Tag: communication

Introvert Mama, Extrovert Child

Introvert Mama, Extrovert Child

First off: extrAvert or extrOvert? According to the dictionary, both spellings are correct. But since spell check dislikes extravert, we’re going with extrovert throughout the post.

This post was originally published on lonestarsigners.com on November 13, 2013.

A little more than two years ago, when our second child was a few months old, I realized that I was tired all the time. I talked with my doctor about hormonal imbalances (my estrogen-progesterone balance leans toward estrogen dominance) and met with a lovely therapist for a few months to talk through my struggles with perfectionism. It was about that time that I read Susan Cain’s amazing book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. (In fact, I just requested it from the library again–I’m due for a re-read!)

Introvert Mama, Extrovert Child | parenting, personality style, child development, communication, family relationships and dynamics

I think introversion is misunderstood in today’s society as shyness, social anxiety, or just a reclusive personality. The truth is that whether or not a person is an introvert simply depends on how he/she recharges their energy. Some people seek out other people, activities, experiences, and action to gain energy (extroverts), some are energized with solitude and reflection (introverts), and the rest are a lovely blend of both.

 

Well, it turns out that I am an EXTREME introvert. I think my tendency has definitely become more pronounced as I’ve gotten older, mainly because my “alone time” has been extremely limited by this thing called parenting.

When I was single and living by myself, I had lots of balance–interacting at work and plenty of social activities–followed by a night alone with a good book! When my husband and I were first married, our non-traditional work schedules left us some time apart, which I filled with a good book and my husband filled with singing in a chorus and a quartet. (Guess which personality type he has!)

Even after our first daughter was born, I still had “alone time” in the car going back and forth to work (listening to audiobooks, naturally) and while she was sleeping. But once I had two young children with different schedules and no outside job to go to, I was exhausted because I was never alone.

Introvert Mama, Extrovert Child | parenting, personality style, child development, communication, family relationships and dynamics

Please understand me, I love my girls and I wouldn’t want to do anything other than stay home with them and homeschool–but those two hours of naptime are precious to me and my sanity. I need time to read and reflect every day or I get run down. Thankfully, my husband appreciates my sanity and arranges his evening schedule with the girls so that I get to rest. (And he gets a night out every week to go out and sing.)

* * *

Our oldest daughter is clearly an extrovert. I love to watch her light up around other people! I appreciate it when the moms that she is drawn to take the time to listen to her and affirm what she so badly wants to tell them. She processes information by talking about it, and that means she talks A LOT. She is constantly asking me when we’re going out or which activity is coming up next, when I would much prefer to curl up on the couch with (you guessed it!) a book.

Introvert Mama, Extrovert Child | parenting, personality style, child development, communication, family relationships and dynamics

If introverts get their energy from the inside and extroverts get their energy from the outside, there are some days that it feels like Addie is simply taking my “health units” for herself. 🙂

As an introvert raising an extrovert, I’ve discovered a few tricks:

  • Plan social activities for the extroverted child. If at all possible, plan to host them them so you can control the number of guests and how long the activity lasts.
  • Go to the park a couple of times a week. My extroverted daughter is more than happy to play alongside children she has never met before and I can find a quiet bench to sit on and watch.
  • Make allowances for an “at home” day at least once a week. It’s beneficial for extroverts to learn how to play independently. Listen to audiobooks if your child needs extra stimulation.
  • Channel your child’s extra energy with a hobby! 🙂
  • Make it a point to connect with other moms in real life at least once a week. Facebook and other forms of social media are awesome, but it’s important to have some in-depth face-to-face conversations, too.
  • Don’t forget your spouse! My husband is very understanding of my need for quiet time, but I need to remember to “come back up for air” in the evening and ask him about his day. Even if we’re not talking, he appreciates it when I sit next to him while he watches a movie. (And then after I’ve had my fill of “quiet time” in the evening, I tend to want to talk his ear off right about the time he’s ready to go to sleep. It’s all about balance!)
  • Teach your child about the differences between introversion and extroversion. Addie knows me well enough that when I say I need a break, she respects my ten minutes of downtime. When we leave an intense social situation, she is usually quiet in the car so I can recharge. It’s not just about me, either! When an introverted friend comes over and needs some time to ease into the situation, it’s important for her to learn how to respect their space.

While you’re here grab your FREE Summer Schedule Guide, and get lots of activity ideas for your little extrovert!

Raising Children and Emotional Outbursts

Raising Children and Emotional Outbursts

There we stood, toe-to-toe, arms crossed, eyes blazing. “You aren’t helping!” she yelled and turned away from me. I dropped to my knees on the floor of her room so she could look into my eyes.

