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The "Silent Treatment" vs. the Talking Machine: Understanding Introverts and Extroverts

3. Coaching Introverts When They Need an Opportunity to Watch or Listen
I still wasn't quite done coaching Thomas. This "diffusing" session had taken twenty minutes. Obviously no one wants to do that every day, so I decided to finish our time together by teaching what he could do to prevent the problem in the first place. "Next time someone takes your toy, Thomas," I said, "you may not hit him. You can say, 'I'm not ready to share.' Can you remember to do that?" He nodded. "Let's practice," I said. "Would you like to say those words yourself, or would you like to listen while I say them?" True to his type, he chose to listen. Introverts learn best by listening and watching. I turned to the director. She pretended to take my book. "Stop," I said firmly. "I'm not ready to share!" Thomas listened attentively. "Will you remember to use those words next time someone tries to take your toy?" I asked once more. He nodded, and we walked back to his classroom.

Introverts need to be able to observe and practice privately. They don't like to be put into the spotlight until they choose to be there themselves. That's why some introverts throw a fit when the teacher sings their name in the hello song.

In my classes we never sing a child's name in circle time without first asking his permission to do so. If he says yes, we then ask if he would like it sung softly or loudly Even the toddlers let us know their preference, and as a result the tantrums don't occur.

An introverted child may also need to be taught how to greet others or enter a large group. If you're an extrovert, you may be tempted to "push her" into a group. But you can actually help her more by respecting her need for space and observation time. She may need to learn to say, " I prefer to watch first," in case there's an extrovert in the room who unintentionally invades her space and tries to drag her into the action before she's ready. When she understands what she is feeling and learns strategies for expression those feelings appropriately, she'll be working with you instead of embarrassing or frustrating you by running out of the room or hiding behind your body and refusing to talk. Ultimately, she may use those great observation skills to become a strong leader in the group or a fabulous performer.


From the book KIDS, PARENTS, AND POWER STRUGGLES: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright 2000 by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. All rights reserved.

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