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Shyness: accept it as part of DS (even when it can seem a bit like rudeness), or try to coax him out of himself, or both?

(15 Posts)
Scrumplet Fri 04-Sep-09 00:34:31

He's 5, and lively and confident at home and with family and people he knows well. In bigger groups, and/or with people he doesn't know so well, he clams up and will barely speak, or speak in a whisper or ask me to speak on his behalf. I feel shy sometimes, too, so I can relate to how he might be feeling, and I don't think a bit of shyness is anything to worry about. But it's when it comes across as rudeness, or holds him back, that I wonder if it needs to be "worked on". He won't say thank you or goodbye at the end of a playdate, won't give eye contact when he's like this, won't ask someone to play with him, won't answer a question from a friendly stranger/relative he doesn't see much - which I find a bit embarrassing, because it seems a bit rude. I end up trying to get him to speak up, often to no avail, and then answering/asking on his behalf. And he spends a lot of time in these situations hiding behind me.

Is this just normal developmental shyness, which he'll grow out of? Should I always insist on good manners, though, however hard he may find it to speak up - or just keep modelling them myself, and hope he'll follow suit? Help me decide if this is actually a problem or not! Thanks for any tips.

Tortington Fri 04-Sep-09 00:40:21

you need to take him to join some team sports me thinks
footy
ruggers
where he has to actively participate as a team member

Scrumplet Fri 04-Sep-09 01:52:41

Thanks, custardo.

I've tried this. Twice. He won't take part - not unless I am doing it with him all the way, and often not even then.

I think a martial art would be great for him - he's quite a physical child, and able sports-wise. I've enthused about martial arts (and taken him to a taster session), and other activities, and he isn't interested - partly because this kind of organised activity doesn't grab him, and partly because he's turned off by not knowing any of the other children. It's the take-a-horse-to-water scenario here.

He's only five. When we were that age, we weren't doing any clubs or activities like this - so I'm not worried about his reluctance (yet). Nor a bit of shyness per se. It's just when it comes across as rudeness, or noticeably starts to hold him back, that I'm bothered. Hmm.

Tee2072 Fri 04-Sep-09 08:04:35

As someone who was, and in some ways still is, painfully shy, please please please do not push him to interact if he doesn't. That won't pull him out of his shyness. If anything, it will push him to be more shy.

And playing sports is not the answer either.

Let him be shy. If he won't say thank you, its not the end of the world. Say it for him. That's your job, IMHO, as his mum.

He will get better. In his own time.

Barmymummy Fri 04-Sep-09 08:08:05

Will follow this with interest as I look after a little boy occasionally (age 4) who is just like this. He does not talk to me at all the whole time he is here,won't ask to go to the loo so wets himself and when you talk to him he just stares at me with no answer.

I don't know how to handle it really. He never runs off with other kids, never leaves his mums side and at playschool is similar.

He is soooo shy and so is his sister.

As I say, will watch for some good advice and tips smile

PuppyMonkey Fri 04-Sep-09 08:14:33

Shyness is nice...

It is very difficult to make someone who is shy not be shy. A bit like making someone have a different accent or something. Let them be who they are, I say!

If he is quiet and doesn't say thank you, just explain to people that he is shy with new people and isn't being rude and will come out of himself once he gets used to them.

And if teachers start saying: "Oh he's doing well, but he's so quiet~" as if this is a very bad thing, punch them for me will you? grin wink

fartmeistergeneral Fri 04-Sep-09 08:16:28

People always say that playing sports or doing martial arts will increase their confidence, well I haven't found this at all.

My ds is shy (8) and so am I really, though as an adult, I can cope with it and overcome it in most situations.

My ds does do sports and goes along willingly and happily, but he's still shy. Still looks at the ground when the coaches talk to him. It's just the way he is.

I don't think people would think not saying please or thank you is rude. They will be able to see that your child is just a bit shy.

Keep encouraging him in all aspects of his life, as you would do anyway as a good parent. And just accept the way he is, I think. We're in the same boat!

MIAonline Fri 04-Sep-09 08:28:27

I agree with the other posts that say to let him develop in his own time. We are not very forgiving of shyness, yet wouldn't dream of telling an outgoing child to constantly quieten down.

