Tips for Parenting an Extrovert
Parenting an extrovert presents some unique challenges. If your child is an extrovert, here are some tips to help you understand and support her in a better way.
By Mina Dilip
Every child is unique and different. By and large, the personality of children may be classified into three categories – extrovert, introvert and ambivert. An extrovert is an outgoing, socially confident individual; an introvert is a shy, reticent individual; and an ambivert is someone who has a balance of extrovert and introvert features in his personality.
If you have an outgoing and socially competent child, read on for some tips on effectively parenting an extrovert. The beginning letters of the tips below join up to form the acronym SPECIAL, because every child is special in his or her own way.
1. Socialise your little extrovert: Social interactions are like oxygen to an extrovert. Hence, create opportunities for positive social interactions for your extroverted child. Arrange for him to spend time with his cousins and extended family. If you live in an apartment complex, it might be worth exploring your neighbourhood to find like-minded children of his age and introduce him to them. He can take it from there.
The more opportunities you provide your extroverted child to meet a variety of people, the happier he will be. Not only will it help him hone his natural people skills, but also increase his social competence, empathy and confidence.
Social interactions need not be restricted to neighbourhood children and family members. You can also try taking your young extrovert to a park or other safe public spaces where he can meet and establish relationships with children of different age groups.
2. Provide space to explore, experience and learn: An extrovert is often an experiential learner. The more she explores, the more sensorial inputs she receives and the faster she assimilates the new learning. By ensuring that she has access to plenty of sensory and stimulating experiences, you can ensure that she feels emotionally nourished and psychologically fulfilled.
An interesting game you can play with your young extrovert is the 5-4-3-2-1. It is an exercise in mindfulness that helps children tune in to their senses and explore the power of the here and now.
- How to play: Tell her to reach out and touch any five things. Next, ask her to stand in one place, look around and visually pick out any four things that she sees. Then, tell her to close her eyes and identify any three sounds in the environment and name them. After this, let her sniff and recognise any two smells in her immediate environment. Finally, ask her to place the tip of her index finger on the tip of her tongue to experience one taste. This way, all five senses are engaged and there is a complete focus on the here and now. This game can be played with multiple variations. For example, you might change it to 5 sounds, 4 smells, 3 things to touch, 2 things to see and 1 to taste, or any other combination of your choice.
3. Enrol in classes and activities of interest: Enrol your child in after-school activities and group classes. But, before you do that, ensure that you know about his likes and dislikes. For example, if he hates dancing, avoid enrolling him in dance classes.
After-school activities and classes provide an ideal environment for your child to meet new people and gather new experiences, which can be invigorating for him.
4. Create a balance: Just because your child is an extrovert doesn’t mean that you need to keep finding opportunities for her to interact with others. She could also benefit tremendously from some quiet me-time. Teach her the value of winding down in silence after an exciting day of mingling and socialising. Alternatively, enable her to relax in the comfort of her own space with a good book or some music of her choice.
Teaching her yoga and meditation can be helpful too.
5. Initiate conversations about emotions and feelings: Extroverted children are often overly expressive. Be it excitement or anger, they sometimes go overboard with theatrics.
Help your extrovert build his emotional vocabulary and verbalise his feelings in a balanced way by initiating conversations about feelings. Along with making him emotionally intelligent, it will also help you connect with him, as a parent.
6. Adopt a pet: Pets can be a great source of comfort and companionship. Also, caring for and being there for the pet teaches a child to be patient, responsible and conscientious.
Extroverts particularly benefit from the calming influence of pets because they sense the unconditional acceptance of an animal companion and, at the same time, develop a sense of accountability and compassion.
- However, a word of caution here: If you are not keen on having a pet, it may not be a good idea to bring an animal home. A pet can be a big responsibility and unless the entire family is committed towards the care and management of a pet, it would be wise to ignore this suggestion.
7. Listen more, talk less!: It goes without saying that extroverts often love the sound of their own voice. Most extroverts are known to be talkative. As a parent, if you can work on your active listening skills, you can be very helpful to your extroverted child.
When she talks, she often expects you to just listen. If you interrupt or suggest solutions, you might end up being counterproductive. Your extroverted child or teenager may be talking to you to bounce off ideas or just thinking aloud. Be a sounding board, and nothing more. She will figure it all out on her own.
In conclusion, I would like to say that parenting an extroverted child can be great fun, but it can also get exhausting at times. It is imperative that you take adequate care of your own needs and carve out some ‘me-time’ to recharge your emotions to establish and maintain a safe and stimulating environment for your little extrovert.
Mina Dilip, Child Psychologist, Trainee Practitioner in Therapeutic Play Skills (PTUK)
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