Advanced search

Am I doing the wrong thing by speaking for my dd when she won't speak?

(64 Posts)
Wallace Sat 26-Mar-05 22:08:34

I recently started a thread about being a bit concerned that dd (3.9)doesn't talk to other kids or adults, apart from close friends and family.

I think I may be making the problem worse. When somebody talks to her, I know she won't answer, so when she ignores them I answer for her. Should I be doing this? I just don't want to seem rude, but there is no chance she will speak, even to some people she knows, like the waitreses at the cafe we have been going to at least once a week since she was born!

When they say "Is she shy" I tell them that dd will talk when she is ready, and leave it at that. I don't want her to label herself as "shy". does that make sense?

misdee Sat 26-Mar-05 22:09:36

dd2 wont talk to people. i just tell people not to expect her to talk to them, she may give a nod, or a sly glance at them but rarely speaks.

hunkermunker Sat 26-Mar-05 22:10:32

Think you're very right not to force her to speak or have her labelled as shy. Sounds like you're doing the right thing to me. Is she chatty at home?

Mud Sat 26-Mar-05 22:11:59

I wouldn't answer for her to be honest, I think you might be compounding the problem because she always knows you'll answer for her

Unless of course its important, otherwise just leave her to it and reassure her that whenever she wants to speak that fine with you

(I wish I could shut my kids up to be honest)

AuntyQuated Sat 26-Mar-05 22:19:52

i think you are doing the right thing...give her a second or 2 to answer herself, look at her, then answer for her in a tone that she would answer in. some children just don't know how to respond so in responding for her you are teaching her how to respond.iykwim try to keep your responses very similar so she can build up a bank of responses herself. if the other person come sback with another question then again give her that short opportunity to reply before you do it. as you answer for her, look at her not the person 'she' is talking to.

if you didn't answer for her then it would make her feel very uncomfortable and things could get worse.

if anyone asks if she is shy say NO, but she's learning through observation!


Miaou Sat 26-Mar-05 22:21:18

dd1 is like this also - she is 7 now, and very shy. I don't worry about speaking of her as being shy, and she doesn't mind being called "shy" - because we have always been at pains to make it clear that it is not a negative thing, and that she should be proud of who she is. For dd1, though, the pressure is relieved slightly by her very talkative and outgoing younger sister! We have just moved house and the dds have moved schools, and she has had no problems fitting in, people just seem to accept that she does not talk to them or look them in the eye.

dd1 was at least 6 before she would have a "conversation" with another child outside the family, and even now will virtually never initiate conversation with anyone (outside family), including close relatives.

I doubt you are making it worse, Wallace, IMHO only insisting that she speaks could make it worse. I have a good friend who is extremely shy, but she has achieved all her aims in life and it has not held her back in any way. I hold her up as an example to dd1! With dd1 we tell her that she is fine the way she is, work on bolstering her self-esteem, rather than insisting that she fits in with society's ideas of how she should act. In our experience, that comes when she is ready.

Wallace Sat 26-Mar-05 22:22:24

Very chatty at home, but at nursery completely ignores other kids, and won't speak to teachers, but will gesture.

Thats what I thought mud about her learning that if she doen't speak it doesn't matter because I'll do it for her.

It is tricky though, conversations often go along these lines:

An aquaintance will see she is wearing her nursery jumper and say,
"Were you at nursery today?"
Dd ignores them
"Are you not speaking today *****?" (have they not noticed she never does!)
Dd ignores them
"Are you shy?"
Dd ignores them

At this point I usually say that she is not shy, but doesn't feel like speaking. Or I say to Dd
"It was a nursery day today, wasn't it?"
Dd might, if I'm lucky, nod!

Wallace Sat 26-Mar-05 22:25:05

Thanks Miaou, hat makes me feel better. I never thought of it that way AQ, that I am teaching her appropriate responses

AuntyQuated Sat 26-Mar-05 22:27:21

poor thing, i'd answer straight away, as those silences must be awful for her

does she ever say anything at nursery, does she answer a register, ask for the loo? anything at all?

Miaou Sat 26-Mar-05 22:27:48

Wallace, when dd1 was your dd's age, I would crouch down next to her, then do as AuntyQuated suggests, whilst encouraging her to join in with nods and shakes of the head, eg "yes, you were at nursery today, weren't you?", so the cue is there for her to nod if she wants.

I would also encourage her to say hello to people, by crouching down and saying to her, "can you say hello to x?" - even a shake of the head is communication. Also with saying thank you when she was given something - would get her to whisper it in my ear if she couldn't say it out loud!

That way I was taking the pressure off her (which simply would make her clam up more), but still encouraging her to communicate in her own way.

Mud Sat 26-Mar-05 22:29:53

but WHY doesn't she answer?

I have no experience of shy children, but for a 3 and a 1/2 year old to just plain IGNORE someone she sees regularly would actually worry me, communication is such a prime part of social interaction

AuntyQuated Sat 26-Mar-05 22:34:09

if she is choosing not to speak, they are not necessarliy shy and used to be(and may well still be) termed "elective mute". talking with family is a complete diffrent skill to conversations with those less familiar.
i would say it is only a probelm if it is hindering other learning or is causing distress at other times.

