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Shy and quiet 5th grader and "normal" behavior

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

Hey there wonderful mothers,

 

I have a 10 year old 5th grader. She is younger for her grade. She is also the oldest of my 3 kids. We had a parent/teacher conference recently and her teacher said that she's doing fine, but would like to see a little more spark in her, my guess: a little more participation. BUT my concern is on the manners aspect of quiet and shy. When grownups ask her questions, she's always a little reluctant to answer and is often inaudible. There's no "spirit" to her answers, and I think she's old enough to have coherent conversations with adults. She's part of a large family, with many aunts, uncles and a few older cousins; all whom she knows very well. She had an akward conversation yesterday with neighbors who were just asked a basic question, and she barley answered, even when their kids were inquiring about the same thing. Should I be concerned or should I just chalk it up to being young? If so, how can I encourage her to be more expressive because I do feel as though it's a matter of good manners because she is old enough to have appropriate conversations with adult. Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill? I'll add that I'm social, not shy and have modeled my own appropriate manners with friends and others daily. 

post #2 of 4

As an introvert and a mother to a bunch of introverts, one of whom was extremely shy, another fairly much so, I'd be very careful about framing this as lack of manners, or inadequate understanding of social conventions, or lack of personality and 'spark.' It's likely that her flat, inaudible answers with adults are coming from a place of social anxiety. Putting pressure in her to behave in certain ways is likely only going to increase her anxiety, which will make the problem worse.

 

I would say that at 10 she's old enough to understand that people "present themselves" publicly and make an impression on others with that presentation, and sometimes we all need to do a little work on how we do that. There may be a time to gently explain to her that sometimes people mistakenly perceive shyness and anxiety as rudeness or lack of manners, and to point out that this is very unfortunate, because you know she's a gracious and considerate person, and it's too bad people sometimes get the wrong idea. So maybe this is something worth thinking about as she goes about in the world.

 

As for working on her social presentation skills, I think there are two routes. The first is to practice vocal assertiveness in a controlled way. People always talk about role-playing as being helpful, but my kids thought that was the most contrived and humiliating practice and just rolled their eyes and refused to participate. Trying to get them to role-play increased their sense that I was pressuring them for certain responses, which increased their anxiety and reduced their ability to do anything positive in public. So instead we looked to various theatrical sorts of experiences that would give them the chance to practice projecting, to "push their voices out," but in a scripted way. For them this included being involved in puppet shows, community children's theatre, announcing their own music recital performances, reading poems aloud for an audience, participating in making radio shows, etc. We were able to find a number of activities over the years. They knew what it felt like physically to 'turn on their theatre voice.'

 

The other way to work on this is to find situations where the social anxiety is not a problem and to gradually expand the scope of those venues. So for my most mute child who would not speak to her piano teacher at lessons, we saw that she would speak comfortably to adults she knew well who were visiting socially with our family in our home. So we invited her piano teacher over for some social visits at home. And gradually her comfort speaking with the teacher here spread to speaking to her at lessons. And then, when she changed piano teachers, she spoke with the new teacher right away, because she'd grown comfortable speaking in a lesson situation. And then it stretched to speaking with guest piano clinicians in workshop environments. So we started with what was comfortable for her, and began stretching her just a little from that point of comfort. 

 

I do think that there's a greater self-awareness that usually kicks in around adolescence that can make social anxiety issues more challenging, but also can motivate kids to work a bit harder to overcome them. For better or for worse adults tend to expect more self-assurance at this age, and be less charitable in accepting shyness and social quirks, so it's a good time to start working gently on these issues. Gently being the operative word, since anything that triggers anxiety will definitely be counter-productive.

 

Good luck!

 

Miranda

post #3 of 4

I was horribly shy as a child.  I wish there were social skills groups back them because I seriously needed it.  Nowadays, social skills groups are pretty common.  They work in small groups (maybe 5 kids at most).  They gently work on improving self esteem, speaking up, and just having fun.  It would be great if there's something like that offered near you.  If there isn't, maybe you could ask her if she'd be ok with you starting a group for her.  Ask her to invite 2 of her friends.  You would have to be the 'leader' to help facilitate the group.  Play fun board games and chat about interests while the kids play.

 

(My son has been in a group since January and it has really helped.

post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 

I agree with all these points, I would never have her role play, and I always remind and show her that I love her for who she is, but I think we can work on this, and these suggestions are helpful. She's on team gymnastics and plays the violin, so she has a concert and meets all winter long, too, so these events will be good for her and beneficial I think. Thank you. 

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