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My DD has always been a laid-back, reserved kind of child. She's never been really comfortable in noisy situations or in crowds or in other overwhelming kinds of situations. Also, she's not a daring child-- she's naturally cautious, and tends to take awhile to warm up to new situations and people. None of this surprises me-- DH and I were both fairly reserved, cautious children, and the lifestyle we lead tends to be a quiet one. It makes sense that DD would be like us.

As she gets closer to two, though, I'm starting to get worried about her. Lately it seems like she's afraid of EVERYTHING and EVERYONE other than me and DH and our own home and backyard. She can't abide having guests in the house, other than a few familiar people-- when my stepbrother comes over, she hides under her bed and won't come out until he goes out on the porch. He can stay for hours, and she'll maybe warm up enough to LOOK at him for a minute. She's like this with most people who aren't me, DH, or her grandmother.

In public, she is incredibly fearful whenever there are any strangers around. She can't play with or approach anything that's interesting to her if there's anyone else around, even if I go with her. It hurts me because I can see how badly she's wanting to go play on the slide, or in the fountain, or whatever it is-- she stands and WATCHES the other kids intently, but if I even suggest that she and I might go play too she breaks down and buries her head in my lap and cries. This happens even in very familiar places where she's been dozens of times.

If a checkout clerk or somebody says hello to her, she has hysterics.

She's afraid of water. She's afraid of trucks and cars, motorcycles, and helicopters. She's afraid of lawnmowers, tractors, leaf blowers, vaccuum cleaners, the blender, and the coffee grinder. She's terrified of falling, so that she can't go down stairs without being carried even though she's perfectly well able to walk down stairs with a bit of help. She doesn't climb or jump, either, because she's so afraid to fall, and she can't sit on any chair where her feet can't touch the ground without holding me in a death grip the whole time. (She's never had a bad fall that might have traumatized her, I don't think. She's had a few skinned knees and bumped heads, but what child this age hasn't?)

My mom says it's my fault. She says it's because we live in such an out-of-the-way place, and because DD is mostly home with me all day. She says I have to MAKE DD do the things she's afraid of, and that I have to take her out to noisy places and places with lots of people and kids, so that DD can get used to dealing with those kinds of situations. Usually my mother's advice is dead-on correct, but there's no way I'm going to force DD to go down a slide or play in some water, as if I even could, and I'm not going to deliberately put her in situations that give her hysterics. Never mind the fact that I've TRIED these things, and they only make DD MORE fearful.

I'd like to gently encourage her to open up more. I don't like to see a girl be so fearful of taking risks, and I don't like to see a child so young be so serious and anxious all the time. It's not the carefree curiosity you expect to see in a toddler, and it worries me. I just don't know how to draw her out without making her distrust me or fear ME. I want her to know I accept her the way she is, and that I understand her fears, but I also want to help her find a way to be HAPPIER.

The situation is complicated by the fact that I'm pregnant and incredibly short on patience.

Anyway, I know this is really long, but I can't imagine I'm the only one who's ever had an unusually shy or fearful toddler, and I thought maybe somebody more experienced might have some advice for me. I'm so worried about my baby and I don't know what to do to help her. Or if I even need to do anything to help her.... Some mama wisdom, mamas???

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That sounds tough. Some children/people are just painfully shy and no matter what you do they will never become very outgoing. That being said, it is important to help your daughter become as comfortable as she can be outside of the home/family. It sounds like you are doing the right thing by gently encouraging her. I do not think you should force her into frightening situations at all. Rather, try to gently push her just outside her comfort zone. By nudging her just outside her comfort zone she will begin to see that X isn't so had. For example, my dd is terrified of the vacuum cleaner (she doesn't like loud noises at all either). However, she is at the point now that I can vacuum if I hold her while I'm doing it. After doing this for awhile, she will now occasionally let me vacuum without holding her, although I still usually have to hold her. It's a long process, not to mention that's it's physically difficult to hold a 24 lb todder and vacuum the house
, but I want her to get used to it.

· Premium Member
14,435 Posts
hugs mama! I hope someone has some wonderful advice for own dd is shy, but nothing like what you're describing. I can't think of anything that might help...

DD will hide her face in my leg of shoulder when we're out and about, or hide her face in her stroller when she's out with my mom (who has a bad back and can't carry a toddler). She generally will open up after being around someone for a few hours but the random person in the checkout line is a sure fire "face hiding" moment.

Is there a place where she seems especially confident or comfortable? Could you help her to spend more time in that space and then gradually introduce one "new" item at a time? Like make a smoothie for her to drink or something to help her get used to the sound of the blender? DD is still scared of the vacuum cleaner but nothing like she was...dh or I would hold her while the other "danced" with the vacuum cleaner for a moment or two. Gradually the dance got longer, then the dance got shorter again but now dd stood holding onto dh or my hand. Once she was okay holding hands for a long dance, we moved on to having her on her own in another room, then the same room...

A really slow process, but it worked! Maybe once she overcomes a few fears the process will snowball and she'll build on her success? Could you go to the park or fountain during a very quiet time so she could become familiar with the palce before having to deal with other children/people in that new space? Or does she have a doll or toy that she could care for in these scary situations? My dd will often "help" one of her toys do something that she is learning how to do herself and she seems to gain confidence from being able to help dollie climb the stairs, etc. I had more ideas than I thought I would

I hope your little one blossoms!
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