With all the parenting information out there and the constant pressure to be the “perfect” parent, it seems as if many parents have lost track of one very important piece of the parenting puzzle: raising happy kids.
Parenting today has gotten far too complicated. It’s never been the easiest job in the world, but with all the “parenting advice” parents are met with at every corner, it’s hard not to become bewildered. It seems that in the past it was a good deal simpler. You made sure there was dinner on the table and the kids got to school on time and no one set anything on fire, and you called it a success. But today everybody has a different method for dealing with the madnessattachment parenting, free-range parenting, mindful parenting. And who is to say one is more right or better than another? How do you choose?
The truth is that whatever drumbeat you march to, all parents would agree that we just want our kids to be happy. It seems like a no-brainer, right? But in the face of all the many parenting theories out there, happiness feels like it has become incidental. That’s where The Happy Kid Handbook by child and adolescent psychotherapist and parenting expert Katie Hurley comes in. She shows parents how happiness is the key to raising confident, capable children. It’s not about giving in every time your child wants something so they won’t feel bad when you say no, or making sure that they’re taking that art class, and the ballet class, and the soccer class (to help with their creativity and their coordination and all that excess energy). Happiness is about parenting the individual, because not every child is the same, and not every child will respond to parenting the same way. By exploring the differences among introverts, extroverts, and everything in between, this definitive guide to parenting offers parents the specific strategies they need to meet their child exactly where he or she needs to be met from a social-emotional perspective. A back-to-basics guide to parenting, The Happy Kid Handbook is a must-have for any parent hoping to be the best parent they can be.
|Publisher:||Gildan Media on Dreamscape Audio|
|Product dimensions:||6.04(w) x 5.04(h) x 1.13(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Katie Hurley, LCSW, is a child and adolescent psychotherapist, parenting expert, and writer. Katie earned her BA in psychology in and women’s studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. Katie has extensive training in Play Therapy. She worked for The Help Group, a large non-profit in Los Angeles, for seven years as a school-based therapist and a clinical director. Katie also launched her private practice, co-facilitated social skills groups, and taught parenting classes during that time. She currently practices psychotherapy in the South Bay area of Los Angeles and is a freelance writer for many online parenting publications. Her work can be found on EverydayFamily, Momtastic, mom.me, Yahoo Parenting and The Huffington Post. Katie writes for the parenting blog Practical Parenting. She splits her time between Los Angeles and the Connecticut coast with her rock and roll husband and their two happy children.
Read an Excerpt
The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.
OPEN A MAGAZINE, turn on daytime TV, or check in with your good friend Google for a minute and you are likely to find (on any given day) an endless list of parenting theories, books that will make parenting easier, calmer, or quieter, and blogs and articles galore that promise to make you a better parent. Parenting experts crop up just about everywhere these days (guilty as charged) and there is no shortage of information out there when it comes to doing the job right or better or more efficiently.
Yes, somewhere along the way the word “parent” shifted from a noun, the role people fill when they have a child, to a verb, an action word that signifies the process of executing the most rewarding yet exhausting and frequently judged job in the world. Gone are the days of come-as-you-are parenting. Parents today must keep up with a never-ending list of parenting trends if they want to get the job done right. Or so those books, magazines, and blogs would have you believe.
What all of this information overload is missing, however, is the part about how the kids feel in all of this—what makes them thrive? Book after book will teach you how to correct the thousands of things that can (and will) go wrong along this parenting journey, but very few books focus on raising happy kids.
Did you know that happy kids enjoy better school performance, are more successful when it comes to making and keeping friends, and boast better health overall? It’s true. Harvard University–based happiness and success expert Shawn Achor’s research, chronicled in his popular book The Happiness Advantage, shows that a happy outlook and foundation leads to success.1 In his second book, Before Happiness, Achor asserts that in order to attain happiness, you need the right perspective.2 Achor believes that if parents work on their own happiness, they will raise happier and more successful children as a result.
There are a number of parenting books on the market that focus on putting an end to negative and frustrating behaviors. And for good reason. Parenting can be stressful. Sleepless nights make for very tired and cranky (and possibly prone-to-yelling) mommies. Lengthy tantrums are exhausting. And back-talking school-age children have the potential to send even the most Zen mama running for cover. There’s no doubt about it, parenting is hard work and sometimes a quick fix seems like the best answer. But does the quick fix really hold up as children grow?
