“Fear is a thief.”
If you’ve read Cain’s groundbreaking Quiet or seen her TED talk, you might think you know all you need to know about introversion – in yourself, your kid, or 30-50% of the population. However, think again, because her version of the book for young readers brings a lot to the table.
In a way that’s approachable to anyone age 11 and up (and what middle and high schooler doesn’t like to read about themselves?) Cain tells you what an introvert is and how to figure out if you are one (there’s a helpful quiz that will take your teen four minutes, tops) but then she goes into how to adjust all the things that life and school throw at you that are hard for introverts. Things introverts secretly dread, such as group projects, social media, parties, friendships and, sad but true, teachers who think introverts aren’t participating in class.
Teachers and friends aren’t the only ones who don’t always understand how introverts work – sometimes they need help finding their own boundaries. Cain gives advice on not only knowing how and when to schedule downtime, but how to create a ‘restorative niche’, a place where they can recharge enough to deal with friends, school, and family members. Yes, family members too can be a drain on introverts, so the author gently includes a few notes for parents to explain what their introverted child needs.
The author explains that the introverted child especially needs understanding and time away in middle school, where extroversion is something of a survival skill.
“In one study, researchers questioned 234 eighth graders and about 200 high school seniors. The scientists found that a desire for solitude was frowned upon among the middle school kids, while the high school seniors were much more accepting.”
In this social media intense world, the message that it’s perfectly acceptable to spend time alone is not only a good one, it’s a necessary one.
While many of the skills Cain discusses seem designed just for survival, she doesn’t underestimate introverts. Being one herself, she doesn’t want your kid to wait until they have a groundbreaking idea or TED talk to develop the skills they need to excel. She offers an entire section on introverted athletes, kids who’ve served on their student council, and kids who have realized a passion for adventure, philanthropy and world travel. With countless examples of world famous athletes, celebrities, and world leaders, she drives home the concept that being an introvert is a strength, not a weakness.
One thing I do wish there was more of in this book, and in the original Quiet, is how introverted parents can deal with extroverted kids. I’m an introverted parent and Song & Dance is definitely an extroverted child. At 17, that’s no hardship – she excels at school and activities, has friends, and works a people-intense retail job without getting overwhelmed. That said, I vividly remember being 8 months pregnant with her sister and listening to her, three years old at the time, bang on the bedroom door as I got dressed. “I just want some privacy,” I sighed.
There was a pause on the other side of the door. “I want some privacy with you!” said my little extrovert. Hopefully introverted parents will be self-aware enough now, with Cain’s books in hand, to not think they are bad parents because they don’t want to spend every second with their offspring.
I wish I had had this book raising my first. I thought wanting time away from my energetic, socially hungry toddler made me a bad parent, and I know I can’t be the only one. Likewise, when Amusing Artist came along and was peaceful and self-entertaining, I worried that there was something wrong with her and she’d never survive in school. You can out the same DNA into two (or more) children and get countless results back. There’s nothing quite like a book that will help you illustrate the different type of children out there are tell you the tools they need to find their own strengths and make you feel like a better parent.
Cain is a gift to all introverts, and extroverts too. Even if you aren’t introverted, the odds are that you work with an introvert, are related to one, or your child is friends with one. This book is a must read for every Safari parent and their child.