Monday, April 16, 2012

Are Your Kids Introverts, Extroverts, or Somewhere Inbetween-ers?

I love me some Myers-Briggs personality types. INFJ here. (Possibly the rarest type in the US, which may explain a lot.) I'm really looking forward to seeing what types my kids are someday.

While I'm technically an introvert, I can also pass for extrovert - if I don't have to spend gobs of time interacting. Clocking in over 3 hours with someone, they might catch on. Somehow I even managed to be popular in high school, though I didn't feel like it at the time. As one of the "intellectuals" in my school, I often felt lumped in socially with the kids who were decidedly un-popular and who I clicked with. But I also played sports (extremely well), so the "jocks" loved me, and perhaps not coincidentally, I was one of those kids who had friends in every clique. Where am I going with this walk down memory lane? I've noticed I am actively socializing my kids to behave in a more extroverted way ("go over and introduce yourself to the kid playing over there"). So much so that yesterday after school DS demanded I take him to a park so he could meet a friend. And, lo and behold, he did. And mama got a crapload of work done before we had to get home.

DS's Montessori teacher (a proud introvert himself) and I were chatting after class, and he mentioned how he is usually able to pick out the kids who are more extroverted, the kids who are more introverted, and everyone in between. But DS is throwing him for a loop. After 6 months of interactions, he still can't tell which one DS is. DS almost always prefers to work alone, but when it is play time he is extremely social.

We both agreed that's a really good thing. He's about letting kids be who they are. He feels introverts tend to get a bad name in America today, because we live in such an extrovert-oriented society. He shared with me how the public schools he used to teach in eventually started moving from an introvert-friendly orientation (more individual work, at single desks) towards the current extrovert-friendly orientation, featuring working interpersonally (collaborative problem solving, sitting at shared tables). Perhaps he's speaking from his own place of introversion when he said often the extroverts get mistakenly identified as the most intelligent ones in the group because they talk so much, often before they've thought deeply on a subject.

What do you think? Are you persuaded by Myers-Briggs Type Indicators? Which type are you? Your kids? Is there a mismatch in your family?

20 comments:

NK: Style-ING w/ Children said...

introvert here :) and I do agree that the society rewards being extroverted too much. I like that my kid is an introvert to a degree. She's shy and I see nothing wrong with that. The greatest compliment we ever got was from our daycare provider. She said that the little one is self sufficient emotionally. Not dependant on others to fulfil her emotional needs. I was beaming for weeks afterwards. Whatever personality trait on the BM Tyle Indicator that is, I like it!

mom2boy said...

INFJ here, too. I am as odd as the MB test says and my friends will vouch for that lol

But I would never, ever pass for an extrovert. I'm shy as well as introverted. I live in my head. I love the uncomfortable silence in elevators. I find it a welcome pause from the assumption that strangers always need to chit chat when in close proximity.

I'm pretty sure Tate is an extrovert who is picking up on some of my shyness. I've sort of always thought that shyness was an extreme form of self-awareness. That non-shy people just glide along blithely through life.

When we are out and he wants to play with new kids but is feeling too shy to introduce himself, I've been forcing myself to get over myself and introduce us to new parents and kids. It's never as painful as I think it's going to be. But it never gets any easier.

I'm in the middle of reading a book right now about shyness and our current culture of extroversion. Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking. I have to admit the title got me.

Got It, Ma! said...

@mom2boy- that book is on my list, too. One of the interesting points I found in reading reviews of Quiet was that shyness and introversion are not the same thing. Introverts are not necessarily shy. I'm definitely an introvert, but nobody would describe me as shy. My Myers-Briggs type is INFP (which, btw, represents only 1% of the general population; just call me Freak) and in my reading about introversion what I've come away with is that it has more to do with how you recharge your batteries than with how you actually behave. Do you feel energized by spending time with others? Then you're probably an extrovert. But if you need time away to reenergize, you're likely an introvert.

I think it's true that we introverts tend to get a bad reputation in a society that so values extroversion and I would definitely agree that the world of education has embraced a lot of practices which do not support an introvert's way of learning.

My son is definitely an introvert. He is confident and somewhat reserved in social situations, but not exactly shy. I would definitely describe him as self-sufficient. My daughter is more outgoing, making friends wherever she goes. But when it comes to how they recharge their batteries, they both require daily quiet, alone time and they suffer from the lack of it. I suspect that introversion is actually more common than many people think.

mom2boy said...

@got it, ma - I'm a way off the charts introvert every time I take the MB test. Being around people is exhausting mentally and it's often uncomfortable (shy).

My son, otoh, seems to truly love talking to and being around people. Once he's over the "I don't know them" hump it's off to the races.

Jac. said...

This is fun - and I love how people know their personality types. I'm an INTJ (also pretty rare - but quite common among lawyers).

I am also an introvert who can pass for an extrovert. I have no problem speaking with people (and I do a lot of public speaking), but I find being around people just very very tiring and I need to be by myself to re-charge.