It’s time to focus on raising happy kids instead. It’s time to build our kids up, give them the tools to lead with happiness, and make sure that they know how to jump through the hoops along the way (should those hoops arise). And it’s long past time to slow down, get back to the business of kids being kids, and put the small stuff into perspective. Life is short—you want your kids to live happy lives by learning to follow their passions, empathize with others, appreciate those around them, and manage and cope with their own stress.
One of the most difficult parts of processing the parenting information out there is that all these theories and ideas make you feel like if you just do this or that, parenting will be a breeze. Check in with any grandparent and I think you’ll find that parenting has never ever been a breeze. It’s a process. It involves trial and error. One-size-fits-all parenting simply doesn’t exist in this world. And there is no retirement plan when it comes to parenting. Once a parent—always a parent.
Part 1 of The Happy Kid Handbook takes parents through a proactive approach to raising happy kids. Beginning with understanding the child’s temperament and parenting each child as an individual and moving through various positive behaviors, Part 1 of the book is all about building the child’s pro-social skills to raise happy kids. Areas addressed include: the power of play, understanding emotions, teaching forgiveness, building empathy and assertiveness skills, embracing differences, and cultivating passion.
Know Thy Child
Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
HAVING STUDIED CHILD DEVELOPMENT for years, helped countless parents work through their parenting struggles, and stood in front of parenting classes as the expert on hand, I was pretty certain that I could handle any parenting dilemma. Stay calm, empathize often, and just keep swimming. I was ready. What I didn’t count on was having kids with entirely different personalities.
I’m fairly introverted and my husband, Sean, is about the same (despite the fact that he is, indeed, a very successful bass player and often plays in front of crowds of twenty thousand). We can turn it on when we need to, but we don’t mind hiding out and just spending time together. At larger parties, you’ll find us hand in hand, moving from one small group to the next. And then we head home for a glass of wine and some much-needed quiet time. All that small talk can be exhausting when what you really crave is some time on the couch and an episode or two of 30 Rock.
We were both labeled “shy” as kids and we often spent time playing alone. (Sean was known to climb into his crib as a toddler.) We both preferred hanging out with a close friend versus a large group of friends. We weren’t lonely kids; we just didn’t crave the interaction. Our rich internal worlds kept us company.
So it came as no surprise when our firstborn, Riley, seemed a little introverted around the edges. What was a surprise was the amount of talking she did from the minute she learned how to talk! Before she even celebrated her second birthday she was stringing together caveman-like sentences and once she started, she never stopped. At seven, she talks from 6:45 AM to 7:15 PM. No exaggeration. It’s cute and funny and oh so sweet and we quickly adapted to having a nonstop talker who craves action. An introvert in the outside world, she is anything but at home.
But when she was just twenty-one months old, her little brother was born. And wow, was he a different child. High-intensity from the very first yelp, Liam had big feelings and he wasn’t afraid to let the world know. And as his personality began to emerge, we realized how different the two kids would be. Also a talker, but only if he trusts you to listen, Liam doesn’t go from dawn until dusk like his big sister. He needs downtime and alone time and “get out of my room and leave me alone” time. Where Riley tends to hang out somewhere in the middle of the introvert-extrovert scale, Liam pretty much defines introversion. He needs space to do puzzles, think about numbers, and play his drums. At five, he still naps. And when something is scary, frustrating, or confusing, his reaction is always the same: big, loud, and long. Riley tends to internalize her feelings until she can’t hold them in any longer, but Liam lets them out with a fury. Every! Single! Time!
While Sean and I like to joke about our own level of introversion, Liam takes it to a new level. Big parties? No, thank you. Playgroups? I’m good; one friend is fine. Loud music, carnival rides, and screaming children running around? Pass the noise-canceling headphones and get me out of here! In fact, let’s just go ahead and stay home in case I don’t like it. He is the quintessential stay-at-home kid. He feels safe and secure in the comfort of his house, surrounded by his toys, and the people who love him anyway.
It didn’t take long for us to realize that we couldn’t simply set a list of rules and expectations and hope for the best. We have two children with very different emotional needs. While our daughter needs help slowing down and getting her feelings out, our son needs help coping with his very big feelings before they get even bigger. Time-out? Not a chance. That would leave her feeling lonely and him feeling lost. Reward charts? Only if they can be rewarded for very different behaviors and with a different set of standards. He needs constant input; she needs to learn to delay gratification. It’s complicated, at best.