Just don't ask him to say thank you etc initially and back off, if you still wanted to introduce basic social conventions. Then perhaps if you take the pressure away and then start adding in one new expectation every couple of weeks. 'When we get to x's house it would be great if you said Hi' I think 5 is old enough to talk it through a little, being gentle and taking it as his pace.

saintmaybe Fri 04-Sep-09 08:29:46

Actually I wouldn't say he's shy in front of him, kids have a way of living up to expectations. I'd say, 'say thankyou' very kindly ONCE, and if he doesn't then give a big smile to the thankee and say it yourself. They'll know he's shy, and that you're showing him what to do. That way he can see it's easy and uncomplicated to be polite (enough to get people off your back!) rather than getting even more stressed.

And you sound like you're worrying that people will judge you/ your parenting if he can't answer etc. I know it's hard, but try to let go of that, it makes it hard to respond to him the way he needs. It's very worrying for children to feel they're letting you down.

If you're shy too, try to remember what helps/ helped you. I know for me it was always not feeling like I was getting it wrong, that I was ok and liked anyway.

saintmaybe Fri 04-Sep-09 08:32:17

Good idea from MIA too

jessia Fri 04-Sep-09 08:44:40

My DD1 (nearly 6) is the same and I have/have had virtually all the same dilemmas as you. I can't imagine a situation in which I'd be able to "take her to join some team sports" because it would be impossible even to leave her there, even though physically I think she would be great at sport. While I think at preschool it is the teacher's/assistant's job to spend half the morning five minutes helping a shy child to settle in, at sports and other clubs it's not really, so we only go to ones where parents are welcome to stay.
If we are going to friends/anywhere where it would be polite/nice for her to say hello/thankyou etc., I talk her through what we all have to say calmly just before, and promise to hold her hand while we "get through the ordeal" (of course I don't say that to her grin. And I explain why we do this - that these are friends we haven't seen in a long time, we're all pleased to see each other, etc. And then resign myself to the fact that she will do what I ask but will do it so quietly and looking at the floor that no-one will hear it anyway.
She is even capable of giving a shop assistant money now, or if there's a fairground ride or similar she really wants and I tell her exactly how to phrase her request to the person selling tickets, she can just about manage that.
I do push her a little but it's a very very gradual process and it's true, I had to get over myself first.
Will watch this thread for more strategies. Good luck!

Scrumplet Sun 06-Sep-09 14:52:27

Great posts. Thanks ever so much. Really helpful.

Can't reply more at the moment, but wanted to say a quick thank you for your responses.

jamsandwich Wed 09-Sep-09 10:19:31

hello there, lots of good ideas here.

Just wanted to introduce the idea of selective mutism - I know it sounds like a scary medicalising term, but understanding SM and knowing that there's a name for my dd's difficulties has really helped our whole family. Some family members have taken her silence/ lack of thankyous/ goodbyes etc as a great personal affront, or just see her as a "little madam", whereas now I know about SM, I can see most of her "difficult" behaviours are about her trying to protect herself from anxiety-provoking situations. And we were unwittingly contributing to these before.

SM is very different to shyness - shy children will take a while to warm up, but will manage to chat freely given time. A child with SM will remain silent in given situations.

I wouldn't try to guess from your thread whether this is what is going on for your ds, but I'd really suggest you look into it.

If you google the SMIRA website, you'll find loads of fantastic downloads (free grin) that give you tips on what to say and not say. Does your ds manage to speak in school? that tends to be the biggie for SM kids. there is also the concept of "reluctant speakers" where the child will give a few words in answer to questions, but reluctantly. These children also need some special support from adults to help them feel more able to communicate in time.

I could go on for pages about it. There are a few of us on Education, talking about SM if you want to join us. And the SMIRA website has great chat forums. I really feel for you and am sure you can help your ds work through this.

basic Wed 09-Sep-09 10:23:55

Being painfully shy when younger I tried so hard (perhaps that's where I went wrong) to make sure mine not same. One is too loud and sure of self other is painfully shy and now does not do any activities now - now that she can speak for herself. (ie when little went to everything joined everything including sports). In the end decided have to go with the flow and just be encouraging but not push her out to do what she really finds painful to do because of being shy. Have explained that some don't see the shyness they often see a rude person unfortunately. Wish you luck.

jamsandwich Wed 09-Sep-09 10:25:07

BTW, we get round the lack of goodbyes with some people by saying "see you later alligator" and getting them to do the appropriate response. That way it's a bit of fun rather than making her feel anxious. But it doesn't work with everyone so we try to encourage a wave. And the most important thing was telling everyone (family, friends/ school/ neighbours/ favourite shopkeepers etc) about SM and how to deal with it, which took away most of the pressure to speak completely.

And it is paying off - she's speaking again to some people after months of silence...

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