We Got a Shy One Here

It’s been a while since I gave an RB40 Junior report. The last time was around Christmas when he was moving back to his old preschool. The cooperative preschool didn’t work out like we hoped. He kept asking to go back to his old school. I’m happy to report he’s really enjoys going to school now. This school has extra classes after lunch, so he gets to stay an extra hour. He’s taking Spanish, gymnastics, and cooking. That works out really well for me as well because the extra hour is extremely helpful. I don’t feel like I have to scarf lunch in 10 minutes, then rush off to pick him up anymore.

So on to the next problem. Lately, I’ve noticed that he doesn’t interact with adults anymore. Previously, he didn’t have any problem talking with adults, but something changed in the last few months. Now, he doesn’t want to talk to grownups at all (other than his parents). He either doesn’t say anything or he talks so quietly that nobody can hear him.

shy kidThe Cookie Incident

Every Friday, we go to the bank to deposit checks and get some Friday cookies. Who doesn’t love free cookies and coffee? Well, the kid just gets cookies. He doesn’t need any stimulants. Last time, the cookie tray was empty and junior was in distress about it. One of the bank tellers saw this and went to look for some cookies in the back. He brought out a cookie for the little guy and I prompted him to say thank you. He clammed up or said it so quietly that I couldn’t even hear him. I kept telling him to say thank you louder, but he just wouldn’t do it. I got pretty mad about this behavior, so the rest of the day was shot.

After that incident, I observed his interaction with adults more closely and I see that he doesn’t talk to adults anymore. I asked his teachers and they noticed the same thing. He does what they ask him to do, but he doesn’t talk to them. At least he’s talking and interacting with other kids, so he’s not a social outcast.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

Of course, I consulted Mrs. RB40 about this and it turns out she had a huge problem talking to adults when she was little, too. She didn’t feel comfortable talking to adults and avoided it into her early teens. Her voice was so soft but it sounded loud in her head, and she’d make her mom mad, too, when she whispered, “Thank you.”  She never went to the school cafeteria because it meant that she would have to talk to someone else to order food. It was just easier for her to remain hungry when she forgot her lunch. Yikes, that’s not good. I want our little guy to be able to at least manage a short polite conversation with adults.

As for me, I’m a little introverted, but I’m not shy. When I was a kid, I didn’t have any problem talking to adults. I enjoy meeting new people in a 1 on 1 situation. However, I’m not great in a big group. I guess he’s taking after his mom in this instance.

 It’s okay to be shy

I researched a bit on the internet and the consensus is there is nothing wrong with being shy. It’s estimated that 20% to 48% of people have shy personalities. It seems the more you push a kid, the more they will withdraw. I’ll back off for now and try not to pressure him too much. We’ll just work on building his confidence and keep practicing various scenarios. There are some locations that he’s comfortable with and we’ll try talking to adults there. The library is a comfortable spot for him. We’ll work on talking to the nice librarians.

Anyway, I guess it’s okay to be shy. I just want him to greet adults and say thank you at the appropriate times. He doesn’t need to carry on a conversation if he doesn’t want to. Although, being outgoing would make school a lot easier for him. Our society just places a higher value on an outgoing personality. Isn’t that true?

Do you have shy kids or were you one? How can we help encourage him to interact with adults more?

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37 thoughts on “We Got a Shy One Here”

  1. I was very much that way as a child and my son is following in my footsteps. My daughter, not so much. I thought for a long time it was about a lack of confidence for me, but as I’ve gotten older, I wonder if my introverted personality played a role. I’ve moved past the shyness – I didn’t have a choice when I routinely spoke to groups of 150+ people at my previous job – but personal interaction, especially at large gatherings, is incredibly draining. My wife and I both win out when she has a girls’ night because she gets her much-needed interaction with friends and I get a chance to be alone for several hours after the kids go to bed. Because of that, I’m not too harsh with my son with he withdraws in certain situations. He’s 8 now, so he understands that he has to exchange pleasantries and that we always look people in the eye when talking to them, but once he hits that threshold, I back off. His sister talks enough for the entire family, anyway.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment. Our kid will probably be an introvert. Both of us are one, after all. Speaking to a group will definitely help. Right now, he doesn’t even want to bring anything for show and tell in his class. We’ll work on it as he get older. I wish I worked on it when I was a kid. I’m still terrible at public speaking. I don’t really need to do it, though.

      Reply
  2. Hi, I remember very well when I was a child and was dubbed “shy” by adults. Adults are big people to a child. It’s a whole different place to them. I use to think that they were talking to me funny. When in reality it’s what adults call , patronizing. And making remarks about me to my Mom like I wasn’t there and couldn’t hear it. So be patient with the adults around your children. And tell your child to be polite even though the adult is silly.