While some general rules work in our house (bedtime never changes and TV time is scheduled), we have found that we truly need to adapt our parenting style for each of them. Riley tends to worry at times, and needs a lot of one-on-one time to work through her worries to feel happy and confident. At times, I feel guilty that she gets more of me. But Liam craves space. He wants me nearby, but doesn’t need constant input when he’s calm. Where he does need extra attention is when something goes wrong. He can go from happy to utter frustration in seconds, and he needs piles of empathy and understanding to get through such an event. He also needs love and cuddles on the other end.
Whether you have one child or four, parenting is hard work. It’s only natural for parents to create some sort of ideal in their minds—a blueprint of how they want their families to be. Some parents focus on academic success while others are more concerned with family unity. Whatever the parenting goal, it takes work and nonstop focus to get there. There are no vacations in the world of parenting, after all.
And it’s easy to get caught up in the busywork of parenting. Between diapers, dishes, carpooling, and homework, there is always something that needs doing. The seemingly meaningless and yet very essential tasks that need attending to each day are exhausting. Parenting is full of to-do lists.
In all this running and doing and shuffling and accomplishing, parents often set a list of behavioral expectations for their children. These are the rules; it’s up to you to follow them. It makes sense, when you stop to think about it. Rules and structure help kids thrive. When children know what to expect each day, they are better able to meet the expectations and they experience less anxiety overall. In theory, it makes for happy kids.
Here’s the catch: No two kids are exactly the same. And while a general blueprint of rules and expectations takes the guesswork out of each day, children also need the opportunity to simply be themselves. While some kids seem to come out of the womb oozing empathy, others tend to be a bit more self-centered during childhood. While some children can cope with frustration without much drama, others scream and flail when something goes awry. In all likelihood, you can have three kids with three very different personalities. How can each kid shine when they are all bound by a general set of rules and standards with no room for change?
We have to parent the individual.
While a general list of rules about keeping your hands to yourself, using kind words, and not bossing others works for most kids, it helps to consider the temperament of each child before creating a master list of “house rules.” A high-intensity child, for example, is likely to be prone to yelling in frustration when things aren’t going his way. I would know. I have one of those. A “no yelling” rule is a setup for failure for a child who tends to experience big emotions. It takes time, practice, and a lot of patience to work through those big emotions and learn to react in a smaller way, and it wouldn’t be fair to hand out consequences each time a high-intensity child raises his voice.
If you have a creative daydreamer on your hands, you might want to think twice about a “following directions the first time” kind of rule in your home. What might look like a child who simply isn’t listening might actually be a child lost in thought, dreaming about her next great work of art. Kids who daydream tend to completely check out while lost in thought. They truly don’t hear what you’re saying. Instead of coming down on your little daydreamer for poor listening skills, it would be more effective to come up with verbal and nonverbal cues (tapping on the table twice, for instance, or simply saying, “When you’re finished with your thought, I need your help”) to help keep your child on track.
And anxious children can only handle so much criticism. Kids who struggle with anxious feelings are their own worst critics. They already come down on themselves for breaking rules or forgetting important tasks. Public reprimands can really crush their spirits. It’s best to review expectations one-on-one in the case of an anxious child and help your child come up with solutions to avoid repeating the behavior in the future.
Teaching to individual strengths comes up a lot in academic settings. Parents often wish that teachers would focus on strengths-based teaching for each individual child instead of simply teaching to standards. It makes a lot of sense. Kids have different areas of strength. And while it’s important to teach the basics to each child, it would also be great to help children hone their specific skills early on.
Parenting isn’t much different.
Sure, you’re not teaching literacy skills or something completely anxiety-producing like long division. (Do they still teach that? Please say no.) But parenting does involve a teaching component. With an end goal of independence, there are a lot of skills that require mastery along the way. And chances are that your children will master different skills at different levels.
How many times have you heard another parent describe an infant or toddler as an “old soul,” a “free spirit,” or a “worrywart”? As parents, we tend to create labels for kids and explain their behaviors or tendencies before another person has even spent a minute with the child. What we are really saying is, “This child is different. She has her own unique personality.” As parents, we recognize that all children are not exactly the same.
So why on earth would we parent them in exactly the same manner?