Wallace Sat 26-Mar-05 22:34:22

Thanks for the suggestions

I don't think she does say anything at all at nursery. She has been there since August and had started to talk to the teachers a bit, but hten stopped again when it became busier. I will be going in to talk to them again after the holidays. She also doesn't do co-operative play at nursery, but will at home with 2 close friends.

The funny thing is, she doesn't seem awkward or anxious around people, just she doesn't want to speak to them (don't we all feel that way sometimes!)

Wallace Sat 26-Mar-05 22:36:06

it does worry me a bit sometimes, and othertimes I think it's just her personality.

Miaou Sat 26-Mar-05 22:36:31

Mud, some children cannot BEAR to have any attention directed at them at all - dd1 is classic with this. We were at a children's party this afternoon and she won musical statues - when all the children rushed up to congratulate her I could see the panic on her face - she can't cope with everyone looking at her! Total total opposite to dd2 who simply loves attention! Speaking to people is another way in which they have the attention of another person - dd1 (and children like her) simply find this threatening.

I have had to work hard to understand this because I am like dd2 - but I am SO glad that I never pushed her to do what she simply wasn't capable of doing. Consequently she has good self-esteem and is now reaching an age where she knows what she has to do, whether she likes it or not - eg answer people when she is spoken to, say thank you unprompted, ask to go to the toilet when I am not around etc etc. We just accepted that she would take longer to do these things than other children.

AuntyQuated Sat 26-Mar-05 22:36:31

why doesn't she answer?
i'm sure there could be many many reasons
she may want to but be almost stuck in the rut.
she may not want to talk to THAT person
she may not like the sound of her own voice.
however, i have always found ( I am a primary teacher) that they are usually very intelligent; imagine, it must take something to stay quiet!

Wallace Sat 26-Mar-05 22:39:24

Come to think of it she does ignore family members and close adult acquaintances at times to. She tends to do tit when they speak to her her in what I think of as the wrong way, can't really explain what I mean. Things like asking her questions about something when she is clearly focussed on something else.

AuntyQuated Sat 26-Mar-05 22:44:08

also, try and get her to join in with nods/shakes of the head, by finishing many of your answers for her with "didn't we ?/ aren't you? type of thing

Wallace Sat 26-Mar-05 22:47:21

Thanks again Miaou and AQ.
Recently at nursery she drew a picture which was clearly some sort of vehicle. The teacher asked her was it a car, bus or lorry with dd giving no response. She then asked dd could she shoe her which letter it began with, and took her over to the alphabet chart. Dd pointed to "V", and the teacher realised it was a van! So she does communicate, but it would be a bit easier for the teachers if she spoke

AuntyQuated Sat 26-Mar-05 22:49:51

maybe easier for the teacher in one way, but it is children like her who make the job more interesting and rewarding. you really feel like you have moved mountains if you can get them to want to speak. making them speak is just bullying

Wallace Sat 26-Mar-05 22:55:04

Thanks, you really have made me feel better. I will try some of your suggestons, and pay more attention to her reactons during conversations (or non-conversations!)

Miaou Sat 26-Mar-05 22:56:31

Aw, sweetheart, my heart goes out to her.

I think dd1 would have been like this in nursery - only I was her nursery teacher and the only other pupils were a little boy and dd2 - so it kind of eased her into talking in that environment.

Take heart in the fact that she is communicating - showing them which letter her van began with is an achievement!

I have read bits about being an "elective mute" - IIRC the advice is to just go with it and let them speak when they are ready. I know for a fact that dd1's first teacher was seriously worried about her when she started school, but over a period of time (and I mean years rather than weeks or months) she got better. Fortunately the teacher never forced her to speak. And AQ, she fits in with your experiences re intelligence - she is now in P3 and working at P5 level!

Miaou Sat 26-Mar-05 22:57:35

sorry I'll shut up now - as you can tell it is a subject I am passionate about

Trifle Sun 27-Mar-05 12:53:49

To be honest I dont know if you are helping by speaking for them. I think it is all tied in with confidence and manners. I often have to prompt both boys (age 3 and 5) to respond when spoken to, even to the point of reminding them that when we see so-and-so to say hello etc. I tend not to respond for them, particularly the 3 year old and if he is asked whether he wants a drink, biscuit, to play outside etc then I remind him that he needs to reply. At a recent lunch party I sat next to an 8 year old I have known for a couple of years. I asked him a question and he completely ignored me. I thought this was blatantly rude and at that age should have the manners to respond. At 3.9 I wouldnt say this was rude but shows a lack of confidence.

Wallace Sun 27-Mar-05 16:55:36

This is difficult - there seem to be two different points of view here!!

Miaou, don't shut up, it is really nice hearing from someone else who has dealt with something similar That was lucky that you were her teacher in nursery, and that the class was so small. I was curious and looked up elective mutism (now called selective mutism) and she does meet the criteria I think. I wish I could watch her in nursery (without her knowing I was there) and see what she is like for myself.

AQ - have you taught children who refuse to speak in class? Was there a great concern about them, or was it more like "They''ll speak when they're ready"

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: