My daughter, and son, are both ‘quiet’ kids. I know that sounds like an oxymoron. The words ‘quiet’ and ‘child’ aren’t exactly two words you’d put together, right? What I mean is, they’re not boisterous, loud, on the go, ‘out there’ kids. We all know those. And they’re most likely extroverts.
Ok, my son definitely has his moments when he can’t stop talking and can be very very funny. But overall, and most definitely out in public, they’re both reserved, deferent of adults, the last to start a conversation. Basically, quiet. This doesn’t mean they’re not sociable. On the contrary, they love company; they were never the type of child to hide behind my legs when someone came to the door. But when in company, they will always be the responders, not the initiators.
In this respect they are their father’s children. Put it this way, if you met me and my kids without my husband, you’d wonder if I’d adopted them. My extrovert, talk-to-anyone personality is what prompts the regular label of ‘Embarrassing Mum’!
So it’s not hard to imagine my delight at stumbling upon the website Quiet Revolution set up by Susan Cain, TED speaker and all round champion on introverts. A few years ago I bought her best-selling book ‘Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking‘ for my husband as he has a wife who can’t stop talking. But I soon realised it was as useful for me as him; understanding how an introvert’s brain works goes along way to understanding why we clash so often in our communication (The Communication Gap is one very helpful chapter). I also began to understand how ‘shy’ is not the same as ‘introvert’ and how relevant to was for my then 8 year old daughter.
Here, I found inspiring articles and resources to help understand my children and bring the best out of them. The latest is a book by Cain that has just been released that I’m keen to get my hands on ‘Quiet Power: the secret strength of introverts‘ is illustrated and specifically aimed at kids and teens. It looks like the perfect birthday present for my daughter who is currently struggling with not being one of the extrovert ‘popular’ girls at secondary school…..
It seems introverts can actually be excellent communicators, they just need careful nurturing. Interestingly, my husband is only just discovering his ability to stand in front of strangers and teach – but that’s another subject for another post. Introverts are also often the most creative types yet without the right environment and nurturing may find it hard to express it, especially if they are embedded in an extrovert culture such as the Western work environment or school (open plan offices being a typical example). Their Quiet Schools initiative is particularly intriguing, in which they provide training and support for schools who want to intentionally make school a more enjoyable, and productive, place for introverted kids. I believe it is only available in the US at the moment.
The Quiet Revolution website even provides an online course for parents of quiet, introvert kids. As the course is aimed at parents of kids aged 3-9 yrs I’m a little late for it and so I haven’t signed up for it, but from what I can tell, it looks like it could be $99 well spent. (Don’t be put off by the dollars – if you pay with a UK credit card it will convert it to sterling).
I took the Quiz to see how introverted my daughter was, and she ranked very highly. This was no surprise; she desperately needs regular time to be on her own and gets exhausted by too many activities. She loves school trips and such like, but finds the relentless non-stop activities draining. She is also very sensitive to noise. My son is an introvert but less so.
What was interesting to me was that I hadn’t realised her sensitivity to noise was a characteristic of introverts – something my husband suffers from quite severely. Nor had I realised back when she was in infant school (age 4-7) that her reluctance to do ballet on a Saturday or any out of school activity was down to this trait of hers: her need for quiet, for space, for time to day dream. Thankfully, I did recognise her need for it, even if I didn’t realise the reason, and have always been very careful to not fill their free time with activities, both in term and holiday time.
I’ve always thought that all kids and adults need this space to be, for creativity to flourish, and in many respects this is true. The post I wrote back in September 2012 about how children are more naturally suited to ‘kairos’ time rather than the more adult ‘chronos’ or clock time still holds very true, as do the posts I have written about over-pressured, over-timetabled education system being detrimental for children’s mental health and long term learning. I also, as a borderline extrovert/introvert, know the essential value of down time for creativity. But I’m realising that is particularly so for introverted kids and adults.
This is so relevant to the current hot debate here in the UK about mandatory SATS tests for seven and 11 year olds in state schools. These have always been controversial, but this year the public reaction against them has reached new heights as the Conservative government has raised the bar and made them much more difficult. Last week, in an unprecedented move, parents of seven year olds in certain schools decided to vote with their kids feet and refused to send them to school on 3 May as a protest at their children being over-tested. Whilst I wonder what the schools and/or parents are doing that makes seven year olds so aware and anxious about these test (our school makes it a fun quiz so that the kids don’t know they’re being tested), I applaud them for taking a stand against the general move toward over-testing children in school that experts are becoming increasingly worried about.
Is your child an introvert or a ‘quiet’ child? Are you an extrovert yourself? How do you ensure they have space to be and to thrive?
Follow Quiet Revolution @livequiet #rethinkquiet