In praise of quiet kids

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Which type of child is “easier” to parent? The gregarious kid who loves new situations and talks to anyone easily? Or the quiet child who prefers to watch from the sidelines before trying new activities or speaking up? In our culture, being an extrovert is highly valued. Outgoing, talkative kids are seen as more socially confident, popular and successful. Introverted children are often encouraged to be “coaxed out of their shell” and be more like their extroverted peers.

For those children who are naturally extroverted, they have a great set of skills to draw from to find their way in the world. Introverts do, too, just with a different repertoire of abilities. Unfortunately, however, being quiet is generally underrated in our society, especially in children.

First, it’s important to make the distinction between being shy and being introverted. Shyness involves avoiding people or social situations because one feels anxious or nervous. Introversion essentially means someone is more energized by being alone than in groups. Introverts can have excellent social skills and develop great relationships; they just don’t need a crowd to do it.

Here’s what multiple sources of research have determined about introverted children:

-They tend to listen more than they talk. When they do talk, they say what they mean. When they really care about something, they talk a lot.

-They don’t brag about their achievements because they don’t like being the center of attention, even when it’s positive.

-They are very aware of their surroundings, noticing details others don’t. They concentrate deeply on subjects they find interesting.

-They want to know what things mean, what makes people tick and can reflect on their own behavior.

-They are less vulnerable to peer pressure because they use their own thoughts and feelings as a guide about what to do.

Well-known introverts include Steven Spielberg, J.K. Rowling, Steve Wozniak and the co-founder of Google, Larry Page. If that crowd is not impressive enough, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton and Ghandi were also all considered introverts.

Wherever a child lands on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, they need to know his or her personality doesn’t need to be altered to be considered “right.” In our hyper-connected society where the more Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections one has, the better, and being in the spotlight is so often intensely pursued, our quiet kids can remind us turning our attention inward can be pretty worthwhile, too.


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