Prufrock Press Inc.
BOOK REVIEW (Davidson Institute) - This book review gives a concise view of what the reader can learn from author Christine Fonseca in her book, Quiet Kids: Help Your Introverted Child Succeed in an Extroverted World.
Reviewed by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
Quiet Kids is a quick and informative read regarding the impact of temperament, especially introversion. Gifted children, as a group, tend to be more introverted than other groups, and exhibit their introversion much more intensely. Throughout, Ms. Fonseca discusses various aspects of introversion and offers ideas for both parents and educators in raising resilient, self-assured children who better understand themselves and their environments. By the end of the book, readers will have gained a comprehensive appreciation for the way in which temperament affects daily life in social situations, at home and in the classroom. She offers insight, knowledge and tools to identify and work with both introverts and extroverts, including a better understanding of themselves!
The book is presented in four sections: Introverted and Extroverted Kids: A Matter of Hardwiring; Introverted Kids at Home; Introverted Kids at School; and Introverted Kids at Play. Ms. Fonseca includes real-life examples addressing each section’s concepts, as well as questionnaires, easy-to-read tables to compare information, tip sheets and examples of personal and professional experiences. She also includes “Class Notes” sections, relating the concepts to educators for use in the classroom. After reading Quiet Kids, as quoted from introductory page xv, the reader will better understand:
- society’s assumptions about introversion and extroversion,
- the science behind temperament,
- working with introversion at school, at home, and with friends,
- specific strategies addressing resiliency, school performance and living in a competitive culture; and
- how introversion plays out in the educational setting.
A common theme in Quiet Kids is that the Western world is geared toward extroverts; because of that, people tend to believe there is something “wrong” with introverts. It is often thought that introverts are shy and withdrawn, and they should simply change. However, Ms. Fonseca presents scientific and evidence-based research to demonstrate the neurological and chemical differences in temperament, and how these affect behavior, communication and relationships. To highlight one difference, extroverts seek social engagement and external stimulation, such as being active and on-the-go, while introverts need quiet time alone to process and relax. If neither is able to access the environment they need, conflict is bound to happen, leading to arguing and common misunderstandings. With the information presented in Quiet Kids, the reader will learn how to better appreciate each person’s needs and preferences, and devise strategies accentuating strengths and overcoming potential issues.
In Part II: Introverted Kids at Home, Ms. Fonseca makes the following point about laying the groundwork for positive family and classroom interactions:
“Fortunately, the same conditions that assist the introverted child also form the foundations of effective parenting. Attributes include clear expectations regarding behavior, clearly defined consequences, boundaries, predictable reactions from parents, and opportunities for involvement in the household through chores and input regarding rules and consequences all contribute to laying a strong foundation for the introverted child.” (p. 46)
This section focuses on effective parenting, such as removing power struggles by allowing natural consequences for behavior, providing consistency and utilizing “teachable moments” as a means to build positive behaviors. Ms. Fonseca explains that understanding everyone’s boundaries, like having a personal space for quiet time, can be significant for all family members, especially introverts. In Chapter 6, she discusses the importance of resiliency to aid children in developing a “layer of protection against the hardships of life” (p. 62), such as inconsistency and overwhelming environments. For introverts living in an extroverted world, it’s important to develop positive skills to foster resiliency, such as autonomy over their environment, optimism, self-efficacy (having confidence in their ability to succeed), an internal sense of mastery, strong connections with others and understanding emotional reactions. Ms. Fonseca walks through each skill and provides insight in how to nurture children in a relevant and applicable manner.
Part III focuses on the introverted child at school. Educational environments can be especially challenging since they are generally better suited for extroverts. Ms. Fonseca points to research suggesting that up to 75 percent of the population is extroverted, and educators can unintentionally create an overwhelming atmosphere for the introverted student. This section begins with a discussion on the differences in learning styles for extroverts and introverts. The author encourages educators to understand the strengths each temperament brings to the table and to utilize strategies that suit both, allowing all students to thrive. Parents can serve a key role by providing insight to the child’s attributes in a collaborative way. She relays specific ideas for teacher conferences that enhance communication between parents and teachers. It’s equally important for parents and educators to teach introverted students how to adapt and succeed in both the classroom and in the “real world,” including extracurricular activities, social situations and preparing for employment. In Chapter 10, Ms. Fonseca provides specific ideas for teaching communication skills and self-awareness, as well as how to serve as a strong emotional coach for the child.
As we all know, failure - real or perceived - is a part of life. It can be particularly stressful for those who are introverted, as they tend to turn inward, engage in negative self-talk, perseverate on negative outcomes and sometimes blow situations out of proportion. This is compounded even further for the gifted child. The fear of change, and hence potential failure, can lead introverts to inaction. Remember Chapter 6 on resiliency, mentioned above? Ms. Fonseca reiterates the importance of teaching strong coping skills and building resiliency in order to foster a positive skill-set for children to cope with failure, change and setbacks.
The final section, Introverted Kids at Play, walks parents and educators through helping the introverted child succeed in social competencies, including difficult situations like bullying, anger management and conflict resolution. These situations can be uniquely challenging to introverts due to the tendency to have a long fuse, followed by a sudden explosion of emotion when they can no longer cope with the stimulation, conflict or their feelings. The social needs of introverts vary, but often they are quite content with a small group of friends. This can be misconstrued and assigned a negative label or lead adults to be concerned. At the Davidson Institute, parents often ask, “My child only has one or two good friends. Shouldn’t they have more?” The author addresses this question by further explaining the impact of temperament, along with practical tips to help children identify their strengths and gain an awareness of the possible pitfalls of their temperament. The discussion on technology is especially relevant in today’s social media world.
Quiet Kids closes with a thorough list of recommended resources on topics ranging from temperament and general parenting to bullying, anxiety and depression. It will have a profound impact on the reader’s understanding of temperament and the effect on daily interactions with students, children, co-workers or even a spouse. Although Ms. Fonseca has geared this book to raising and educating children, the information and techniques are valuable at any stage in life. The chapters can be read independently, and the layout allows readers to quickly access the information they are seeking. Ms. Fonseca’s book is organized, easy to read and well-structured. It is a strong resource for any parent or educator who is interested in learning more about introverted children – and adults! – and gaining practical skills to improve communication and encourage success in a world that tends to focus on the importance of extroversion.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.