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Can anyone give me some advice for my 'shy' DD?

(23 Posts)
Playitagainsam Sun 24-Jul-16 21:19:34

My DD is 4 and we're struggling to know how to deal with the way she is around people she's unfamiliar with. In fact it's pretty much everyone aside from immediate family - some she'll warm to eventually, but others she'll completely blank. She's been in pre-school for 3 terms now, and she still won't say hello or goodbye to any of the teachers or her friends at drop off or pick up (although they say she's coming out of her shell while she's there). She basically totally ignores anyone who speaks to her when we're out. If she responds to anything they're asking, she'll do it via us (e.g. someone will ask if she's ok and she'll nod at me, not them). Recently she's started making strange baby-like noises (inspired by her baby brother no doubt) instead of speaking, and we're always being asked if she actually talks. But at home, she's very articulate! She's always the one clinging on to my leg at birthday parties etc., although that has got a bit better recently, but I just don't know how we should be dealing with her ignoring people. She will say that she's shy, but I don't know how much of that is due to the not very helpful types who say 'oh, you're shy aren't you!'. To me it seems a bit more wilful - almost like that's just what she does. I'll often see her trying to catch the eye of complete strangers when we're out. She also took part in a nursery assembly where she had a line to say in front of 40 odd people and didn't seem phased by it!
Should we be leaving her to it? I know she's still only little and if she is genuinely shy then we can't force her to change. Or should we be trying to get her to at least do the basics? Hello, goodbye, yes please, no thanks etc.? She's a bright girl and I think she must have some understanding of the need to be polite. She will sometimes say, unprompted, 'today I'm going to speak to X and tell her about y' and then when we get there it's back to strange noises.
I feel like we're not dealing with it well at the moment as we sometimes get annoyed by it. Not great parenting I know. But we're both pretty confident in social situations so we're struggling to know how best to deal with it. Is anyone else the parent of a shy/awkward type who could offer us some advice please?

boardblonde Sun 24-Jul-16 21:40:49

This sounds similar to my three year old. I have recently started reading about Selective Mutism. There is info online and there is also a Facebook group. It's an anxiety disorder. I've found talking to my daughter and trying to reduce anxiety in social situations has helped. I give her lots of praise when she does overcome her shyness in social situations.

Playitagainsam Sun 24-Jul-16 21:57:28

Thanks boardblonde, I've just had a quick read about that. Does your daughter avoid talking in certain situations? Mine does seem to struggle specifically in social situations. But she will warm up sometimes and will chat to friends' children, thinking about it though her issue is mainly with adults.

signalred Sun 24-Jul-16 22:02:49

Very interesting, you could be writing about my daughter, easy to get annoyed as it often comes across as rude. Even just being able to say thanks when she is given a gift is just too much for her and always find myself apologising for it. She's 5 now X

Playitagainsam Sun 24-Jul-16 22:13:42

Signalred she's exactly the same - she once refused to say 'yes please' to a friend offering her something, even though she really wanted it. Although, she will also never EVER say sorry for anything, even at home with us. So trying to get her to say something she knows she should say is hard in any situation!

boardblonde Sun 24-Jul-16 23:04:39

Yes it varies when she will and won't talk. We go to Forest school where she will talk to her friend but if her friends Mum or the teacher try to talk to her she will turn her head away from them. When we went to see the nursery she will be going to she cowered when the teachers tried to talk to her the first time. She did get a bit better and played with other children after two more visits but still wouldn't talk to the teachers. At home she is more confident and will talk to adults we know when they come around and is fine with me and my husband. However when we are somewhere new she will not. If she is given/offered something outside of home, because attention is on her she won't take it and won't say please/thank you. Her baby brother was born 8 months ago and we have had a lot of stress. Her shyness has increased over this period.

Swirlingasong Mon 25-Jul-16 01:08:15

Interesting as this is what I rememberr being like as a child and to some extent still am in that conversation can make me very anxious. I can quite understand being able to say a line in a performance ok. I loved that sort of thung. I knew I could do it well and knew exactly what was expected of me so quite easy, but always a surprise to other people that I did it.

