. This can be exhausting for me (and overwhelming to my friends and family), but when it comes to my kids, this kind of overthinking actually helps me stay in tune with them. I’m good at reading their emotions and faces, in addition to their words. I can get to the bottom of feelings, when otherwise I might have accepted a brush-off statement like ”I’m fine, Mom.”
I am helping my kids process their own feelings. I’m a processing savant. Put me in a situation, and I’ll look at it from multiple angles, think it through to its conclusion, and come to a reasonable plan of action. You know who doesn’t do that very well? A 6-year-old. If one of my kids is dealing with a tricky situation at school, no one’s better at helping them work through it than I am.
Maintaining one-on-one connections with multiple kids. I may not throw myself into the lions’ den when all four kids are playing together, but I am definitely comfortable showering each one individually with attention. One of my favorite routines is something we call a “slumber party” at our house. It’s not an actual slumber party but an intentional time when I lie in bed with one of my kids at the day’s end. We spend the time just talking. Something about the intimate bedtime setting helps us connect. I feel like these bedtime moments help me get to know my kids’ hearts in a deeper way.
Having empathy for my children. This is especially true with my more introverted kids. My oldest daughter, for example, is a classic introvert. A couple of weeks ago, she had a playdate with four friends that lasted longer than we had planned. Around hour two of the eventually three-hour playdate, I found her in her room reading alone, with the door closed. Her friends were playing in the living room with my other kids. Everyone was having fun, so instead of forcing her into social interaction, I just let her be. This situation might drive an extrovert crazy, but I totally understand the impulse to get away.
Lowered emotional reactivity. Introverts are internal processors. For me, that means that my emotions are usually pretty well hidden under the surface. This can pose problems, but I’ve found this to be a huge benefit when it comes to discipline and children. When a kid misbehaves, I may get all rage-y inside, but outwardly I’m far less emotional, less reactive, and more logical. Whether it’s dealing with gum in the hair or discovering my youngest wrote her name in Sharpie on the kitchen table, I can usually keep my cool.
Modeling how to enjoy being alone. We talk a lot in our house about alone time. I love to read. I love music. I want my kids to love those things too, and they do. As an introvert, I’m able to model for them the value of alone time. My kids see me reading books, practicing the piano, or otherwise entertaining myself without the need of external stimulation, TV, or a sibling. Being alone and not bored is a very valuable thing for kids to learn.
Those are some of the ways I’ve begun making positive connections between my personality and my parenting style. What about you? What other ways could being an introvert benefit us as parents?