How learning what to listen for helped me hear my quiet daughter’s voice
Then I picked up Susan Cain’s brilliant book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Although I thought I knew a lot of what the author wrote about already, the way she broke everything down was a revelation for me. The gist of the book is so-called quiet people (those with introverted tendencies) have calmly gotten down to the business of accomplishing a lot of the real work done in the world: inventions, scientific breakthroughs, brilliant novels, etc. In other words, introversion isn’t a shortcoming that needs to be overcome; it’s simply a type of personality that lends itself to different pursuits—some really useful ones as it happens. The problem is not with people who fall into that category, but with the world we live in that seems to reward and most value the loudest voices in the room.
Now when I’m met with the usual comments about how quiet my daughter is, I try to honor her character without being defensive. I try to emphasize her strengths: She flourishes in very small group settings and loves individual work. I also try to check in now and then to make sure her environment isn’t causing her to withhold at all.
Beyond that, I try not to stress. Now that she and I both have the language and tools to better frame her character, we can do our best to ignore any expectations about how outspoken she needs to be. I can get out of her way, and she can get on with whatever contribution she chooses to make to the world.
It’s the most important lesson I’ve learned as a parent (and one I evidently need to learn over and over): Following your child’s lead is usually the smoothest and happiest way toward growth and development. Obviously, that doesn’t mean feeding her chocolate cake for breakfast when she asks for it or buying her every random can of slime she wants. For me it means learning to stay quiet for a moment, take a beat, and let my kid not do the talking.