All posts by Lynne Watts

Parenting the Introvert

Celebrating the Introverted Personality

When I teach parent training groups on personality style, one question that often comes up is how to best parent a child who is reserved or introverted. I always reassure parents that there is no one single personality style that is better than another.  This statement often resonates in a powerful way with many participants since our culture does promote the extroverted personality style over the introverted as the way to be successful, popular and well-adjusted.

In actuality, there is much evidence that the reserved personality style is equally successful, popular and well-adjusted, especially when they focus on their unique characteristics and work in their strengths. If the parent is an extrovert themselves they may feel that they need to help their child become more outgoing and get more involved in a social network.  I always caution parents and other adults in an introverted child’s life to learn to celebrate their child’s unique and positive characteristics rather than try to change them.

What is the definition of an introvert anyway?

According to Marti Olsen Laney  in The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People can Thrive in an Extrovert World, there are three main differences between an introvert and an extrovert.

  • An introvert gets their energy from within.  They are energized by their internal world, ideas, impressions and emotions.  Like a rechargeable battery they often need to plan ahead and replenish their energy by finding some quiet alone time. Extroverts on the other hand are energized by interacting with others. They are like the Energizer bunny that keeps going and going because  the more they interact, the more energized they feel.
  • An introvert can feel drained and overstimulated by too many activities.  They may need to dial down the amount of stimulation or simplify their environment so they don’t feel overwhelmed. Extroverts on the other hand are energized by the external world of people, places and things.  They enjoy lots of activities and stimulation.
  • An introvert accrues knowledge by going deep.  They tend to have a narrow but in depth focus in their interactions with others and in their experiences.  They want to know a lot about any particular area of interest.  Introverts tend to have fewer but very close friends.  Extroverts accrue knowledge by going wide rather than deep. They typically will have many friends and acquaintances and seek a wide variety of experiences.

There are many misconceptions about the introvert personality style.  Here are a few more facts about introverts:

  • Introverts are not shy.  Shyness is a form of social anxiety and both introverts and extroverts can be shy.  Both introverts and extroverts enjoy interaction with people. The way that they are energized is the main difference.
  • Introverts enjoy talking but they communicate differently than extroverts.  Introverts think first, form their opinion and then speak.  Because of this introverts may need a little time to process a question. Extroverts think and talk at the same time, clarifying their thoughts and opinions as they speak.
  • Introverts are not anti-social.  They enjoy people just as extroverts do.  They may be outspoken and lively, especially in familiar comfortable settings.  However, introverts will eventually need some quiet time to recharge their energy.

Parenting the Introverted Personality Style

The book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking ,  author, Susan Cain identifies research that validates the differences in personality style that even infants and young children display. However her main focus is the often-overlooked value and strengths of the introvert.  She concludes her book with a section on “How to Cultivate Quiet Kids in a World That Can’t Hear Them”.  Her advice to parents can be summarized as follows:

  • Take the time to understand the personality style of your introverted child
  • Don’t try to change them into someone more extroverted by pushing them into sports, activities, play dates or anything that they are not interested in doing
  • Recognize that the areas where they have strengths are sometimes solitary pursuits.  Encourage and celebrate these talents.
  • Learn about and share with them the lives of some of the famous introverts, such as Rosa Parks, Albert Einstein or Eleanor Roosevelt.
  • Recognize and teach children that introverts can be leaders, performers, really anything that they have a passion for, they just go at it from a different direction.
  • Celebrate with your child the characteristics they have that make them uniquely special.

Related Posts:

Celebrate your Child’s Personality Style

Personality Style and Motivation

Help Kids Set Goals that Motivate


Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Friendship

It’s not easy being the new kid at school, especially if you are a cat and everyone else is a dog.  How do you make friends?  Can you even be friends with someone who is totally different from you?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog helps solve Ami’s friendship problem with empathy and compassion. A great story for teaching children the critical life skill of making friends.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog-Friendship Cover (1)

Wyatt Learns about Friendship



Motivating Students

At a recent elementary school training, a teacher began asking me about strategies for a student who has no motivation.  He refuses to do any work at all and she has tried numerous strategies already.  “I’ve tried everything and nothing works,” she said.  As a school counselor for 20 years, I often heard similar concerns.