As for why I was so shy, I don't really know. I do remember people being cross or frustrated with me. I don't think I always knew what I should say and liked to get things right so said nothing. Then, if the explanation of what I should have said came with an air of crossness I just got more upset. I think I would have benefited from more calm explanation of what I needed to do and why. Also lots of praise, I know I need positive affirmation to feel confident in what I do so with my own dc always try to mention to them that so and so really enjoyed talking to them and why what they said made me proud etc. We also play lots of acting games where dh or I will work in certain social situations and feed lines to both dc that they can then use. I know later on I was accused of being wilful in my silence but I really wasn't so please don't think that.

Sorry, that's a bit waffle, but as I say, I don't really knows why I did it, but would like to understand. It's great that you want to do something now. My school's attitude was that exams were written so I would be fine. Unfortunately the rest of life isn't written down so once I left school I think it really held me back.

Playitagainsam Tue 26-Jul-16 21:37:39

Thanks Swirling, that's really helpful to get your perspective. Funny how you were also able to do the performances at school - my daughter is the one you'd put money on running a mile from that kind of thing, yet she does it with relative ease. Even I would have been a bit terrified!
She seems to seek out contact with strangers sometimes - she will always want to 'show' one of her soft toys to neighbours/the plumber/anyone random but will then just revert to making strange noises when she sees them.
I think that giving her things to try to say is a good place to start, and trying to role play it with her. Thank you!

Eastie77 Tue 26-Jul-16 22:04:32

She sounds a lot like my 3 year old DD and I have been reading up on selective mutism. DD completely clams up in certain social situations and will not utter a word. She also turns her head away when people talk to her. At home she is a complete chatterbox and literally talks non stop. She is fine with a select group of people including her childminder and a few friends. Also she will be randomly chatty with strangers. A few days ago she carried out a long conversation about her baby brother with a lady in the shop. She will say please and thank you when prompted but this often comes out as a timid whisper when in front of strangers.

On reflection I think her anxiety intensifies when she is put on the spot in social situations where there are a lot of people. I can almost see the panic in her eyes. I avoid forcing her to join in at parties etc before she is ready but have tried to teach her that it is polite to reply to certain questions and what to say.

I was chronically shy as a child and also hated speaking in front of people but like your DD I was fine when performing and loved drama class! Wishing you best of luck with the strategies you put in place, I'm sure it will all work out in the end.

Swirlingasong Tue 26-Jul-16 22:39:19

I can also relate to the strangers thing. I think it's probably because social contact is a nice thing (I am shy but do enjoy and need company) and having that contact with a stranger is completely unthreatening because they have no expectations of you and it doesn't matter if you never feel like talking to them again. Even as an adult, I love a random chat with a stranger in the supermarket but can completely stall on phoning an old friend sometimes. I know it sounds strange but perhaps your daughter's confidence would build if you gently encouraged this sort of contact - chatting to the people on the checkouts etc - rather than with friends and family?

Elisheva Tue 26-Jul-16 22:40:15

I found it really helpful to talk to a shy adult, a friend of mine whom I know well. She could understand much better than I could what DS was experiencing and could explain the thinking behind it all much better than a child can. She gave me really useful ideas and told me things that didn't help, what not to say etc.

GraceGrape Tue 26-Jul-16 22:46:51

Sounds like my Dd, now 6. She didn't talk to a single adult for a whole year while at nursery. I was very worried about her starting school. She's just at the end of year 1 now and has been fine. She is still very quiet but loves to answer questions in class. If she has a problem, she is still more likely to tell a friend and get them to tell an adult, but we are seeing some improvement.

I have always tried not to make a big deal of it but to find ways to encourage her to speak in public, eg at the supermarket checkout. We have also done role play at home to practise something she might have to say to an adult at school. One of the biggest things that has helped has been drama lessons if you have any available near you.

heymammy Tue 26-Jul-16 23:20:53

My dd1 is very similar to your description, she is socially anxious, not shy, but I did find myself, when she was younger, telling random people she was shy as it was an easier way of 'explaining' her problem.

