Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Introvert / Extrovert

This post by Amy Welborn on introverted parents of extroverted children got Melanie thinking about parenting her extroverted toddler, which in turn set my mental wheels in motion.

I have always registered as an extrovert (in the sense that being with others charges my batteries) on Myers-Briggs type tests. However over time the degree of extroversion has narrowed, and now only just tips the scales into extrovert rather than introvert - 53% according to the badge in my sidebar. Oddly, I've never before considered how this relates to my children.

Angel is an extreme extrovert. Sending her to school was like plugging her in to a high performance battery charger. Stamina? After a day at school, she is up for anything! Her need for company is intense, which at least means she is not likely to be prone to the teenage phase of lurking in her bedroom alone. Homeschooling an extreme extrovert can be a challenge. We were lucky in that a combination of neighbour children and after school activities provided enough social time to keep her going. In our earlier homeschooling years, I had the energy and enthusiasm to take her out and about regularly to a mix of organised activities and informal socialising. Now, with my own need for that social charge lessening, I'm not sure I could meet those needs so well.

Star is an introvert, though I have only now realised this. She comes home from school tired, which initially I assumed was just a matter of not having developed the stamina to cope with a long and busy day, but now I think it is the introvert's reaction to a long period with others. When she gets in, all she wants to do is slump in front of the TV ... and this seems to be the result of a real internal drive, not just inertia. Thinking in terms of personality types, I can now see it is her way of shutting out the world and giving herself the chance to recharge - a classic introverted response. If she was a book lover, this is where she would disappear into a book. As she is not, TV provides an alternative outlet. I suspect half the time she is not taking in what she is supposedly watching, it is just there as a block.

Whereas Angel will never miss out on any opportunity to socialise, it is not uncommon for Star to refuse the option of a get together with a friend. She often does enjoy being with others and has many friends, so I think we have fallen into the trap of not realising that social interaction drains her. She very much wants our company, but she wants it on her own terms - maybe this is because fitting in with someone elses preferences also drains her. Looking back on our homeschooling years, Star was often on the edge of, or outside, a group by her own choice. I put it down to her away-with-the-fairies personality, and had never twigged that people tire her. I wish I had realised this earlier, as there are things I would have done differently. Too often I assumed that what was good for Angel would also be good for Star. As it is, I think will help me respond better to her needs in future.

I'm not sure about Little Cherub. I think she is somewhere in the middle. She is certainly not another extreme extrovert. I can remember Angel getting the same buzz as a toddler from people - any people! anywhere! - that Melanie describes in Bella. That isn't Cherub. On the other hand, neither is she happy in her own world the way Star was as a toddler. She sits back and observes where Angel would have wanted to be in the centre of things. Star - again with hindsight - showed some sign of discomfort in group situations, but Cherub does not. Cherub is used to a much busier household and more people around than was the case with the other two, and I wonder how much difference this makes - my guess is that it may make her appear more extroverted. I'm going to watch with interest. My hunch is that she and I may currently be in much the same place - needing a few social outlets, but also happy with a lot of time at home or out and about by ourselves.


Melanie B said...

Very interesting. I've long been fascinated with finding out people's personality types, so often it really does help me to understand what otherwise seem annoying quirks or idiosyncrasies in a new light and to modify my reactions appropriately. For parents, especially it's very useful.

I know I was glad my dad had a degree in psychology and figured out our personality types with us when we were still quite young. He's a J and my mom and all of us children are Ps, it drove him nuts most of the time; but at least he understood why we were the way we were and it helped him to cope. Also, knowing I was an introvert, he didn't push me to be social nearly as much as he might otherwise have.

Looking at your personality badge, I see we're the same type except for the introversion/extroversion spectrum (I'm an INTP).

The Bookworm said...

Angel I'm sure is an ESTJ, pretty extreme on all four (especially E and J). Tevye is an ISFJ. Star? INFP would be my guess. The two NPs reduce the two SJs to despair ;). Little Cherub looks suspiciously like another SJ.

I went on a Myers-Briggs retreat weekend pre-children, and I don't know why it never occurred to me to apply it to them. Duh!

Melanie B said...

I think Dom is ENFP, though he's almost exactly 50/50 for introverted/extroverted.

I'd guess it's precisely because you did the retreat pre-children. If you'd done it after you were a mother, I'm pretty sure you would have immediately jumped to applying it.

Elizabeth said...

fascinating. anything to do with birth order? i have extrovert then introvert then number 3 is a mixture.

excuse typing, nak.

Romany said...

'Home-educating an extreme extravert can be a challenge'

Tell me about it!{g} Home-educating an extreme extravert AND an extreme introvert is simply exhausting!

Envying your time with a little one at home!