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Extreme shyness in 3yo

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Sigh... I was such a shy little girl. Going into a big room full of other kids made me absolutely terrified. I did not have friends until I was well into grade school (maybe 4th grade?) and I felt soooooo lonely all the time. I had no idea how to communicate this to my family and lived in misery until I got to high school and found my "group".

My 3yo son is exhibiting signs of the same behavior. We signed him up for the 2 park district classes that he said he was interested in and he refuses to participate in either. In fact, last week (3rd week of class) he flat out refused to go. He has absolutely no interest in playing with other children - every time we go to a playgroup he either sits on my lap or far away from everyone else. He used to say that he wanted to do things with other kids, but now when I ask him if he wants to go play, he either cries and throws a fit or very politely says, "no thanks, mom". I know I can't *make* him play with other kids if he doesn't want to, but is there something I can do to spark some type of social interest in him?

When he is home with us, he is a delight! He is funny, communicates far beyond his 3 years, and is totally on track or ahead of all other behavior and developmental milestones.

It just pains me to see him get upset every time I talk about getting together with other children. DH is starting to think that we need to sign him up for preschool in January and just drop him off and let him "get past it" - I would NEVER do this to him. NEVER!! That would just be punishment.

Anyone been in this situation? I keep thinking it will get better but it actually seems like it is getting worse...
post #2 of 7
It might help you to read up on temperament:
Understanding Your Child's Temperament by Carey is good.
I also like: Emotional Life of the Toddler. Your son is a bit old for it, but I think you'll still get a lot of out it.

I'd also recommend:
The Highly Sensitive Child and
The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child (I'll confess that I didn't like this as well, but I know some people find it useful.)

You could be describing my son at age 3. Unfortunately he had to go to daycare starting at 2 1/2, but we only put him in 1/2 time because I knew that he would have been overwhelmed by full time.

There's a delicate balance between pushing too hard and not enough. We've found it for our son through trial and error. I do think that daycare/preschool was good for him, but it would have been just as good had he started at 4 1/2 or 5.

Time and development have really helped. A thread I posted not too long ago about this is linked below:
Parents of slow to warm up children, take heart!
post #3 of 7

Give It Time

Your DS is still really young. Lots of kids his age don't love group activities.

Our oldest flat out refused dance class the first two times we signed her up. She was four before she really liked activity classes and even then she preferred small groups. She tolerated preschool at three and a half, but she loved it at four and a half.

Try not to project too much of your own experience onto your DS. There is a big difference between a legitimately lonely school aged child and a three year who likes to hang out at home.

For many kids, genuine cooperative play only starts to emerge around age three.

How does your DS feel about one child coming to his house to play? Does the age of the child matter?
post #4 of 7
I wouldn't push it either. DS1 never really went to playgroups etc. I tried to start him at kindy when he was 3yo and he really hated it, he never wanted to go. I gave up and tried again at 4yo and he was so ready. He loved it! Being home with me and only playing with other kids occasionally hasn't hindered his social development in any way. He's 5yo now and at school and has lots of friends.

The main difference between you and your son is it sounds like you couldn't talk to your family about it. Just listen to him and help him how you can and I'm sure he'll be fine. It sounds like you are concerned with his feelings so it's not going to end up the same at all.
post #5 of 7
I agree that reading up about things like introvertedness is insightful.

Also, the stress of it does get better with time. My DD is only 4 1/2, but she has really grown in this in a lot of ways over the last year or so. She is still herself, but she has become more comfortable in more situations too.

What has helped for us: small groups, in our home. Me interacting with my kids and the other kids a bit - opens my kids up more to talking with the other kids (then I back off). My DD being in her own little group (Sunday School) and now with her little brother there she looks out for him and that gives her a grown-up type role so she feels more confident. Playing with younger kids - she likes to baby them and isn't nervous around them like she is with bigger kids. Finding a few gentle souls helps too - my DD is very gentle and the rambuctious kids frighten her. Giving DD time and space to choose who she enjoys helps too.

My DD is very articulate and vibrant at home and a real wall flower at different things. She doesn't like our local playgroup but we still go (it's good for ME and her brother and she can survive! ). She shines in her little dance group and with one or two other sweet little girls. She holds her own with old family friends' kids who are more active and different from her. And like I said, SOOO much growing in this as time goes on.

Tjej
post #6 of 7
My son is 4 and you could be describing him perfectly. We honestly don't push the issue and just let things happen naturally. This year he is old enough for Religious school so he has to go there, and he likes gymnastics but will only talk and interact with his teacher. Other than that, I let him play however he wants. I am concerned about kindy next year, but that will come in its own time and I am determined, ok well mostly determined, to just go with the flow. If he is having an extremely hard time with it, then we will have to look at other options. Honestly none of my kids had play groups, none of them had social engagements until they asked for them. If the activity became too stressful, then I had to remind myself that this was something THEY wanted to do, not something I wanted them to do. Really, reminding myself that a child will know what they want and pushing them will make them pull back helps. I also can't get too invested in THEIR activities, those are theirs to make their own. Just relax, maybe he'll come out of it, or maybe he'll be more like I was. I didn't like crowds or large groups, I didn't get a friend until I was 8 and even then it was 1 friend. I have always found 1 friend I can talk to and be around, any more than that and I feel lost in the crowd. i still won't go shopping on Black Friday because I can't stand it. But, you know what, unlike you I enjoyed my life like that and I wouldn't change it for the world.

I think the most important aspect is that you are paying attention. If he is miserable you will know it, then help with that situation. Right now, he isn't miserable playing by himself, he's miserable trying to fit into a group. Just deal with who he is, and make sure he knows that you are there to support him regardless.
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
Lynn, thank you for the book recommendations. I am going to look into those. I know that love, understanding and time are what's needed in this situation. I just worry because shyness is something I have struggled with my whole life. In fact, I have recently fallen back into a bit of an introvert habit. I don't have many friends and I have an impossible time making new ones. Whenever we try a new playgroup I think he can sense my nervousness and apprehension and I worry that his shyness is coming directly from me.

Thank you for all of your advice!
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