Dd1 is 13 now and over the years has come on so much but still finds lots of social situations awkward but I have finally learnt to go at her pace and never to force her to do something she is uncomfortable with and Never embarrass her publicly by drawing attention to her awkwardness.

Tbh I really struggled with dd1 from around age 3 - 8 or 9 because I just didn't get what she needed from me and actually I was a bit embarrassed that she couldnt converse with others when all her peers seemed to manage it!

Also very similar is that dd1 loves drama! She finds clubs very difficult in general (struggles to talk to adults/teachers/leaders) but has stuck with drama and loves doing the end of year shows.

Sorry, I'm rambling on, but I suppose my main advice would be don't be embarrassed if you have to speak for her until she is able to do it herself. I know that I eroded what little confidence my dd had by pushing her further than she was able to go at the time.

Swirlingasong Wed 27-Jul-16 14:01:19

Another thing I have noticed is that people have a tendency to assume that not talking means not listening or not understanding. In later life, this can actually be quite useful as you can find out all sorts of stuff really quite easily ;-) However, for me as a child, I think it meant that I heard far more than I could emotionally cope with which increases anxiety about the world around you. Also that I always knew which things I was 'meant' to hear and which were only meant to be understood by the adults. I felt I should play along with this so did a lot of double-thinking of what I should comment on or ask about and what I shouldn't which, of course, adds a whole extra layer of stuff to consider before opening your mouth.

MsMermaid Wed 27-Jul-16 14:23:34

She sounds a lot like my dd. Mine is 6 now and will speak to everybody at school now, but when she was in nursery she didn't speak to anyone at all for about 6 months, then she managed to speak to the children but not the adults. I was very impressed by her teachers at nursery and in reception who didn't put any pressure on her to talk, but just joined in playing when she was busy playing with friends she was talking to. She was speaking to her reception teacher within a week!

We think my dd has low profile selective mutism, but it has never been officially diagnosed and I'm not sure that's necessary now as she seems to be recovering already. There is a Facebook group called smira which I have found very useful to read even though I don't very often post on it. It is useful to remember that she isn't refusing to talk, she actually can't do it in certain situations, so getting cross is counter productive.

My dd responds well to prizes (bribery), and has liked having us discuss how difficult she finds it to speak to people although we've only just done that this year. We have a prize bag containing things like party bag toys or small bags of sweets and she gets one when she manages to do something she's found difficult, like talk to her swimming teacher, stay at rainbows without me, etc. Some children find that prizes put extra pressure on them though, so be careful with that. And make sure it's small steps, don't just jump in with a big challenge. Eg, my swimming lesson example, we had a prize the first time she managed a whole lesson without crying (that took 5 lessons), then a prize for the first time I could watch from the spectator area rather than on poolside (another 3 lessons), then a bigger prize the first time she spoke to the teacher (another 5 lessons) and finally a prize for changing from one to one lessons to group lessons (only another 3 lessons). Now she feels comfortable doing all of that, but I don't think she'd have pushed to do it all if there hadn't been the small prizes for every step of the way, and each step was her choice when she did it.

Playitagainsam Wed 27-Jul-16 22:48:40

Thanks Eastie, our DDs certainly have a lot in common! Can I ask, has your reading up on selective mutism given you any insights about how to deal with it - if that's what it is?

Playitagainsam Wed 27-Jul-16 23:00:37

Thanks everyone, I really appreciate the thoughts and advice. I don't like that I get cross with her sometimes, and I suppose I need to view it as something she 'can't' do rather than 'won't' do. MsMermaid, the swimming lesson thing is a great example because in 2 terms of lessons, she has never once spoken to her swimming teacher! All the way there she'll be talking about how she's going to talk this week, and what she might say, but it never actually happens. As soon as the lesson has finished and we're out of earshot, she starts talking normally again. I was quite (very) embarrassed about it for a while, and I think I find it harder as she gets older because her peers are so much more socially advanced.
She does respond well to bribery so I will give that a go! And I must check our local drama classes for her too. I also totally take on board the points about not pushing her as it's bound to be counter productive.
If nothing else, it's just so reassuring to know that it's not just us!

