Monday, 28 January 2013

My Shy Boy - dealing with shyness

My shy little boy.

My 2.5 year old is chronically shy.

I want for him to be able to hold his head up and for people to know that he is there because he deserves that. He is amazing. I feel unbelievably guilty about this, now i feel guilty about most things but this really may be my fault or maybe his dads.....probably his Dads, Right? 

Did you know that shyness is hereditary? No neither did i and its not making me feel any better. When i say hereditary i'm bending the truth a bit, it hasn't been proved if it is nature, in the genes or Nurture, how the parent treats the child or what examples the parents sets that causes a shy parent to produce a shy child but it has been proved that they do.

N's Dad, Daddy Muggles was a very shy child, he grew up into a shy young man and to get over his shyness, he drank. He drank so he could relax when he was in company. This lead to addiction, which he has now overcome but it still sits in the back of my mind that if someone had helped him deal with his shyness as a child would his life have followed a different path. I'm not saying all shy children are going to become alcoholics, just that my husband did. I want to help N deal with his shyness now so it doesn't cause problems for him later on.

I on the other hand wasn't shy as a child, nor really as a young adult but well life has taken its twists and turns and I'm now not shy exactly, (public speaking no bother, talk to a new mom at playgroup, terrified)  but I'm what people describe as standoffish, aloof, even arsey!, i have been called all of these things. Generally as part of a sentence something like, I thought you were so arsey when we first met, you didn't even talk to me but you're really nice now. Why do people say things like this? I would never say, God i thought you were so loud and vulgar but i now realise its just an act because you are so insecure. Yes i think it, I'm not perfect but i wouldn't say it.
I don't mix well, where some people talk when nervous, i clam up, hence the Standoffish etc. I'm not, i love a good chat with people, i just take time to warm up and feel comfortable but unfortunately a fair few people have already judged me by then so its too late. My husband also says i have a grumpy face! I'm sure this cant help matters. I don't want either of the above scenarios for N.

So my gorgeous little boy gets all scared and withdrawn in company and its because of me! *Sobs*

There is a certain amount of mock self flagellation in this piece so prepare yourselves, i'm not really that hard on myself, well not always anyway.

I knew i needed to look into this for a couple of reasons.

  1. I'm starting to think of it as a problem. If i think its a problem then so will he and i don't want that.
  2. His playgroup workers were truly amazed when they overheard him talking to me as they had him down as a NON SPEAKER. What??? No one thought to tel me this?.
  3. They then told me, now they had heard him he was actually an ADVANCED SPEAKER and they may send assessments home for me to do with him so it gives a true indication of what he is capable of as he doesn't show them. Well great but what about when he gets to school, they wont do that which means he won't be fairly assessed.
  4. He managed to get himself wedged in between a table and a wall in the doctors waiting room today trying to hide from a lady who only smiled at him! This required me to move the seating arrangement around to free him.
  5. The only time i could ever see my uber sensible little boy running into the road is to avoid a well meaning, overly friendly cheek pinching old lady.
So I've done a bit of research online. I found the most helpful info Here and Here

The information is out there but it was harder to find that expected so i decided to write up a summary in case anyone else found this useful. I am in no way trained in child behaviour so i just felt i should add - This is in no way a medically/scientifically sound list, its just what i have found online which seems good logical advice. If you have concerns about your child then you should always seek professional help.( I know you would, i know you aren't stupid but just felt it was best to cover myself.)

This is what i learnt, it was one of those moment where you want to hit yourself in the head and go DUH. I'm not sure i could have been doing more wrong.


  • Don't label your child as Shy, especially in front of your child. -  I am guilty as sin of doing this. *Berates self* i thought i was protecting him so well meaning people who get in his face would back off but apparently not.
  • Don't force him to be social, let him come round in his own time - so no more gentle pushes towards the other children thinking I'm being helpful. If you pull him into social situations like a tug of war he will pull right back into that shy corner. So Bloody obvious it actually hurts me.
  • Don't ask him to perform. No more 'sing nanny old MacDonald had a farm then however cute his animal noises are.
  • Don't treat this perfectly normal personality trait as a problem. If I'm really truthful, i do! it worries me, i worry it will hold him back. I worry, i just worry.
  • Don't plunge him into new situations without warning. Prepare him in advance.
  • Don't berate him for being shy or trivialise it.. Now I'm not going to cover myself in glory here but i have on one or two occasions told my son he is being Silly to be shy in front of X. SILLY, SILLY! What was i thinking. If he feels that way then that isn't silly its a valid set of feelings. I feel fatter today than i did yesterday despite knowing i haven't put on lots of weight over night. I know this but it doesn't make me FEEL any better. Its how he FEELS that matters.
  • Don't take over when you see them struggling, it shows you don't believe they can do things. This will be so hard for me.
  • Don't berate yourself in front of your children. No more "Silly Mommy" comments then.


  • Do normalise doubts, explain everyone feels a bit nervous sometimes in situations. Give examples where you have felt like this but got over it.
  • Do model the behaviour you want your child to exhibit. Be confident, smile at strangers, interact with people you don't know well. I am not good a this, i don't 'do' interacting with strangers.
  • Do teach Social Skills, practise these in role play at home. Pretend play dates with the teddies etc
  • Do give opportunities in a trusted environment to practise these skills. Play dates at familiar places rather than new ones.
  • Do think of trigger situations and practise how to deal with them at home using role play.
  • Do boost self esteem with specific praise. i.e you did really well talking to the lady in the shop just now.
  • Do encourage hobbies and talents that make children feel special to raise confidence.
  • Do show physical affection and tell your child they are loved often.
So, i'm doing a lot wrong but i do quite a lot right too.

I praise, i am affectionate, I tell him he is loved. We have play dates at home.

But there is room for improvement. I'm going to work on this with him in a playful fun way and work on myself while i'm at it.

I'll try and that is all anyone can ever do.

I would love to hear you tips on dealing with shyness. What do you think of these do's and dont's? Any advice is gratefully received. x

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