I just finished reading the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking.” I really enjoyed it. It is good to know that the thinkers and the dreamers do a lot of good in the world. Introverts are great leaders, true friends, innovators, writers and philosophers. The world cannot do without them.
So we need to cherish our quiet, sensitive, careful and dreamy kids. We need to appreciate their strengths and cultivate them. We also need to find ways to nurture our relationships with them.
How can we do that? Here are some ideas:
1. Change your goal:
Parents often feel they are not connecting with their kids unless they are talking with their kids. This is a false beliefe as there are many other ways to connect. Cultivating a good relationship with children can actually be done silently. Actions like cuddling, sitting next to them on the couch while they are watching TV and having their favorite food for dinner creates connections with kids. Those actions are probably more important than actual speech.
Many people connect with others specifically through the act of talking. If you are one of those people it is helpful to understand that not all people need to talk in order to build relationships. (This is usually harder for women then for men). If you need to talk to connect, try talking about the things that interest your kids like basketball, ice skating, soccer and the mystery series that they are reading. Look up that article online about the burrowing habits of prairie dogs or J.K. Rowling’s next project. Kids are egocentric and will be more likely to talk about the things they love.
2. Lose the questions:
Parents spend a lot of time innocently asking kids questions. Queries like:
“What did you do today, what did you learn, did your friends like your new sweater?”
“Do you have any homework? How was gym today, did you get a turn to bat? Did you have outdoor or indoor recess?”
These questions seem benign and politely conversational, but children find them to be intrusive and bothersome. Children want the liberty to talk when they feel like talking. That is why children generally respond to these questions with one word answers or a shrug of their shoulders. This can annoy us parents to no end, especially since we think we are being so nice and friendly.
To really relate to our kids and help them start talking we need to avoid the questions and instead say:
“Welcome home, I am glad to see you!”
3. Silence is golden:
There are a lot of quiet, and shy kids out there who just don’t love to talk. If you have a quiet kid, don’t force them to chat with you. American culture values people who are talkative and outgoing and these kids do not get a lot of appreciation. Make sure to cherish them for who they are and remember that “Still waters run deep”. Instead of talking make sure to give them lots of hugs and kisses. Let them know that they are loved for whatever personality they have.
Understanding how kids connect with others, avoiding questions, and appreciating your kids for who they are will go along way in building a positive relationship with your introverted child, even if he won’t talk.
Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, works as a Parent Educator for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau facilitating How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk workshops as well as workshops based on Siblings Without Rivalry. Adina also runs parentingsimply.com.