In our society, there seems to be an idealization of the extroverted, gregarious socialite. We seem to believe that this type of personality is more effective, talented and in some respects superior to others. Given this belief, children are encouraged to make lots of friends, participate avidly in the classroom, and take after the outgoing parent.
However, research shows that it’s often the quiet person that concentrates passionately and focuses well who becomes a talented individual—an artist, an engineer, an economist, a doctor, and so on. This more introverted style gets less notice in a large law firm or busy classroom, but that doesn’t mean their work ethic or desire for connectedness is less than their outgoing counterpart.
Outgoing parents may be simply mismatched with a quiet child, but it doesn’t mean the child has something wrong with them. If the child is fearful or anxious and afraid of relating to others, that’s a different story. But I’m talking about a child who should be viewed with acceptance for having a more inward style or temperament.
Children who are pushed to be more outgoing than their natural manner are being discouraged from being themselves. If they sense disapproval from their parents for their general ways of being, then a problem may be stimulated. Their self-esteem, partly based on wishing for love and approval from their parents, may slide downwards. This would be unfortunate if parents viewed their child’s personality as insufficient when in fact they are functioning well, achieving, making a few friends, and enjoying their productive time alone.
5 Tips for Parents of a Quiet Child
- Get to know your child. Just because she’s quiet doesn’t mean she wouldn’t enjoy conversations with you about her interests, her thoughts and ideas, her passions.
- Praise your child for her persistent efforts at what she does. Be specific and detailed about what you observe her accomplish because you are both proud and because you want to build her self-esteem.
- Remind her when she compares herself to more outgoing peers, that you want her to like herself just the way she is.
- Enjoy the warmth of your quiet child that you will find as you and he spend more time together. Once he’s been feeling your approval, he will open up more and share what is pleasurable to him.
- One-on-one time will go a long way toward building your relationship with your child. If your child likes to be solitary a good amount of time, but is not withdrawn when he’s alone, but productive, he may enjoy sharing some of that time with you. Visit him in his room or in the den and just hang out.
It’s very likely that participation in the classroom is part of your child’s grade. Some teachers assume that the child who raises his hand quickly and easily knows more than the child who keeps to himself. Surely not raising your hand doesn’t mean you don’t know the answer or that you don’t have ideas to contribute under more comfortable small group situations.
When parents attend school meetings with their child’s teacher, it’s helpful to be your child’s advocate and point out that he may not participate but he will have good grades. Encourage the teacher to praise your child for her effort. This kind of praise is actually more motivating than focusing on grades and such persistence becomes a learning style that is brings high rewards.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with an upcoming book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior, to be released Oct. 13. Pre-order on amazon for a 21% discount before the release.