My son is an extrovert and I've recently determined that this is a source of a great deal of parenting conflict with me. I need space. Quiet. Time for reflection. He cannot stop talking for more than 1 second. Literally. And he just wears me out with the constant talking and need for feedback. And I feel bad that I can't give him what he is looking for. I sometimes find myself begging him to please stop talking or leave me alone for just 5 minutes and then I feel like a horrible mother because, really, who says that to their kid?

mom2boy said...

@Jac - I do. Say please stop talking to my kid that is. He just talk, talk, talks all.day.long! He's very into what if scenarios right now and sometimes I just have to call it quits.

Got It, Ma! said...

@ Jac - I'm the same way with my kids. Sometimes I just have to explain that I need quiet time. There's nothing wrong with that, in fact I think it's good for them to be shown that everybody needs different things at different times.

@ Mom2boy - good point about shyness often corresponding with introversion. I guess its a case of people who are shy are introverted, but not all people who are introverted are shy.

It's all fascinating stuff.

hush said...

@NK - What a great compliment from Baby C's daycare! Hope the transition to daycare has been going well for you!

@mom2boy - My fellow INFJ, why am I not at all surprised?! ;)

@Got It, Ma! - Aha, so that's why we're simpatico, too. "I suspect that introversion is actually more common than many people think." Though we're probably overrepresented in bloggyland, I completely agree.

@Jac - Yet another thing we have in common! I say that "I need more space" stuff all the time to my DD (who is probably an extrovert). We're sometimes out of sync, but I try to accept that's who I truly am, and my needs gotta get met. Firmly believe that 2.5 year old extroverts kind of suuuuck for their introverted parents!

paola said...

@ Gotitma's definition seems to confirm what I believe: that I am indeed an introvert. But I hide it quite well. This is due to lots of practice: moving a lot, starting from scratch, choosing teaching as a profession. I love talking, and will choose a night out with friends chatting over dinner over almost anything. But I hate parties where I have to make small talk with strangers. I always come across either as too full on asking too many questions, or the wall flower. Can't dose properly.

My kids are one of each, which sometimes causes problems between them. Noah is an over the top extrovert, never shuts up and talks to everyone on their level, choosing to talk sport or dinosaurs to boys and princesses and fairies to the girls. Zoe needs quiet time and often complains that Noah 'hurts my ears'.

scantee said...

INTJ here. It seems the your readership consists only of INs. Like you, I can play an extrovert pretty well but it is just that, an act, and acting gets tiring after a while.

My older son is an introvert and my younger an extrovert. It pains me that our society seems set up for the benefit of extroverts and overlooks the benefits of introverts in positions of power. I would never try to change my older son but I do think my younger one will have an easier time of it because of his out-going nature.

My spouse is an extrovert to the extreme and I'm continually amazed by him. While I'm standing in the corner plotting out what I'm going to say he's already made three new friends.

Jac. said...

@mom2boy, Got It, Ma!, Hush - when I say what kind of horrible mom does that - I was thinking in my head (although obviously didn't type it) about my particular methodology which is sometime not asking nicely, or explaining that I need time alone - but more along the lines of holding hands over my ears, with my eyes closed, while shrieking like a harpy that I would please like 5 minutes of g*dd*am silence. I've drawn blood from biting my tongue to stop myself from saying 'shut up!'.

So, yes, I agree that we are entitled to time alone, and some quiet, and any reasonable mother would ask for and explain these things. But, sometimes, I really feel pushed into a terrible place - and I blame it on the introvert/extrovert thing.

paola said...

Well, this conversation has got me thinking, so I go and find myself an MB test online and discover that I am a INFP. Are there really so few of us, @Got it ma? Not that the description completely resonates with me. I wouldn't have ever described myslef as a perfectionist, or idealist, but many other descriptions are me to a tee. And yes, I am a teacher.

But I haven't always been like this. I definitely remember myself as a child being outgoing and loving being the centre of attention, a lot like my extrovert son is now. I remember a change around 10. I read recently that with age adult extroverts become less so and introverts idem, but are my kids likely to change? Just a thought.

Got It, Ma! said...

@paola- I worked for a woman for a while who was licensed to administer the Myers-Briggs test. (She also happened to be completely bat-s**t crazy, but I think she knew her stuff when it came to MBTI). I remember her explaining to me that people's types did sometimes change throughout their lives, but even more commonly, a person's test results could vary based on what role they were playing when they took the test. So a person who took the test at work could very well end up with different results than the same person taking the test at home.

My test results indicated that there were a couple of possible types for me. So she had me read the descriptions and choose what I thought fit me better. Based on the descriptions, it was completely clear to me that I was an INFP. You might want to read the descriptions for some of the similar types and one might stand out to you as more accurate on the whole.

In the end it is a subjective test, but I think that's one of it's strengths. If some of the traits just feel wrong to you, they probably are.

Re: kids' personalities, I was WAY more out going as a little child, but also became much more reserved and shy around age 9 or 10. Now I feel like, as an adult, I'm moving in the other direction, not less introverted, but less shy. I seem to remember reading in the MBTI info that it makes sense to retest periodically, like every 10-12 years, because people really do change and adapt. Definitely interesting. I wonder if being married to an extrovert for 16 years has made me less introverted and him less extroverted.

