Can schools do more to help quiet children thrive?

(17 Posts)
IdontwantAlexa Mon 16-Apr-18 12:50:40

Is your school good at helping quiet children to thrive? And if so can you please tell me how?

My dd goes to an excellent state primary. Luckily very bad behaviour isn’t really an issue so I am aware that we are very fortunate. However, the school’s Headteacher is extrovert who I don’t think understands what life is like for quieter children and for those who are introverted. My dd is a quiet child who would dearly like to be more involved in playing with others but she is very shy. She says she is frequently alone in the playground but this doesn’t seem to get picked up by the playground supervisors. She will also often not have anyone to sit next to at lunch. There are other low grade examples as well such as children pushing in front of her in the queue, moving her bag from her seat when she leaves her place so she has to sit somewhere else. I have raised these issues many times but nothing seems to get done. I’ve even been told by her class teacher “You can’t force children to play with others if they don’t want to”. My dd has been to a workshop at the anti-bullying workshop Kidscape which was excellent and Kidscape does offer training to schools but I know there’s no budget for this. These were some great resources we received after the workshop:

The Kidscape toolbox
1. Assertive body language and eye contact: Understanding the importance of non-verbal communication is vital to help participants become more assertive and able to confidently address bullying situations. Participants are encouraged to look at their own body language including eye contact and are supported to make changes to become more assertive.

2. The voice: Participants explore how they can develop a strong, calm and confident voice that can be heard by others, thinking about breathing as well as volume, tone and pace of speech.

3. Saying “No”: “No” is a clear response to demands from a bully, making it clear they are not any easy target. Participants are encouraged to practise saying “No” like they really mean it - clear and strong - backed up by assertive body language and eye contact.

4. Fogging: Fogging is a tool to that allows a person to feel safe, calm and in control in response to insults. Participants are encouraged to imagine they are surrounded by a fog or shield which swallows up the insults before they can touch them. This protective shield allows participants to make a neutral comment to help move the situation into a safer place.

5. Broken record: This strategy allows a person to repeat a simple statement to someone who is challenging them with the aim of getting them to move on.

6. Stop: This tool keeps young people safe on line. Participants are encouraged not to respond to bullying texts, emails or comments, unless it is to say or type ‘Stop’, and to remember their fog. They discuss how to report bullying, block the bully and keep profiles set to private. Tips for apps games and other media can be found at

Practising is crucial. These methods may not work instantly, but with regular use, they will make a huge difference. ZAP participants are encouraged to practice with their parents/carers. They might also want to do some of the following exercises with a trusted friend:
Role play typical bullying scenarios, where you play the part of the bully. Discuss what the bully does or says. Prepare an action plan together, encouraging your child to reflect on the responses they feel most comfortable using, and then practice together. Give them time to focus, assess their own body language and take a deep breath, before launching into the role play. Check their response is accompanied by assertive body language, eye contact and voice. Try to encourage responses that are simple – the aim is to get the bully to move on, so avoid phrases that invite further interaction. They might want to role play additional replies to comebacks they get from the bully. Review how well the responses worked in real bullying situations, plan and practice again! You may also find it helpful to switch roles, so they can experience the assertive reaction.
Body language: Young people can use a full-length mirror to practice themselves, or they might be prepared to model their assertive body language for you. Alternatively, you could model passive body language and ask your child to make suggestions as to how to make it more assertive!
Eye contact: Look at one another in the eyes in a relaxed, non-aggressive way and have a competition to see who looks away first, or practice in everyday conversation. If eye-contact is difficult, they can look at the bridge of your nose instead.

I think there are two elements at play here. The first is upskilling quieter children to speak up – “Stop, you’re being rude” “Yes you are”. The second is encouraging other children to be positive bystanders who will hear children being picked on and either say “Stop” or if that is too much for them at least they should tell a teacher.

