Meeting an Extroverted Child’s Needs

July 25, 2012 at 5:54 am (General)

As a follow up to my post last week about raising introverted kids, here is its counterpart on what you need to know about raising extroverted kids. By nature, extroverts are stimulating and outgoing. Extra = outward, Versio = a turning/ to turn. They turn outwardly for thinking, processing, feeling, sensing, and experiencing, which means extroverted kids are chatty, sensory-seeking and naturally expressive. Here are 4 things to know about parenting extroverted children:

1. Extroverted kids need interpersonal interactions. Being social is what energizes them; it’s being alone for long periods of time that drains them and brings out grumpy, irritable behavior. Extroverts have a need for stimulation, and engaging in frequent human contact and conversation on a regular basis meets this need. Engagement with others feeds the extroverted child’s soul.

DO: Provide opportunities for social interaction, preferably in groups or with a wide variety of people. Parents, siblings, playdates with friends are great, but even public play spaces where they don’t know anyone will work. Extroverts are naturally inclined to meet new people. If they can find someone to talk to, they will.

DON’T: Always make social time structured. Classes and organized activities definitely go a long way towards meeting an extroverted child’s need for being social, but there are often restrictions on how children may interact in them–expectations with regard to sitting still, being quiet, and listening to directions. “Social free play” is more effective at meeting an extrovert’s needs for expression, as they can self-adjust and be as unstructured and outspoken as they need to be.

2. Extroverted kids are up front about their emotions. Though they don’t necessarily have the language skills to identify their feelings, extroverts readily express laughter, excitement, tears, frustration and anger through their voices, actions, and body language. An extrovert processes life externally, so all emotions that stem inside a child get turned right back out at the world. A lack of emotional restraint is healthy and normal for extroverted kids. Just as introverts need to find quiet outlets for expressing their feelings, extroverts need to find appropriate verbal and physical ones. It’s not just a preference, it’s a must for their healthy emotional development.

DO: Accept their feelings. A child being vocal about what’s going on inside of him is not wrong. Let your extrovert know that anything he is feeling is OK, and it’s healthy to express it. It’s how he expresses these feelings that may not be OK. Teaching extroverts skills like taking positive time outs and how to redirect their physical reactions to anger takes time and is so worthwhile in teaching children appropriate emotional expression.

DON’T: Try to make a child’s feelings go away, however exuberant they may be. When she’s upset, don’t tell her, “I don’t want to hear it,” or that it’s time to be quiet. She’ll learn that feelings are to be suppressed, which goes against an extrovert’s nature and creates stress.

3. Extroverted kids are experiential learners. They are action oriented as opposed to thought oriented; they prefer doing hands-on activities to sedentary ones. Remember, extroverts come alive by engaging with their environment, so learning is more effective for them when they can immerse themselves in a subject using as many of their senses as possible. Lessons are quickly learned when there is talking, laughing, touching, playing; doing. This means that in school, they’ll find the most meaning and enjoyment in work that is cooperative, verbally engaging, experimental, and likely not at their desks.

DO: Ensure that your extroverted child is able to learn in an environment that suits her needs. Seek out schools and teachers who incorporate as much practical “field work” as possible into their curricula. At home, engage your child with dialogue, discussion, questions, games, playfulness and hands-on experience in things that are to be learned.

Also take advantage of groups, clubs, and other extra curricular activities to help extroverted kids meet their sensory needs. Opportunities for performing on a stage (such as in plays or musicals), working as a team (sports), or engaging verbally with others (scouts) are wonderful ways for extroverts to learn new skills.

DON’T: Assume that kids will learn something just by being told, even if they’re told over and over again. Implementing a one-way-listening style of communication (meaning: parent talks, child listens) goes against an extrovert’s nature, and can make learning frustrating for an extroverted child.

Hands-on density

An experiment in physics

4. An extroverted child can be alone. Extroverts crave stimulation, but that doesn’t mean they need to be entertained by someone all of the time. It is possible to have alone time “extroverted style” by including music, audio books, or some type of physical activity (swing, trampoline, punching bag) into their alone time.

DO: Aim for some alone time every day for your extrovert, even if it’s just a few minutes. Work towards a balance that works for your and your child. For all children, learning how to be alone and not depend on someone to keep them occupied is a valuable skill to develop.

DON’T: Place unnecessary restrictions on how alone time should occur. If your extrovert needs to sing or talk to herself, bounce up and down, or go outside to “sword fight” trees with a stick, let her do what she needs to unwind. Alone time doesn’t necessarily mean quiet time.

Helpful Reading:

Nurture by Nature by Barbara Barron-Teiger. An excellent resource on understanding temperament! Specifically, the four main temperaments in the Myers-Briggs personality indicator, including both extroversion and introversion.

Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. Just because a child is extroverted doesn’t necessarily mean he has a spirited nature, and vice versa. But often the two temperaments do go hand-in-hand because of the sensory-seeking nature of extroverts. This book is great for understanding spirited kids.

The Out of Sync Child Has Fun by Carol Kranowitz. While this book is aimed at understanding Sensory Processing Disorder, it is full of sensory activities that extroverts love. In it, I have found lots of ideas to try at home with both my extroverted and introverted kids.

