Parenting the Sensitive and Introverted Child

Children and Personality Style

A mother recently told me her concerns about her son who is very introverted.  “He is so quiet and reserved, we’ve been working with him to help him feel more comfortable in social situations,” she said.

According to the DISC personality assessment, there are two personality styles that are reserved.  The S personality is introverted and people focused while the C personality is introverted and task focused. Both styles have lots of wonderful qualities.  The S personality style is steady, stable and supportive. Children who are wired this way often consider others first and have a big servant’s heart.  S type children are delightful to be around and if you have one in your family, you are blessed. Teachers especially enjoy having S type students in their classroom. They are highly motivated to perform and please the adults around them. They are the students who draw a picture or write you a letter to let you know that you are the best teacher in the world.

What is the downside of the S type personality? They can be too devoted to pleasing others. They may need to learn that conflict can be healthy and necessary. They often need help starting tasks and making decisions although they are great at finishing tasks once started.   They will need to learn to form opinions for themselves and not to be easily influenced by others who have a more dominant personality. Show appreciation for who they are in addition to what they accomplish.  Celebrate the dependable, compassionate nature of their personality which always strives for peace and harmony.

The C personality style is competent, conscientious and careful. Children who are wired this way are hard workers, organized and detail oriented.  They love routine and will often create structure if it is not already apparent.  They are dedicated curious students who love learning and asking questions.  They are rule followers who strive for excellence in all they do.

What is the downside of the C personality?  They can sometimes become perfectionists who lose sight of the big picture.  They may have difficulty making decisions due to analysis paralysis.  They may need to learn that it’s okay to make mistakes and to be more sensitive to the feelings of others.  Celebrate their inquisitive, determined nature that strives for excellence in all that they do.

When I teach this information in parenting classes, I always emphasize that there is no single personality style that is better than another.  This statement often resonates in a powerful way with many participants since our culture does promote the extroverted personality style over the introverted as the way to be successful, popular and well-adjusted.  In actuality, there is much evidence that the reserved personality style whether it is an S or a C style, is equally successful, popular and well-adjusted, especially when they focus on their unique characteristics and work in their strengths.

A Great Resource on the Reserved Personality Style

The book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is an amazing resource for anyone who wants to learn more about this personality style.  While this book is primarily written for adults who are introverts, there is much information in this book about children and parenting.  Cain’s book is full of research validating the differences in personality that even infants and young children display. However her main focus is the often-overlooked value and strengths of the introvert.  She concludes her book with a section on “How to Cultivate Quiet Kids in a World That Can’t Hear Them”.  Her advice to parents can be summarized as follows:

  • Take the time to understand the personality style of your introverted child
  • Don’t try to change them into someone more extroverted by pushing them into sports, activities, play dates or anything that they are not interested in doing
  • Recognize that the areas where they have strengths are sometimes solitary pursuits.  Encourage and celebrate these talents.
  • Learn about and share with them the lives of some famous introverts, such as Rosa Parks, Albert Einstein or Eleanor Roosevelt.
  • Recognize and teach children that introverts can be leaders, performers, anything that they have a passion for, they just go at it from a different direction.
  • Celebrate with your child the characteristics they have that make them unique.