The words “introvert” and “extrovert” are used frequently and often misunderstood to imply that someone is shy or outgoing. The true essence behind introverted versus extroverted children refers to their personality preference – specifically, the way the child spends and recharges their energy.
Keep in mind that children are constantly learning to understand themselves and their place in the world. While it may appear that a child has introverted or extroverted tendencies, it is important not to label children or put them in a box. As they grow, their preferences may (and will) likely change.
What’s the difference? Introverted versus extroverted children
People who identify as extroverted tend to energize by being with other people. On the other hand, introverts are energized by being alone and can find being around other people draining. Understanding a child’s preferences and being sensitive to their needs helps us become better caregivers.
How can I tell if my child is introverted?
Introvert comes from Latin intro-, “inward,” and vertere, “turning.” Introvert as a verb means to literally “fold inward,” or to “turn inward.”
No introvert is the same. Introverted children can be communicative and vivacious, just like extroverts! The key to deciphering if a child is introverted typically lies in how they recharge and reflect inwardly.
Introverted children may:
- Recharge by being alone
- Listen a bit more than they speak
- Take their time processing something (internal processing)
- Be more reserved or reflective
- Be more likely to share ideas when prompted rather than speaking up on their own
- Enjoy one-on-one conversation more than group talk
Is my child extroverted?
Contrary to popular beliefs, extroverts can be shy and need alone time. But they’re usually identified by outwardly processing information and drawing near to others as an energy source.
Extroverted children typically:
- Get most of their energy from socializing
- Think or process aloud
- Get bored or sad when they’re alone for short periods of time
- Process thoughts and emotions after they do something
Additionally, there are many people who are ambiverts or have personalities that balance the features of both introverts and extroverts. When trying to determine what preferences a child may be showing, consider the following question: How does the child draw energy?
Healthy interaction with introverted and extroverted children
When engaging with humans of any age, especially children, it is important to recognize what that person’s needs might be and then act accordingly. Being sensitive to a child’s personality helps them feel safe and learn to trust. This security and comfort helps children develop, learn, and thrive. Caregivers must adapt the way they interact with children depending based on their ever-changing emotions and needs.
Pro-Tip: Before deciding how to approach a child who appears to be more introverted or extroverted, it is important to reflect on your own personality preferences. One’s own self-awareness is critical to understanding and interacting with others. By knowing your own tendencies, you will be better able to empathize with kids who may be similar or be more prepared to interact with those who have different energy needs.
Tips for caring for introverted children
You may be able to detect introverted tendencies from when a child is a toddler or a young child. While children are prone to change over time, the same tendencies may be detected well into their teenage years and adulthood.
When raising or caring for an introverted child, it’s important to:
- Respect their need for alone time
- Get to large gatherings early
- Talk through social situations beforehand
- Help them take a break
- Don’t push them to make lots of friends
- Reprimand them privately
- Don’t interrupt them
Tips for nurturing extroverted kids
As external processors, extroverted kids may bounce ideas and thoughts off of you more often than introverts. They may also need you to remind them to take breaks and rest.
If your child leans towards extroversion, it’s crucial to:
- Acknowledge their need to talk
- Schedule downtime (to help them learn to regulate)
- Give positive reinforcement
- Encourage their interests
- Offer them options
- Understand when they are busy
- Let them shine
A child’s introversion or extroversion does not alter their leadership, communication, or creative capabilities. Helping your child understand themself will allow the child to remain confident in who they are and care for themselves properly. It is also beneficial for adults to understand introversion versus extroversion because it can strengthen their relationship with that child.
Kids want to be known, seen, and loved. Identifying introverted children versus extroverted children can help us do just that.
Related resources for parents and caregivers
Want to learn more about introversion versus extroversion?
- Take the quiz: Are You Introverted or Extroverted?
- Take a free Meyers Briggs test for a more in-depth look at how introversion or extroversion plays a part on your personality and worldview
- 15 Things You Need to Know If Your Child is Introverted
- Tips for Introverted Parents Raising Extroverted Children
- Introvert vs Extrovert: A Look at the Spectrum and Psychology (deep dive)
This blog post is brought to you by members of ChildSavers Child Development Services staff, Koni Garofalo, and Michelle Schmidt. ChildSavers is a nonprofit in Richmond, Virginia that bridges the gap for kids in need of mental health services and quality early education.
Koni Garofalo is a program specialist for the Child Development services branch of ChildSavers. She joined the ChildSavers team in June of 2019. Koni earned her master’s degree from Walden University in early childhood studies specializing in teaching adults in 2013. She has 5 years of experience in the classroom with children ages six weeks to 12 years. In her present role she serves teachers of young children, both in family day homes and child care centers, helping them further develop their skills in interacting with children. Koni is a certified observer for the toddler and pre-K CLASS tool.
Michelle Schmidt is a Child Development Specialist for the Child Development services branch of ChildSavers. Before joining ChildSavers, Michelle taught children in Grades 1 – 5 in New Orleans. Her experience includes coaching teachers and writing curriculum for an international school while living in Kenya. She is a certified CLASS observer for the infant, toddler, pre-K, and K-3 CLASS tool. Michelle received her B.A. from the University of Georgia and a Masters in Education Policy from George Washington University. Currently, Michelle keeps busy with caring for her 1 yr old and 4 yr old boys, but when she has the chance she enjoys cooking and traveling.