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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My daughter is almost 4 and quite shy. She has been since day 1...very slow to warm up--even with grandma and grandpa who she LOVES!...although it is sometimes situational because she'll run right up to my mom who she only sees 4-5 times a year and gives her a big hug.

My best friend has a 16 month old and my daughter is ALWAYS very shy when we are at their house. She will hardly even talk to friend's dh, will talk sometimes to my friend, and will play with their son as long as his parents aren't around.

So, she clings heavily to me, sits on me, swings on me, runs from their kid etc. Well, my friend recently told me that she thinks her son feels bad because my dd won't play with him. This isn't the first time I've heard this and to be honest, my first thought is "so, he can suck it up, SHE is the one in distress."

Except then I wonder how much distress is she really in. She doesn't appear to me to have anxiety about it, more like "I just don't want to be sociable in this atmosphere" My friend equates being shy with being anxious or scared. Do you think that's accurate? I'd hate to think of my dd being "scared" all the time in company. I always figured it was a way of being and not necessarily related to fear. She does seem to warm up faster in other company than my friends...

I can't figure it out and don't know if there's anything I need to do. I want and encourage her to be herself. I figure at some point she can learn that if she wants friends, she'll have to talk to them, but I don't want her responding and talking to people if she feels uncomfortable doing that. I don't want to make her shyness debilitating for her, which I can see happening if I push it.

seriously, is there a thread for this? I couldn't find one in the search.
sarah
 

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Hi. I have experience from both perspectives--a "shy" kid growing up and now the mother of two "shy" kids.

First of all I hate the word "shy" as a label. I will occassionally use it to descibe a "feeling" rather than a state of being. As I was growing up, I would be introduced as ,"This is _____, she's shy." And guess what? I became shy until I was mature enough to decide for myself that I wanted to let the world know who I was. (That didn't happen until age 16)

With your Dd, is she just a quiet kid or is she sentsitive? Will she talk at home to you? If she's just quiet by nature then that's fine--she probably will never be much of a talker.

My 4 year old dd will talk my ear off at home and with people she's comfortable with but if she is anywhere she doesn't feel comfortable, she wil not say one word. She will cling to me as well. She has made huge improvements over the past year, and the only thing I've done to help her is to just be there and not push her. Age 2 1/2 was her most sensitive age. (also new bro arrived on scene!) family would visit and she would sit on my lap facing me (while I tried to visit and look after a fussy infant) and squirm and be very anxious. I tried to just accept that she wasn't ready to run off and play and all she needed was her own time and space.

My ds is almost 2 and I see him as being more on the quiet side than shy. He is not as worried about people around him, although still very aware. But he has a quiet personality, and a lot of people equate that with shyness.

As far as the scared/anxious thing...I guess feeling shy is about anxiety. Your dd just isn't comfortable. She does not feel safe enough to be herself. This is how I can best describe my childhood memories, but of course I don't know your daughter.

In your situation, I would just say to my friends, "Dd really needs her space and takes a long time to warm up to people...if we push her to do something she's not ready for, that will just make it worse," Hopefully they can be sensitive to her temperament and won't shame your dd because of it.

There are some people Dd will just never warm up to. They are people who just don't understand her and don't respect her, so I have no problem with her deciding who she likes and who she doesn't.
 

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I agree about not using the word "shy", esp in front of your DD. Apparently I did this once (my older DD is also more retiring, shall we say) and now she has glommed onto it and uses it as her reason for not saying hi to people we know, not saying thank you to the woman at the post office who gave her a sticker, etc. It's going to take a lot of talking to undo that one word!!

I try not to say anything anymore. I figure people can figure it out for themselves that she's not the most extroverted kid in the world. And that's fine with me, great really. I was "shy" too as a kid...in my case, some of it was fear of rejection.

