My Child Is (Not) Shy

“Why is he so quiet?”
“Don’t be shy…”
“Don’t you know how to greet your elders?”
“She is SO shy!”

How many of us are guilty of saying any of the above to a child? Your child, or anyone else’s?

To most adults, such statements are totally harmless. They could even be spoken with a positive intent to help the child speak up, socialise and be “less shy”. We think that if we prompt them hard enough, they will suddenly turn into social butterflies and begin fluttering around the room striking up endless conversations with everyone present.

Not so, my friend.

Our 3 kids are usually very quiet in new environments and among people they are not familiar with. In such situations, whenever someone (read: an adult) comes over and tries to get them to turn into extroverts, I cringe. I’m being very honest here.

And whenever they do that, almost instinctively, my kids become more tensed and get even quieter. For an even longer period of time.

BUT.

On the other hand, when they are being left alone to be themselves, and allowed to take their time to observe the new environment and people, they warm up very quickly. Pretty soon, you’ll see 3 little social butterflies fluttering around the room with ease.

That is what many of us do not realise. Not unless you are an introvert yourself.

I know.

Because I am an introvert. So is my husband.

I guess that explains why our kids are introverts too.

I had a very painful childhood, simply because I was very introverted and unfortunately, the adults in my life saw that as a problem. To them, it was wrong to be so quiet. It was rude not to answer when an elder speaks to you. It was embarrassing when you entered someone’s home without greeting the host(s) loudly and clearly.

That was me when I was a child. Too shy. Too quiet. I was even asked on many occasions, “Are you mute?!” I was ridiculed. Laughed at. Unfortunately, not by kids, but by the adults in my life.

Instead of managing to transform me into an extrovert, such attempts made me more introverted, and all the more, I refused to speak.

But when I was among my close friends and people I was comfortable with, I spoke up and laughed and joked and chatted.

In this mostly extroverted world, sometimes introverts get the message that there’s something wrong with them. That makes people want to try and fix them.

It is not wrong to be an introvert.

Let me say it again.
It is not wrong to be an introvert.

Just like it is not wrong to be an extrovert.

If your kids are introverts, embrace their personality. There is nothing wrong with your child. It is not wrong to be quiet in social settings. If your kids are introverts, love and accept them unconditionally. Just as they are.

I would even add, be on your child’s side if someone tries to come over to fix his introversion. Give your kids room and allow them time to warm up.

What you can say to an adult is, “He needs some time to warm up to new places and people. Give him some room and he will be more at ease to speak to you later!” And make sure you say this with a smile. 🙂

Pretty soon, you’ll see them running around the room socialising with ease, in their own quiet, pleasant and introverted ways.

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21 thoughts on “My Child Is (Not) Shy

  1. Great post. I am an introvert as well. I actually think there are some aspects of being an introvert that are much more noble. I’m a proud introvert!!! And I’m so glad to hear you don’t try to change their disposition:)

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  2. Hey Ing, I agree, definitely not wrong to be an introvert. And perhaps your kids aren’t even introverts, they’re just kids who need to warm up! (Heh, I don’t really like labels and I try not to use them in my everyday speech…although it’s hard.) I think the more we say it (that he/she is shy/naughty/etc), the more our kids believe and act like it. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy! Don’t you think? 🙂

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  3. This is a timely reminder because everything in this post sounds like a replay of what happened over the weekend when I brought Aly a friend’s house. Up to this point I cannot decide if I am an introvert or an extrovert. Lets just say I don’t like to socialize if I can help it but I am able to come out of my shell to do it if I have to. Does that make sense? Haha. It’s not until I read your post that I realize I have very unfair expectations of my child. I very much want her to be comfortable in social settings but I don’t realize that even I am not like that myself, so why should I be imposing my expectation on her. Thank you for the reminder and that great tip about what to say! Shall use that next time.

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    1. Zee, I also think its more common for first borns to be more clingy and less social. When my #1 was maybe 2-3YO my hubby used to give me so much grief about letting him hang back in e.g. a birthday party magic show. Now he’ll sit in front by himself and wants to be the assistant!

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      1. Ed, that’s good to hear! At this point she really is the sort who will hide at the back whenever there is a crowd. Maybe that will change when she has a sibling! But whatever it is, I shall embrace her personality for now. 🙂

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      2. My firstborn was also more clingy and less social. Among our 3, he takes the longest time to warm up. But now that he’s older (turning 8), he’s more sociable.

