How do you care for a child with a radically different personality than your own?
This is the very question I asked myself as I came to realize that my oldest, Lily, was nothing like me, and was not supposed to be. Two events changed my outlook. First, reading Dr. Shefali Tsabary’s The Conscious Parent, which is an INCREDIBLE read by the way (or listen, if you prefer the audiobook), shattered my paradigm and aligned my expectations for raising my children away from what my ego expected and wanted. I’ve shared this quote before, but I’ll share it again:
“When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a ‘mini me,’ but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. For this reason, it’s important to separate who you are from who each of your children is. Children aren’t ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of them to their needs, rather than molding them to fit our needs.”
That moment of clarity shifted my outlook for me and for my family in the best way possible.
The second event was that Lily — my poor, clingy, always-weeping, seemingly antisocial daughter — came home from a visit to David’s parents in South Carolina bright and sunny at age 5, and said how nice it was to just sit on the porch and rock in the rocking chairs and watch the hummingbirds. I realized I had been ramping up the pressure on her to perform in social situations and play dates. I tried to make her into something she simply was not.
My heart aches for the damage we do to our children when we try to suppress their God-given spirit, and that is why I am passionate about my message, which is also Dr. Tsabary’s message: we must help our children become who they are meant to be, not who we think they are meant to be, and their spirit knows the way. Besides, I’ve learned from Lily and Grady that the more you push your child to abandon their natural introversion or extroversion, the harder they cling to it. And the more freedom you give them to be themselves, the more well-rounded and even-keeled they become. It’s miraculous.
I saw a very useful image floating around the Internet, which was a list of ways to care for introverts. I’ve placed my own spin on the blog in high resolution — and I’ll write down all the points for people who are using podcast apps or might otherwise want a text copy.
- Respect their need for privacy.
- Never embarrass them in public.
- Let them observe first in new situations.
- Give them time to think; don’t demand instant answers.
- Don’t interrupt them.
- Give them advance notice of expected changes in their lives.
- Give them 15-minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing.
- Reprimand them privately.
- Teach them new skills privately.
- Enable them to find one best friend with similar interests & abilities.
- Don’t push them to make lots of friends.
- Respect their introversion; don’t try to remake them into extroverts.
REMEMBER: you’ve got this!
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