“Fine” That’s often the favorite word of the quiet child. If you have a quiet child, you may feel like it takes an enormous amount of effort to get him to speak a complete sentence, much less pour his heart out to you. Quiet kids can be male or female and any age, although parents seem the most frustrated trying to communicate with quiet teen boys.
You may be tempted to give up and not try after a few hundred failed attempts at conversation. Unfortunately, parenting is much more difficult when your child doesn’t open up and talk. Christian parenting is virtually impossible because a child who doesn’t tell you what’s on her heart and mind leaves you guessing by the behaviors you see. (Which can be a very inaccurate measure of the heart.)
Your quiet child is also very likely introverted and likes to go off and be alone for hours at a time. You can’t change how God created your child’s nature, but you can soften it a bit. (The strengths God gave your kids can become detrimental when taken to the extreme. God provides parents to mold those gifts to God’s original design and plan – often softening them from the extremes to which kids will often take their gifts.)
If you have a quiet child, doing these things should help if done consistently over a period of time.
- Be available. Even the most quiet child has times when they really want and need to talk to you. If you aren’t there physically or make it clear what you are doing is more important to you than what they may have to say, the child won’t interrupt to talk to you. If they are rebuffed or believe they have been multiple times, the quiet child will often stop trying to talk to you at all.
- Don’t interrogate. I have seen some parents act like they are grilling a criminal when trying to have a conversation with a quiet child. A series of rapid fire, increasingly frustrated questions doesn’t encourage anyone to open up and talk. Asking questions is great, just don’t add to your child’s stress by acting like they are in trouble for not answering your barrage of questions.
- Ask open-ended, thinking and feeling questions. Closed questions are questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” as a complete answer. Be aware though that some questions which appear open ended actually aren’t open-ended at all for a quiet child. (Ex. “How was school today?”.) You will have better luck with questions like, “How did Amy react when she found out what had happened?” “What do you think your teacher is looking for in your paper?” “Why do you think the principal is so upset by that issue?” Yes, you can still get a string of “I don’t knows”, but eventually you will click on something that makes your child want to talk. Often the most successful questions encourage them to share feelings and ideas – although boys in particular may not want to discuss feelings very often. Once again though, don’t hit your child with a barrage of these questions – space them out over the course of the day.
- Give your child processing time. Introverted kids tend to want to have some down time after an event like school to process/think about everything that has happened. If you give this child some extra time just to be quiet and alone before asking questions, you will often get a better response.
- Encourage faith sharing. Quiet children, may appear shy. Often this is reinforced by adults constantly pointing it out to the child. After years of being told they are shy, quiet kids may be extremely reluctant to share their faith. Yet, often quiet children are the most effective at sharing their faith, because they are often very good listeners. Encourage your child to ignore those adults who try to discourage her from stepping out and talking with others. Often children given enough growth opportunities to speak in public and share their faith can become so successful people no longer realize they are quiet and introverted. Don’t let others discourage your child from learning and growing or tell them they need to “totally change their personality” if they want to share their faith successfully. It’s just not true.
Your quiet children will probably never talk to you as much or give you as much insight into their hearts as your talkative children. Using these tips regularly though, will increase the amount of information they share with you over time, allowing you the glimpses you need to parent them more effectively. It’s worth your time and effort.
PC Tamara Behlarian