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Growing Up Introverted

    We recently asked some introverts about their childhood, elementary and high school experiences so we could give you a good idea of the dynamics of introversion from real people rather than the opinion of experts. Their answers may surprise you.

    If you're raising an introverted child, you may learn from the real lives of introverts what it is they liked and didn't like about "growing up".

    Introverts make up about 25% of the population. If parents don't understand and advocate for their introverted children, they can get lost in a world designed by and for others. For example, introverts shy away from noise, crowds and bright lights. As you will see from our conversations with them, they often prefer quieter and more highly personalized pursuits. High school, especially, can be a negative experience because it is � noisy, crowded and over stimulating

    Introverts are also very territorial. To touch their things, pat their shoulder, ruffle their hair and ask them to share a room with a sibling can be very stressful. Ideally, every introvert would have a room of their own with a door that closes. Please don't consider this anti-social behavior. This is how introverts recharge their batteries.

    In our online survey, we asked the introverts what they remembered as their most pleasant pastimes and activities as children. We also asked them about their first day in school. We wanted to know how they liked elementary school and what activities they engaged in after school.

    Sara-Ann said, "I liked to run around outside when there were too many people in the house � like the T.V. was on and someone was cooking in the kitchen and there was lots of noise."

    Mark said, "I played a lot alone, read a lot and enjoyed sports...alone. I remember day dreaming A LOT."

    Ann explained, "I liked elementary school as long as I could be allowed to play alone. Whenever I was forced to play with others, I tended to become the leader, ironically. My theory is that I spent so much time alone that I was able to develop play plans complete with instructions and I noticed that sociable kids had a sort of freeform way of playing which they seemed to enjoy but which would, because of the lack of outlines, devolve into confrontations between them. So when I was forced to interact with them, I came with fun ideas of things to do but they were organized and the other kids gravitated towards organized play. Weird, huh?"

    Ann sounds like an INTJ type of introvert. Did you know there are eight different types? INTJ introverts are called "the Mastermind". They like to move people around like chess pieces and Ann is just doing what comes naturally. Please learn more about your child's introversion. There is much to learn.

    In further reflecting on this childhood experience, Ann added, "I have a feeling that loners often appear to others as self-contained and perhaps organized because we usually have time to think things through until we come up with complete plans. People, I've noticed, like to follow those they perceive as knowing what they're doing."

    We asked the introverts if their parents tried to force them to socialize. One woman, who preferred to remain anonymous replied, "My parents did pressure me to have friends. They did not understand the difficulty that I had navigating through cliques and they were not sympathetic to my feelings about forced association. At a grown-up party, for example, [they'd say] "There's a girl from your class ... go and play with her." [This] only made me want to reply, "Yes, I recognized her thank you. I see her every day and I'd rather go sit in the car and read ... because if I was social, if I wanted to socialize, I would have run up to the other child and said 'let's play'! Duh."

    When asked how they felt about their teachers, this anonymous reply was typical. "I idealized and adored my teachers until the older years when they made us participate in groups or paired us up to work on projects. I was a loner. I had friends but my extroverted teachers were always trying to turn classes into "mixers" hoping to keep re-capture adolescent attention."

    An introvert named Leslie had this experience in school, "As a general rule, yes. Being the nerdy student type, I was a lot more attracted to the teacher than a lot of my fellow students."

    As a matter of fact, many introverts become "teacher's pet" because they are easy to manage in the classroom. This doesn't mean they are shy, however, any more than because they don't speak up in class means they have nothing to say. Introverts general prefer writing to speaking.

    About elementary school in general, Glenn replied, "Elementary school was difficult.... As I progressed in grades and on to middle and high school, my grades and attitude improved. But 8 straight hours of people was hard. I remember liking story time and having to put our heads down on the desk the best because it was quiet."

    Many introverted children suffer from the over stimulation of school activities and programs planned for extroverts. Since introverts give energy when involved with others, they can return home completely exhausted after a day crowded with people and activities. Please let your introverted child go to their room and close the door! This is how they recharge their batteries.

    During their early childhood, 60% of the introverts surveyed had imaginary playmates or enjoyed the steady company of pets which they dressed up and talked to.

    Leslie, who seems to have been rather precocious as a child, explained, "[I] usually read. I could make it through two Nancy Drew's and the like a day by the time I was in second grade. [I] read Gone with the Wind for the first time in third grade, and it took me all of three days."

    Many precocious children are introverts. The percentage of introverts increases as IQ and years of education increase. Can you believe some parents try to keep children like this from reading? This is just what happened to the girl whose story I told in my article entitled, "The Princess Who Read Too Much," which is also available on this website and my home page for The IntrovertZCoach.

    Sara-Ann, another precocious introvert explained, "I often played by myself in my room while listening to classical music on my transistor radio (starting at about 4 years old)."

    What about high school? We asked what the introverts did after school and on weekends.

    Ann, who had to take care of her little sister all through childhood, replied, "By this time my sister was more self-sufficient so I'd usually go to my bedroom, watch TV, write and daydream. I spent A LOT of my time inside my head."

    Sara-Ann replied, "Every so often [I'd] spend time with friends, but usually [I'd] listen to my music, try to teach myself how to read/write music, figure out songs on the guitar, read biographies and political/historical books, and do some homework."

    Many introverts mentioned loving to ride their bikes. Ann thought high school was the "best time ever" because � "I rode my bike to a quiet place in our suburban neighborhood where there were lots of trees and green grass and I'd lay down near my favorite tree, daydream, listen to music on my little radio and come up with stories to write. It was the best time ever."

    Mark mentioned feeling pretty lousy about being an introvert during that time period. "What it was, I was alone. More and more I was taught that being a loner was bad and I started a cycle of 'ugly extrovert wannabe'."

    About their general high school experience, the reactions were mixed. "Hated it," replied Ann. "It was noisy and there always seemed to be an element of danger in the air. The teenage stage of human development is probably the most dangerous. If teens had access to nukes, we'd all be doomed! LOL"

    Mark also hated high school. "Point," he explains. "I was voted in class Prez but didn't hang out with anyone on the weekends. I couldn't believe everyone knew me but didn't want my number!"

    Gary, a gentle INFP introvert (there are eight different types) was mercilessly teased in high school by the class bully. "I'm quiet," he said. "But I finally had enough. I got really, really mad and beat the guy within an inch of his life. The other kids wanted to know what took me so long and voted me class president. I didn't care. I don't understand what makes people act like that and it disgusts me."

    Leslie, on the other hand, loved high school. "It gave me a greater opportunity to be a nerd. Loved carting all those books around. Instead of getting my books from my locker as I needed them, I'd get all the books I needed first thing in the morning and get rid of them as I no longer needed them. If there was homework assigned for a class, I carried that book all day, and usually got through all the homework before I actually had to take it home."

    So there you have it, from the horse's mouth. Not exactly the stereotypical teenager!

    Introverts have a hard time coping with a world set up by and for others. Teachers have become more informed about learning styles and will often today structure activities that permit introverted children to work alone at their own speed. It will be helpful to have the support of their parents and family at home as well. Please take the time to learn about some of the different kinds of introverted personalities so you can identify characteristics in your child and support their natural growth. Visit keirsey.com or my home page for more information.


    Are you worried about your child's success later in life? Warren Buffet, Michael Jordan, Mother Theresa and Albert Einstein are examples of different types of introverts who were successful and made lasting contributions to the world we live in by being themselves. Why not give the gift of self acceptance to your son or daughter by accepting their introversion as a legitimate personality type?

    � Nancy R. Fenn

    the IntrovertZCoach