Is the quiet child saying something?

At one of our Parenting Matters sessions, the following interaction got us thinking on how we parents need to be aware of our child’s personality while raising them.

One mother said, “Ria, my daughter, is a sweetheart, she is so adjusting and does not demand anything.”

Another parent shared, “My second born, Aman is like that; he gives in to his brother so there is no fighting.”

A Father added, “It is a fantasy for me to have an easy going child!”

As parents it’s important we reflect on how a quiet child who does not ask for much attention needs as much acknowledgement as a boisterous one might. Yet in the rhythm of daily chores do we tend to pay less attention to the needs of the quieter child? Is the same pattern repeated in school towards the child who is “good”? 

It is very important that we parents help the quiet child to find her voice, empowering her to stand up for herself. Parents will need to hear what the child is saying and reflect it back to her to help in processing her feelings. 

In today’s aggressive go-getting world, parents tend to worry about the future of their quiet child. Coming from this fear, it’s not uncommon to hear parents say,” You will never succeed in life if you don’t speak up. Do you want to be left behind?” While the intention of the parent is to motivate, these shaming remarks leaves the child being labelled and scarred in the developing years.A child who is not heard and acknowledged during childhood could grow up into an insecure and under confident adult.

In our workshops, many participants share that they were quiet and obedient children, not clamouring for attention. But just because they didn’t demand attention, love and care didn’t mean that they didn’t need it! As adults they find that they need to consciously work at standing up for themselves and being assertive. These traits could have come with more ease had they been given a voice as a child.

Quiet children may end up feeling invisible in our lives. What can we parents do to help them? Let’s take few day to day situations...  

Your child may want Idli but being in a hurry you may not be able to make it.  How can we parents acknowledge this knowing that the quiet child will not throw a tantrum?We could say, “I am so relieved that you are willing to eat dosa today.” And next day we could make Idlis so as to honour our cooperative child’s preference.

The message we want to convey to our child is ‘You are important to me, I want to know and respect your opinion.’

Having a cooperative child “give in” during sibling fights is harmful for both the children.In a dispute between children about which T.V. program to watch, we could support the child who is not speaking up by saying,” Looks like Arjun also has something to say. Let us hear him out. ” We could even follow up by saying, “So this time we are watching Sunil’s program and next time we will watch Sanju’s program.” 

In gatherings, we adults need to build our awareness towards the quiet child by gently including them in. Even if it tough,parents need to see that the “quiet” child’s need are also met. In various situations , it helps to acknowledge the quiet child’s feelings and build the their self-worth so that they are comfortable with themselves.

Every child is unique, having their own special place. All children need our attention and guidance. As a parent let us nurture them with acceptance,respect, love and awareness.

Author: Sunitha R.  is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.