Social convention often pressures us into having certain behavioral expectations for our kids. It can be hard to parent the quirky child who doesn’t seem to fit any mold, but when we force our children to act a certain way, we are really asking them to act in ways that run counter to what feels natural to them. Some kids truly don’t want to go on playdates. They might find them overwhelming. They might find them underwhelming. Or they might get all the social interaction they need in preschool or school each day. Liam has yet to ask for a playdate. He sees kids at the park and at preschool, and that’s enough. I learned to stop scheduling them. He will tell me when he’s ready, that much I know for certain.
When we meet children where they are and focus on their individual needs, we send the message that we understand them. Helping anxious children find ways to work through their worries instead of brushing them off, for instance, shows them that you take their worries seriously. When we stop overscheduling kids who need extra downtime, we show them that we get it—they need a break and we can work that into our busy lives. When we take the time to teach our high-intensity kids how to manage those big and scary emotions, we show them that we know that life is hard and sometimes you just need help. There’s a lot to be said for understanding their strengths and accepting their limitations.
And before you start hearing the chorus of “That’s not fair” in your head that you probably hear seven billion times a day, remember this: Fair isn’t about everyone having exactly the same thing. Fair is about everyone having their needs met. Kids might rely on black-and-white thinking when it comes to fair and unfair, but fair is very much filled with shades of gray. And it’s okay to teach your kids about those shades of gray. Explaining their differences and showing them that you are raising each of them in a way that best suits them teaches them a valuable lesson about embracing people for who they are.
Fair, as it turns out, is increasing your child’s happiness by figuring out who your child really is.
While we all enter into this job with some preconceived notions about how it will go, the truth is that we can’t be certain about the best way to parent our children until we actually get to know them. And if we want to raise happy kids? We have to parent the kids we have.
It would be foolish, of course, to pretend that this is easy. With multiple kids come multiple obstacles on any given day, and that is just plain hard. A structured day helps keep everyone on task and there are some rules that just aren’t negotiable (no physical aggression comes to mind, and screen time should be limited). It takes time and practice to find what works for each child, and you just can’t get it right every time. But you can work on finding a happy place for each child in the family.
So how do we parent the individual and find happiness for all in a house full of kids with busy schedules and nonstop action? We begin by understanding their personalities.
Introvert, Extrovert, or Some Other Vert?
A common mistake when it comes to discussion of personality is to rely on “either/or” thinking. I hear it in my office a lot, but I hear it on the playground just as much. When a child is outgoing and jumps right in, the parent is quick to label that child an extrovert. Which makes the quieter, less-likely-to-jump-into-the-new-situation little brother the family “introvert.”
While the general labels might very well apply, it’s useful to think of introversion and extroversion as a scale. Different kids have different personalities, and sometimes their personality traits shift based on environmental factors, social situations, and even time of day.
The truth is that everybody has a little bit of both. And some children truly change day to day. That child who clams up at the huge birthday party just might be the life of the party in the comfort of his own home, surrounded by close friends (like my little Riley). And the one who talks nonstop and wants to be surrounded by friends at all times might break down and sob uncontrollably when she’s running on low energy, because even those who lean toward the extroverted end of the scale need a break sometimes.
Everyone needs both time alone and time spent with other people. The difference between introverts and extroverts is how much time they need of each to thrive. When you slow down long enough to truly observe each child and watch their patterns, you begin to recognize how much of each your children really need. (Dragging that introvert to three parties in one weekend is like taking him into battle, mamas; that one needs plenty of puzzles and independent play to recharge.) When the expectations placed upon kids are in sync with their specific personalities, kids experience self-confidence, a sense of accomplishment, and greater happiness.
Raising happy kids means striking the right balance for each child in the family, even if that means that you deal with the chorus of “It’s not fair” from time to time.
So You Think You Have an Introvert?
Kids who hang out on the introverted side of the personality scale tend to exhibit a few of these behaviors:
No matter how strong their preference for introversion, whether they are extroverted some of the time or completely introverted all the time, these kids need downtime. Time spent around other kids is fun and engaging, but completely exhausting. They get their energy from time spent alone, when they can truly think their own thoughts.
Introverted children sometimes confuse their parents because they might actually appear fairly extroverted some of the time, but then clam up the minute they are thrown into a big party or a brand-new situation, even with friendly faces around. That’s where the introversion/extroversion scale comes in handy. Most children have moments of both, but when we learn to determine their individual needs, we can lead them toward a happy medium. And that helps us to raise happy kids.