@Jac. - Been there. I remember recently saying something really constructive like, "Everybody has to stop talking right now or my head is going to explode!!!" My reserves are always tested when I end up driving a car full of yammering kids somewhere. Not my strength. There is something to be said for the therapeutic use of television to give moms like us a break.

Vacationland Mom said...

According to the quickie online version I am an ENFP, but as it clearly states on there, it's not a completely valid, thorough way to determine your type. Just wanted to chime in that you have an extroverted reader :)

Vacationland Mom said...

As for being a believer in these... in college I took Intro to Personality and not sure if it was because I deeply disliked the teacher, but I remember thinking that personality tests are pretty much bunk. I think that despite our best efforts we answer how we think others want us to, or how we want to be perceived. I think there are many of us who are very self aware but we are still human, and it's extremely difficult, in my opinion, if not impossible, to completely step outside of oneself and look at oneself objectively. That being said, on the other hand I'm very persuaded by sun sign astrology, that it can be a very informative tool. I use it a lot to help guide us in our family. My son is a Libra-Scorpio cusp, and already displays many Libran tendencies (and some Scorpio). I know, I know, you're thinking its probably a see what you want to see kind of situation, but I think that using it to help with our parenting style is OK- for instance, I read that Libran children want their surroundings to be harmonious and relaxed, and if they're not they can get very anxious and many will try to quietly manipulate the situation to make it better. I see that in my son more and more often as it gets older, so my hub and I try to remain calm and not bring our son into situations that we know may seem too loud or volatile for him. I digress...

mom2boy said...

@jac - oh to be patient, kind and gently re-directing all the time. lol It may be that your occasional lack of patience/tact comes from the introvert/extrovert conflict. If so, I'm taking that as my excuse, too. :)

I have to admit to being wishy-washy on lots of the MB questions since "it depends" isn't an option and it's often my first thought unless the question is about being alone - yes please! INFJ comes up the most though as my combo and the description pretty much fits minus the natural affinity for art.

nicoleandmaggie said...

I've done the real MB twice and ended up with INTP and INTJ. I was really close to the middle for everything but one of those choices, but I can't remember if it was N or T. Probably T... I'm not much of a feeler. I actually failed the MB the first time (so technically I've taken it 3 times, but the first didn't count) because it said not to answer if you weren't sure, but didn't say you had to answer a certain number of questions to be scored. My DH also failed. (We were 2 of 5 people in the school who had to retake.)

My kid neither seems introverted nor extroverted. He's cautious at first but warms up.

The milliner said...

INFJ here too. We're all introverts in our house, which means there is lots of downtime needed. Though the challenge can be navigating around the timing of our needs. We each have our moments of more talking etc., but of course it's not always in sync. We are all highly sensitive too, and especially get overwhelmed by too much noise. I never realized before having a kid how much this affects me. I've also noticed that when the three of us are together (home, or out) that when the noise ramps up (in a positive way or negative way), and stays at that level, we each start to lose it in our own way and eventually we enter a circle of grumpy hell, which is difficult to get out of. Luckily, we've become aware of it as the trigger and now we take steps to get out of the situation ASAP. A few friends have commented about how calm our home is, and honestly, I think it's just because we can't live any other way.

We do have our differences though. I hate making small talk and am less likely to talk to people I don't know. DH often makes small talk with people he doesn't know and doesn't like talking for hours on end. I like to share ideas with friends and can get into some lengthy discussions. I think DS is more like me. As others have mentioned upstream, he's slow to warm up. But once he's comfortable with you, he's not generally shy. We've had days on the drive home when it's been nonstop chatter/ questions on his part and I'm so exhausted I can barely find the energy to tell him that I need some quiet time.

DH and I were just mentioning the other day that we need to make more friends with people in our immediate neighborhood that have kids DS' age. Which will mean stepping it up on the extroversion front. As DS gets older we can see how advantageous it would be ( for him, and us quite frankly) to have a play mate close to home.

Zenmoo said...

I'm an ENTJ - and I think the typology describes me fairly well, although I'm a "quiet" extrovert by comparison to most of my friends (despite what the people I work with think. According to one of them, I'm "Loud, in a good way". - but then again, out of the 16 people in the team at work, there were a grand total of 2 extroverts, me and one other person! So, it's all relative I guess) I definitely draw energy from interacting without people - but I'm not always super outgoing either.

My daughter is showing distinct signs of being a extrovert. She will say hello to *anyone* and will plunge right into new situations.

oilandgarlic said...

I think the world would be a better place if there was more reward for introverts, who are often drowned out by extroverts especially in positions of power. OF course i'm speaking as an introvert. I think introverts might be more drawn to reading/writing blogs, too??

One of my kids is shy but loud as hell. My other kid loves people but very sensitive. I have no idea yet where they'll eventually end up in terms of I/E.