My 10-year-old daughter is a human version of an Espresso shot. I love her to pieces but occasionally she's a little too much for my introverted, quiet self. When I think of the many differences between us, I can't help but acknowledge all the ways I don't realize I'm shaming my extroverted kid. I'd never intentionally hurt my daughter's feelings for being who she is, and it's never my intent to shame her. However, parenting has a steep learning curve with surprises I'm never quite prepared for no matter, how much I think I am. So even when I'm careful with my words and actions, there are still times I'm stripping her of her very foundation.
From toddlerhood, my girl has been the kid who waves at strangers at other restaurant tables, laughs wildly during conversations (where she's typically the center of attention), and even though she's adjusted to sharing her life with a younger brother for five years now, demands everyone stop to watch her at the busiest moments. I've realized this isn't a good or a bad thing, this is just who my daughter is. We don't need to be identical in order to co-exist happily. Still, for a long time I fought our extreme differences, wondering if, or when, she might quiet down just a little bit (she hasn't, and honestly I'm thankful for that).
Now that she's getting older, I see her personality more clearly. I don't want to steal her joy, but after a lot of self-reflection, I realized that's what I was doing. If you have an extrovert for a kid, you'll probably understand how some of the below might contribute to unintentional shame. We can do better than this. Hell, I can do better than this, and my daughter deserves that much (and more) from me.
When You Ask Them To Quiet Down
Being an introvert means I thrive in quiet settings. It's the only real way I can recharge. My daughter is the complete opposite and usually chooses bedtime — the part of the day my brain is most ready for silence — to talk about everything. She's not just a talker, (who often has issues in school because of it), she's also a loud, excitable conversationalist.
More than once I've asked her to either be quiet, settle down, or elaborate in the morning. I don't mean to make her feel as if I don't care about what she's saying. If anything, I want to be able to devote all my listening power to her when it's possible. However, I've realized that when I ask her to keep quiet in any way, I'm essentially telling her I don't care. That's not my intension, so my language needs to change.
When You Diminish Their Feelings
Being an extrovert is probably one of the sources of my daughter's dramatic flair. She's loud and constantly expressing herself with big movements and even bigger emotions. I suppose, over time, I've become somewhat immune to her overreactions to the slightest mishaps.
For example, a couple days ago, she complained of ankle pain and hobbled around until I iced and wrapped it. There was nothing visibly wrong, but I found myself wanting to tell her, "It's nothing," when all that would've done is make things worse. Sure, she's dramatic, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have feelings (or ankle pain). The closer she gets to puberty, the more I see how I'm contributing to the thought that her feels don't matter, regardless of how she chooses to project them.
Side note: she was back to jumping on the trampoline the next day, so she's obviously fine. Still, I have to let her express her feelings.
When You Deny Them Time With Friends
While this isn't direct shaming, I'm learning that, just as I need quiet to re-energize, my extrovert daughter (and my partner) need to be social to re-energize. Some days, when there's a knock on the door, I don't always want my daughter outside with kids. Maybe she has chores, homework, or I don't want to deal with people that day (another part of being an introvert). The shaming aspect comes through denying her need to re-charge through social interaction, especially when I tell her no in front of friends.
It still takes practice on my part to step back and let her be the 10 year old she needs to be, but on the days she's denied I'm essentially telling her she's not allowed to fill herself up. I know how I'd feel if told I wasn't allowed to be alone, so I'm trying to be better. For her.
When You Compare Them To A Sibling
Ugh. This is a big one I'm guilty of and need to work on more consistently. My son is more like me. He's quiet, can self-soothe, and prefers alone time instead being around tons of people. Any sort of comparison, whether directly to her or to others about her, isn't cool.
Things like, "Can't you be content inside for awhile, like your brother?" are well-meaning to get my point across, but all I'm really doing is criticizing in a different way.
When You Ask "Why Can't You Pay Attention?"
You know when you tell your kid something and they obviously didn't hear a word you said? Yeah, that's my daughter all the time.
As an extrovert, she's stimulated by all the thing around her. My partner is the same way. While she's a great listening sometimes, usually her desire to be in the action supersedes anything I have to say. I try not to ask why she can't pay attention like I used to because, as days pass, I'm starting to understand how to properly parent her and her outgoing personality.
When You Assume Learning Comes Easily
I've only recently learned my daughter is having some issues in school. Because her need to be social is such a priority, it's beginning to impact how she learns in class. She's always received good grades, but when those grades started slipping a tad this year, she confessed that she was getting caught "talking" too much.
It's a fine line to teach responsibility and how to behave in class, and letting my daughter be herself. I'm trying really hard to allow her to spread her wings without shaming her for doing so, but when the grades drop, or she gets in trouble for chattiness, it's challenging to find the right ways to deal with it.
When You Comment About Your Child In Front Of Your Child
Lately I've realized there are times I've commented on my daughter's shrieking voice or energetic mood, to someone like my mom or partner, while she's standing there. I don't intend to make her feel bad about any part of her, but I'm sure there are times she walks away wondering why I have an issue with her simply being herself.
Now, if I feel the need to say something to someone about my kid's endless string of stories when my brain is tired, I literally bite my tongue. Sometimes it's the only way. But really, isn't that parenting? Just letting ourselves writhe in discomfort for the sake of our children's happiness? The answer, sometimes, is yes. And, honestly, my daughter is more than worth it.