I know it’s a tricky area as teachers have so much on their plate already but I just wondered what one can reasonably expect a school and its teachers to do to help quieter children? It’s even difficult for the teacher to know that there is a problem as the quiet child is so … quiet and reluctant to speak up.

Does your school make sure that quieter children are given positions of responsibility in the school or is it always the louder children who are chosen, sometimes because the schools wants to incentivise them to behave better, so children who have been picked on by these children have to watch them picking up a class trophy at every assembly? Can you give examples from your school of initiatives which work? Buddy benches? Peer mentoring – maybe too much for primary school children? There is so much advice around!/Home I’m just wondering what can be usefully extracted and applied in a primary school setting?

Many thanks for reading. I look forward to reading positive examples of good practice in other schools smile

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AjasLipstick Mon 16-Apr-18 13:03:08

Is that your book you've linked to?

Very useful post you've made here. I do think that the world in general and not just schools. places an inordinate amount of value on being extrovert.

Constant reinforcement about how children (and adults) need to speak up, be heard, don't be shy...and so forth, which is very harmful to introverts.

I'm naturally very introverted but have managed to learn to fake it and get by. But children do struggle because education is skewed towards those who don't have a problem with public speaking or working in teams.

I think things should be more balanced.

Sports day for's quite an extrovert thing, to show off your physical prowess....where's the "art day"? Or the "English Language Day?"

Regarding your DD....more should be done for her.

I have often felt that the lunchtime supervisors in ALL schools should be FAR better trained. They should be trained as playworkers and earn more for what they do.

My DD was very shy when she moved to a new school but she was lucky in that she had an extremely sensitive and caring teacher.

This teacher went out every single playtime and organised traditional circle games with her class.

They were aged 8 at the time. She taught them all the classics...and of course, the entire class wanted to join in though it wasn't compulsory.

She did this solely to support my DD...though nobody but she and I knew it.

She did this for almost an entire term until she saw my DD's confidence grow and other children open to her.

Thank God for her.

IdontwantAlexa Mon 16-Apr-18 13:20:42

Thanks very muchAjas Much seems to depend upon having an empathetic teacher. Great to hear your daughter was fortunate in that respect. I wish schools could implement strategies which would ensure all teachers do this. As you say, better training for playground supervisors is much needed.

The book was written by Susan Cain - she has also done a TED talk.

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AjasLipstick Mon 16-Apr-18 13:25:59

I think one way would be for a charitable organisation to be formed, which was dedicated to helping children who are introverted to cope...through educating the people who care for and teach our children and through educating other children.

Helping at playtimes would be one valuable thing to be offered. For a quiet child, a playground is like the jungle.

IdontwantAlexa Mon 16-Apr-18 14:29:08

Ajas that's such a good idea for a charitable organisation to be formed. Yes, the playground is such a difficult environment for quiet children.

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Lightlover2018 Mon 16-Apr-18 14:38:44

Great post op, thanks. I was quiet at school and really struggled. Luckily my own kids are more confident than I was. I've read Susan Cain's book. It would be great if the world in general was better set up to celebrate introverts as well as extroverts.

IdontwantAlexa Mon 16-Apr-18 14:52:33

Thanks Light. I was quiet in school and remember dreading being in the playground - it sometimes doesn't feel that different as a parent now at pick up.

Social media (and the internet in general) for all its faults, is a great help in making people realise they are not alone in this respect and in having forums like this where good practice and advice can be shared. Susan Cain's book - which I haven't quite finished - is excellent isn't it? Good to read a positive perspective wrt introversion. I love the subtitle - "The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" smile

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Flicketyflack Mon 16-Apr-18 15:00:18

Such a wonderful thread smile

DS is an introvert & really struggled with 'show offs' as he sees them

Such valuing of extrovert traits is sad to see & experience if you are an introvert sad

I have supported my son with his primary school experience but it has not been easy sometimes envy

IdontwantAlexa Mon 16-Apr-18 18:14:30

Thanks Flickety. It's great that Mumsnet allows us to share ideas like this and for us to realise that our children are not alone. As I said, the Susan Cain book is a great way of starting to look at the topic in a positive way. I wish I had had access to this sort of thing when I was younger.

