Friday, September 28, 2007

Overcoming shyness

Both of my older kids tend to be on the shy side. Jonathan has really been coming out of his shell over the last year and a half and Elizabeth is very firmly, will throw a fit kicking and screaming if we try to coax her out, planted in her shell.

We had the first parent-teacher conference at school today. Jonathan is doing great but the teacher said he is timid and seems afraid to speak up when called on even if he knows the answer. He's also a bit reluctant to join in with kids if they are already in the midst of play, though, she said he is okay if he initiates the play. I'm not surprised at any of these things. I've seen similar behavior at story time at the library or at vacation Bible school or other social settings.

So, how do you gently encourage a shy child to overcome his fears? I'm not expecting a cure-all or something that will change him overnight, but I would like to try to help him. I'm fairly shy myself and I would like to empower my children so that they don't feel so uncomfortable in social situations like I do. Any thoughts?


Shannon said...

I love your blog. You seem like such a sweet and tender mom. I'm not in your role myself, but do hope to meet a good Catholic man and have children soon. Would you say a prayer for me if you can?
Anyway, I've never commented on your blog, but your post really struck me. I'm sure I'll have somewhat "shy" children some day. I'm pretty introverted but can turn on the outgoing thing if I need to. The shy thing has always been on my mind. I was shy as a child and growing up I have vowed never to label my child as "shy." I hated it so so much when my mom said, "oh stop being shy" in front of me. It made me feel like there was something wrong with me! And wanting to always please my mom, I'd beat myself up for not being the one taking control and making people laugh in large group settings. I would encourage as much as possible. Positive, positive, positive. God will steer your son in the way he needs to be steered. Pray for his little soul while he's at school (I know you do!). I have my teaching degree and I think it's important for teachers to have class discussions where they encourage a safe classroom environemtn... modeling and teaching children explicitly how to be friends. The teacher should also make it ok for him to answer in class, calling on him when she knows that he knows the answer, etc., to build confidence.

Overall, I would say to keep him around other children and people in general. Keep praising him and giving him positive feedback at home. Things like altar serving some day will be great for being in front of people, etc. Perhaps set up some play dates. Don't let him think not being the initiator is an "issue." We all have our strengths, and silent leaders tend to be the most important and influential.
He'll be ok. Plus, it's only the first few weeks of school! I'm sure by December he'll be much more comfortable. If he sees that you're calm and confident, he'll be just fine. I'll keep him in my prayers, your son. Sorry for the long post!

Lillian said...


I would worry about him or try to push or him. Anna used to be VERY shy an I just ignored it. She still is reserved about most things but she is also very sweet and plays well with others. She always wants to play what they want which makes her everyone's best friend!!

Craig was a shy as a little boy and his mom pushed a little and signed him up for groups. It didn't do anything. But to this day his memories of school are awful. He hated school. He's still reserved but his job is in sales where he presents to hundreds every week sometimes!!! When your little boy is ready he will come out of his shyness. But I think if he's forced he will actually resist more.

Just my $.02.

And really, the world needs some quiet people who can take it all in. Can you imagine how loud this world would be if everyone was extroverted!! I love the introvert I'm married to! I'm learning so much from him, too.

Lillian said...

Ooops!! I should REALLY proofread! I meant to say, "I would NOT worry about him or try to push him!!"

That was a BIG TYPO!! I hope you weren't having a heart attack while reading that comment!! LOL!

veronica said...


My firstborn is on the shy side as well..though I am not sure if part of it is because he mostly speaks Spanish while every one else is speaking English..I don't think so though..I think that is just his temperament...I tend to agree with the other ladies who have commented..shyness is not a bad thing, unless it is hurting him in some way which I am sure it is not at this point...especially if he said that he loves school...Like Shannon said, I think you should just continue to encourage him and be positive...which I am sure you are doing! Good luck, and in the meantime, enjoy your little boy in his quiet side!

Colleen said...


Thank you for your kind words. I'll keep you in my prayers. My sister is single as well and I understand how hard it is to find a good Catholic man since I have watched her struggle over the last couple of years. God will provide!

And, thank you Shannon, Lillian, and Veronica. I agree with everything you all have said. I've never pushed him in the past and I think he's always been fine. The thing that got me wondering if I needed to do something was that he had an accident at school (which never happens anymore) and he didn't tell the teacher about it because he was too shy. Then, last week, he fell on the playground and hit his cheek hard enough to give himself a black eye, but he didn't tell anyone. That's really when I started to wonder if his shyness was unhealthy. His teacher suggested that I get some children's books from the library dealing with shyness that we could read together. I think I will try that. But, I want to be very careful that I don't "push" him.

Lillian said...

hmmm ... I think even kids who aren't shy might be embarrassed to tell a teacher they've had an accident. Telling mom is one thing but telling a teacher is another. I know I'd be embarrassed!! LOL!!!

And as for falling and getting a bruise. Maybe he didn't even realize he was bruised. He could have just fallen and gotten up to continue playing??

I would DEFINITELY follow your child's lead and not your teacher's advice. Sounds like it bothers her more than it bothers you or your son. I just fear that if you start reading books to him about being shy he might think there's something wrong with him. He sounds perfectly sweet. And shyness isn't something that has to be fixed. Just my $.02. Take it or not.

I just think you know your child best and unless this has been a worry before she said something, I wouldn't do anything.

I'm sure as the year goes on he will talk more in class. Its still the beginning of the year and she's still very new to him.

Colleen said...

You're right, Lillian. It's easy to get caught up in what other people are saying and lose a little perspective. I'll let Jonathan take the lead. He does seems perfectly happy at school and is making friends. And, I definitely love my sweet little introvert just the way he is!