How to best handle being a parent to an extrovert when you're an introvert? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 07-08-2014, 02:39 AM - Thread Starter
 
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How to best handle being a parent to an extrovert when you're an introvert?

My 4 and a half year old son, an only child, is an extrovert and I'm an introvert. I was always shy and quiet growing up, and while I'm not as shy now, I can be quiet, keep to myself, like a lot of privacy, etc. (My husband is what I would call an in-betweener). I realized this with my son a while ago but looking into the issue of why he can't play by himself prompted me to look into this more. I found many parents who asked that same question were also stating that their child was extroverted while they were not. It made me want to know how many other people had this dynamic and how they handled it.

My son will be the kid who says hi to anyone and everyone (even when you don't want him to, ie strangers, awkward situations, etc.). Wants constant interaction with others. Wants to be a part of everything going on. He has a lot of energy and has to do something all the time. He is a talker! For me, it's hard for a variety of reasons. I am not that type of personality and would be content not talking to anybody in social situations. I also don't know many people so can not give him that socialness that he craves. I have however made efforts to get to more kid things and have made friends through them but they all don't live close and can't see them all the time anyway. I also can not drive due to a past medical condition (working on getting that going though, who knows when it will) and therefore do not go out as much as if I could unless it's with my spouse, mother, sister, etc. (which is a pain in the you know what and very frustrating). He will also just blurt things out that I don't think is appropriate. He will ask stranger adults "What are you doing? Why?", needs to know about their business and tries to get involved in it. Maybe it's just the way I was raised but I don't think it's appropriate for kids to ask adults things like that. He has also become rude and talking back to us. I think part of the problem is that adults have been the ones to play with him for the most part of his life and he sees them as equals/peers instead of authority figures to respect. We make it very clear that is not acceptable to say the things he says and how he says it but it does not work and I don't know how to squelch that. He has even asked his aunt, who plays with him a lot when she is here, and myself on separate occasions, if we would be his sister
(For the record, he asks for a sibling, specifically a sister, all the time)

It is also exhausting. Introverts need alone time to recuperate which is very true with me, and my son does not. He does not like to do anything by himself. Constantly asking us to play with him or do something with him. The only break we get is if we go to a park with him or other place with another child to play there and he plays with them, or at bedtime when he's asleep. Every other time is, "will you play with me?", and if you say "can you play by yourself?" or "I will in a couple of minutes" it turns into either a whine fest or "can I have a snack?" or "can I watch something?", which I do not like. I don't want him eating or watching something just because he doesn't want to play by himself. Because my mother is living with us too, downstairs, now it's also "I want to go see Grandma", and expecting her to play or put a tv show on for him. Tonight I gave him the choice to either play by himself or bedtime and he chose bedtime, that's how much he will avoid playing by himself. He also knows that bedtime is more of our attention because we are putting him to bed. If he does play by himself, it's not more than a couple minutes, then he starts acting out in some way to get your attention. And I'm not talking about I go off and go on the computer or phone or something while he plays by himself, I'm talking about using the bathroom or attempting to make dinner, things that need to happen. I know that part of the problem is that we would always do something with him from the beginning, someone was always giving him attention at all times. I just thought that as he got older he would just want to play by himself. Maybe he will later on but it just feels like it's getting worse.

We are now into the summer and I am dreading it. At least during the rest of the year he was in preschool for 2 days a week and this fall will be in 4 days a week but this summer I don't have anything planned for him to be somewhere else, reasons being because of money, not having means to always get around, limitations based on his age, and programs filled up. We also just moved and it is farther away from some friends he had so that's not too much of an option either.

Sorry for the essay , just wanted to give as much information about it as possible.

Any advice? Anyone go through something like this before or going through this now?
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#2 of 7 Old 07-08-2014, 03:27 AM
 
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That sounds so much like my dd2! It's just so relentless, isn't it? One thing that helps us is getting out somewhere for her to interact most days, usually the park if we don't have anything else planned because she does have a driving need for people around her. Lots of them! I've also found a gold mine in our elderly neighbors. She loves to bring them stuff and visit them to help around the house or take walks and most of them don't see their Grandkids all the time so are happy to hear her chatter away when I need a break. We have a live-in Grandma too, and she's the only reason I can cook or do chores some days. Yeah, that means them watching TV together sometimes, but to me it's worth it to preserve some sanity.

Do you have any Mom friends to swap out with? It's usually less work for me to have friends or cousins around; the kids play on their own while I can do my thing and not talk so much. Then you can get a complete break in return.

As for the inappropriate questions, I think it just comes with 4 yo territory. They really don't know yet where the boundaries are yet and aren't meaning any disrespect. Most people do understand that little kids are, well, nosy and don't take offense. It does get better! My little extreme extrovert is 6 now and after much, much explaining does have a grasp of what's ok in conversation. Most of the time, anyway.