Tips for Raising an Introverted Child
Respect Their Privacy
Introverted children tend to have very rich internal worlds. Time spent alone with their thoughts and ideas energizes them. The single most important thing that you can do for your introverted child is to respect this.
They will ask you to play and they will play with other friends and siblings at times, but they might not include you in every little detail of their inner worlds. That’s okay. They need that time to think, create, and just be alone. When you let them have that, you send the message that you understand.
Try to factor in at least forty-five minutes of downtime for your introverted child each day. When life is extra busy and sends your child running from activity to activity, increase the amount of downtime. They need this time to process what they’ve experienced and to reenergize. They will reemerge happier for it, that’s for sure.
Respect Their Preferences
We live in a very social world these days. It used to be that you invited seven or eight kids to a birthday party; now the expectation seems to be that you invite the entire class . . . and their siblings. And playdates? They’ve taken on a whole new meaning. The traditional hang-out-with-a-neighborhood-bestie-for-a-little-while “playdate” of days past seems to have morphed into open-ended, long afternoons with “playgroups.” While some kids do enjoy these larger (and longer) playdates, introverted children do not.
Introverted children tend to stick to one or two close friends, and do not need daily playdates. Take a deep breath, concerned parents. Playdate refusal and avoiding large groups are not behaviors indicative of a child who struggles to socialize. Introverted children just happen to thrive when they are one-on-one, and they don’t crave extra playdates. To the introvert, a day at school is positively exhausting. Legos and dolls in the comfort of their own rooms can be a very welcome relief. They are perfectly happy just playing alone!
As for their birthday parties? Discuss before you plan. They are likely to ask for a small gathering or simply a family party. That’s perfectly normal and should be respected. Happiness is feeling heard.
Understand Their Emotions
Introverted children tend to (big shock coming) process their feelings internally. Counter to their extroverted siblings, they might not blurt out their feelings every minute of every day. But they still experience the same shifting emotions as other kids.
Because they don’t necessarily get their feelings out, introverts sometimes experience big meltdowns or tantrums. While a meltdown might appear to be related to a specific trigger, often it’s just the final straw after a series of unspoken frustrations, worries, and overwhelming feelings. Once you understand this about your child, you can help your child learn to express his or her feelings throughout the day.
As important as it is to teach introverts to express their feelings, it’s also important to normalize those big feelings. Given that introverted kids tend to keep their feelings hidden, they often fail to seek help from adults. They need to know that all feelings and emotions are okay and a part of growing up. Normalizing their experiences helps them feel a little less overwhelmed in what often feels like a very overwhelming world.
Understand How They Think
As we’ve already established, introverted children tend to get lost in thought. They also like to think things through before they speak. Especially before they commit to something that they might not actually want to do. The problem is that this quiet thought process is often misinterpreted as daydreaming or inattention. Particularly in the classroom setting.
Bottom line: Introverted kids need time to think. Demanding an immediate answer from an introvert is akin to telling your extroverted child to just sit still for once. Their brains need time to process the information and come up with an answer that makes sense to them.
With that in mind, there are a couple of things you can do to decrease the frustration, and increase the happiness, on both ends.
Prepare Them for Events
Given the overwhelming nature of large and unpredictable events in the mind of your little introvert, you simply can’t expect them to jump right into the bounce house with masses of giggling, screaming kids. And if they didn’t even know that bounce house was happening? They just might fall apart before they even get out of the car.
Introverted children become physically overwhelmed by sight, sound, and touch. The party that seems to offer endless opportunity for fun for one child is likely to cause anxiety and panic for an introverted child. The real reason they hide behind you or cling desperately to your pants has less to do with fear of socializing and more to do with sensory overload.
While most parents seem to expect (or at least hope/want) their kids to simply join in and enjoy the fun, introverted children need much more preparation and close supervision in order to take part in the celebration.
How, exactly, do you prepare your child for these sorts of fun but mostly overwhelming events? With a few easy steps . . .
Try to keep the big social outings short and sweet. All that overload is exhausting for an introverted child.
Understand How They Socialize
Introverts, in general, aren’t big on small talk.
Salutations and idle chitchat feel like a huge waste of time to an introvert, who has likely been thinking about one particular topic for quite some time and would like to cut to the chase. Resist the urge to cut your child off and force him to go back to the social graces period of the conversation. Introverts are the happiest when they can finish their thoughts to completion. Let them speak. Then revisit the basic conversational skills by role-playing specific conversation starters (“Hi. How are you? Did you have a good day?” followed by “I learned something interesting today.”).