I understand the frustrating and difficult job of teaching students in today’s society.  Many students come to the classroom with little preparation in the way of academic skills, positive encouragement or mental preparedness.  However, I often think that we begin at the wrong end of the continuum in our attempts to change behavior.  We begin with rewards and consequences.  We test for deficits and disabilities.  What if instead we began teaching and regularly encouraging a growth mindset?  What if we believed in the effectiveness of a growth mindset ourselves?

What is a growth mindset? Carol Dweck in her groundbreaking work, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success defined it this way: The growth mindset is one where a student believes that their personality, intelligence, ability or skill is changeable and with focused effort and training they can change the outcome.

What if you set the stage every day for a growth mindset and success?

What would it look like?

Begin with  brain facts-What we know about the brain is that thoughts and beliefs that we repeat regularly become a familiar neural pathway.  Neurons that fire together, wire together and become dominant.  This is important to know if you are an educator trying to motivate a student who is determined to spend the day distracted and unfocused rather than learning and growing.  It means that even if a student has already created a negative set of thought patterns that the possibility exists to replace that mindset with a more positive, motivating one that will ensure success not only in the classroom but in everyday life. Teach students that the brain is plastic and changeable.  Teach students that the brain is like a muscle that when used repeatedly grows stronger and stronger in the areas where it is used.

Develop positive mental messages or mindsets: It’s not necessary to be creative or unique.  There are already plenty of inspirational mantras or quotes available to choose from.  Pick something that resonates with you and with your style of teaching. Here are a few examples that illustrate the growth mindset:

  • Every day in every way I’m getting better and better through practice and persistence
  • Love challenges, learn from mistakes, give your best, and always keep growing
  • Learn, grow and help others
  • Great effort and frequent failure is the recipe for great success

Repeat the message regularly:  This isn’t a matter of putting up an inspirational poster that becomes a piece of the woodwork.  Instead, this is a message to begin the day, to end the day and to repeat throughout the day. It is a message to work into academics, physical activities and social occasions. Make it visual. Make it auditory. Have students memorize and repeat it.

Changing fixed mindsets isn’t easy.  We all have stories and messages that we’ve learned and incorporated into the fabric of our lives.  However, helping students develop a mindset that spurs them on to be life long learners and persistent in the face of failure and mistakes will serve them well throughout their lives.

Related Posts:

The growth mindset and success

Creating a growth mindset in kids

Doubtbusters for Kids

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)

Kids and tough friendship decisions


As a school counselor for twenty years, one of the most common problems that I talked to kids about was friendship.

What do you do when a friend wants to do something that is unkind, thoughtless, or involves breaking the rules?

What do you do when a friend is bossy, self-centered and treats you unkindly?

Peer pressure and friendship decisions are a tough concept for us all. Relationships are messy for both children and adults.

Children and Self-Worth

One of the key concepts that all children need to learn and internalize is a feeling of worth and value that is inherent in their authentic self rather than based on another’s opinion. Learning to be our authentic selves is hard. We all try to avoid this difficult work.  It’s not just children that spend time trying to look and act like someone they are not. Just look at the trends on social media or television.  How can we help children with this tough work?

Being a Best Friend

I love books that combine a good story with a good lesson. It’s even better if the lesson can be summed up in one memorable sentence. The book Hunter’s Best Friend at School does all of the above and more. Written by Laura Malone Elliott, it is the tale of two raccoons who are best friends and want to do everything together and just alike. This doesn’t normally create problems, but when Stripe shows up at school in a mischief-making mood, Hunter is faced with the choice of whether or not to follow along. He soon discovers that making the wrong choice not only means they are both in trouble, but also that he is not even happy with himself. When his mother discovers his dilemma, she teaches him a great life lesson when she says, “Sometimes being a best friend means you have to help your friend be his best self.” Couldn’t we all benefit from her wisdom?

