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painfully shy toddler

(15 Posts)
MamaChris Wed 07-Oct-09 17:05:28

I understand that every child is different, but ds (20mo) really is painfully shy, and I don't know how best to help him. With either dp or I, he is chatty, bossy, happy, energetic (either at home or when out in a non-crowded place), but has never been smiley.

When someone else tries to talk to him (even people he sees regularly), he puts his head down, looks miserable, and won't speak. At a play group yesterday (messy play), he didn't talk the whole time, wouldn't look at another adult or child, and would only point to what he wanted (at home he'd use words).

He goes to nursery 2 days/week and says he likes it, likes the cars, but I have never seen him interact with another child. The nursery say don't worry - children this young don't interact, but, quite plainly, other toddlers his age see him and react in some way - wave, say his name, offer him a toy etc - while he either blanks them or looks at the floor.

I'm shy myself and have poor social skills, which I know doesn't help. I am so so worried about this - will he ever make a friend? Does he find it really distressing? Can anyone suggest what we can do to show him it's safe/fun to play with other children?

MintyCane Wed 07-Oct-09 17:20:50

Do you invite them home ? One of mine was/is like this but has got a lot of friends now. Don't worry about it too much. smile It might be worth you doing a Social Anxiety Selective Mutism search on here and google though just in case it is more than shyness.

MintyCane Wed 07-Oct-09 17:22:59

BTW it most likely is just shyness and he will grow out of it.

pigletmania Wed 07-Oct-09 17:50:54

oooh that sounds so much like my dd 2.7years, since she started to go to preschool she is more shy and clingy. When going to preschool does not respond to greeting, bursts into tears. We saw her friend from mums and tots yesterday, she has known him since she was about 7 months old, duely bursts into tears all the time clinging to me saying mummy coming back, mummy home., as soon as we leave their house happy and smilling again. Sorry no advice by i do sympatheise, i am a very outgoing and friendly person, but my dh is shy.

My dd is a lady of very few words lol

MamaChris Wed 07-Oct-09 20:13:10

thanks both. ds is the same at home or out, really. can be more confident if he's holding a favourite toy (he then has something to do and looks at toy instead of floor). I'll look up selective mutism, but I do think the main motivation is shyness/fear of people rather than any problem with his speech.

he's not really clingy, unless ill. he's excited to go to nursery when we leave the house, and not outwardly unhappy when we drop him off - he doesn't say anything, but he does wander off into the big room of toys and doesn't look back or ask me to stay. it seems less that he needs to be close to me/dp - he sits and plays on his own at nursery without being upset - and more that he just can't bear contact with anyone else.

MintyCane Thu 08-Oct-09 09:44:59

Children with Selective Mutism don't have a problem with speach as such, they speak very well at home. They are are often loud and articulate at home. They often have high IQs. However, when you are around other people they will not talk or make eye contact. My dd has never cried or made a fuss about going to school. She has lots of friends these days and is doing very well academically. However, she doesn't speak at school only at home. It is worth keeping it in mind.

In most cases children grow our of it and it is just shyness.

MamaChris Thu 08-Oct-09 20:16:00

thanks MintyCane. have read a little on it, and it makes logical sense to me (who is shy!) - social situations are scary, so protect yourself by putting some barrier between yourself and the scariness. not talking would fit. is your dd shy too?

how can I work out whether my 20 month old has an early form of this or is "just" extremely shy? (it sounds to me like the two are somewhat related). He will talk to me in front of other people - either if they're just standing nearby, or if they're talking to me. But if they try talking to him, he'll look at the floor/shoes and go silent. I need to monitor whether this happens every single time or not - although it is my impression that it does.

The other day in a playgroup he did point to his shoes while looking at another boy, which I took as a very positive form of communication, and encouraged ds to show the other boy his belly and hands etc. They were waving hands at each other in the end (but I don't recall ds speaking). I'll also ask at nursery tomorrow whether he speaks when I'm not there.

But assuming extreme shyness is the root (correct me if I'm wrong), what can I do to help? Your dd is older than my ds - has she said whether there's anything you can do to make it easier for her?

toffeeapple Thu 08-Oct-09 21:26:22

Hi my friend's little girl used to be exactly how you describe, she wouldn't talk to anyone at all unless at home to her parents.
If you saw her now it would be enough to reassure you, she's outgoing and doesn't even seem shy anymore (she's now 6).
What her parents did was to send her to 2 different preschools so that she could mingle with as many kids as possible because they were quite worried about her.
I don't know if that's what did the trick but something sure did!
Unless she just grew out of it.
I know my daughter is highly sensitive, and I am reading "the highly sensitive child" at the moment. Could it be that your ds is just highly sensitive?
The author does say that a HSC (Highly Sensitive Child) may find social novelty a problem (ie: the more unuasual or unknown the person, the more hesitant, does not like meeting a lot of people at once or does not like to be questionned by strangers).
If that's the case it's nothing to worry about either as apparently 15 to 20% of children are born highly sensitive.
It might be worth doing the author's online test here

MintyCane Fri 09-Oct-09 09:31:34

I agree with toffeeapple that is a good book. Mine dd is also a HSC. It sounds like he is unlikely to be Selectively Mute if he is talking in front of others. That is a very good sign it is just shyness.

