Quiet Kids and Quiet Parents
Raising Introverts in an Extroverted World
Were you a quiet kid? Are you parenting quiet kids? I’m raising my hand over here, folks!
Growing Up As A Quiet Kid
I grew up as an introvert in an extroverted world. Of course, I had no language for any of it back then. I was told that I was shy and reserved and yet these words felt wrong to me. I wasn’t afraid to speak, I wasn’t timid; it was just that I didn’t feel the need to talk all the time.
For years, I remember feeling that my “shyness” was a deficit. I remember approaching teachers about my participation grade, asking why I would get points docked when I was in class day after day, turning in all assignments on time, asking questions when I had them. (Would a shy kid do that? I thought not.) Time and time again I was told that it was because I didn’t “speak up” in class.
In my mind, I was participating, but because I didn’t feel the overwhelming urge to discuss what the second sentence of the third paragraph on page number 352 meant to me, I was penalized.
I hated group projects with a fiery passion. I was always paired with someone in dire need of a grade lift, and I did the brunt of the work. I hated the in class debates and oral presentations but I could write an essay that would knock your socks off. Did hating these aspects of my schooling make me shy? Or, was it something else?
I was social and had a lot of friends from a variety of backgrounds. I was involved in school activities: volunteering, sports, and other extra curriculars. I had leadership roles: in high school I was captain of swim team, a member of the yearbook committee, I helped start our school’s recycling program. In college I was VP of Psi Chi, co-founder of our psych department newsletter, and I wrote for the college newspaper. Would a shy kid do all those things?
It wasn’t until mid-way through my college career that I learned about introversion and extroversion. Now, I had a language for these feelings and experiences. I remembered feeling extremely irritated that the field of education didn’t recognize these differences, allow for them, and embrace them.
I am not shy. I’m introverted. There’s a difference.
Introverts out there- If you haven’t read Quiet by Susan Cain, you need to read it ASAP.
This book will make you want to march back in time to that English classroom years ago, shake the book at your teacher and say, “Pull up a chair and get comfortable because I suddenly have a lot to say about the third paragraph on page number 352!!!”
Folks, sometimes the world of education leaves me baffled. Truly.
Parenting Quiet Kids
I’m an introverted mom, married to an introvert, parenting two introverts and one extrovert. I don’t think anyone can refute the fact that we live in an extroverted world, and so I’m not too worried about my pant-less danger monster, but I do want my introverts to have a different experience than the one I had. I couldn’t resist reading Quiet Kids: Help Your Introverted Child Succeed in an Extroverted World by Christine Fonseca.
If you’re a quiet parent raising quiet kids, you will appreciate this book. I believe it’s important for introverts to understand that introversion is not a deficit. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a quiet, reflective, thoughtful human being. And, for that matter, there’s nothing wrong with being an extrovert, either. But, the thing is… we live in an extroverted world. This book will help you to support your little introverts as they navigate this extroverted land.
Pros to being a quiet kid or adult:
- Introverts are thinkers, as such, they think before they speak.
- Introverts are energized by alone time. They know how to just be. They are not bothered by silence and do not feel a need to fill the space between. My introverted kids ask for quiet time. People are always amazed that they want to be alone each day, but I completely understand. If I’m too busy, if I feel at all over-scheduled, I get crabby and short-tempered. And guess what? So do my kids. Retreating for a bit, with either a good book or even just our own thoughts, allows us to feel refreshed and energized.
- Introverts can have long-lasting friendships. Why? They are awesome listeners.
- Introverts are independent. I remember the summer after college, and again before I moved in with Schizz, I lived alone. All my friends would ask me if I was nervous, or bored, or scared. Nope. I treasured those two years and I’m better off for them.
- Introverts have fantastic thoughts. My mind always has 89,000 tabs open. That means that there’s always something interesting to ponder.
- Introverts hate small talk but love and value deep conversations.
Cons to being a quiet kid or adult:
- Introverts hate to be the center of attention. As a kid, I hated people singing happy birthday to me and I dreaded having to open gifts in front of people. Unlike many women, I couldn’t wait for my bridal showers and baby showers to just be over. Similarly, Miss T hated her second birthday party. I could just see it in those shell-shocked blue eyes. She would rather a small group. But she loves cake. How does she deal? She elects to have a joint birthday party with our resident extrovert, Seuss. He enjoys the attention, she gets the cake. Win, win.
- I hate on-the-spot decisions. I like to reflect and think about the implications of my choices.
- Introverts hate small talk. I can’t stand that superficial conversation. Talk to me about something meaningful, and I’m all ears (and I’ll contribute) but the “Wow the weather-what’s your husband do” stuff is painful.
I want the world to be different for my introverts than it was for me. It took me many years to realize that I wasn’t shy, and it took me much longer to view my introversion as a strength. Thankfully, more people are talking about introversion versus extroversion than they were thirty years ago, but it’s still an extroverted world.
I want my kids to grow up seeing their introversion as the strength that it is, and I want them to take the time to replenish their soul without feeling that they are odd. I want them to understand that they aren’t shy, they are introverted. While some jump in and speak up, they think and reflect. That’s okay! It’s wonderful, even! I want them to embrace it, and to embrace it far earlier than I was able to. After all, when we know better, we do better.