Understanding the quiet children: a book review

I was recently sent for review an advance copy of a new book on introverted children, Quiet Kids, by Christine Fonseca, and I found it a fascinating read. Written by an introverted adult, with a self-confessed “need for silence”, Quiet Kids gives an insight into the world of introversion which is experienced by approximately a third of all children, who have to fight against the expectations of a world where the extrovert is king. We often mistake introversion as a negative; this book very clearly defines it as a positive, and it goes a significant way to realising the goal of the author, who herself has learned to “harness the strength within [her] need for silence”.

Introversion is often misunderstood, or not understood at all; Fonseca, however, is very straightforward on the matter: “Introverted children develop deep relationships built on intimacy. They are interested in the inner workings of others.” Because of this, introverted children only form a few friendships at a time, they find collaboration and teamwork challenging, and they can find social situations demanding. Moreover, in a culture which “often measures success in terms of the number of friends you have, your ability to interact in social situations and your ability to ‘sell’ yourself in any given situation”, an introverted child will struggle: “trying to live up to these ideas may be an act of futility”.

This book is aimed at parents and educators of introverted children – it demonstrates to parents and to teachers that introverted children are perfectly capable of growing up into independent, happy and self-reliant adults, but they require a greater depth of understanding than is typically offered to them at home and at school. Introverts need “alone time” more than they need interaction time with friends – they still need time with others, but the balance will be different from that of an extroverted child. Children are wired differently; we know this, so why do we continue to insist that they are treated the same? Besides, we should be valuing introverts – introverts may need more space, but they also bring deep and powerful gifts – deep thinking, innovation, emotional intelligence and the building of meaningful relationships -, not to mention empathy and intrinsic motivation. We need to think differently about them.

The author has researched her subject well, and draws on some of the voices of her interviewees in the book. The question and answer format that runs throughout the book makes it a very accessible read, while the Tips sections, particularly those for teachers, are invaluable. Above all, the advice is eminently sensible; while the author asks for understanding and the provision of space and calm for introverted children, she also recognises that “learning a few survival social skills can help introverts overcome the misperceptions.”

The book provides fascinating insights and is an empowering read for those of us who have learned extroversion the hard way. If you have an introverted child, then read this book.

‘Quiet Kids. Help Your Introverted Child Succeed in an Extroverted World’ (ISBN 9781618210821), by Christine Fonseca, was published by Prufrock Press on 1 October 2013. 

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