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    Thinking Through The Introvert Advantage {Know Your Child’s Temperament}

    February 12, 2010 by Brandy Vencel


    The Introvert Advantage:
    How to Thrive in an Extrovert World

    by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.

    Motherhood is its own animal, and I’m sure that extroverted mothers are quite distinct from introverted mothers. I am equally sure that if the temperament of a child is opposite from his mother, there will be a learning curve.

    I often approach motherhood from the position of a student. When a baby is first born in our house, I tell myself that I am the student of this baby. What I mean is, my job is to figure Baby out. What does he need each day? Does he like to be held? Or does he prefer to be sat somewhere where he can watch his brothers and sisters playing? How much sleep does he need? Is he sensitive to various stimuli {i.e., temperature, loud noises, etc.}?

    As Baby grows, my “job” remains the same, to some extent, but I also begin to look for areas where this child excels, as well as areas where the child is going to have to work hard. Is she fearful? Is he insensitive? Does she have a strength in math? Does he need to learn to enunciate and speak up?

    I have even asked myself whether my children were introverted or extroverted. I knew my firstborn was an introvert from very early on. As an infant, he would drop off to sleep whenever he was overstimulated, and then be cranky later in the day. Conversely, I often wonder if my youngest will end up being extroverted. It’s hard to tell, but my, he is sure excited whenever I tell him it is time to go anywhere. He loves to look out the window when I’m driving, and he yells and points at things I don’t remember any of my other children noticing at his age.

    I would think that, just like any other aspect of a child, it is good for a mother to be aware of her child’s temperament. It is something to consider when she is assessing the situation with her children. If a child seems whiny, cranky, emotional, drained, or some other something that it seems a happy child shouldn’t be, assessing temperament might help. In my house, I know that I need to first think about allergies if I am seeing these symptoms in a child. It seems reasonable to me that some families will need to consider temperament in the same situations, especially if they are full of a lot of more extreme personality types.

    Dr. Laney gives this example:

    Another client of mine, Hayley, who was on the far end of the extroverted continuum, had a four-year-old son, Ben, who was sensitive and quite introverted. She came to see me because she thought something was very wrong with Ben. She thought he might even be autistic. She couldn’t understand why he looked dazed and cried so much. Then for ten to fifteen minutes she started describing their days together. It was like running a marathon. Go here, go there, do this, do that.

    I stopped her as she listed more of the “fun” things she had planned for their upcoming family outing: miniature golf, the arcade, and then Chuck E. Cheese for lunch…I said, “It sounds as if Ben might be a little overstimulated…[I]t sounds to me like you are extroverted and Bed is introverted. All of this activity is overstimulating to him. Ben zones out or cries to signal he’s had way too much.”

    There is a section in this chapter that can help a mother try to pinpoint her child’s temperament type. I would only caution this in one way: let’s not hasten to label those children. Babies go through stages where they are more friendly or more clingy with Mom. Children can act differently due to health issues, family issues, or how tired they are. I have noticed more than once that who I thought I had on my hands as a toddler wasn’t quite the same at preschool age…it was close, but not exact. This is part of the adventure: children are dynamic, rather than stagnant, creatures.

    More Tips and Techniques

    Again, the section on parenting didn’t seem to use the word love at all, if I was paying correct attention. After the marriage chapter, I didn’t really expect it, so I don’t really have a lot to say about it.

    In general, I think it might be somewhat helpful to read this chapter. It might offer a bit of insight, etc. In general, I think Christians have to be careful when reading mothering advice from someone who does not view child rearing covenantally. What I mean is, the perspective here is not one which assumes that child rearing is a form of discipleship. This means that if there is a piece of advice which I found particularly appealing, I’d want to compare it to Scripture before actually applying it.

    I have a sense that there is a difference between knowing and respecting a child’s temperament on the one hand, and coddling said temperament on the other, and I haven’t decided if this book crosses that line or not. In general, I don’t think that the energy level of my child should be the guiding factor when I make decisions concerning that child. Sometimes a child needs to learn when to rest, and sometimes a child needs to learn to toughen up, and I’m pretty sure it is an art and a gift of God to be able to tell the difference.

    Coming Up

    In my next post on this subject, we shall tackle the callout on pages 134-135 entitled A New Human Bean. I thought initially this title would be a play on words, but, alas, the author or editor simply failed to reinforce the idea that humans are beings.

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