from a reader in the Midwest:
My 7 year-old does not want to do any extra curricular activities (like sports, game clubs, science clubs, etc.) He says that sometimes he has to do stuff he doesn’t want to do. He doesn’t care if everyone else is doing it. How do I interpret this? At what point do we need to teach our children the concept of working within a group or with a team for a common goal? Does he get enough of that in the classroom environment? If that is the way he feels should I just let him be himself and be independent (i.e. no organized anything outside of school)?
Ya know, I admire this kid. He knows himself pretty darn well! Not everyone is wired to love group activities. Group experiences that energize extroverts can be very draining for an introvert! I'd say to go ahead and respect his wishes. He's getting plenty of opportunities to participate in groups at home and in school.
In fact, if you excuse him from needing to do extracurricular activities, he's likely to do even better during the required team activities at home and school, since he won't have used up his whole reserve of coping skills on optional things. If your son is very creative or energetic, he may have to constrict himself to be part of a group experience, which can be exhausting and annoying. He's already doing this succesfully when he has to. It's understandable that he might strongly prefer to spend his free time doing things that he feels are expansive and unrestrictive.
If you want him to have the benefit of physical activity and the feeling of body confidence that comes from exercise, consider asking him if he's interested the solitary sports of bicycling or swimming rather than team sports like soccer and baseball. He might also enjoy hitting a tennis ball against the wall by himself, or shooting baskets alone.
There are lots of hobbies that enrich the mind without draining the energy of an introvert. Solitaire, computer games like chess or checkers, writing, art, puzzles, magic tricks, or taking care of animals are just a few. Let your son know that you think it's great that he is so clear about what he likes, and help him find solitary challenges that he enjoys just for the fun of it.
Then sit back and celebrate that you have a creative and self-aware son who is not likely to be very susceptible to peer pressure when he's a teenager!