they’re squirrelly and shy

August 18, 2014

girliesgirliesgirliesgirliesThese girls are goofy and playful. If you met them, they would be absolutely silent and you wouldn’t get to see how silly they really are because they are super shy, but they are so funny (when they aren’t shy)! True is the shyest, and we think about putting her in traditional school to see if that would make a difference with her shyness, but we don’t think it would. I think if she were in traditional school, she would easily get overlooked in a classroom because she would stay on task, but she’s just so quiet, she would get lost. The other girls aren’t nearly as shy, but they follow her lead when we’re out and about. When they aren’t with her, they are much more outgoing. It’s so interesting how the oldest really influences the rest of them.

As parents of a very shy child, I find it difficult because she can come across rude and it may seem like we don’t teach them politeness. We are constantly reminding her that even if she feels shy, she can still be polite and greet people. We practice how to greet others (like here) and they meet other kids often, but sometimes that shyness just takes over. It can be so frustrating! She’s such a sweet girl, but it just takes some time for her to come out of her shell. We had a large group of friends over a couple weeks ago (with their kids), and I think it took about an hour to break out of the shyness, but once she did, oh man… all the kids were running around the house. We just need to remember to be patient with her, keep practicing, give her opportunities to practice, and praise her when she takes steps forward (and be encouraging when she needs it). One plus of them being shy is that when we are out in public, especially when dining out, they are pretty behaved. It makes us look like we have really great parenting!

But when they are with people they are comfortable with, they (even True) are squirrelly children. We are always laughing at the funny things they say and do. Soul’s always saying, “Stop laughing. Why are you laughing?!” It’s so cute.

Any of you have super shy children or were shy as a child? What are some things you did or your parents did to help you feel more comfortable engaging others? We understand their shyness is part of them and we love that, but we also want them to have a healthy balance of being able to engage others and not letting their shyness hinder them.

on me: dress, vintage from ms. tips. shoes, swedish hasbeens. necklace, handmade. on true: dress, handmade pattern in my book. leopard shoes, c/o old navy. on brave: dress, handmade by me. shoes, zara. on soul: top, misha lulu. denim skirt and jellies, c/o old navy. on glow: dress, from auntie reinna’s travels. shoes, vintage.


14 comments on “they’re squirrelly and shy”

  • Tera says:

    Thank you so much for this post. Today was the first day of school for us and it’s events like this, that make it tough to stay patient (for me). I had my oldest clinging to one leg and my other son clinging to the other, all the while trying to hold the littlest and make it through the crowd of parents and students. I had the principle and teacher come up to greet us and my oldest wouldn’t greet them back because he was so nervous and shy. I know with time they’ll adjust. It’s nice to hear that others are going through the same thing!

  • Sara says:

    Hi! I just wanted to write because True sounds SO much like me when I was growing up. Have you heard of Selective Mutism? If you haven’t you should google it. I’m not saying that True has it, but I just wanted to let you know about it (if you don’t already) in case she does. I was diagnosed with it a few years ago, but I would have given anything to have been diagnosed at a younger age. If only so that I would have been less misunderstood. As some who grew up with extreme shyness, I think that you are on the right track with the things you are doing to help your girls. My mom was always my greatest support. I know it was frustrating for her at times, but she never gave up on me and was always encouraging and kind. I went to a therapist in fifth grade and she would give me little “assignments” each week such as saying hi to the librarian or ordering my own food at a restaurant–seemingly small things that absoultely terrified me. It has been a very difficult road, but little pushes outside of my comfort zone, positive encouragement and a lot of determination on my part have helped me go from being unable to say hi to most people, to spending most of my days speaking in front of groups of people. The worst part was when people made me feel like there was something “wrong” with me or that I was incapable because of my shyness. I’m sure it’s difficult to deal with as a parent, but it sounds like you’re doing exactly what you need to do to lead them straight toward that light at the end of the tunnel. It may seem dim at times, but it is there. 🙂

  • Rachel says:

    I was painfully shy as a child and young teen and even now bring in my, ahem, thirties I have times of fighting those feelings. Most of the time no one would be able to tell or would be very surprised to hear how shy I still feel. Honestly, I really think it was directly down to God working in me to overcome shyness. As I grew older as a christian I grew bolder in my interactions with people. I also found it helpful to think about how other people might be feeling and focus on making them feel more comfortable, rather than retreating. As a young teen I would also set myself challenges – like talk to a new person each day whilst I was on camp. I also had (and still do!) a ‘go to’ list of questions I would ask people.

