I don't think I was born with a shy, retiring bone in my body. I was the quintessential class clown, always introducing myself to kids at the park, shaking the hands of their parents — that's why it came as an utter shock when I somehow managed to give birth to not one, but two bashful babies. How did this happen? Was there a way to tell before the days of playdates and preschool? It turns out, there are early signs your child will be an introvert that I overlooked.
A 2016 study published in the Social Work journal reported that as much as parents love to believe that they understand their children's preferences and temperaments, there is actually a great deal that is missed by the loving gaze of caregivers. That might be why so many of us fail to pick up the earliest signs that our children are a bit shy or even introverted. Some research suggests that there are signs very early on that point to introversion in children, most especially language and social development, according to Infant Behavior and Development.
Researchers wrote that previous literature felt gestational age was the primary determinant for language development, but they found that a child's temperament was a much better metric to use when evaluating a child's social and linguistic behavior. If you're wondering how your child will fair in the introvert/extrovert debate, here are some signs to help tune you in.
1. They Might Not Talk As Early Or As Much
The researchers at Infant Behavior and Development stated that "although cognitive development seems to be an important predictive factor of language outcomes at 30 months of age, temperament characteristics also have a noticeable effect, particularly those related to positive affectivity and extroversion." Extroverted children express everything that enters their developing brain, and they do it big. However, introverts are more comfortable sitting back and taking it all in before they deem it necessary to interact.
2. They Avoid Group Activities
I know that my introverted kids prefer situations where it's one-on-one, or with just a few others whom they know very well. It is rare that they want to go into a group activity with lots of unknowns, and this is normal of introverts, according to the Center for Parenting Education. The researchers wrote that introverted kids usually try to avoid large social gatherings, especially if the level of activity is anticipated to be high. Think family reunions or group trips to an amusement park.
3. They Get Tired After Playdates
The writers at Quiet Revolution, an online community for introverts, noted that social activities can be extremely draining for introverted children. Long playdates or class days can drain them more than a parent might understand. They're more likely to need time alone after such an experience.
4. They Abhor Family Conflict
In The Hidden Gifts of The Introverted Child, psychologist Marti Olsen Laney wrote that introverted children tend to rely heavily on family interactions because they are routine and comfortable. She wrote that because of this, introverted kids hate familial conflict, going so far as to be the family peacekeeper. She said, "I have often noticed that innies, even children, are their family’s behind-the-scenes 'go to' people—the undeclared hub that the family revolves around and whose opinions hold added weight. In their own, often subtle, way, they support and encourage family members and attempt to smooth out conflicts."
5. They Get Anxious When Trying New Things
Author Christine Fonseca noted in her book Quiet Kids: How To Help Your Introverted Child Succeed In An Extraverted World, that introverted kids might seem anxious or upset as they work their way through new situations. "As the introverted child becomes overwhelmed with environmental demands, she gets stuck. Changes in routine will often result in stubbornness as a way for the introverted child to establish control whenever she feels her life spiraling out of control," she wrote.
6. They Come Up With Dynamic Stories & Art
Introverted children are the future Pixar animators, screenwriters, and authors, according to Fonseca. She wrote that "introverts are divergent thinkers, analyzing the world from a highly creative point of view. The solitude inherent with introversion is something typically connected to creativity." If you notice that when your child plays alone they're crafting genius comic books, or their Barbies have a storyline that could easily double as a telenovela, your child might be an introvert.
7. They Are More Energetic After Alone Time
Introverts gain their energy from solitude, noted Psychology Junkie, and any parent of an introvert can tell you just how true this is. Where social activities drain their reserves, time spent alone energizes an introverted child and gets their mind revving. My daughter is exhausted and crabby after a long playdate or school day, but if she's given an hour of time to just draw or play with her dolls, she's back. Her attitude does a 180, and she's happy again.