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A Unique Gem: The Introvert

by Lori Sciame | October 14th, 2013 | Behavior, Elementary

girl at windowThe little girl sits in her desk at school concentrating her math worksheet.  This behavior is not new, as she always cooperates; most of the time she’s the first one in her seat in the morning, the first one to come in from recess, and the first one to help clean up.  She’s a model student.  But is she really?  Her teacher wonders why the little girl never speaks up in class, and when she’s called on, the child can only muster a smile.  What’s going on?

There are many reasons why a child might choose to be quiet. She may battle stuttering, she may have social anxiety, she may be the product of a household where children are “seen but not heard,” or she may simply be an introvert.  It is the teacher’s job to first figure out the reason why the girl never speaks, as only then can the school assist her.

As a parent of a quiet child, you probably already know why she clams up at school.  If it’s because she stutters, or if she suffers from social anxiety, do not hesitate to turn to the professionals at the school for help.  Your local school district specializes in assisting students with unique needs so that they can get on the right track.

If your child can be classified as an introvert, his or her teacher should know that as well. Some children talk at home where they feel comfortable, but once they leave their safety zone, they prefer to draw into themselves. This behavior should not be viewed negatively.  There are plenty of successful men and women who classify themselves as introverts, those that do not need a lot of social interaction, and that prefer to have only a few close friends. In essence, faulting a child for being quiet at school if she is an introvert will only make her feel bad about herself.

A better way to handle an introverted child is to provide her with other means to continue to feel worthy in the classroom.  For instance, you can work with your child’s teacher to make sure that grading doesn’t focus heavily on verbal class participation.  The teacher should also encourage the child to either write down her questions or ask them at the end of he day. Finally, the teacher should not force the child to talk by repeatedly asking her questions in class. This will only make the introverted child apprehensive.

As you can see, there are ways to assist an introverted child at school; however, the best advice is to accept the child as she is, not try to mold her into something she isn’t.  If she is happy at home, and if she smiles and is engaged at school, then don’t worry.  Dr. Sears explains an effective approach: “First, recognize that you are blessed with a sensitive, deeply caring, reserved child who is slow to warm up to strangers, approaches social relationships cautiously, but generally seems to be a happy person. Hug your quiet child. The world will be a more gentle place because of him or her.”

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