Raising a teenager is a challenging and frustrating endeavour for most parents. For extroverted parents, knowing how to deal with an introverted teen can be especially confusing.
I recently had a conversation with an extroverted parent who has had a really hard time understanding her introverted son’s behavior. She was perplexed by the fact that he doesn’t enjoy the same activities that she enjoyed at his age, such as drinking, and going to parties. She also felt baffled by his way of handling conflict.
At first, she assumed that something was wrong with her son. This is a common reaction. A lot of extroverts misunderstand introverted behavior for three main reasons:
1. Introverts don’t tend to verbalize our needs and desires as often and as clearly as extroverts do. We only share a small portion of our thoughts and feelings in everyday conversation.
2. Extroversion is such a dominate personality type, that it has come to be accepted as the norm. Consequently, introverted behaviors, like spending a lot of time alone, and not talking very much, are viewed as strange.
3. Extroverts often project their own feelings and perceptions onto their introverted peers, forgetting that we see, feel, and react to things differently. For example, a party could feel fun and exciting for an extrovert, but overwhelming, and boring for an introvert.
Having said all of that, it’s easy to see why many extroverted parents have no clue how to deal with an introverted teenager. So, I thought I’d put together a few simple guidelines to help you better connect with your introverted teen.
We’ll come to you if you do this
If you’re experiencing conflicts or a disconnect with your introverted teen, the last thing you want to do is get all up in her face about it. This is probably the number one mistake that extroverts make when experiencing conflict with introverts. They get frustrated with our tendency to pull away and thus get more aggressive and pushy. This is the exact opposite of what you should do!
Most introverts hate conflict and will do almost anything to avoid it. We need time and space to mentally process the issue at hand before we can discuss things. Instead of pressing for immediate resolution, let your teen know that you’re available when she’s ready to talk. You can also add that you’ll check in at a certain time the next day, so they can anticipate the upcoming discussion. Then leave the kid alone for a while.
Accept them the way they are
Your introverted teen is not broken just because he or she doesn’t like the same activities you did growing up. Instead of focusing on your teen’s supposed deficiencies, accept him just as he is. Today. He will immediately be able to sense your acceptance and will feel happier and more secure around you. That is the secret to getting an introverted teen to open up. Then, when he does start to talk to you, all you have to do is this one simple thing …
Introverts get tired of extroverts talking AT them. Conversely, we really appreciate it when people give us the chance to talk about our passions. You might be thinking, “but my teenager never has anything to say”. This probably isn’t true. Most introverts can talk at length about topics that are of interest to them.
The reason why your teen is not opening up to you could be that you’re not asking him enough questions about the things that are important to him. Also, if you talk too fast and never pause during conversation, your teen will feel like he doesn’t have time to interject. Remember, introverts are not verbal processors. We need time to think before we speak.
I hope that was helpful. If you are a parent of an introverted teen, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Also, if their are any introverted teens reading this, please do share your insights.