Three Tips to Help Children Be Their Best Selves

How can we as parents and educators help children recognize that they are “enough” just as they are?  How can we encourage them to be their best selves? How can we teach them to interact in a positive way with friends, even when friends are challenging?  Here are some tips:

  • Recognize the part that you play as a role model.  Children imitate what they see around them and if you do not stand firm in your own values, if you are constantly trying to measure up to someone else’s standard, children will follow the same path.
  • Recognize and encourage children in their areas of strength.  Too often we focus on areas that need improvement and while this is necessary, make sure the balance of your interaction is supportive and empowering.
  • Teach children through example and practice how to interact with peers in ways that encourage others to be their “best selves”.  Establish core values and talk about them often.Use books, movies or television examples to spark discussion. Look for teachable moments in every day life to demonstrate good decision making skills.

Related Posts:

Friendship Troubles

Kids and Decision Making

Helping kids find their voice

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend.  Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners


Kids and anger

Do you have a student who has a low frustration tolerance?  Even the slightest thing sets him off?

Do you have a child that loses control and throws temper tantrums?  Are you walking on eggshells trying to keep her on an even keel?

What can you do to teach more emotional control?  In the past, we taught kids lots of simple anger techniques;  take a deep breath and count to ten, take a break, ask for help. These are all worthwhile and often effective.  However, when a child has frequent anger outbursts, these techniques alone don’t really get to the root of the problem.  What if instead of teaching children what to do after they get angry, we also taught them how to understand and manage their feelings?  What if we challenged their thinking that lead them to be angry in the first place?

Here is the technique:

  1. Teach children that all feelings come from our own thoughts, not from our circumstances.  This is good news.  It means that we are each responsible for our own feelings and consequently our own behavior.  No one else and no situation makes us happy or mad.  It is how we see or perceive the situation.  Circumstances are those things that happen that are outside of our control. Here are some examples of circumstances:
    1. Sally took the toy I was playing with.
    2. George said I couldn’t play on his team.
  2. Help children identify the thought that creates the feeling.  This is the hardest part of the technique but even young children can learn to identify, often in reviewing the circumstance in hindsight, what the thought was that preceded the feeling.  Here are some examples:
    1. Sally was mean to me.  She should wait her turn.
    2. George should include me on his team.
  3. Help children determine the feeling as well as the body sensations that go along with the feeling. This involves teaching children body language as well as the words that describe feelings.
    1. I feel mad.  My body is tense and I am clenching my fists.
    2. I feel left out.  I am tearing up and about to cry.
  4. Help children change the thought in order to change and control the feeling. This is the teaching moment where you may  need to help children think of more positive and productive thoughts.   Here are some examples:
    1. Sally didn’t share or ask nicely for the toy but I know a better way to play with others. Sally is learning how to share too and she is younger than I am.
    2. Everyone can’t be on the same team.  It is okay if I am on a different team.
  5. Identify the new behavior that follows:
    1. I will play with a different toy or I will ask the teacher to help.
    2. I will ask if I can join a different team.

This is obviously a technique that requires practice and understanding.  It is not meant to replace other behavior management techniques that calm and redirect children in the midst of difficult feelings.  Instead it is a means of educating children and teaching appropriate behavior. It is a technique to prevent problems before they start.  It also helps to prepare kids to handle difficult situations that they encounter later in life.

Related Posts:

3 ways to teach kids to handle anxiety

6 steps to manage test anxiety

Stressed out?


Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)

Teach Kids Teamwork

One of the key characteristics that employers look for today is the ability to work with a team.  It is also a quality that will enhance family and classroom dynamics.  Sometimes we think that it is something that a child is just born with, but in actuality we can teach skills that develop this leadership quality.

Here’s how to teach teamwork:

  1.  Lead by example– This is a key strategy.  As the adult it is necessary to not only model teamwork but to teach teamwork as well.  This means taking advantage of teachable moments by pointing out the options and clearly indicating which ones will best serve everyone involved.  It also means demonstrating how you as an adult are a team player.  “Students, we are going to work together as a team to put away the math games.  Let’s all look for ways that we can help each other.”
  2.  Use language that children understand– Make sure that when you ask a child to do something they understand what you want and expect.  “Class, let’s work together as a team” may mean different things to different children.  “Let’s all get ready for parent night by cleaning out our desks,” will get better results.
  3. Allow choices– Children just like adults want to feel they have some control over their actions and giving choices is one way to do that.  “Today we will be choosing partners to share our work with.  How can you make sure everyone feels a part of the team?”
  4. Catch them being good-Let a student know that you notice when he cooperates and point out the advantages of teamwork.  “Thanks for playing with the new student during recess and including her in your game.  I know that made her feel welcome.”
  5. Let them lead— Encourage children to take initiate:  “Today we need to finish our projects and begin to present them to the class. I bet you know the best way to make it happen in record time.  What should we do first?  Who should do what?”

Developing the ability to work well as part of a community is a process that is continually evolving but it will serve students well as an adult in many diverse settings.

Related Posts:

Kids and Decision Making

Helping Kids Get Better at Getting Along

Surprising research about praise



Wyatt the Wonder Dog

Learns about Teamwork

Camping with his Boy Scout Troop is exciting and fun… until Max takes a serious fall while hiking.  When Wyatt and the rest of the Scouts use their emergency training to get Max safely out of the woods, they learn the value of teamwork and the power of community to achieve big goals.

Wyatt Learns about Teamwork

Lesson Plan and Activities to Complement Wyatt and Teamwork



Help Kids Set Goals that Motivate

Do you sometimes wish that you could swap your personality for another?

Do you wish you could swap a child’s personality for another, at least long enough to get them to finish their homework or do their chores?

If you are reserved, do you wish that you could be more outgoing?

If you are a detail person, do you wish that you could be  more sensitive to people and their feelings?

We all have aspects of our personality that we sometimes wish we could change.

The Four Basic Personality Styles

Understanding and speaking the same language is important isn’t it?  Speaking a child’s personality language is helpful in parenting as well.   This is especially true if you want to help a child set goals that motivate them.  As a quick reminder the four main personality types are:

D wired=dominant, decisive, determined, doer

I wired=interactive, inspiring, influential, initiator

S wired=stable, sweet, shy, likes status quo

C wired=conscientious, careful, cautious, careful

Personality Style and Motivation

If you have a D wired child, then you will want to help them chose a goal that is very specific and has a deadline.  D personalities are highly motivated and competitive, so setting a goal to give their energy some direction will be very successful.

I wired children are great starters but not such great finishers.  They thrive on social interaction and recognition, so setting a goal that involves a social network to support and encourage them to achieve it is best.  Add in an element of fun and the I wired child will be hooked.

S wired children are great finishers but have difficulty starting tasks.  They are tuned in to the needs of others and will work to accomplish a goal as much to please you as to please themselves.  Select a goal that they can commit to with your support or the support of a close friend to motivate them.

Finally, C wired children love to develop and research a goal.  When they are committed to a goal, they are conscientious and  will work hard to accomplish the task.  Help them see the big picture so that they don’t get lost in the details and you will have a winning combination.

Learning to set and accomplish goals is an important skill to learn and by speaking a child’s personality language, you can ensure that they are successful.

Related Posts:

DISCover Your Personality Style

Celebrate Your Child’s Personality Style

Parenting and Teaching the High Energy Child

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)