  • Jams says:

    I went through phases of being shy and then less so. As an adult, I think I still have that mix.

    I have a 4 year old who will talk to anyone and everyone, and that is a huge challenge and blessing. She never hesitates to ask embarrassing questions, inquire about others’ conversations and join random groups of people. There is a charm to it, but we do have to be be extra careful with her. I want her to always have that spirit and curiosity of others, while respecting possible danger and other people’s personal space needs.

  • Anne says:

    I have the opposite going over here. My oldest is so outgoing, and he doesn’t have any stranger danger to a fault. I have to tell him constantly that it’s not okay to hug people that we don’t know. He introduces himself to anyone who crosses his path! My middle one is more shy, but if the older one is around, he is more brave. It will be interesting to see how my baby is, but right now she looks like she’s part of the super outgoing camp too.
    And that’s great that you can go out to restaurants with them. It’s pretty impossible for us. Usually it’s manageable and the boys say hello to all the tables around them, but I have to remind them that sometimes people just need their alone time with each other when they are eating a meal out.

  • Justina says:

    What you wrote more or less described what we experience in our family too! My oldest used to be so shy, it would take him over an hour to actually warm up to other children who visited for a playdate. But once he warms up, he’s ok! It’s gotten somewhat better with age. Now my second kid also seems to be rather shy, I’m not too sure how #3 will be when he is older!

    I know the feeling when everyone wonders what’s with your kids when they meet other people and just refuse to greet anyone, not because they want to be rude, but because they are just terrified. I guess we’re just trying to get them to learn to do this in baby steps, I loved how you let the kids playact so that they can learn how to behave well around friends!

  • Violette says:

    Hello! I can really relate to True. I was super shy as a child, and now as an adult speeking in some situations is still a challenge. I think I could have used more help as a child, but I learned a lot as a young adult by attending communication courses for exemple.
    May I suggest that you read Quiet (the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking) by Susan Cain? It’s was so helpful for me to read how much being an introvert can be a strengh, and to understand that I have the right to take care of myself if some situations are too stressful. If you’re not an introvert yourself, it can totally help you understand, some situations described in the book and some studies are very interesting.
    Thank you for sharing so much with such honesty on this blog, I really enjoy reading about your amazing girls.

  • Erika says:

    My 3 year old daughter sounds a lot like True. She is so talkative and funny and expressive at home, but completely shuts down around new people. She won’t stay in the church nursery without crying for me, even at nearly 3.5, because she’s so uncomfortable around new people. It has been frustrating for me many times, especially when I compare her to other kids. Like you, I’ve worried about her appearing rude because she doesn’t greet people or say “thank you” to people when they compliment her or something. The worst is when other parents make comments that imply that it’s “my fault” she’s that way.

    I’m still figuring out how to help her in ways that are not terrifying for her, but still taking small steps. She will need to start preschool soon, and I’m incredibly nervous about how that will go.

    Thank you so much for posting this!

  • Sarah Heat says:

    I actually think that being in school has helped my extremely shy twins more than anything could have. They are now in 3rd grade, and I was just thinking earlier today about how happy I feel that they are so well-adjusted. Able to assert themselves in class and social situations, able to be leaders, respond to questions, and thrive. Granted, if any adult or stranger tries to talk with them, they are still both painfully shy. It’s like pulling teeth. But, at school, for some reason, they feel very comfortable. They are never going to speak out of turn, or maybe will need a little prodding at the beginning, but they have come so far since they started school 4 years ago.
    Keep trying! I think it’s important to not focus on your child being shy. It’s hard when they don’t respond to well-meaning strangers, but I think offering the excuse, “oh, she’s just shy” is often a crutch for a shy child. Maybe even teaching her a small wave or smile will help strangers to know (on their own, if that’s possible, those nosy well-meaning strangers!) that she acknowledges them, but doesn’t want to talk with them.
    I also think that age and experience helps. I’m a very shy person, but I’ve learned to talk with others. It’s okay!

