Being an Introvert is No Excuse for a Lack of Social Skills
I am an introvert. I have been all of my life. So of course, I gave birth to two extroverts. Being an introvert homeschooling mom of two extroverted children can be exhausting. That’s a disclaimer I feel is necessary for any introverted parent who is considering homeschooling. It can be hard.
The thing is that I went to public and private schools my whole life and I am still an introvert. My children are extroverts and they are homeschooled. This is a simply a reminder that the method of one’s education has nothing to do with whether they are going to be extroverted or introverted. You are who you are. But I digress.
I often meet homeschooling parents who are themselves introverts and who have introverted children. Many of these parents tend to work very hard at creating safe, artificially “friendly” social activities for their introverted children. Some parents may even go so far as to avoid group settings where their kids won’t know anyone in the group. This is often a function of the introverted parent wishing to avoid the crowd or find themselves in a situation where they, too, will have to socialize.
I’m going to first say to these parents that I get it. As an introvert myself, it is my nature to want to avoid crowds, avoid social settings altogether, and stay within my comfort zone. But this is not real life. You simply cannot allow yourself or your children to do only that which is comfortable.
Regardless of what your child decides to do in life, they will need to have social skills. Whether they have a job or develop their own business, good social skills are absolutely paramount to success. Unless you’re planning for your child to live under a rock, or worse yet, with you, for the rest of their lives, they must learn a basic set of social skills. These skills cannot be learned in exclusively safe, artificially constructed social settings.
These are the top 5 skills I think are necessary for all kids:
1. Looking people in the eye. This one sounds pretty obvious but many kids today struggle with maintaining eye contact. This applies to both introverted children, who may be shy and leery of strangers, as well as extroverted kids who talk incessantly in a manner that doesn’t require the listener to respond or react. If your child struggles with this, you can work with them on a natural method of sustaining eye contact.
2. Starting and maintaining a conversation. As your kids grow older, they will be expected to be able to hold a conversation with people outside their circle. Whether it’s in college, on the job, at a wedding, when meeting their future in-laws – the list of possibilities is endless. In those situations, there is nothing more awkward than trying to get a conversation going with someone who is either incapable of, or simply refuses to, attempt to socialize.
3. Talking to people they don’t know and showing genuine interest in other people. People can spend hours watching Youtube and Entertainment Tonight, reading People magazine and people watching at the mall. Why? Because people are INTERESTING! It is rare that I talk to someone and not learn something new. Introverts tend to enjoy observing human interactions from the sidelines. Teach your kids that they can add more substance to their observations by actually talking to people.
4. Learn people’s names and the correct pronunciation. One really good way to connect with people is to actually remember their names when they tell you and also pronounce it correctly. This is something I continue to work on. You can find many ways online to help with methods to remember names. And if someone has an unusual name, don't be afraid to ask them to say it until you have the pronunciation perfect. People really appreciate that effort.
5. Perfection is not necessary. The best thing you can teach your kids, introverted or not, is that they don’t have to be perfect. And that they should learn from failure. Not every social is going to be successful or comfortable. Teach kids to learn from it and then let it go. And keep trying.
Mastering social skills will likely leave your introverted child feeling exhausted. Of course, that is normal. But the more practice they get, the less taxing it will become. Socializing with strangers will never be energizing to the introvert, but it will help them to make more connections with people and making connections are helpful and necessary in all aspects of life.