4 Alternatives to Losing It When Disciplining Your Introverted Child
Introverted children are not easy to discipline. If they're feelers, they may be adept at emotional sabotage or withdrawing for fear of getting hurt. If they're thinkers, they may try to outwit you or they might be silently plotting their next move.
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Kids are clever, lest we forget and soak up knowledge like a sponge. Don’t ever underestimate your kids.
My own kids - one’s introverted like me, and the other is extroverted like their father and they have provided some of my most cherished memories. They’ve also provided memories I’d rather forget.
Like the time I fireman-carried my two-year old son while very pregnant with my daughter, leaving behind a cart full of groceries.
Or the time my five-year old daughter chose to share her “texture-aversion” to shin guards 5 minutes before a game after an entire summer of practices. To this day, I will attest they were lined with fire ants.
While the cherubic memories far outweigh the demonic snapshots of our lives, one thing is for certain: kids are kids and will behave in illogical and immature ways – and moms of teens – 17 is still a kid for all intents and purposes, so when they drive you nuts, remember two things: Number 1 - they are learning how to respond to immature things around them, people who make illogical decisions, and have emotional outbursts that don’t seem to match the situation. They’re in uncharted territory that changes more rapidly than ours ever did, so give them a break. The second thing I encourage you to remember: your parents didn’t even know half of what you were up to and they were blissfully unaware. Find the right boundaries for you and your kids so you get to keep your sanity.
Off my soapbox for now
Our challenge as parents is to respond differently than what our kids see, hear, and feel in their vast electronic and localized world. I get it – way easier said than done. In fact, I’m quite guilty of throwing my own tantrums. I’m going to pause here listeners to encourage you to read When Good Moms Lose It a blog dedicated to moms who lose their …. Mind.
We want to respond differently to our kids because home is a safe place. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m not the fun mom. Not even close. But I know the kids in my life know that when they come to my house, it will forever be a consistent and safe place of love, rest, and peace. And food. There will always be food.
Whatever kind of neighborhood mom we are, we know we don’t want to be the kind of adults who provoke children (or young adults) to do the wrong thing and make bad choices.
One way we can avoid provoking our children is to pay attention to how we discipline them based on their personality type. Introverted kids respond very differently to discipline than their extroverted siblings.
Introverted children (and adults) tend to be more reflective, self-aware, and judicious, therefore very responsive to discipline that matches their personality. And of course, respond quite the opposite when forced to respond to discipline that doesn’t make sense to their forming hearts and minds.
While discipline is based on many factors, here are four quick tips to guide you when disciplining your introverted child:
1. Just because your child is introverted, don’t assume a time-out is always the answer. Instead, match the consequence to the situation and child.
Just because your child is an introvert, does not mean they do not want to be heard and locking them away in a room immediately may not bring the change in behavior you are looking for. They may enjoy solitude, but no one enjoys loneliness.
Talk to them. Sit them at the kitchen table, devoid of distractions and give them an open forum.
Give them service – if they did something to spoil a sibling’s toy or treasure, have them clean their siblings bathroom, or fold their laundry.
Get old fashioned – load on the chores so they’re so busy they can’t misbehave, have them put their nose and toes against the wall for a few minutes, or do some push ups. One of our favorites pick up sticks til you have a pile that reaches your knees. With a hundred of so trees over two acres, there was never a shortage of sticks to pick up.
A time out can be very appropriate disciplinary action, however, let’s try not to do it just to shut them up and take their voice away completely. We want to help them find appropriate words and enthusiasm to communicate how they’re feeling.
Putting them in their room, may help calm a delirious child, but it really doesn’t help change behaviors. You need more than just locking them up and throwing away the key. Which brings me to my next point.
The second way to consider disciplining an introverted child is: Instead of, “Answer me!” consider telling them, “I want you to think about why this is wrong.”
Your child is introspective. Try not to assume that just because he is quiet or not responding to cues immediately, that he is ignoring you or trying to make up a lie. He’s likely processing the situation. Have you ever asked your kid, “what were you thinking?” Then got upset when they’re only answer was, “I don’t know?”
Demanding immediate answers assumes the child thought through the situation, assessed the risk and drew a logical conclusion that the behavior was worth the consequence. How often is this really happening? Even with young adults?
So instead of demanding, “Why did you do that?!” Ask them to spend time in their room and provide you thoughts on why what they did was wrong. Consider giving them the option to respond in writing. Introverts typically share their thoughts or feelings more easily in writing, even with those they love. Sometimes, especially with those they love. Once you read or listen to their thoughts on the matter, you can steer them in the direction that meets your family values.
3. Instead of asking them, “How do you feel about what you’ve done?”, consider asking, “What will you do differently in the future?”
Let’s face it, some kids will not feel remorseful about pinching their sisters. So, if you ask them how they feel about a certain action, be prepared for the answer. Plus, introverts, including children, are already hyper-aware of their feelings so calling them out can shame them. So instead of asking, “how did pinching your sister make you feel, young lady?” Consider asking instead, “I get your sister made you mad, but pinching is unacceptable. Your anger is yours. How will you handle it so that it doesn’t hurt anyone else?”
My son has a temper like mine. We’re both thinkers, but we still love big and feel in big ways. One of the best things my husband and I did for him at the time was let him choose words to say when he felt angry. We instructed him over and over….”it’s okay to be angry but you can’t say mean things.”
So, we asked him what makes him happy and he said, “Baseball.” We let him choose a phrase that would help him think of baseball instead of thinking of something mean to say. To this day, even though he says it in his head rather than out loud, when my son gets angry, he says, “Albert Pujols, Albert Pujols, Albert Pujols.” This redirects his thinking and keeps him from lashing out at others. It was the first step in getting him to think differently about how he handles his anger for future episodes.
Finally, number 4. Don’t be afraid to share your experiences. But…not all of them.
Introverts tend to exaggerate their offenses and worry themselves into quite a state over it. While they may not be as open to sharing their own feelings, they are great listeners and hearing about your experiences & mistakes puts their own transgressions into perspective.
A word of warning. There is a risk of your kid hearing permission to do or try something because of your confession. For example, when a child does not put effort into their school work and you know they are capable of more, your telling them how much you skipped school as a kid should be tempered with boundaries and lessons and expectations, otherwise they may think, “well, Mom skipped school all the time and she turned out okay.” One alternative is to let the know you made some bad choices, and beating yourself up over them only made them worse.
Only you know, based on your child’s age and maturity level, what they can handle, but make sure you put their transgressions into perspective by being a little vulnerable yourself. You want them to learn from their mistakes, but you don’t want them to dwell on them.
The only other advice I can give you is love. I was a strict parent to both my children. And while they've both made great choices in their lives, they have also made choices that have frustrated me, disappointed me and made me cry. But there was never ever a time I regretted saying, “I love you.” There was no mistake so big, and there were some biggies, where a hug was poorly timed. When in doubt, love. God will sort out the rest.
God has certainly blessed us as parents when He chose us specifically for raising them up in the way they should go. (Proverbs 22:6) There is never a shortage of methods, theories and tips. Studies will show this and research will show that, but one thing remains the same and that is our Father’s love for us. It is by His example that we lead our children, introverts and extroverts, to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
How have you successfully turned some bad behavior around for your introverted child? I'd love you to comment below and share with other parents your ideas for appropriate redirection, discipline and positive change.
I wrote this originally as a guest post on INTENTIONAL PARENTING with Carole Sparks. You can check out her website here: https://notaboutme1151parenting.wordpress.com/