As an introverted child, I lived partly in a small suburb in Minnesota and partly in my imagination. I was content spending whole afternoons by myself, writing books on construction paper and daydreaming. As a teenager, I had a group of friends I loved, but spending time with them drained me.
They didn’t seem to need the alone time that I required just to function. I told myself that they were the “normal” ones, and I should be more like them.
Later in life, I learned there’s a word for who I am — introvert. By definition, introverts get easily drained by socializing and need plenty of downtime. Most important, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert. It’s not a disease or a disorder. In fact, 30 to 50 percent of the population are introverts, which means there are plenty of us “quiet ones” out there!
Being an introvert is something that will never change about me. Yes, we can grow and stretch as people; we can step out of our comfort zones, develop new skills, or gain a new perspective on life. But our temperament (introversion or extroversion) is innate. Experts agree it’s something we’re born with, and it mostly remains unchanged throughout our lives. According to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney in The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child, kids begin showing signs of introversion or extroversion around four months of age — and they generally remain true to their nature as adults.
In other words, once an introvert, always an introvert.
So what are introverts like as kids? No two introverts are exactly alike, but introverted children tend to share these seven characteristics to some degree.
7 Characteristics of Introverted Children
1. They have a vivid inner world.
It’s always alive and present for them. They rely on their inner resources rather than constantly turning to other people for support and guidance. “In their private garden away from the material world they concentrate and puzzle out complex and intricate thoughts and feelings,” writes Dr. Laney.
Introverted children like imaginative play, and they prefer playing alone or with just one or two other children. They often spend time in their own room with the door closed, doing solitary things like reading, drawing, or playing computer games.
Unfortunately, having a rich inner world can be a double-edged sword, because it can lead them to feel isolated and alienated from others. It’s important for parents of introverted children to help them see how their temperament can be a source of strength.
2. They engage with the deeper aspects of life.
Introverted children are not afraid of the big questions. They want to know why something is the way it is or what it means on a deeper level. Astonishingly, even at a young age, many of them can step outside themselves and reflect on their own behavior. Often, introverted children want to understand themselves — and everyone and everything around them. They might wonder, what makes this person tick?
3. They observe first, act later.
Generally, they prefer to watch games or activities before joining in. Sometimes appearing hesitant and cautious, they stand back from the action and enter new situations slowly. They may be more energetic and talkative at home where they feel more comfortable.