Should I Tell My Daughter She's an Introvert?

Teen's mom wonders if she should spill the beans

Posted Mar 28, 2016

Ryan Aréstegui/freeimages.com
Source: Ryan Aréstegui/freeimages.com

Welcome to "I’ll Tell You What," an occasional feature in which I answer introverts' questions about life as an introvert. If you have a question, send it to professionalintrovert@gmail.com.

I'm an introvert and mother of an introvert. I've been debating whether I should tell my teenage daughter she's an introvert. I completely understand her, but sometimes I wonder if she understands herself. Is this something I should tell her or something she should find out on her own? 

She spends most of the time in her room, reading, doing homework or watching TV. She has a circle of close best friends, she's in clubs at school and participates in school activities, so I know she's not shy. But lately she's been having a hard time expressing her feelings, and sometimes she seems to be bothered when she has to interact with people. I understand it’s because she has after-school activities and by the time she gets home she needs recharge, be alone for a bit. But other people around us see her as weird, antisocial or just mopey--asking what's wrong with her, why does she come home and go straight to her room, why doesn't she like sharing her day with us? Doesn’t she want to be here? Doesn’t she want us here? Sometimes her cousins tell her "you’re boring" because she doesn’t want to be goofing around and loud.

I don't want negative comments to get to her and for her to start thinking that something is wrong with her. I’d rather have her know that she is different not weird and it's OK to be different. So would it be OK if I just tell her she’s an introvert? I'm afraid if I tell her, I'm going to say it the wrong way and she's going take it that there's something wrong with her. I know she is normal, but teenagers can sometimes turn things around. 

                                                                                          -- Quiet Mom of Quiet Teen

GIANT hug for you, Mom, for recognizing what’s going on, for respecting your daughter’s personality, and for wanting to help without freaking her out. I understand your concern—sometimes when we talk to teens, we could swear that our words turn into something altogether different somewhere between our lips and their ears. (On a related subject, I recently read a book called Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and as a former teenage girl, I recommend it.)

But now—helping your daughter: If you don't already, please try running interference for her when you can. For example, speak up in support of her decision to take quiet time for herself when she gets home from a busy day: She just needs time to unwind, give her some space and then see if she feels like hanging out. And point out that being quiet is not the same thing as being boring: I find her very interesting, even when she’s not being noisy and silly. Do you think it’s possible for someone to think being loud and silly is boring? Or are only quiet people boring?

If cousins or others harangue your daughter about withdrawing, nip it in the bud, tell them to stop. If she’s already depleted, she might not have the energy to push back. Don’t make it sound like she is somehow fragile or broken—just tell them that she needs some downtime to rest her busy brain and they need to back off. And especially if any of the people hassling her are adults, sit them down and explain what you know about introversion.

And then, rather than telling your daughter that she’s an introvert, try providing her with reading material about introversion (here is my very first blog post on the topic, might be a good starting point); explain that you consider yourself an introvert and are perfectly fine with it; and suggest she do some research into whether she might be an introvert, too. Then back off. Let her absorb the information and lead the conversation from there. Don’t press her, just listen, answer questions if she has them, maybe casually point out times when you need to be your introverted self. (I’m going to take a walk now—my introvert brain needs some alone time.) There’s is a ton of information out there these days about introversion, including our many strengths. From time to time, if you find something that really speaks to you about introversion, share it with her.

I think the important point is that you don’t try to push the label on her, but allow her to take it on if she feels it fits. And let her know that it’s not a handicap, it’s simply one way of being, and that she can be as happy and successful as any extrovert simply by embracing her nature and taking full advantage of her strengths. 

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