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.
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.
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.