HTH!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
yeah, we tried that initially, but you can't get away from it. everyone and their brother has the same response when she doesn't talk to them..."Are you going to be shy today? you're shy aren't you? etc." So, we go ahead and use the word shy, but I continually let her know a.that it's ok and b, she can talk whenever she's ready and doesn't have to be shy or quiet if she doesn't want to be....thanks for the link!

sarah
 

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The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child might be interesting for you. I think that I like "The Highly Sensitive Child" better, but both are good for understanding this trait.

I would actively resist family calling your daugther shy. When people call our son 'shy' I will always pipe up and say 'he takes his time to warm up, but when he warms up, he'll be ready to talk to you' - just because I don't want to think of himself as being anxious around people. He's not, he just doesn't care to talk to people he doesn't know!!

I also ask our son to acknowledge people non-verbally if he cannot bring himself to do it verbally. We also talk about how other people feel if he doesn't acknowledge them. 90% of the time these days, he will at least wave to people. The other 10% is usually when he's overtired or it's someone he really doesn't know. For his friends at preschool, he will actually greet them/take leave from them VERBALLY (a HUGE improvement over last year where if we got a tiny wave, we were lucky).
 

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I'm not sure that any of my thoughts on this are at all valid, because as the shy parent of a shy child I just feel like burying myself in a hole half the time.
: However, I think that in almost everything, it is good to grab on tight and trust that your child will work things out in her own way, even if you have to bury yourself 100 times first and pretend you're fine with it.
Today we were in the supermarket line and someone gave my dd (who is closer to 5yo) some crackers and I was floored that she did NOT hide behind me, scowl, or say, "Why did she give me that?" (Btw, in the past when that happened I have simply followed my script and modelled saying thanks and/or afterwards briefly discussed the other person's possible intentions and feelings w/o shaming, but I did kind of worry that I was raising an antisocial beast and it was all my fault bc I didn't know what to say.) Instead, she SMILED and said, quietly, "Thanks." !!!! I was privately overjoyed. I said, "Wow, you said thanks yourself." And she said, "Yeah, I said it even though I felt shy."


I do worry about the power of the word shy (as in others' comments), but at the same time, I'm not sure if the word has really been self-fulfilling for my dd. I offered it as a way of describing the feeling she was having, and she did indeed latch onto it and start saying she was too shy to say hi, answer questions, say thanks, etc. On the other hand...I'm not sure how different that is from saying that she is angry, or sad, or happy, or stressed. I think that maybe part of the issue for Grace is that she feels put on the spot and like it is more pressure than she can handle. She has explained it as being something that grown-ups say (e.g. thanks) and that she can't say it. Which I guess means that she doesn't feel ready to handle the situation as the main actor. Gradually, that has changed, and she has begun to feel more ready. She will introduce herself to other kids, and answer questions about her age and her name, things which she was completely loathe to do at 3yo.

What I think is really unfortunate is how many people do not seem to respect the fact that kids are not always ready to handle being put on the spot. It is like some kind of shame, that the child must be maladjusted or misbehaving if s/he does not respond to each situation according to the proper social script. That is, if a strange adult comes up to my dd and asks with a huge condescending grin, "Well HELLO, what's your name? How old are you?" -- she's supposed to be thrilled and play along by holding up 4 fingers or something, so that they can go away feeling great about how good they are with kids. People seem hurt even by a slow-to-warm infant into whose face they are practically shouting. I think that kids deserve understanding when they feel shy, and their playmates deserve help in understanding this just as they would have when other normal emotional issues come up among kids. Most kids do experience shyness at various times, although some more than others, and maybe for a longer block of time (like, a year plus
).
 

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i really liked some of the things Mary Sheedy Kurcinka has to say about different temperaments in "Kids Parents and Power Struggles" though i'm not that fond of the title of the book. she talks a lot about we all have different tendencies. my dd1 is very sensitive and cautious and sometimes shy or sometimes quite outgoing, but when she was little she was very often very shy. now she's usually quite outgoing, but still very very cautious. i usually tell her and other folks that she likes to check things out first and then might warm up. check out the book -- it's really good. it will also help you look at traits in yourself and see how you can work with your child so both your needs are being met.

hth
 
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