“On the first day of my son’s nursery school, the teacher was trying to get the children to warm up and play an introduction game,” says Suzanna (name changed). “All the children were shouting and generally making noise but my son was sitting quietly and when the teacher realised my son wasn’t talking, she tried to get him to talk. ‘He prefers to listen,’ I told her, thus letting my son know it was okay that he wasn’t speaking up.”
In the above situation most parents would have prompted their child to answer or talk as having an introverted personality is not something we all look at positively. Parents feel judged when their children are reluctant to respond to an adult’s question or when they refuse to mix with other children. Suzanna says: “I was initially afraid that my son would lose out on a lot of fun due to his refusal to talk to others. I too like any other parent, felt I should at least try to get him to talk but good sense prevailed.” However it doesn’t have to be that way. Parents should look at these situations as opportunities to let their quiet children know that it is alright to speak as much or as little as they are comfortable with.
Founder of Chennai-based Parenting Matters and certified parent educator, Kesang Menezes says: “We live in a society where we expect all children to be extroverts but sometimes we fail to realise that some children are not developmentally ready or by nature their personality is such that they take time to makes friends and be comfortable.” Vinita Quadros, mother of two girls says: “I was a shy child and know how it feels when people don’t understand you. My eldest daughter too is very similar, she doesn’t talk much and you will hardly know she is in the room as she is so quiet. But I don’t push her, instead I have told her it is okay and I understand.”
Menezes is of the opinion that parents also need to stop labelling their child shy and judging them. “By labelling them you make them more aware that they are not mixing around and talking with others. You are allowing the label to define their personality. When a child hears himself being labelled as shy or his parents try to correct his shyness, he gets the message that he doesn’t fit.” She says the focus should be shifted from trying to change a quiet child’s personality to empathising with him/her.
“I realised every time I said to someone Adith is shy, I was encouraging him to view himself as shy and thus reinforcing shy behaviour. Instead I would say, ‘He just needs some time to get used to new situations or people.’ And this did help in the long run. The less I pushed him the more initiative he took,” says a mum.
Susan Cain in her bestselling book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t Stop Talking says one-third of people are introverts. They prefer listening to talking but this personality type also comes with many other qualities like innovation, creativity and sensitivity. Famous introverts include Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, J K Rowling, Isaac Newton, Steven Spielberg and many more.
Another parent says: “My daughter was extremely quiet and would hardly speak with anyone. When she started nursery we were very worried but both my husband and I didn’t push her and let her mingle at her own pace. We even spoke with the teacher and explained the situation. Luckily the teacher was very understanding and slowly and steadily, she started mixing around. As she grew older she became more confident, has many friends and today at 20 is studying abroad in a reputed university.”
So if you have a quiet child, it is not something you need to worry about says Menezes, unless she is being negatively affected by her inability to interact with others. In such a situation parents may have to seek professional help she adds.