“You’re right, and I’m sorry. I’d like to help you,” I said as gently as I could. She took one look at me and crumpled into my arms.

If you are a student of personality types, you’ll understand when I say that our entire family scores high on the Feelings scale. We are passionate people navigating emotional outbursts on a near-daily basis, usually from me (ISFJ) and one of our daughters (ESFJ).

Raising Children and Emotional Outbursts | 3 Tips to Navigate (parenting and personality styles, emotional development)

Many years ago, I stumbled across a book at the library called Nurture By Nature, which introduces parents to the 16 different personality types. I knew I needed to own a copy when I read this quote on page 6:

Imagine a child made to feel lovable, capable, and worthy just exactly the way she is. Such a child would grow up confident, secure, honest, independent, and loving, because she would have been raised by parents who respected, accepted, accommodated, and celebrated her unique personality.

I was able to “type” our older daughter immediately. She is my “mini-me” with one major difference–that girl is as extroverted as I am introverted. From a young age, her first question to me each morning would be, “Are we going to see people today?” (As opposed to her little sister, whose first sentence–I kid you not–was, “I want to play alone.”)


Related: Raising an Extroverted Child as an Introverted Parent


From Nurture By Nature, p. 186:

[ESFJs] adore their families and are very connected to their parents. They are caring, sensitive children who are highly aware of and concerned about the opinions and feelings of others. They like to be included, reassured, and constantly reminded of how much they are liked and how much the people they care about are pleased by them.

Our girl is literally the kindest person I know. She is an exuberant includer–everyone is a (best) friend, even those she has just met. In fact, she reminds me of the character Joy from the movie Inside Out, to be completely honest. She is fun and affectionate and very sensitive to the feelings of others. Her tender heart hurts whenever she hears about somebody going through a hard time, and she is very hard on herself when something doesn’t come easily or work out the way she thought it might.

Every once in awhile, those sad, hurt feelings come out in a big emotional outburst of anger. There might be yelling, stomping, and door-slamming. There will always be fiery eyes and a tear or two.

At that moment, I need to choose how I will respond to her outburst. I can either help her or I can alienate her by not taking her feelings seriously.  For the longest time, I chose the second option. I didn’t understand that her struggle with a math problem was just a symptom of a deeper issue. I would minimize her frustration instead of listening, validating her feelings, and letting her know that she was not alone.

Raising Children and Emotional Outbursts | 3 Tips to Navigate (parenting and personality styles, emotional development)

Over the past several months, we’ve been able to work through these outbursts with three steps:

  • Identifying emotions.

    The anger is usually a mask for something else, but we reassure her that it’s okay to be angry as long as she is not hurting herself or someone else.

  • Expressing feelings.

    It’s okay to cry or get out the Wii boxing game. Sometimes adrenaline can be overwhelming for a little body.

  • Managing feelings.

    We work through breathing exercises (smell the flower, blow out the candle is a favorite) until we feel calm again. At that point, the deeper feelings like hurt or fear usually come to the surface and we can talk through them. She is reassured of our love–no matter how she feels or what she does–and then we might talk through different ways of expressing our feelings in the future.

As I mentioned earlier, this precious daughter of mine is very similar to me. I am also prone to emotional outbursts when I don’t feel heard or understood. In our experience, the easiest way to avoid a meltdown is to prevent it–lots of quality one-on-one time and affection go a long way in our family. “I love you, Mom,” is a phrase that I hear often from my sweet girl. It’s usually a cue for me to drop whatever I’m doing in and pull her in for a long hug. She beams when I say, “I love you, too, sweetie.”

If you would like to learn more about parenting and personality types, I highly recommend these two books. (Just a reminder that we use affiliate links at no additional cost for you. Thank you for supporting our blog!) 

In Nurture by Nature you’ll learn which of 16 distinctly different types best matches your child’s personality; how this personality type affects your child in each of the three stages of development – preschool, school age, and adolescence; and how you can adapt your parenting style to your child’s type – and get better results when communicating, supporting, motivating, and disciplining.

An antidote to our stressed-out mother culture, MotherStyles validates the notion that good mothering comes in many styles and explains how understanding how you most often react to your child and why is the most important step toward working through areas that have long given you trouble.

Will Signing Delay Speech?

Will Signing Delay Speech?

One of the questions/concerns/fears that comes up most frequently when I talk about sign language with other parents is huge:

Will signing with my child delay his/her speech?

Let me just say, I get it! I completely understand where the fear comes from. We want the best for our children, and we don’t want to do anything that might mess them up. What a lot of pressure!

Social media and our culture of comparison adds to the pressure as well. It’s so easy to compare our children to those we hear about on a daily basis. Uncle Jim’s neighbor’s niece was walking at 6 months! The grocery store clerk’s second cousin has been talking since he was 3 months old!