It does get easier, I promise, four is an intense age no matter what the personality. My older is more like me-introverted and happy on her own- but she was a velcro kid at that age too. One great advantage to having an extrovert I love is that she does so much of the talking that I don't have to. No more awkward conversations setting up meetings with other parents for our kids to play, she does the hard part and I can just agree to it.
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#3 of 7 Old 07-10-2014, 09:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by stormborn View Post
One great advantage to having an extrovert I love is that she does so much of the talking that I don't have to. No more awkward conversations setting up meetings with other parents for our kids to play, she does the hard part and I can just agree to it.
Yes, I have to say that is one of the best things. We probably wouldn't have even known some of the people we know now if it wasn't for him. I guess they're kind of like the yin to our yang

The hardest part though is not being able to get around by myself. It was one thing before I had him to be able to hop on a bus or walk miles to get places but A) we aren't around as many buses since we moved a little farther out from the city to save money and B) I really don't want to bring him on buses at this point.
There has been way too many scary instances happening on buses around here in the last couple of years and knowing from experience, there are a lot of unsavory people on them.

I know we would have so many more friends and play dates if I was able to drive. The chances have come up many times but just can't get there. And most people are into the idea if it's in their neck of the woods rather then coming to ours.
We also moved from a place with a park within walking distance from where we lived which really helped me a lot, but are now not by a park close by. I've been mourning that actually because we have been going to that park for almost 3 years and my son loved it. He actually asked to walk to it the other day
(the moving was not our choice but that's another story)

I feel like my inability to drive holds him back from things the most
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#4 of 7 Old 07-10-2014, 10:27 PM
 
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Oh,sorry, I missed that you can't drive right now. Do you know anyone willing to trade off? When one of our friends couldn't (due to seizures) she would watch my kids at her house in exchange for me driving hers to activities; now I can't leave my Mom alone very long so I've gotten some Moms & Dads in our group to do the same swap with me. There's a "Moms in your area" forum here you could ask on. I'd be glad to help you out driving...I'm sure other Moms would too.
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#5 of 7 Old 07-17-2014, 09:00 PM
 
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Is your son into reading/books? My 4 yo DD is very much like yours in the always wanting company and always wanting to talk department, and it drives me bonkers. She WILL, however, sit and read aloud to herself for quite some time when she's in the right mood. Books aren't exactly the same as companions, but I think many children find them to be a pretty good substitute. My DD also will really quiet down to listen to kids music and books on CD. I've also had some success extending her solo playtime by, of all things, making a more concerted effort to keep her close to me. I can't always work up the enthusiasm to do it, but if I start the day determined to keep her attached to my hip and include her in absolutely everything, it never fails that by afternoon she's dying to play on her own. She responds similarly when we babysit for her younger cousin. By mid-day I can send her to her room with a few toys and she'll gratefully play in there by herself for a half hour or so. I guess none of these suggestions really help too much with your son's social needs, but they may help you to cope or catch a few extra breaks without having to resort to TV - which I also resort to far too often. Oh - one other thing I thought of - do you have a regular schedule that you try to stick to during the summer? I find if I can build in "mommy time" into a daily schedule my DD accepts it better. Perhaps a daily scheduled visit to Grandma would be easier on you all than more sporadic visits when she may or may not be willing to devote him her full attention.
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#6 of 7 Old 07-18-2014, 01:53 PM
 
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My son & I are the same. I struggled with the "I'm a bad mommy" for a couple of years before I realized that giving myself the space I needed actually made me a better mom. And by "giving myself space" I mean that I refused to play with him all the time. Probably more than I should've but that's water under the bridge.

I guess my best suggestion would be to start slow. Say to him "mommy is going to play with you until the clock says ##:## and then I'm going to do X (maybe read a book for 10 minutes, or fold this load of laundry) while you play by yourself for a little bit". Start with concrete, short amounts of time that he can understand, and lengthen them as he becomes accustomed. And it will probably take a few attempts before he accepts it, just stay patient & keep on. My son does better with concretes, so I'll tell him that if he plays by himself until the clock says 2:30 I'll read this book to him.

Books are a great one for sure. Sometimes I get worried when it's been quiet for a bit and I'll sneak downstairs & find him on the couch "reading". Reading to him is also a fantastic bribe I'm also hoping to get some of the Bob books with the CD. We got one from the library & he loved it. Finally - a request to "watch something" always gets a flat out "No" without an explanation in our house. It is not a substitute for learning to entertain yourself. And we've recently seen payoff of this policy, thankfully! Requests for a snack always start with an offer of carrot sticks or sugar snap peas. If he's actually hungry he'll eat them.

Good luck! Oh - and also I recommend the book Raising your Spirited Child.

Loving mama to Aden (8/5/2010) and DSD (15).
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#7 of 7 Old 07-18-2014, 05:26 PM
 
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Oh, I wanted to add - I've just started working on the Kazdin Method with my daughter. I know you mentioned some issues with adult authority, so I don't know if that translates into defiance and lots of questioning you and negotiating. BUT - I will say that in just the few days that I've been reading the book we've already seen major improvements in a lot of my daughter's behaviors. Some of the techniques might be really helpful for encouraging your son to spend some more time playing by himself.
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