Understanding the Way Your Child Is Wired


If you want to avoid the inevitable meltdowns, explosions and personality clashes that come from kids with different temperaments butting up against each other, then it's critical to understand your kids and their unique personalities.

Picture the Introvert in your mind.

What do you see? A pale, thin, knock-kneed, spectacle-wearing, stammerer huddled in the corner over a book?

I’m an introvert, and although at one point I actually was a pale, thin, spectacle-wearing, shy girl huddled in the corner over my book, these days it might not be so easy to pick me out as the introverted type.

I’m friendly and inclusive and have plenty of friends. I can chat to the stranger next to me and I’ve done plenty of public speaking. Plus, I bare my soul to the world on a regular basis on my blog.

So how can I say I’m an introvert if I can be outgoing, friendly and socially confident?

Because introversion and extroversion have nothing to do with whether you are friendly or not: it’s about where you get your emotional energy.

What drains that energy and what replenishes it.

Understanding this is crucial to helping us understand our kids and avoid the pitfalls that are built in to the different personality types.

Introverts get their energy from alone time or from spending one-on-one time with a friend. Crowds and social contact drain them. They may enjoy social gatherings, but afterwards they need to get away somewhere quiet to reenergize.

Extroverts are the opposite. Extroverts are energized by people contact, and socializing recharges their emotional batteries. They need people-contact like a fish needs water. Too much alone time drains them.

In our family, introverts are in the minority.

My husband is a raging extrovert, with two of our three kids taking after him.

My extrovert daughter gets twitchy (and naughty) if she has to spend too much time alone – she needs social contact. Being surrounded by people energizes and revitalizes her. She comes home from school hungry for more.

My eldest son, on the other hand, takes after me. A friendly introvert, he makes friends easily and mixes well. He’s likable and outgoing, not usually shy. But after a day of people-contact at school he needs down time, or there will be hell to pay.

On the days when there is football practice straight after school, there is a high probability he’ll have a meltdown unless he gets some time to himself to decompress and recharge those emotional batteries.

This boy loved the idea of sharing a bedroom with his little brother, but after a few months the reality set in. No alone time. Our son needs the ability to close the door and be by himself after a peopled-out day. (He now has a tiny bedroom the size of a closet, but it’s all his and it has a door which can shut).

It really helps as a parent to understand your child and how he is wired, so we can avoid the inevitable meltdowns, explosions and personality clashes which come from kids with different temperaments butting up against each other.

I’ve learned that I need to provide my eldest son with down time or he will fall apart (and I need to keep my people-hungry daughter away from him while he recharges).

I’ve learned to provide my daughter with lots of opportunities for playing with others or she will erupt and spill out her need for people contact onto her brother (by severely annoying him and getting up in his face).

We’ve also learned (the hard way) that the youngest becomes destructive if he’s left in his own company for too long. Providing him with attention and interaction will save my precious book collection.

Understanding our kids and their unique personalities helps avert meltdowns and reduces sibling clashes to a manageable level. Every kid is different so the way we handle their emotional needs is also necessarily different.

(And a PhD in child psychology sure would help with this parenting lark, wouldn’t it?)How about you…? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? And how about those kids of yours?

Contributed by Simone Graham

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