Meet Priscilla Gilman, Our Parenting Expert

I’m honored and excited to be joining the Quiet Revolution as the Parenting and Education Advice Columnist! I’m a former professor of English literature at Yale University and Vassar College and the author of a parenting memoir, The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy. I’m also the mother of two introverted boys, Benj, age 15, and James, age 12, and the stepmother of a 12-year-old girl. Here at the Quiet Revolution, I’ll be writing a regular advice column in response to letters I receive from you on any parenting or education topics insofar as they relate to introversion.

Since Susan and I were introduced on Facebook by a mutual friend a few years ago, we’ve become not only admirers of each other’s books but also great virtual friends and allies. Quiet knocked my proverbial socks off on first reading, and since then, I’ve turned to it over and over as a kind of secular scripture: a source of wisdom, compassion, and practical ideas. Susan’s work has given help, hope, and a sense of fellowship to my two introverted boys (one of whom is on the autism spectrum) and has inspired some of my own writing. In the wake of the tragic school shootings in Newtown, as I grappled with my complicated emotions about the coverage of the tragedy, I thought often of Quiet. When Susan emailed to suggest I write an op-ed and put me in touch with her editor at The New York Times, it was especially fitting and moving given how much her book had been in my thoughts. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to spread her message to people in the autism community who might not have heard of Quiet. It is an honor to bring my voice to her revolution!

I must confess that in many ways I’m a classic extrovert: “gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.” However, when I took the quiz in Susan’s book, I came out fairly strong for introversion! I love the way that Susan shows how our ostensible personality type (introvert or extrovert) doesn’t account for the complexity of our individual natures. And I firmly believe that the strategies Susan lays out can help not only introverts but all of us, both because we all have introverts in our lives and because we all need time and space for quiet.

Quiet’s emphasis on the importance of teaching our children to play and work independently and helping them “develop a taste for” solitude struck a deep chord in me. I’m a passionate believer in the value of alone time for both parents and children and in the importance of helping children learn to take pleasure in solitude and develop their own private passions rather than relying on parents to entertain them. I’m as committed to helping children cultivate their inner lives as I am to helping busy, overwhelmed parents find strategies for recharging and carving out time for quiet, restorative activities.

As the mother of an autistic introvert who is deeply empathetic, I greatly appreciated Quiet’s thoughtful debunking of the idea that extroverts care more about others than introverts. My own experience with Benj underscores Susan’s point that it is a heightened sensitivity to novelty or a high-reactive temperament—rather than lack of empathy or disinterest in connecting with others—that characterizes introverts and autistic people. My second son—a different kind of introvert, whose major challenges are shyness and intense social anxiety—has helped me see that introversion comes in many different guises. I look forward to supporting parents in helping their highly sensitive or high-reactive, shy, or reserved children become more comfortable in social settings, in the classroom, with public speaking, and with new experiences in general.Meet_Priscilla_Gilman_heroAnd from introverted children to introverted parents and teachers: I co-parent with two introverts, my ex-husband and my current husband, both of whom are also introverted teachers (my ex at the college level, my husband as a public school music teacher). As a former college professor and a current teacher of adults and children alike, I’m here to support educators and offer insight, advice, and guidance for both teaching introverted children and teaching as an introvert.

Do you have an introverted child? Or are you an introverted parent? Are you a teacher of introverts or an introverted teacher? What are your greatest challenges? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, and I’m eager to take your questions about any issues you might have regarding parenting, education, and all the ways introversion can affect these areas of your life.

Please email your questions directly to me at [email protected], and I’ll choose representative letters to answer in upcoming columns.