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  3. We have the exact opposite situation at our house. Mini Maroon #1, who is two weeks from being three, will announce anything and everything to anyone he meets. Take last week, we were taking baby sister to the doctor… As the nurse came to bring us in from the waiting room, he announced at the top of his lungs – as always – that his sister had a fever. Just the latest of his crazy outbursts. It does worry me though that he will be TOO willing to talk to strangers one day…

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    • Hey, he was like that about 6 months ago. We met a gentleman in the elevator and Junior said “he’s fat!” Good luck with the outbursts. 🙂 I think it will go away soon.

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  4. Junior is a kick! He speaks quietly but he seems to always smile at adults even when he’s uncomfortable. Shyness can be good with a child; they shouldn’t talk to just anyone. Perhaps it might help to talk with Jr. about how it’s good that he doesn’t talk to everyone, but there are some people he should talk to, like his teachers, because they are there to help him if he’s in trouble or danger.

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  5. He’s so little! He is not being rude, and any adult who thinks so is silly. I think the most important thing is how YOU handle the situation. Encourage but don’t force, praise when he is interactive, and always say positive things about him in his earshot. I found my kids believed what I said about them, both good and bad things! I love the idea shared about creating situations where he is incentivized to communicate to strangers.

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  6. As an introverted father of four kids, their is nothing wrong with letting kids be themselves.

    Even as an adult I moved up the career ladder and needed to more outspoken. I hated it. I chose in 2001 to move from managing people to databases and have not looked back.

    Every company needs a wide range of personalities. Some flourish with their mouth and other with their brain.

    Three of my kids are outgoing and one is introverted. I would not change any of them.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your input. Being introvert is fine. I’m one too, but he needs to learn how to greet people and be polite. We’ll work on it.

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  7. We have two older boys. One was extremely shy and the other was so outgoing, he embarrassed his older brother to no end. The older one outgrew it and is now very outgoing.

    I would suggest to continue the “thank yous” and acknowledging people. It is polite to say thank you. I always told our boys that they didn’t have to have long conversations with adults but that they needed to acknowledge them. It drives me crazy when I see kids I know and they won’t even look at me.

    Also, I don’t think four is too young to have these conversations with about being polite and acknowledging people. Tell him he doesn’t have to have long conversations but it is good to try to be polite. Don’t get mad when he can’t but ask him to try. I agree, practice will help.

    Reply
    • It must be tough for kids to maintain eye contact. Our kid can do it, but he has to be prompted. I guess he doesn’t like making eye contact. Actually, I’m not very good at that either….

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  8. As a very quiet kid myself, and an introverted adult, I would recommend practice and incentive. It killed me as a kid when my parents said I was shy to strangers. It made it so much worse. My initial error (speaking too quietly, not making eye contact, weak handshake) was now an insurmountable label. humblefi’s suggestions are great. Breaking down the barriers that kids/people build for themselves can be broken with practice and what will get a kid to practice? Candy, gum, toys, praise, whatever motivates them. I wish someone had done that for me.

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    • Thank you for your comment. I’ll try not to say he’s shy. Let’s not bring attention to it. I will give him some incentives for being more social. 🙂

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  9. Shyness is a personality trait, not a fault. Some children are just shy. As long as you are happy with his emotional development then you have nothing to worry about.

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  10. I wouldn’t worry too much. I was very shy too (I still am, a little) , and, if anything, I was studying more because I didn’t like being too social. Yes, I was a geek. When I have kids, I wouldn’t mind it if they’re shy or introverts, I guess just try to teach them to believe in themselves. He’ll probably grow out of it, but either way, I don’t think it’s a bad thing .

    Reply
    • I don’t think it’s bad either. He just need to learn enough to be polite. Saying hi and thank you shouldn’t be that difficult. We’ll work on it.

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  11. Our 3 year old is shy when she first meets someone, but once the faucet gets opened, she’s a non-stop chatterbox, as she’ll go through a list of all of her toys and everything she’s done and has planned for the day with anybody that shows interest and that she deems as OK.

    My son is 5 and we’re really working on trying to get him to do the please and thank you thing regularly as he should be old enough for that by now.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing. Yes, being polite is necessary. You don’t have to carry on a conversation, just respond appropriately when needed. Not saying thank you is not acceptable. We’ll work on it too. Good luck.

      Reply
  12. Ah ha…I went through this phase with my kid as well. My kid was shy for a long time…so, I decided to run a few experiments. Here are two things I tried which worked very well for my kid.
    + I started taking him to Grocery stores and created scenarios where we would need a price check for a chocolate or some snack that my kid wanted. Asking for the price from the store person became a barrier to obtaining the snack and that barrier was slowly broken..sometimes my kid would deny wanting the snack, sometimes the price was obtained. Some improvement via this method for sure..
    + What really worked was doing the same thing in a Toy Store. We had gone to a space exhibition once where there was a gift shop with Discovery Space shuttle. I told my kid that if he asked the price, I would buy the toy. Man was I shocked…the totally super shy kid, who would never even lift up his head, went to the counter, found the store manager, got the price and came back with a super smile. I bought the toy of course, but dismissed it as a one off…boy was I wrong. After a while, it became an expensive deal for me 🙂 But, this method worked wonders…is the shyness totally gone? Nope. Is the kid more than functional now in other areas apart from snacks and toys? Yes. We need to periodically have booster shots (like vaccines), but seems to be working to a fair extent.