 

15 Comments

  1. Jennifer said,

    I really enjoyed this pair of posts. My oldest is a huge extrovert, which has been an adjustment for me!

    • Kelly said,

      Thank you, Jennifer! It really is an adjustment, isn’t it? When one child’s personality differs so greatly from your own, it causes you to rethink everything about how to meet each person’s needs!

  2. Natalie said,

    I wish I could say for sure which ones I have! My daughter is 5 and like a extrovert disguised in an introvert’s body…or a shy extrovert…slow to warm up and it’s hard to tell with my son just yet since he’s only 2. Whew…both articles are great though!!!

    • Christine Parker said,

      Introversion/extroversion is a continuum. You may have kids closer to the middle who will benefit from a mixture of the ideas in these articles.

      Loved reading all of this! I have one extreme intro and one extreme extro and my husband are both mixed. The ride has been wild, and it gets better as we live now in the throes of teenagerdom!!

  3. Mary said,

    Reblogged this on ConnectingthaDots and commented:
    In a week or so, I’ll be spending time with my grandsons while waiting for our little grandaughter to “hatch”. The three boys are a delightful mixture of boyish fun, who look a lot like each other, and are full of love and smarts, but one of them is what I would call, an extrovert. As I read this article, I identified with the child and thought about ways this child who is very much like I am could have fun together instead of butting heads as we tend to do. I hope you enjoy the article.

  4. katese11 said,

    This is a great post (sorry to sound like a spammer there…). I am struggling with my extrovert 3yo and some of the things you’ve said here really clicked. Have shared on fbook and with my BLW friends 🙂

  5. Rachael said,

    Really enjoyed this post. I have an extrovert 3 y/o boy and me being an introvert it can be a little challenging but I will definitely try some of these suggestions to meet his needs.

  6. Stacy @ Sweet Sky said,

    I also really enjoyed this series… I definitely have one extrovert (my oldest), and I am a recovering extrovert who is coming into her own as an introvert… while recently having moved into a cohousing community. It’s been an interested year and a half, that’s for sure! My youngest is more introverted and the two of them get along amazingly well, though I can see that I might need to be more conscientious about them getting their needs met as they grow older and their interests also diverge (we homeschool).

    Thanks again for such succinct and helpful reflections and tips.

    Best,
    Stacy

  7. Aurora said,

    Thanks, my 4 1/2 year old daughter is an extrovert, as am I. My husband and his daughter are the complete opposite. It’s very difficult living in our household, with half hardly talking and the other half constantly interacting with each other and trying to with the others. Never really put a label on my girl, just thought she was strong willed. Now I can say that she’s a strong willed extrovert.
    Lucky me

  8. Second hand goodness! | Still on my feet said,

    […] with a long flat garden, with sandpit. But Abigail needs to play, bounce, express herself as the extrovert blog by Parenting from Scratch recommended, so I’ve been looking for play […]

  9. Tamara said,

    Searching for answers for my 9 yo extravert – he’s such a blast but his energy doesn’t translate well in the classroom where he is so misunderstood. Your suggestions are brilliant – in fact i notice he is very talkative with strangers (at the dog park). people love him in places like that – no structure and his chattiness is welcome….We need more or this! Great book suggestions too – thank you!

  10. Nikki said,

    OMG! I’m an introverted mother with two introverted teenagers and I now understand that I have an extroverted 4-year old that literally throws my household upside down every single day. All she says all day long is, “play with me, play with me.” And we all take turns playing with her until exhaustion hits us, and not her. She runs the house, her school and any group she is involved with. I just thought she was outgoing. She is loved by children and adults! My older children would say she is out-of-control because I’m spoiling her. But, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something about her felt different. Then I learned about extroverts and the puzzle is complete! Now, I need to find a way to understand her vibrant energy, as well as her frustration with a house full of calm, laid back, adults. Why do I feel like life for us is now about to change, but for my little one, life is about to really begin! LOL.

    • Laura said,

      Oh boy your comment made me laugh/cry because I too am an introverted mum with a 3 year old who I have just discovered is a strong willed extrovert! I couldn’t put my finger on it either but I knew something was…well…more about her. More extreme and more exhausting, more emotional etc. Her catch phrase is also ‘play with me! Play with me!’ All the parenting books I read made me more and more confused as she just didn’t fit their molds. One book about strong willed children described her almost 100% accurately and I’m absolutely buzzing with joy and relief. Let the fun begin!

  11. drtyra said,

    Thanks for this post. My husband and I are introverts and our only child (almost 6) is an extrovert. The differences between us are clear, especially when I sneak away for my recharge time and my son finds me to say, “Mommy, aren’t you lonely?” His extroverted nature makes him something of a mystery to us, but it’s a fascinating and fun journey.

  12. val said,

    This is one of the most helpful articles I’ve read! It really “normalised” my daughters behaviour to me, a natural inrovert. I have probably made her feel bad about who she is, because of my sheer embarrasment of the granduer of her expression of her enthusiasm or dissapointment!

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