She’s not shy; She’s introverted

Do you know the difference between shyness and introversion? I’m in a self-help group (of 1) of parents who don’t always understand really, really, really introverted kids. Maybe you’ll join me. Or maybe you’re that introvert who wants to be understood, like my daughter.

I shared my very personal story of parenting my daughter and learning to understand her unique gifts as an introvert.

So, the big questions — what is introversion?

It’s all about your energy.

I bet you know about extroversion already.  Extroverts get their energy from . . . say it all together now . . . being around other people.

So, introverts get their energy from . . . (any guesses?) . . . being alone.

It’s not shyness.

Shyness is a social anxiety.

It’s all about energy.

Introverts can be very social; they just need time to recharge their batteries away from others. Introversion is a temperament – not a behavior.

Think about the children in your life.  Do you know any who are introverts? They might

– need more processing time

– like to watch before participating

– not make eye contact

– only have one or two friends

– find it difficult to share their feelings

– learn by observing

– be very smart, even gifted

If this sounds familiar, you will want to read The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D..  It’s helped me understand my “innie” and  her unique gifts. I reread it often.

As parents and teachers, I hope that we think about the needs of the introverts in our homes and classrooms — the world is designed by extroverts, for extroverts.  We need to give equal consideration to our introverts, too.

Introverts in Chapter Books

My list is from books I’ve personally read, and in no way complete nor perfect. If you want to add a suggestion or contest a book on my list, please comment below.

Franny K. Stein books by Jim Benton

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer

Wish Girl by Nikki Lofting

Stonebird by Mike Revell

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Almost Home by Joan Bauer

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Stoker and Holmes series by Colleen Gleason

introverted characters in children's literature

Do you have an introverted child?

Photo credit: rolands.lakis / / CC BY


  1. says

    I like the fact that there is a difference between being shy and being introverted. I think what is interesting is that my wife is quite shy whereas I am more introverted. I can be sociable but only if I am comfortable in being so. I do appear shy if I am alone with strangers, but if I know that it is beneficial to be sociable, then I will make an effort to be less shy.

    Thank you for sharing,

  2. says

    Thanks, Christopher — I think you’re just fine being the way you are!\. Friends probably already know who you are — and those who don’t will hopefully give you a chance. One of my best friends is an introvert and I thought she hated me at first — turns out she just takes some getting to know.

    I think introverts make the best of friends!

  3. Theresa N says

    I’ve been called an introvert before and never really questioned it, but after reading your list I can say no I’m not. Not making eye contact is a big no no with me, my son in law does this and it drives me nuts. Makes me want to say stand up straight and look at me when you speak.
    Guess I’m back to being a “lone wolf” so to speak.

  4. says

    It’s interesting how we learn to categorize so we know how to relate to others and the world around us. I’m probably like you Theresa, I’m not a categorical introvert or extrovert. I can and like to be social and mostly with small groups I can have a good chat with, but I definitely need my alone time. I need to be social to take me out of my little world, but I can be alone for a long time.

  5. says

    what a lovely way to work through the challenges of parenting a child who is different than yourself. my husband has struggled to understand our son, who is much more like me – a true introvert. i love being social, but have limits. i’ve worked a lifetime on being more outgoing, and have found great benefits. i also cherish the time i set aside for my “recharge” needs. we now have a daughter who is much more like my husband – more extroverted – and i am struggling with the same challenges my husband has met up with. i celebrate your parenting, and want to share that every child works through challenges growing up in a world not designed to meet their needs. your daughter is lucky to have you, working to understand and support her.

  6. says

    Thanks for noting the difference between shyness and introversion, though I suspect it may be possible to be subject to both.

    I have the opposite parenting problem you do: I’m introverted, and my daughter is most definitely extroverted. To make matters more difficult, her father and older brother are also introverted. On the positive side, being extroverted means she’s not at all reluctant to tell us what she needs and express her frustration if she doesn’t get it.

    Fortunately for all of us, my in-laws recently moved to be near us. My mother-in-law is also quite extroverted, so having her close by means she and my daughter get to spend more time together. Not surprisingly, Grandma has taken an active role, doing the kinds of things with my daughter that they both like to do. I’m certain my daughter appreciates having someone around who understands her from personal experience rather than by acquired knowledge, which is the best I can do.

    Great post!

  7. says

    I love this article!! I am an introvert and you are absolutely right. It is about energy. I have been attacked by extroverts so many times for needing alone time. I have been called moody, stuck up, selfish, “funny”. My daughter is an extrovert. I have people giving me advice about what I need to do in order to meet her where she is at. The truth is that I get very tired with all the socializing and become irritable. I have no problem accepting her as an extrovert. I just never felt the need to engage in as much socialization. I love having fewer intimate friends. I facilitate workshops and speak publicly quite well. But I need my down time with a good book.

  8. Jenn says

    Hi Melissa – I finally came across this book and have read the first 70 pages. WOW, it totally describes my oldest son. I always knew he was introverted, but never realized all that that meant. My huge struggles have been after school on the playground when his younger extroverted brother wants to play and he (very grumpily) grabs my arm and says, “mom, let’s go home! “. The book has helped me understand him and his needs so much and I’m trying my best to empathize with him (rather than be annoyed). Anyway, just wanted to let you know AJ wasn’t the only introvert in their Kindergarten class!!!