It’s very important to avoid public behavioral corrections with introverts. While they might sometimes make the wrong choice or forget their manners when they’re on a roll, they do embarrass easily. They internalize these moments and shut down in response. Also, that amazing story that you interrupted because you worried about how someone else might judge his behavior took a lot of thought and effort. You want your child to gradually feel more comfortable with these interactions over time. It’s best to support them in the moment, and then pull them aside to discuss any behavioral issues.
Introverts tend to dig in their heels when they want what they want. In short, they can be stubborn. At home, it might not be such an issue. But at school? Yikes. Flexibility is required. Sometimes things change without much warning, and kids need to be able to accept those changes.
When introverted children learn that they won’t break every time they bend, they experience higher self-confidence because they realize that they are capable of coping with change. This self-confidence leads to greater happiness and less anxiety throughout the day.
Give up Some Control
The great thing about living in your own little introverted world . . . is that you have complete control over it. That’s not, however, how the real world works. At all. In the real world, introverted children are constantly trying to measure up to other people’s standards and follow what might feel like complicated lists of rules. Bottom line: They have no control.
Giving introverted kids some control over their lives not only builds their independence, it reduces their stress and increases their happiness. It’s not that they have to be in charge of every little thing, it’s that they need to feel like they can make some choices and have some control. Allowing your child to assist with meal planning once a week is a great place to start. Consider allowing your child to organize her room in a way that is meaningful to her, choose her own clothing (as long as she dresses for the weather), and decide which birthday parties and school events she would like to attend.
Giving introverted children the power of choice, and sometimes even the power of veto, relieves them of the stress that can trigger anxious and isolating behaviors. It tells them that we understand them and we want to make choices that actually work for them, not just for us. And that makes them feel happy.
Factor in One-on-One Time
The upside of parenting an introvert is that they do crave a lot of independent playtime. Suddenly things like showers and laundry feel doable on a daily basis. The downside is that, unless you really stay connected, you might accidentally experience a moment when you realize suddenly that you haven’t spent much time with your introvert this week.
Unlike their louder, very vocal siblings, introverted children don’t always cry out for one-on-one attention. But they need it just the same. When they don’t have enough one-on-one parent time, they are likely to internalize feelings of sadness, anger, and even anxiety. They feel left out. Where’s the happiness in that?
Carve out special time with your introverted child. A fixed special-time schedule tends to work well, as it takes the guesswork out of it for your child and decreases any anticipatory anxiety. Let your child choose the game, destination, or project and turn off all electronic devices. I guarantee that you will learn more about your introverted child during these special-time sessions than you will during the rest of the week.
Added bonus: Special time is guaranteed to increase the smiles and happiness. When children feel loved and understood, they also feel happy.
Social convention tells us to focus on raising well-rounded kids. They have to be good at just about everything to really have a shot at a good future. Or so we are led to believe. . . .
Introverted children tend to have just a few interests, but they really thrive when they are able to showcase those interests. Take an interest in your child’s interests. Get books on the subject. Take field trips that relate. Ask as many questions as you can and truly listen to the answers. Repeat the information back to your child so that he knows you are listening.
As parents, it’s up to us to let go of the fear of others passing judgment. So what if your five-year-old thinks about NASA 24/7? Is he happy? Does he come to life when given the opportunity to share his knowledge and show you his latest Lego rocket creation? That’s all that matters. When you let your introvert embrace his true passions, you send a very positive message. And that message is critical to your child’s happiness.
While focusing on a few interests is important to introverted children, cultivating passion is actually important for all children. See Chapter 8 for more on increasing happiness by way of cultivating passion.
Or Maybe You’re Raising an Extrovert . . .
Life with an extroverted child is action-packed. Doers by nature, these kids like to go, go, go! At times you might find yourself wondering if your extrovert might one day run out of things to say. Not a chance. Your little talking machine draws energy from those around her. She craves stimulation and interaction to recharge her batteries.
On the bright side, you will know every single thing that happens to your child at school every minute of every day. No creative questioning needed for this one. On the less bright side, the constant input can be exhausting. Don’t fret, tired mamas, there are always ways to restore balance to the family while keeping a smile on each face.