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IdontwantAlexa Tue 17-Apr-18 22:46:26

A friend told me that at his son's school a teacher will ask a child to leave the room while the teacher goes around asking the classmates what they like about that child. The teacher writes down what they say and this is then read back to the child. He said that this worked wonders for the confidence of shy children. He also said that children who were finding it difficult to socialise were allowed to choose someone to play a ball game with.

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AjasLipstick Tue 17-Apr-18 23:14:25

Alexa years ago my DD's teacher did this exercise with the class which must be quite popular because I've seen it as a post on FB a few times.

She gets the children to each privately write down the names of 3 people they like.

Then she gets them to hand this in. She does it under the guise of working out next terms seating arrangements.

But what she's really doing is looking for the children who'se names don't appear on any list. Then she knows exactly who needs more help.

Lifeaback Tue 17-Apr-18 23:32:05

By the sounds of this thread there are some really caring and attentive teachers about-it's just a shame they don't all have the same level of understanding. I think it's probably very much based on their experiences as children and the teachers understanding of the situation have probably been through it themselves.

Some kind of charity sounds like a really good way to approach the problem. I think because there are bigger issues in schools this gets ignored which is sad because quiet children who struggle socially in primary school often then become unhappy teenagers and targets for bullies which in turn leads to mental health issues so it becomes a bit of a snowball effect and causes bigger problems down the line. The kidscape workshop sounds great OP, does your daughter do any kind of extra curricular activity? They're so good for building confidence and helping kids get more involved with their peers due to the activities being structured so less room for kids to be left out like they are in the playground. There's things out there for non sporty kids, like brownies/rainbows, youth groups, art based stuff. And then there's non sporty sports iyswim- like martial arts, climbing, kayaking.

IdontwantAlexa Tue 17-Apr-18 23:47:35

Ajas I've read about that idea in a Facebook post a friend shared. Such a good idea but I do wonder if teachers think they have the time to focus on this area. As you say Life it does seem to depend upon encountering a sympathetic teacher who may have experienced similar issues at school. My dd did Stagecoach and Rainbows but didn't really settle in either. However, she finally made like minded friends through studying music outside school. This is so wonderful as it shows her she has the ability to make friends. The Kidscape workshop was great with wonderful ideas to follow up. It's just difficult to practise techniques at home when you can't easily replicate the school atmosphere but worth doing nonetheless. I wasn't sure at first if Kidscape was appropriate as I thought of bullying as being mainly physical and intimidatory. Kidscape were quite clear that exclusion was a form of bullying and that she had been experiencing this for years. I would urge anyone with similar concerns to attend a Kidscape course.

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Harry2006 Tue 17-Apr-18 23:57:08

Very good thread. Just bookmarking so i can refer to it when needed as my daughter is quite shy and so was i so i didnt really know how to help her but this has some good advice thanks

Flicketyflack Wed 18-Apr-18 10:55:20

Kidscape were great for advice when my son was having friendship troubles at school.

Teachers don't gave time (and some the inclination sad) to look at the emotional/relationship side of life.

Flicketyflack Wed 18-Apr-18 10:55:49

Have not gave angry

IdontwantAlexa Wed 18-Apr-18 12:25:12

Harry - I would definitely recommend that you read the Quiet book by Susan Cain. She also has a group you can sign up to and receive emails. It's the first thing I've read which extols the positives of being quiet whilst helping to address the difficulties we face as children at school and in the workplace.

Flickety - I suppose it can be true that teachers struggle to find the time to look at the emotional side. However there's more and more evidence that the happier children are the better they will do at school. Maybe it could be sold as a development point for teachers. In a workplace extroverts will need to deal with, even maybe manage quieter people. They could be given guidance in school how to interact with people who are different from them.

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