  9. says

    Loved reading this, Melissa. I’m not sure what to call myself. Not that I want to find out a term. But, I understand that I need my along time more than perhaps most people around me want. I recharge my batteries that way and am happy to connect and reconnect after that. Also, I’m my true self in small groups. Though, the no eye contact trait is not me at all and those who don’t make eye contact, I find them un-nerving!

  10. Michelle says

    Hmmm….I’ve spent most of my like thinking of myself as shy, and much of my daughters life thinking she’s shy. When reading this I had an aha moment. We’re not shy, we’re introverted! Very interesting! I also have an introverted husband and 2 extroverted children. It’s very challanging trying to meet my eldest childs need for socialization. Thanks for this post, I’m going to read up more about this!

  11. says

    As a life-long introvert with extrovert sons and partner, I can relate to this, but I am shy too, so the two can sometimes (though not always) go hand in hand. What I have found difficult to understand is the increasing shyness of my socially extrovert eldest son. To me, to be extrovert but also shy is just plain weird – almost a contradiction in terms.I suppose it demonstrates that shyness is something separate.

    It’s true that the world just doesn’t understand introverts. I love being with my friends and family, but can be very anti-social sometimes in terms of avoiding company, and am often happiest doing things on my own, and in my own way. Lots of people think that weird. It can also mean that I am difficult to get to know!

  12. Ella says

    Me, my 2 year old & my hubby are all introverts – we live in a rather quiet house! 😀 My little boy is 4 months … he’s showing signs of being an extrovert – we’ll see. The other thing I would like to remind people – just because you’re introverted does not necessarily mean you’re shy too. I am not that shy, I like to be social and most people find me quite outgoing – BUT I need to have my alone time – and a lot of it! It’s when I recharge. So, sometimes that happy-go-lucky bubbly gal, she’s actually introverted and is only this bubbly for a short duration of the day. Then she needs her ‘me time’ to recharge – all to give it out again the next day!

  13. Laurie says

    Great post. As an introvert (with one introvert and two extroverts to raise), I’ve always been interested in introversion and extroversion. Another EXCELLENT book is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I loved that one!

  14. Isabelle says

    Thank you for this! I’m an extrovert from the word go, but last week my 5yo daughter asked me why I always “think outside outside my head.” She &I will be on a life long journey to understand one another.

  15. says

    I think it’s important to point out that introversion can dispose a child to shyness if they aren’t able to make and cultivate meaningful relationships to build up their social skills. I was extremely introverted as a child, and have suffered from social anxiety and agoraphobia since adolescence. In addition to being sensitive to the introverted child’s need to regroup and process, it’s necessary that when in a group they are effectively connecting to the people around them and not just skimming the surface, or flitting from group to group without connecting. A few close friends go a lot further for the introvert than a wide circle of friends.

  16. Erin says

    I have an introverted ‘child’ who is now 19. As I’m extroverted it has been an interesting parenting journey, we have both had to learn to respect and appreciate each others differences. To communicate and to listen, to realise that our differences are okay. We have had some tough times occasionally but have a wonderful relationship now. Dd is at College now but we have great indepth conversations on the phone.

    One thing though that I didn’t budge on, whilst I respected her need for introverted times I also insisted on her displaying good social manners and in learning to be social despite the fact that her preference would have been to happily sit in the corner. She is now grateful for this and will be the first to go up to a ‘loner’ in a group situation and make them feel welcome. Not necessarily being the life of the party but smoothing the way for others. I’m so proud of her, she has so many talents, natural and learnt.

    • Eunice B says

      The best way to make friends is to go up to the person on their own in a party. I have met so many wonderful people that way. When you do that you are the life of the party to them.

  17. Eunice B says

    I am definitely an introvert who loves to socialize. I always hated being called shy, people should never call a child shy. It made me feel paralyzed to be myself and it was like people were telling me my “me” was not good enough. I have no shell to come out of. :) I have 2 extrovert girls and 2 (one not totally sure of) introvert boys. I know it is ok when one wants to play on there own or just rest on their own away from the rest of the family for a while. I know that in a busy day I need to make time for them to relax (umm, mainly me!).

  18. Kimberly Hutchings Hibler says

    I only realized within the last few years that I’m NOT shy, I’m introverted. It makes so much sense!!! My life makes sense now!
    I stumbled to this post looking for ways to help my daughter, age 7. Her 2nd grade teacher emailed me telling me that she is unhappy and just wants to be alone. Her teacher also said she has a hard time reading people and situations. Did anyone ever get that back from a teacher? I asked my daughter about it and she said she just wants everyone to go away so she can do her work in quiet. I promised her I would make sure she had some alone time each day if she did her best to try and focus with everyone around. Her teacher makes it seem like there’s a problem and has gone to the school counselor without talking to me first. How do you help them to deal with the mass amounts of “socializing” that HAS to happen at school? I’ve already loaded a few books onto my kindle to see if they will help me get some better ideas of how to help her. I have a hard time because even though I’m an introvert, I also was able to just tune everyone out and focus on my school work. It helped me feel like I was in my head, alone.


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