It can get awkward sometimes when your child invites the sales associate at Target to eat lunch with you or tells the mailman that she wants him to come to the park. Most people find her openness charming, but I know not everyone enjoys talking to small children and I try to explain gently to my daughter that some people are less open to conversation than others. I often struggle to tow the line between allowing her to express herself and not letting her be the obnoxious child who won't leave people alone.
Recently we entered the phase of toddler-hood where kids ask endless questions and have no qualms about interrupting people when they're speaking. Our car trips and meal times have transitioned into an endless stream of interrogations and demands, but because our daughter is such a social butterfly, the behavior is not limited just to us. She wants to know everything about everyone, and my husband and I have struggled to teach her boundaries without making her feel bad about her innate curiosity and gift for gabbing.
Real Simple recently published a guide to parenting introverts and extroverts and touched on a lot of strategies I think parents could find helpful. They spoke to a panel of experts who offered some great tips on managing personalities of all types, but what stood out for me was some advice by source Betsy Brown Braun, an expert on child-development and behavior, who stressed the importance of redirecting extroverted kids so we don't get overwhelmed or make them feel bad:
If you need a break, Braun suggests telling a little kid, 'I need some quiet time, but I do want to hear what you have to say. Right now my ears are full. Maybe you’d like to tell that story to your stuffed-animal friends.'
I think as parents we feel a constant need to acknowledge every thought our children share, answer every question, and engage in every story, and too often that's what leaves us exhausted and struggling to keep up. We're parenting in an age where there's a strong emphasis on nurturing children through constant interaction, so it's difficult to give yourself permission to redirect your toddler's need to express themselves away from you for a while so your brain can recharge.
The experts in Real Simple also suggest using positive reinforcement to encourage your child to show a little more restraint in social situations, as this will discourage them from acting impulsively without shaming them for their desire and need to interact with the world around them. I think that advice is especially useful for parents like me, who struggle to teach their kids boundaries without silencing them completely.
Whether your child is an introvert or an extrovert, it's important to find a parenting strategy that empowers them and helps them grow. It might be difficult to navigate their quirks and idiosyncrasies, especially when you don't share them, but those are important parts of who they are. My daughter might have trouble understanding limits right now, but I don't ever want to stop her from using her voice.