Playitagainsam Wed 27-Jul-16 23:02:15

Swirling, that's an interesting perspective because my DD seems to have super sensory hearing and nothing gets past her!!

ThatsWotSheSaid Wed 27-Jul-16 23:06:41

I tried Puppets, role play etc. Also with my DD telling her she doesnt have to talk if she doesn't want to helps her a lot. I think it reduces the anxiety.
My DD has sensory processing issues (I don't know if that impact on things or is a coincidence) and apart from not liking performing it sounds like your DD is the same as my DD was at that age. She's much better now but still takes a few minutes to warm up at parties.

Playitagainsam Thu 28-Jul-16 13:03:58

Thanks Thatswot, I had read something about sensory processing disorder, bits of it seem to fit but not others. How did you find out that your DD had that? What's the process for looking into these things to find out if there is anything there? It'd feel a bit strange going to the GP saying my DD doesn't like talking to strangers confused.

ThatsWotSheSaid Fri 29-Jul-16 20:32:09

An OT from my work did an assessment on her. It was just a questionnaire but we are taking her in for a full assessment at some point. You can ask your health visitor but they probably won't know too much about it. There is a book called the 'out of sync child' but there is a lot of info online too. No child will have all the symptoms but most tend to be over sensitive to sensory information (picky eaters, hates labels on clothes etc) sensory seekers (fidgety, loves all things fast and messy) or children who are under sensitive to sensory information (doesn't respond appropriately to name, slow and seemingly lacking in energy). Lots of children will be mixed responding differently at different times or to different types of stimulus and just to complicate things children will have sensory issues at some point. My daughter is a classic sensory seeker. We are just at the beginning of finding out about what it all means really. We initially became concerned because of her attention in class and I thought she might have ADHD.

Jojay Fri 29-Jul-16 20:44:57

She sounds v similar to my dd who's just turned 5.

She gas never taken part in a school play, hates sports day and having her photo taken, and was a complete cling on for years.

She's had an amazing year in Reception though and has come on amazingly. When she first started j had concerns about her speech and asked the SENCO to have a listen. It took dd two terms to speak to her enough for the SENCO to make an assessment but now she's well away. She now speaks in circle time, will do shoe and tell in front of her class etc and has a great relationship with school staff.

Outside school she's still shy of new people or situations and takes a while to thaw out at new places but she's getting there.

Don't pressurise your dd, let her follow your example and she'll get there in her own sweet time.

0AliasGrace0 Sun 31-Jul-16 20:28:30

Another selective mute here too. My DD is 5, has sensory processing difficulties and hypermobility (EDS courtesy of me). I've not gone down the diagnosis route for her lack of speech, simply because we've had so much intervention for one thing or another since she was born (she was prem). I'm convinced hers is related to the sensory stuff. She becomes wide eyed and freezes, it's heart breaking to watch. I don't push her to talk, and I'm sure people think I'm an overbearing mother for talking for her, but the stress is too much and waiting for her to respond just heightens her anxiety. She doesn't stop speaking at home, and with most family members, but even then she's selective. When she started school she didn't speak there for 6 weeks, it was terrible and the shit teacher told me I had to face facts that I had a reserved child. She's not reserved, she has sensory difficulties. But it has got better at school and my heart swelled with pride when her report described her as giddy!

We're back to the peads next month, and I may mention it, it depends how it goes (suspected precocious puberty, so it's going to be shitty enough). I tend to model non verbal signs with her if she's asked a question and I'm there, she'll look to me and I'll nod/shake my head/offer a thumbs up sign depending on what's being asked and sometimes she'll manage that. I guess I really should bring it up, but the poor kid has so much to contend with as it is. We had a fab sensory assessment privately. Her NHS OT picked up on her sensory stuff but they don't offer sensory assessments on the NHS in our area. I paid £600, but it was worth it and has helped the school to understand how she operates and me.

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