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Is Your Baby or Toddler an Introvert?

by Nancy R. Fenn

You can tell for sure. Introverted babies and toddlers move away from lights, noise, motion and people. Extroverted babies move toward them.

is-your-baby-or-toddler-an-introvert.jpgIf your baby moves away from people, it doesn’t mean your little one is going to be unsociable, it just means he or she is going to be an introvert!

Even at a very young age, your introverted child needs to take people on his or her own terms. Often introverted babies and children signal this quality by staring intensely at a new person as if setting up an energetic no man’s land or at least a slow down zone.

I remember the first time I met my enchanting 18 month old nephew. When I entered his bedroom, I waited quietly at the door while his mother lifted him out of the crib and onto the floor. He needed to get a complete sense of who I was. As he came toward me (forced to by circumstances), he looked me right in the eye all the way across the room with his binkie hanging from his hand as if to say, “You can look, but please don’t touch.” Introverts are territorial and they are territorial about their own bodies. One can only imagine the horror of swooping down on a child like this and grabbing him up in your arms. No, no, no on several levels!

An extroverted child on the other hand will begin to create sound and motion in order to draw another person to them. Their faces form vivid expressions as their eyebrows go up and their mouths squeal, shout, laugh or “order” as only a two year old can, “Come here!” or “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!” Their hands twirls, their heads bob and their bodies move toward you as fast as their dancing feet can carry them.

My nephew who made as little motion as possible in crossing the distance between us. I mirrored his body language, always a good thing in human relations but I would have done it anyway. I’m an introvert, too.

We used to have a test that went around in the days before the internet. Among a number of other things, you were asked to react to what it would be like to be in a plain white room with no windows or doors. The way the test was set up, this revealed that it was either your idea of heaven or hell.

Introverts thought it was heaven. They found the lack of environmental stimulation relaxing, a relief, and especially the fact that there were no doors or windows so there could be no unexpected interruptions. Extroverts on the other hand considered the lack of stimulation – color, sound, noise, motion and windows to the outer world – nothing less than an unnatural torture.

Try to keep this vivid example in mind when arranging the environment for your introverted child. Because their inner world is so rich, outwardly speaking, less is definitely more.

Naturally your introverted child loves and needs mom, dad, grandparents and other siblings very much but the idea is to minimize other stimulants so that your child can enjoy personal space and feel good about territorial issues as s/he begins to sort things through in the outer world.

Here are some guidelines for toddler introverts:


  • One at a time please. One person, one toy, one activity, even one food at a time.
  • Please don’t expect first time results. Introverted children will need time to prepare and get used to new things their whole lives long. The first time is almost always difficult and especially if it involves something that has to be done in public. Introverts can experience a profound sense of humiliation if they fail to meet expectations. This same nephew, when taken to the public library for the first time, asked solemnly, “Now what are the rules of this place?”
  • Please don’t require elaborate reactions. Introverts often maintain a neutral facial expression and low key emotional response when in fact they are very intense in their reactions to things. This is to conserve energy. My paternal grandmother was very extroverted. She had figured out that opening presents at Christmas was a great way to get a lot of attention. She could have earned an Academy Award. She held everyone in the family in thrall as she oohed and aahed over ribbon, paper, box, seals, smells, sounds, the whole nine yards. This worked well for her theatrical personality but for an introverted kid like me it was absolutely exhausting to have to put on a show like this. The sad thing was my dad wouldn’t believe I was happy with a present or properly grateful unless I did. I began to think that getting presents was an ordeal because then I would have to open them!
  • Please avoid densely busy places where there are high levels of noise and lights Hopefully your home isn’t like this (very hard on introverts)! A big offender in this category is children’s birthday parties at big public places that cater to extroverted children with loud computer games, PA system, packed tables, crowded aisles, competition and confusion over “play tickets”, moving rides and adults dressed up in animal or cartoon costumes who intrude into personal space! Extroverted kids love this. Introverted children find it exhausting and overwhelming.
  • Especially under stress, introverted children have strong territorial issues which include their own body. As soon as possible, please provide a private bedroom with a door that closes. Introverted kids can be exhausted by a typical school day and need privacy to recharge their batteries. Kids already under stress (like the first day of school) can also have strong territorial reactions to their outer garments being removed or lunch boxes taken away by a teacher or another adult — or shoes removed at a play park. Please be sensitive to these issues.I hope I’ve given you some ideas of what to look for and how to support your introverted child. Please remember that introversion is a legitimate personality style. Introverts are only 30% of the population. Your child may need special support at home to learn how to cope with a world set up by alien others! The way to win is not to force them to become a bad imitation of an extrovert. Introversion is a legitimate personality type. Instead, help them to become more conscious introverts.

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    3 Comments on "Is Your Baby or Toddler an Introvert?"

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    5 years 4 months ago

    I’m happy I have these sent to my email. Things I wouldn’t normally google. I didn’t even know or hear of this word before so it certainly makes sense now. My mom is a concious introvert and I’m an extrovert. I just had a baby 5 months ago and think it’s a little early to lable her just yet but my guess would be that she’ll be an introvert. I guess it’s a balance. ?? Thumbs up on this topic!

    5 years 5 months ago

    Love this article. I’m definitely an introvert. But my baby isn’t

    Janice Pence
    7 years 3 months ago

    I love this article!! I am an Introvert – very introverted and was born into a family of Extroverts. It seemed that no one understood the way I processed information – after all that is the biggest difference between introverts and extroverts. Introverts process by thinking, extroverts process by talking.

    Both of my children are extroverts, one being is very extroverted. Talk about turning the tables on me. I am trying to learn to just listen to them without becoming overwhelmed with all of the talking.

    Great article – I loved the topic.

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