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    2. Hi Zee, it makes perfect sense, because I’m like that too! Haha. Given a choice, I don’t like to socialise, but if I have to do it, I will come out of my shell too. I guess that’s because as adults, we’re able to switch in different settings. However, kids may not possess that social skill yet. That’s why I totally dislike adults forcing kids to be extroverts when they’re not. It’s as if there’s something wrong with you if you’re quiet. I used to wish my kids will socialise more too, so I get what you mean. 🙂

      By the way, I read somewhere that you know you’re an introvert if socialising makes you tired, but having some quiet time alone recharges you. On the other hand, you’re an extrovert if being alone wears you out but socialising recharges you.

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      1. Hahaha thanks for this! Going by this I’m most definitely an introvert! I am not socially awkward but it tires me out when i have to socialize.

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  4. I am also awfully shy when growing up, and I face the same “discrimination” when growing up.
    Agree 100% with you that being an introvert is not an issue 🙂

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    1. Hi Andy, glad you’ve overcomed the childhood “discriminations”. You always look so cheerful and happy in your photos, I didn’t even realise you’re an introvert! Like what you’ve said, “being an introvert is not an issue.” Just have to be comfortable in our own skin. 🙂

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  5. Hi Ing,
    Thanks for the reminder! I am an introvert, and on any given day I would rather spend time cutting paper than talking to people! Same goes for my older boy, who is very reserved. I agree that we need to give kids space, I really don’t understand why people always assume that all kids are bubbly and extroverted!

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    1. Hi Jus, I don’t understand it either! I guess maybe extroverted kids are more fun to be with? I dunno…. But yes, we need to give our kids space to be themselves, and accept them, introverts or extroverts.

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  6. I’m definitely an introvert. Face to face social meetings stress me out, even though over the years I have managed to build a rather “extrovert” facade and fooled people into thinking I’m rather sociable. Which is very far from the truth.

    My kids aren’t exactly introverts but they are definitely slow to warm up. I have heard countless comments from strangers about them being shy, and I have also gone from feeling irritated to being oblivious now. Now I just tell the kids, don’t worry about what people say, those people don’t know who you are.

    I guess it’s similar to people telling my (skinny) son to eat more coz’ he’s so thin! And he gets upset over these strangers’ comments. I think he is offended more by these “personal attacks” than the “shy” word. He would say – “I’m not shy.” But he knows he is skinny, so that’s when he feels defensive! haha. I’m going off the topic..

    Anyway, it is an interesting read, and thanks for sharing! 🙂

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Jayne! I totally get what you mean regarding those strangers’ comments. My kids get those alot too… I, too, felt irritated initially but I don’t really bother nowadays. I like the way you assure your kids not to worry about what people say about them! I think I should start telling my kids that too. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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  7. There is also such thing as a in between; half introvert and half extrovert. And then you have to take into consideration whether you are slow to adapt or zoom by any changes.
    Kids generally are wary about new environment and people even though they are curious at the same time. By telling the others (adults and kids) that your kids needs time to warm up they should accept it and leave your kids alone, its call personal space and every one; introverts/extroverts or not, should respect it. Anyway, who would want to be the culprit of making a child cry his eyeballs out hahah~

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    1. Yes, I think you may be right in saying that there’re people who are the in-betweens. Not too introverted and not too extroverted. Agree that we need to respect others’ personal space, whether they are adults or kids. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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  8. As an introvert, my awsenr was never going to be the go do some social things; get out there and meet people, everyone was telling me. Instead, I went a did things for myself. I took up disc golf (a formalized version of Frisbee golf); stayed home & read or played video games until unreasonable hours; worked too much; tried to hang with my family more (which has it’s pros & cons ); and channeled my woes into horror writing and live action role-playing (which I was doing before being single and while social, was not a pool of people likely to provide a match). These worked for me to provide a social outlet under my control and when I felt like it, but without a artificial pressure to meet & greet or join the dating scene. After a few years, I tried some of the on-line dating services (gay.com & the like, in my case) but always being the one to wait for others to contact me rather than the other way around. After a few tentative dates, and somewhat depressing ones at that, I switched sites and randomly came across someone who appeared to be taking the same dating approach as me. We met, and have now been together for over eight years (married for two+). So, my counsel is to be patient, do what feels right, but not forced, for you and focus on being happy with yourself.Being on my own, while also a natural condition of an introvert, let me assure (or reassure) myself that I was healthy and whole; that my previous relationship in no way undermined who I was now; and helped reinforced my confidence in who I wanted to be. While seeming dismal at the time, I wouldn’t be as mentally/emotionally balanced now without that time to myself. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of learning to act just for your own needs I’m not saying go become a selfish prick or anything but be OK with saying this isn’t about anyone else but me when you consider doing something. How’s that for lunchtime psycho-babble rambling?BGC

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