    Try those two with your kid and see how he reacts to it. Hope it helps!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the tips! I will try the toy store. 🙂 He might be too smart for that, though. He knows how to look at the price tag already… Yesterday, he wanted a set of Lego and it cost $29. He wouldn’t put it down. Finally, I showed him I only had $16 so he relented and put it back. I don’t think he understands credit card yet. I’ll have to hide that from him. 🙂

      Reply
  13. Our daughter is 3 and still doesn’t say thank you, but that’s more her language skills than social skills.

    Sounds like your Little Guy is just shy, and that’s ok. I think we expect our kids to be our clones and it can be tough to know how to parent “right” when they have their own personalities that are different than ours. I think your plan to practice in comfortable situations is a good one (as long as the practice don’t become uncomfortable and ruin favourite places)!

    Reply
    • I will give him a lot of space and back off as needed. If he can’t do it, then I’ll help out. I think practicing will help quite a bit.

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  14. I have 2 sons. The first one is a super extrovert and has been since he was a baby. I am not as extroverted as him and admire his social ease (he is 7 now). My second son is shy and behaved similarly to your son…I couldn’t even get a quiet thank you out of him to a stranger. And then miraculously one day he chatted up a librarian. I am not going to say there was a miraculous 180 degree change. But the extreme shyness was a stage. Some days he will talk to strangers and some days he won’t. Some days he goes into preschool without incident some days he clings to me. But I am very careful to NOT label him as shy in front of him. I read somewhere that if you openly talk about your child and say he is shy that is exactly what they will become. So I don’t label it as I don’t want him to inwardly accept that is how he is. And I don’t want to excuse his non-response when strangers ask him questions (he is now 5)

    Reply
    • Great! Thank you so much for your comment. That’s what I was talking about in the last comment. I don’t want to label him as a shy kid. I’ll have to figure out exactly what to say to strangers. It sounds like your younger son is starting to get over his shyness. That’s great! Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  15. My 3.5 year old son is shy also. Sometimes I feel bad, because when we are out running errands, say at the grocery, the bagger will offer him a sticker and he will turn head his head and squirm around as much as he can to not look at them. It bother me, I admit, I feel like he’s being rude, but I usually just tell the person he is really shy and they understand, so I don’t feel as bad. His little sister is now in a class he used to be in, with the same teachers, and my son acts like he didn’t spend 6 months with these teachers, hiding behind my legs. I am really shy too, and I remember it being hard when I was a child and growing up. I figure when he gets older, I’ll try and teach him some skills so he can deal with being shy and not being socially awkward.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment. Our guy has been avoiding the checkout guy lately too. It’s funny because previously he didn’t have any problem talking to them. I read that you shouldn’t tell people the kid is shy. It will make him more self conscious or something like that. I forgot what you’re suppose to do, though. Maybe say he need a little time to get comfortable with someone. I need to look that up.

      Reply
  16. I was VERY painfully shy and the feeling of being looked at when I was supposed to speak to adults was the worst. it’s true that the more I was pressed the worse I was because it focused attention on me and distressed me to the point of muteness. Effective things: getting down and whispering what I was to do if I had to speak. If told sternly, loud enough for everyone to hear what I was supposed to say, I froze and physically could not do it. If told quietly without fuss beforehand, I could muster up the courage because I didn’t already have the spotlight on me. Afterward, very quiet praise that didn’t draw attention to me felt good. Effusive praise was awful!
    I preferred being ignored when meeting new people as well. Give me time to get used to them and I would warm up. Force the interaction and I would again freeze.

    I remember those days and that horrible pit in my stomach even now, it would have been a huge kindness if adults had allowed me the space I needed to acclimate at my own pace. Good luck working with Junior! Being shy can stay with you for a long time but I think it improves much faster when you work with the kid’s nature.

    Reply
    • Thanks you so much for your perspective! He can’t express himself so it’s difficult for me to understand him. I pushed a bit hard the first couple of times, but now I’ve backed off. I just tried preping him before hand at the library and it worked out pretty well. I’ll give our guy a more space to establish his comfort zone. I really appreciate your comment.
      Best wishes.

      Reply
  17. If you haven’t already, check out “Quiet: The power of introverts” by Susan Cain. It’s fantastic and will make you feel better about this 🙂

    I’m a non-shy introvert and I’m finding it fascinating reading.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the recommendation. I just put in on reserve at the library. I’m a non-shy introvert too. 🙂 Hope things are going well in Taiwan.

      Reply

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