My little guy is one of the shyest kids you’ll come across. To tell you the truth, I don’t know when it actually began. I remember going to mommy and me story time at the library when he was about nine months old. All of the other babies would crawl towards the center to play with the toys, and clap and dance to the music. My little guy only wanted to cuddle up in my lap and quietly observe. When I tried to sit him amongst the other babies he would cry his little eyes out, while clinging to me fiercely. So it was always him and I against the world. Wherever I went, he went. He was always curious, observing everything he could. But for his own comfort, he preferred to remain silent, with me and daddy as his only friends.
Fast forward to today, at 3 1/2. He is still much the same kid, with a few differences. Though he prefers not to talk to most people he meets, he will talk and play with friends and family once he has warmed up a bit. I don’t know exactly why he needs that warm up period with people that he knows, but he does. I’d like to say that I’ve taken his shyness lightly, not letting it bother me. But that’s just not the case. It has gotten to me. I want him to be outgoing and make friends easily. And I want him to be able to be polite, and answer people back when they talk to him, gosh dangit!! I would ask myself constantly, “Why can’t he just suck it up and say hi!?”
Lately though, I’ve been really trying to see things from his point of view. I’ve been observing him more, and trying to figure out what it is that makes him feel so off balance in social situations. And, after much pondering and observation, I think I know what it is: Unwanted Attention. My little guy truly hates being the center of attention. He just doesn’t like all eyes on him. I should have known, he is his mother’s son. My whole life I have tried to scoot by ‘under the radar’. I would often ask myself, “How can I accomplish this, and draw the least amount of attention to myself.” Its not a self esteem thing. Its a comfort thing. I’ve never been an attention seeker. I guess my little boy is the same way.
The difference between us is that when we ask something of him, and lots of people are watching, its like he feels he is on display. I can tell he hates that feeling. All eyes on him (whether it be a big group or a small group) makes him feel uneasy. When this happens, he’ll usually turn mute and face another direction. Its just too much pressure. I don’t think that I’ve done anything to make him this way. Its just his spirit; its how he came to us. However, when we leave him alone, and let him approach people at his own pace, he usually opens up to them. Once that happens, he becomes completely comfortable and the chatter begins.
So, I’m slowly learning to let him go at his own pace. I will not force him to talk to people anymore if he doesn’t want to. Its too much for him, and I can see it in his eyes. If he hasn’t warmed up to a person yet, there is a reason. He needs more time to feel comfortable with them. Maybe this will go away in a few years, or maybe he will be like this as an adult. Who can say for sure? The most important thing to me is that he is happy. And honestly, doing things at his own pace is the ONLY way he is happy. Beyond that, I know that he is healthy, smart, imaginative, adventurous, kind, and he knows that he is loved. Really, what is a bit of shyness compared to all of that?
In being more aware of his shyness, and trying harder to be his advocate, I’ve thought of a few more things I can try to do. I thought this list pretty much encompassed most of them:
- Prepare your child in advance for new activities and events.
- Try to stick to activities with very small groups of people or just one other child.
- Your child might do better in noncompetitive activities.
- Play dates with children that are younger than your child might be helpful.
- If your child doesn’t do well with younger children, then try older children.
- Gently encourage your child to try new things and activities.
- Set up situations so that other kids will come over and play with or near your child.
- Offer lots of positive attention and reinforcement when your child does try new things and encourage his strengths and interests.
- Watch your own reactions around new people and new situations, especially if you are shy. (http://ellington-somers.patch.com/articles/is-your-child-shy)
I’m learning that shyness is not a character flaw. It is just part of who they are, like being short or tall. There is something to be said for a child who is content in quietness, and that doesn’t need all eyes on them to feel important. Quiet contentedness. I can deal with that.