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating, but the bottom line is this:

every child is different and will develop at his/her own pace.

Yes, there are things we can do to help our children along, like reading books everyday and singing songs and playing silly games. But some kids are slow to walk. Some kids are slow to talk. And some kids take forever to potty train!

(Then again, some kids are early walkers, early talkers, early readers, and that comes with its own unique set of challenges.)

Let me tell you a little bit about our family:

We have two daughters who are as different as night and day. They are both sweet as pie, but raising #2 has been the polar opposite of our experience with #1!

Addie’s story:

Our older daughter is a walking miracle. Our girl was born at 26 weeks, weighing 1 pound, 8 ounces. She spent 135 days in the NICU, had five surgeries before her third birthday (four before coming home from the hospital for the first time), and has permanent peripheral vision loss due to an amazing, innovative procedure designed to keep her retinas from detaching.

Fast-forward several months, and it probably won’t surprise you that Addie had developmental delays, despite her 1:1 caregiver/child ratio and weekly occupational therapy sessions. Our ECI team recommended we start speech therapy at the age of 18 months, and we agreed. My notes from that first session say, “Addie made lots of sounds.”

Our amazing Speech and Language Pathologist (Ms. Tina) recommended we start signing with Addie to jump start her speech. Her rationale was simple: we could gently place our hands on top of Addie’s hands to help her start signing! And it worked.

In just a couple of months, Addie was speaking and signing at a level close to the peers born around her original due date. After a year of speech therapy, she was caught up with children her actual age. By the time she “tested out” of therapy on her third birthday, her speech was estimated to be at the 60 month/5 year level.

We loved signing with Addie (still do!), so we knew we would sign with our second daughter from the beginning. Kate is our full-term miracle. We had no idea if I would be able to carry a baby past 26 weeks, and she amazed us! Kate was born at 37 weeks: 5 pounds, 6 ounces of pure sweetness!

Will Signing Delay Speech? | sign language, speech delay, toddler, baby signs, American Sign Language, benefits of signing with my baby

Kate’s story:

Kate was a very quiet baby (she lives in a very LOUD house). By her first birthday, I knew she understood what we were saying to her, but choosing not to speak. She was also very slow to sign back to us, though she responded whenever we signed milk, eat, cookie, play, etc.

She was signing milk and more sporadically, but started signing in earnest at around 14-15 months. By the 18 month mark–the age we started signing with Addie–Kate had well over 20 signs and about 5 words (mama, dada, uh-oh, more, nana). She’s now 20 months old* and can sign about 70 words. Her speech is exploding. She says about five new words a day (words she already knew the sign for), knows several opposite pairs (up/down, hot/cold, dirty/clean), and a couple colors. (Her favorite sign is rainbow.)

Will signing delay speech?

Two babies, in the same family, raised the same way. One was not signed to for the first year and a half, the other was signed to (along with speech) from birth. At 18 months, they were both very quiet children–some might even say delayed, if they were comparing to other children/internet myths. 🙂

This quote from Rachel Coleman, co-creator of Signing Time, has stuck with me (published in a blog post written September 2011):

“Language doesn’t delay language. The fear of signing is ridiculous and thinking that a child will not talk because they first signed is as preposterous as saying, “don’t let your child crawl or they will never learn to walk.” Babies crawl before they walk and they sign before they talk. If your child has the ability to deliver a spoken language, they will acquire that skill whether or not you sign with them. If they happen to have a speech delay or a disability that gets in the way of speaking, then thank heavens you are signing with them and giving them a way to be understood. If your child’s speech is delayed, it is not the signing that delays speech… it is something else entirely, because communication doesn’t delay communication.” 

When Kate was barely speaking at 18 months, I was concerned and frustrated that we might have to do speech therapy again. I said so many times to my husband and to my friends, “I am just thankful she signs! How great that we know what she wants!” In just a few short months, she caught up and surpassed “normal speech” for children her age.

Those children that crawl early, walk early, climb early? They are the ones most likely to enjoy and benefit from signing! Their bodies are so busy with all those fine and gross motor skills. What better way to communicate?

I do think it’s important that every family do what is best for their unique situation. If that includes signing, I am happy to help you find resources to get started/keep going!

One more thing: I have never had a parent say to me, “I wish I hadn’t used sign language with my children.” But many, many, many (including myself) have said, “I wish I had started sooner!”

Want to learn more about baby sign language? Join us here!

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* Update: Kate is now five years old and extremely well-spoken. She reads (like her big sister) and is still very passionate about sign language. We are working on ASL grammar with the goal of making it our family’s second language.

This post was originally published on our previous blog, lonestarsigners.com, on May 6, 2013.