How to Help Your Quiet Child Shine

quiet kids
Image via Katie Hurley

I was a quiet kid – a very, very quiet kid. I wasn't a fan of crowds, speaking up in class wasn't my thing during the early elementary years, and I didn't care if I was invited to the party or not. I had a best friend, and a few other friends, and I was just fine.

People called me “shy”. This came up in school or during sports. I hated that label. Even at a young age, I understood the subtext: Don't be so quiet all of the time. Honestly? I didn't think of myself as shy. Did I talk less in groups than other kids? Yes. Did I tend to stick to smaller groups of friends? Absolutely. But none of that felt like a negative to me. I had a rich internal world, and I was happy.

The world seems to be set up for those with the loudest voices. She who asserts her needs the most gets her needs met every single time.

My mom understood my personality. She didn't push me to do things I wasn't ready to do and she advocated for me when I couldn't find my voice. She was happy that I had a few close friends and didn't need me to be the life of the party. And at some point, my voice grew louder. Little by little I found my way and in the process, I found my voice.

My daughter is a lot like me. Her imagination is a thing of beauty. She's creative, funny, thoughtful and kind. She has a quick wit and sharp observation skills. And while she's loud at home, she's very quiet out in the world. Now that I'm on the other side of it (the mom raising the quiet kid) I see what my mom must have seen all along: Some people are very uncomfortable when kids are quiet.

{ MORE: Living in an Era of Disrespect: Are We Raising Our Kids the Right Way? }

The world seems to be set up for those with the loudest voices. She who asserts her needs the most gets her needs met every single time. What does that mean for the quiet ones? It means we advocate for them and help them find ways to shine.

mother daughter
Image via Flickr/ Ctd 2005

Be the voice.

You can tell your quiet kid to assert her needs to her teacher or coach, but chances are she'll “forget”. Finding your voice takes time, practice and understanding. The quiet ones need help along the way.

{ MORE: Do You Let Your Kids Wear What They Want to Wear? }

When you advocate for your child, you show your child assertiveness skills in action. Each time you speak up on behalf of your child, you teach your child a valuable lesson. Forget your worries about being a helicopter. Ignore the people who tell you to let her sink or swim. Provide support, empathy, and a voice until your child is ready to use her own.

friends
Image via Flickr/ Barney Moss

Nurture close friendships.

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The best way for kids to practice assertiveness skills and speaking up is with siblings and close friends. These are safe relationships. Your child can speak up and try something new without worrying about the repercussions. 

Nurture those friendships. Forget about group play and teams for a little while and let your child find her way in the safety of a close relationship. And if that friend or sibling isn't listening when your quiet one speaks up? That's when you intervene. Teach your child a few key phrases like, “please don't interrupt me” and “please let me finish my thoughts”. Those subtle phrases can make a big difference for a quiet kid.

drum
Image via Flickr/ Photo by Thomas

Support passion.

Quiet children tend to have rich internal worlds and great passion for certain things. My daughter loves art and Irish dance. When engaged in either of those activities, she really shines.

Help your child find sources of passion. Instead of joining the team or class based on classmates, find a coach or teacher who understands her. Find an enrichment class that matches her personality. Better yet? Skip the formal instruction and let her work at her own pace at home.

{ MORE: Parents Are More Powerful than Superheroes }

Quiet kids have a lot to offer this world. While they might not always feel comfortable in loud and overstimulating environments, they can learn to find their voices and travel a path that leads to happiness.

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How to Help Your Quiet Child Shine

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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1 comment

  1. Love this… and I so needed to receive this advice. Thank you!

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