On being the mother of an extrovert

‘She’s like a magnet for people, isn’t she?’ he said.

We were sitting, as we do every Friday morning, enjoying our Starbucks mummy/daughter treat when this comment was offered. My little girl was chattering away to, well, everyone really, about her new colouring book.

As she coloured, she gave a running commentary. Everyone near us stopped to listen.

A woman sitting with her two children smiled. Her older daughter looked on. Fascinated. Completely engaged, as my little girl explained that it was a Sophia colouring book; do you like Sophia?

The man, a regular who we often see, laughed as my daughter asked do you want to do some colouring?

On Being the Mother of an Extrovert: when you are not

I’m used to the effect my daughter has on people. She is outgoing, confident, friendly, kind.

But, a magnet? Well, I hadn’t thought of her like that before.

To be honest, I’m generally more aware of how overwhelming she can be. How in your face. How enthusiastic and opinionated and demanding.

Frankly, I am often cringing inside as I try to reign her in. Just a little. I can’t bear the thought of squashing that wonderful personality, but sometimes I wish she was just a little less. Less loud, less outgoing, less gregarious.

Less extrovert.

But then she might also be less friendly, less inclusive, less thoughtful. Less her.

My internal cringing says far more about me than it does her.

But, I’m finding the parenting of this bundle of confidence difficult. The truth is, having such an extrovert child is exhausting; it is constant, it is draining.

In social situations where I might stay on the edge, I can’t. She does the butting in for me. Where I might stay quiet and just listen, I can’t. She’s right there in the middle of the conversation.

I need to strike a balance between encouraging her confidence, and teaching her restraint and social intelligence. I need to teach her that not everyone is as confident as she is, that she needs to tread more lightly sometimes.

I have to check my own natural tendency towards shyness. She is not me, and I should not expect her to be, or react, like me. I must not hold her back because I feel awkward.

It is wonderful that she is outgoing and fearless, and it will ultimately stand her in good stead.

So, I need to focus on doing my job right. On teaching her to remain kind and thoughtful, to have empathy. To understand when other children find her enthusiasm over whelming; to step back and wait for them to join her. And, to accept that not all of them will.

I need to stop worrying that she is too much, because she’s just right.

Back in Starbucks, the woman and her children got up to leave. Before they did they came over to my daughter. The mother said that her daughter wanted to ask her a question. The wee girl looked up and smiled, but the other girl was too shy. So her mother asked for her. Did my daughter go to dance classes (she was in her ballet clothes)? Where did she do dance? Would she like a sticker?

My daughter chatted, chose a sticker, said goodbye. The other girl left smiling.

Every time I find myself cringing or making apologies for her pushiness, I need to remember this. I need to remember that little girl who left smiling.

And the little boy who had watched all the while, and came over and shared his snack with her. And the brother and sister who arrived a little later, and invited her to join in their game when she asked if she could play with them.

She thrives in company. She excels at social interactions. She is not yet four and she is more adept at them than her mother.

She is an extrovert.

My most important job is to make sure that no one, including me, ever makes her feel like she shouldn’t be.

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16 thoughts on “On being the mother of an extrovert”

  1. My son is showing all the signs of being an extrovert. A friend commented how easily he gets people’s attention and how we could all learn from him. He’s not yet two. And interestingly he is drawn most to quieter, calmer people the most.

    I on the other hand am an introvert and I’m constantly exhausted. We live in Japan so someday I just hide behind the language barrier and pretend I don’t understand anything.

  2. This is such a lovely post and I think you are right – cling on to these moments! My children were exactly the same and my son still is, but my daughter (almost 9) is not anywhere near as confident as she used to be – though that said, she is still a million times more confident than me and I wouldn’t want it any other way! xxx

  3. Love this post, Sara. My girl is like this, so thank you for reminding me all that I need do. It is exhausting, her energy is boundless, but then so is her compassion and kindness as she seeks to involve and include everyone around her. Your wee girl is absolutely beautiful.

  4. It’s so tough when you have a child the opposite of what you are. I have one child in particular who is EXTREMELY introverted, and I wouldn’t call myself an extrovert but I’m probably more toward the middle of the spectrum. It took me a while (and reading a fabulous book called The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child) to really get her.

  5. I find the demands of my children exhausting at times and I haven’t categorised them as extroverts but I know I’m an introvert so I need my own space to re-energise and there is precious little of that when they are at this stage. However their own personalities are something different again. I can see how the Wee Girl’s abounding outgoing nature must be really full on – I feel almost envious of her for that at such a young age – it’s fearlessness isn’t it? Confidence – you’re right it will stand her in good stead. My 17 year old niece is an extrovert (she’s just won her school election to become Head Girl!) and I think she has quite a thick skin when it comes to what other people think of her or their expectations – I’m not sure if that’s a part of being an extrovert but if it is then the Wee Girl will be just fine! X

  6. Ah yes, the confident child! This would be Elizabeth, our youngest. Can be challenging but I would never, ever wish to crush her gorgeous character. #truthabout

  7. She sounds amazing! My friend’s daughter is like this too and my friend says it’s wonderful but also exhausting. I’m an introvert and I think all three of my boys are too, they’re all good at spending time entertaining themselves and don’t immediately draw other’s attention or interact with everyone in in this way. Mind you, my 8yo is very quietly confident and great at making friends and forming bonds with people. Who knows what they will be like when they’re older. I hope your daughter keeps her natural confidence – she sounds awesome.

  8. I really relate to this post. I have three very extroverted children who love chatting away to people and asking them questions and letting them know what they have been up to. People are always saying how charming and confident they are. Like you say though, it’s a difficult balance of making sure they realise that not everyone is so chatty in social situations and not everyone will want to chat to them, but without taking away any of their passion, excitement and kindness.

  9. I really needed to read this. My daughter is exactly the same. It is exhausting. You’re right about finding a fine line between scourging confidence and reigning it in. I’ve never heard of it being described as a magnet before either but I suppose they are really x

  10. I can really relate to this, while my little girl is only 18 months I feel so flawed by her. She constantly talks, and grabs everyones attention. All the children just stick to her and follow her everywhere. I have never seen her go shy and quite frankly I have no clue where she gets it from. x

  11. Aww, my daughter is an extrovert too, as is my youngest son! Both of them chatter away to whomever, making friends everywhere they go. My daughter likes to sing and dance too, so this often makes a show when we go out. It’s very hard work because they’re such strong personalities, but definitely worth it. x

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