  • Jackie says:

    Our youngest was shy and with an extrovert Mom like me it was painfully noticeable. We always insisted she not hide behind either of us or her siblings and she had to look the people in the eye and shake hands while saying ” it’s very nice to meet you!” After that all she had to do was always look the person in the eye if spoken to and to respond in a voice we could hear. We tried to guide the conversation away from her as quickly as possible as well. Given time., as with your girls, she would come out of her shell and Heaven help us all!!! The ONE thing we NEVER did was to ever let her hear us or anyone else. call her shy!!! We believe children will become what you say they are, so we used terms like Thoughtful, sometimes Quiet, and more of a people watcher. She is still slow to warm up at age 29, but she us certainly NOT shy!

  • Karla says:

    I’ve always been “shy,” but now in my 30s I consider myself more of an “introvert.” I’ve gotten better, but I’ve also realized that, due to my personality, social situations – even fun ones, where I know everyone! – can be very draining. Oftentimes I feel like crying afterwards, I’m so tired from it all! I have to be careful not to plan too much otherwise I get wiped out.

    Growing up, my family harped on me and made fun of me, which made it worse and – I think – contributed to some of the negative feelings I now have towards myself. There are all types of personalities, and just because someone smiles right away and speaks on command doesn’t mean he or she is better. My mom said that, even as a baby, I would study people!

    My two older children (ages 6 and 4, girl and boy) tend to be “shy” at first; they just need time to warm up. Some people ask if they ever talk, which is hilarious to me because they are really quite rowdy and creative and playful and noisy! The oldest one especially tends to clam up and often hides behind me or my husband, sometimes makes a face or shakes her head upon being prompted. We usually gently remind her to be polite – sometimes get silly or try to tickle her – but then leave her alone so she doesn’t feel forced. Later on, we talk about the incident, about being polite and responding to someone even if you don’t have a lot to say. We go through scenarios and ask her what she could have said, and what she might do next time. Also, “please,” “thank you,” those sorts of things.

    Ironically, we have pretty much never had a problem putting them in the church nursery or leaving them with family members to babysit – they’re pretty self-reliant that way. I suppose it helps that we have provided opportunities for them to be *without* mommy and daddy.

    Another thing which has helped is letting her do something for which she has an incentive. For instance, at the farmers’ market, she and her brother have been wanting to buy their own apples and honey sticks. She has her money and has to pay for it herself. She might not say much but it’s practice!

  • Tara says:

    I was very shy as a child and teen and now in my 30s I don’t feel shy but am definitely an introvert through and through. Being so shy was very hard for me, I wanted so badly not to be. The things you are doing are amazing, my parents didn’t help me with coping skills like that, though they definitely never made me feel like being shy was a bad thing. However, everyone else in the world was constantly saying “you’re so quiet” “you need to talk more” which made me shyer and feel terrible about it. I think just growing older is the biggest thing in overcoming shyness…and I had to learn the hard way a few times that my fear of speaking and interacting could hurt people I cared about by being perceived as rudeness or detachment. True is awesome, I have a soft spot for shy kids!

  • G says:

    I was definitely a shy kid and that carried on into my high school years, after which I became more of a mix (though I completely identify with being an introvert; I feel drained being with large groups for extended amounts of time and CHERISH my alone time). It’s hilarious because my parents are both so outgoing! But, I think what helped me out were my friendships growing up. My best friend is the epitome of outgoing! She needs to be the center of attention, and I love her for it (we constantly poke fun of her for it, which she REVELS in, to give you an idea). And with her by my side, I felt more comfortable being more open and more outspoken with others. Furthermore, my friends never made me feel like being “shy” was a negative thing (like a lot of grown-ups did, even my mom, though I know it wasn’t her intention). Being in team sports also played a big role, ESPECIALLY in high school. Being on a swim team from childhood to my early twenties built up my “people skills” as a kid that transferred over to future jobs and life in general. I think as True gets to hang around with more kids and make more friends (either in a school setting or team setting) she’ll be more comfortable around others (after all, it’s usually easy to be “yourself” around family). And as a shy kid who went to traditional school, I can vouch I never felt overlooked or fell behind in my studies because of my shyness. And in high school, the “traditional school” experience as well sports and clubs definitely made me more outgoing and aggressive (looking at the past president of the Key Club and AP English Club of BHS). So, I think what you’re already doing it great. Just more exposure and time.

    • Rubyellen says:

      Ben and I were just talking about how we need to get them involved in team sports. They do hip hop, piano, and swim, but nothing with a team yet. I think that would help her tremendously.I was shy as a child, and outgrew it, so I’m hoping she does the same. Ben is opposite though. He was outgoing as a child and teen, and as an adult, gets much more introverted and reserved.

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