Kids on the extroverted side of the personality scale tend to exhibit a few of these behaviors:
Extroverts can seem like they are constantly on the move and directing their energy so many places that they can’t possibly have any kind of focus. You often hear them described as “spirited” or “high energy.” While they do tend to be energetic little beings with a lot to say about everything, that doesn’t mean that they lack focus. Their thought process is such that they need to talk their way through things and take a hands-on, action-based approach to find their focus. With a little help, they can learn to let their wonderful spirit guide them toward their goals and aspirations, while smiling all the way.
Tips for Raising Extroverted Children . . .
Embrace Their Social Nature
To shut down an extrovert is to completely crush her spirit. Being with other people and getting their ideas and thoughts out into the open is what recharges extroverts. They feel their best, and experience the most happiness, when they are encouraged to do what they do best—talk and get their energy out.
With that in mind, it’s best to allow for plenty of social interaction for your extroverted child. They thrive in groups and love to move. Try to avoid highly structured social gatherings, as these can feel limiting to an extroverted child. Remember, sitting still and following a specific set of rules in school all day can drain an extrovert. Freedom to chat, express their thoughts and ideas, and move is crucial to feeling energized and happy.
And not all social gatherings require planning. Extroverted children tend to enjoy meeting new people. An impromptu trip to the local park is just as energizing and exciting as a playdate with ten close friends.
Given their tendency to wear their feelings on their sleeves, extroverted children can appear emotionally overloaded at times. It’s important to remember that talking and sharing is how extroverted children process and work through their feelings and emotions. Try not to jump to conclusions about their emotional well-being; often they just need a good old-fashioned brain dump to get their feelings out. Life can be overwhelming for kids at times. That’s perfectly normal under even the best conditions. Once they learn to release and make sense of their emotions, they are likely to experience more happiness. (Refer to Chapter 3 for more on understanding emotion.)
With that in mind, there are a couple of activities your child can use to get those feelings out in a meaningful way. (The visuals created by these activities can stay with your child long after the activity is complete if you hang them on the wall or paste them into a notebook.)
Help Channel the Energy
While some parents, particularly introverted ones, can find raising an extroverted chatterbox an exhausting task, it’s important to remain patient and help them work through their extroverted energy.
Think out loud with them to help them find the solution to a problem. Or try chatting while engaged in building and crafting projects. They work best and feel happiest when actively sharing with others.
Extroverts need to direct their energy outward. It’s what helps them find balance. Help your little extrovert find activities that both meet that need and make her happy. Plays, puppet shows, and comedy routines all provide both a creative outlet and an audience. Building projects and arts and crafts are other great places to direct that energy and provide the opportunity to connect and talk during the process. And, if you’re up for it, consider allowing your child to create a series of “how to” videos. You are likely to get lessons in everything from throwing a perfect tea party to proper swinging form. Funny and engaging.
Be sure to allow for plenty of physical activity. Observe your child carefully to determine what kind of physical activity is the best fit. While some extroverted children crave the social aspect of team sports, others might feel restricted by rules and regulations. The best way to ensure the best fit is to simply talk it over with your child. Not to worry, she will happily oblige.
Teach Relaxation Skills
Although they don’t like to admit it, extroverts need downtime, too. But some extroverted children simply don’t know how to relax. Complete silence or flipping through books (also known as the introvert’s paradise) threatens to deplete the extrovert of energy. An extrovert needs sensory input and stimulation.
But there are ways to teach children the art of relaxing in an extroverted manner. Quiet time is beneficial to an extroverted child in that it teaches her that she can be alone—she doesn’t need an audience every minute of the day. While many extroverts find themselves wondering why anyone would ever want to be alone, the fact is that people are alone at times. Learning how to be alone is a valuable skill.
Teach Active Listening Skills
Sometimes extroverted children have so much to say they simply forget to stop and listen. While they might be able to talk nonstop at home, this can become a problem at school, on teams, or in other classes. They do need to learn the art of give and take when it comes to conversational skills. And they really need to understand when it’s best to just listen for a little bit (like, say, when the teacher is busy teaching).
The best way to teach listening skills is to model them. We tend to get frustrated when we feel like our kids aren’t listening, but how often do we hit the autopilot and simply respond with “wow” or “uh-huh” at the appropriate intervals? When our children are talking, we have to stop what we’re doing, maintain eye contact, and ask appropriate follow-up questions.
Here are a few more strategies you can work into family life to hone those active listening skills:
Excerpted from "The Happy Kid Handbook"
Copyright © 2015 Katie Hurley.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
No dip, Sherlock