While my youngest dd is very shy but for us it was more than that. My dd1 was very shy like your child. Now at 12 she reads things out in assembly and is very loud and outspoken in public somtimes blush Good luck with it all. smile

mammamia25 Fri 09-Oct-09 15:40:32

Just wanted to say my dd (2.2 yrs) is similar. She has always been very clingy and won't move away from my knee at playgroups etc. She used to use a toy when interacting with others ie if I encouraged her to say hello, she'd say hello waving her toy's paw - although she's now stopped carrying her toy everywhere, which I took as a sign of "slightly" more confidence! If another child or adult is near her she will turn her head away and refuse to look at them - although with encouragement sometimes she will say hello and give a little wave (very frustrating if the other child then doesn't respond - no positive feedback for her!). She won't play on play equipment at all if another child is on it. No advice I'm afraid, other than to share how you feel - I was also a very shy child and still find social situations difficult, and had really hoped dd would be different - don't want things to be painful for her too. She doesn't go to nursery or a childminders, and I'm dreading it if she is still like this at 3 or later. Also, wish we knew more children like her - wherever we go they all seem so confident, with dd the only one glued to her mum's side!

MamaChris Fri 09-Oct-09 20:16:59

reassuring that he is unlikely to be selectively mute MintyCane, thanks, and most encouraging that your dd1 managed to become loud! I am fed up with the number of times strangers come up to me in public places and say "ooh, how do you have such a quiet/well behaved child?" as if it was a good thing. I want to shout "he's not quiet, he's just terrified because he doesn't know you, how is that a good thing?!" (but, of course, I don't).

toffeeapple, that test is little hard with a toddler (what's a big word for his age?) but I suspect he might be borderline on that test, not strongly HSC. He isn't worried by loud noises, just interested. (loud people on the other hand...) very reassuring to hear about your friend's dd.

there do seem to be some useful ideas there though, so I will try and get a copy of the book. thanks for the suggestion.

MamaChris Fri 09-Oct-09 20:22:58

mammamia yes - they sound very similar! ds will climb down off play equipment in the park if another child comes near or stands near the bottom of the slide.

it's good to find someone who can sympathise. I am trying to find quiet children for ds to have regular one-on-one play dates with, in the hope this will help him learn to play in a low stress environment. but it's proving difficult! like you, I find most other local children are super confident, and they just scare ds

I really really want to work out what I can to help him past this. shy myself, I so don't want him crippled by it in the same way I've been at times. not really sure what to do, but am going to start with that HSC book, I think.

toffeeapple Sun 11-Oct-09 11:59:27

Mamachris, my dd is not at all bothered by loud noises or bright lights but she is still a HSC. I appreciate that it's hard to do the test for toddlers.
I really recommend the book though, I can't put it down at the mo. It gives you amazing practical advice and within days of reading it I can see tremendous change in my dd, just because I behave differently towards her.
Yesterday she had to go to 2 parties and I thought she was going to be a nightmare.
She was worried about them and asked me if I would be there.
I said to her: whatever happens, you will never be forced to do what you don't want to do. And if you want me to stay I will.
Something I would have never say in the past.
She was a changed child.
When we got into the room full of dancing kids she wouldn't go in at first.
But I gently encouraged her and said: "you don't have to participate we could just watch it might be just as much fun!"
She sat next to me for 5 seconds and joined in, she was so eager I couldn't believe it!!
I think our attitudes towards it makes a massive difference!
I used to get quite frustrated with her deep down, and the more she sensed that, the more she would withdraw.
That book had been a blessing for me, I am a highly sensitive person myself but very different to my dd.
I would give it a go and try to be more relaxed about it all! smile. Acceptance is the key

toffeeapple Sun 11-Oct-09 12:07:15

Sorry I reread my post and the english was really dodgy at times. I meant to click preview post and I clicked post message. I hope you got my meaning anyway smile

phdlife Sun 11-Oct-09 12:52:36

just wanted to chip in my tuppence -

my ds was also like this, at least up to 18m. I remember a friend from our bfing group coming round and being astonished to see ds in his natural setting/mood as he never got off my lap in the group setting! We moved countries when ds was about 20m and I don't know whether it was that or suddenly having a much-adored, very noisy 8yo cousin about, but ds has totally come out of his shell. Very sociable now, will even thank strangers in shops, etc.


Take him to playgroup, and he could best be described as "wary". Fastest way to get him out of the cubby is to send another child in there with him. I think he's suspicious of other little kids as they are so unpredictable and noisy (he totally loses it over unexpected squeals, shrieks etc, always has done - so interesting what you're all saying about HSCs and loud noises. ds becomes hysterical.) He does much, much better with older kids though, so that might be a thing to consider, if you know any older kids for your dc's to play with.

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