Helping your introverted intuitive child

I’ve been around several children who are introverted intuitives lately, and I’ve noticed how difficult it is for them to fit in with typical paradigms. An introverted intuitive is a person who is always “lost in their head.” They are wicked sharp and they like to find patterns, quietly, within themselves. The two personality types whose primary (dominant) cognitive function is introverted intuitive are INTJ and INFJ. Some other personality types have it, and probably need some down time on occasion because of it, but in their head is where the INTJ and the INFJ live. Hi, I’m Amber, and I am an INFJ. I also have an INTJ son.

The legit impression I get of children who are not introverted intuitives is they are indeed more “born” something. I know this isn’t popular to say, because we all believe in growth mindset now. But other children seem born just loving football or tending to animals or such. If you ask them their interests, they happily bubble, “Soccer!” They have no issue telling you what they do or like. The introverted intuitive isn’t like this. If you ask them what they like to do for fun or what they are interested in, they become paralyzed. What are they interested in? It’s literally whatever is in front of them or whatever needs solved. Introverted intuitives are more “meta” than others. They are highly flexible–they can solve anything–but they have little natural tendency to one thing or another. In the past, I have gotten to know every standard for modeling objects on computer networks, everything you could want to know about cooking meat, and I am quite known for my detailed analysis about child development. But the second I don’t need this information, it gets dumped from my head. I can handle an absolutely absurd amount of data when solving any problem I need to. But if you ask me, live, what I learned in the past, how I did something, what I had for dinner, why something in my house is the way it is, or even what my own theories are, I get real stupid real quick. I’m constantly collecting data in the present moment, for present problems, to be used later in my problem solving. I otherwise dump everything.

When talking to an introverted intuitive child, they sometimes seem nonsensical to adults. My father would sneer at me that I’m too “lost in my head,” and he saw it as something he needed to fix. The reason introverted intuitives seem nonsensical is because something brilliant is forming in their mind. They need some time to work it out before explaining it. I think this is the key thing when dealing with your heady, pattern-finding, sometimes narrowly focused child. Truly listen to them. You might need to be or find someone who is as wicked smart as your child to truly listen. But truly listen. They are navigating left and right, trying to find their middle. Don’t rush them. Understand where they are getting before giving advice or pressuring them into a solution. And be warned: it might be hard to keep up with them. Their theories and their observations can be killer.

The second thing that can help your introverted intuitive child is giving them some concrete examples regarding whatever it is you are doing with them. You see, for the INTJ and INFJ, they go straight to wanting to implement their idea. Most children live in a more concrete world. They go to school. They play soccer. They hang out with friends. Asking them to think of something theoretical takes that child from the concrete to the theoretical, which is a natural path for them. The INTJ or INFJ already lives in the theoretical. Asking them to do something theoretical keeps them in the world of the theoretical. This can be an endless, directionless place for that child, who already lives to find every single pattern in theoretical situations. So, giving them some concrete examples of what is possible can help. If going on vacation, you can’t just ask, “Where do you want to go?” You have to show some of the places and what they might do. If picking out a school project, they’ll need some examples. When you do this, they’ll know very quickly what to do. Because they have, you know, a very intuitive feel for things.

We did this with my son, 10, recently. He was asked to pick out a science fair project. I knew this was too wide of a question for him. In his mind, he can legit figure out how to make steel stronger, and he is undaunted by such a task. But this can’t be done in x time with only limited resources. He also is interested in literally any topic on the planet. So I started reading off examples of science fair projects for him. When he heard to come up with a game theory for a game, he immediately knew what he wanted to do. There is a math game we play and he had the idea of how to always win. When he was explaining it to me, I barely kept up. His dad got what he was saying. And I was just absolutely floored by what his theory in fact was. I explained it to others and there is already talk of him winning.

Stick with them long enough to get to that brilliant idea

That place where you are most talented is probably that place where you are most weird. This is something I’ve noticed in doing my child development work. That place where your child is going to shine someday is currently the place where they are giving you trouble. Your highly social child takes too many social risks. Your highly empathetic child gets too upset by other’s pain. Whatever it is, though, that’s the place where their genius usually lives. If you can hang on, you might nurture it.

Amber documents the age-related “stages” children go through. These are times children act up but on the other side is new growth. She is passionately dedicated to understanding children. Send your friends and family to The Observant Mom.

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