Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Shy Little Guy

Ok ladies, I'm reaching out to all of you for some help. {I apologize in advance for this long post.}

We are going through a difficult thing with James right now and I could really use your advice, support, input, or any constructive ideas you might have.

James is shy. He always has been, even as an infant, but lately his shyness has reached a new, unsettling level. Whenever someone unfamiliar comes nearby him he either cries, runs to me, calls out: "Help, Mama, Help!", says: "No, no, no, no!!!" or all of the above depending on how out of place he's feeling. When he reacts this way I try to comfort and reassure him. I give him hugs and let him know that everyone here is his friend, that he's safe, that it's a fun place and he has no need to be scared or worried. He hears me, but he doesn't seem to believe me.

Today at Kindermusik (which he usually loves) he was so out of sorts, we had to sit out a portion of the program just so I could calm him down. Of course the instructor (a lovely woman) came over to give him some words of comfort, too, but her close presence only made him freak out more. When we did join the rest of the group, he sat firmly in my lap and would NOT budge to join other children, despite gentle and positive urging. It's incredibly disheartening to see him acting so insecure. And, I'll be honest, it's disappointing, too. I'm ashamed to admit that I really wish James were one of the other kids who gleefully runs up to the circle for storytime and... I get annoyed that he's not. (Please note: I never get annoyed with James about this - he has no idea I feel this way.) And I'll say this, too: I get a bit defensive about it. I really don't appreciate the smug parents who point out to me that their child isn't shy. Yes, I actually had someone say this to me.

At home and with close friends James is extremely chatty and happy. It's just whenever he's in a new place or seeing new people that he becomes scared and shy. I know this isn't uncommon, but it's still sad, frustrating and difficult to deal with.

Several people have recommended daycare as a means of "socializing him". Paul and I contemplated this, but in the end neither of us felt comfortable with the idea for a variety of reasons. Most notably because James was in daycare before and it didn't make any difference. The only thing that came of that was a seemingly endless stream of colds, stomach bugs, and other unfriendly viruses.

While we engage in playdates and participate in organized functions such as art class, storytimes and Kindermusik, I have to admit we don't really do a whole lot of socializing with other kids. Part of the reason for this is because I'm a bit shy myself. I know you may not believe it given how much I blather away on this blog, but it's true. However, I am well aware of my shyness and I have tried many, many times to push past it and strike up conversations with moms at playgroups. Only I think they can smell my fear because usually the conversations last only a few minutes. :) My husband is shy, too. More so than I. Close friends don't believe it, but it has taken us many years of training ourselves to not act shy in front of others. But the shyness is very much there under the surface. I point all this out because I recently read that studies have shown that shyness is an inherited trait. Even if the parents of the child aren't shy, it could come from another relative. Aside from Paul and myself, Paul's family is chock-full of shy people, my sister is a bit shy, and I think my mother was too. That said, James has likely received a good dose of the shy gene.

Anyway, knowing where the shyness may stem from is all fine and well, but how do I help James overcome/work with it? Do any of you have shy children? What have you done to help your children through this? I don't expect James to STOP being shy altogether - it's clearly just a part of his personality. But I would like to get him back to where he was just "a little shy" and not terrified as he is now.

I have decided that over the next several weeks I will take James to as many playgroups as I can. It'll be hard for him, but I *think* it's the right thing to do. Perhaps the more exposed to groups he is, the more commonplace they'll become to him? And I'll do my best to ignore the germs and to be as outgoing as possible, too.

On a quick side note, I won't be doing as much Tot School with James while we focus on this. You can either expect my posts to be shorter (hooray!) or non-existent.

As always, I appreciate your input. Many thanks to those of you who took the time to read this. :)

I've decided not to stress out about this any more- it's not doing anyone any good. I've also resolved to accept James' shyness whole-heartedly and to put a positive spin on the rude remarks I get from parents. Paul and I also decided we're not going to force the playgroup situation, but we will try going to just one for now and allow him to warm up to it, IF he wants to. I agree now that bombarding him with new, unfamiliar situations is NOT a good idea. And, whenever we do attend a function, I'm going to "prepare him" in advance so he knows what to expect. Most importantly, we are going to watch his cues, offer him choices and respect his decisions.
Thank you so much to each of you that took the time to write out your thoughts and even share your own personal stories with me. :)


awjmgmom said...

Mari-Ann, when I first started reading your post I wondered if you had any shy tendencies and then I read further. I have 2 is 31 mths and the other is 9 yrs old. My 9 yr old was very social up until about 3 and then he too became very shy..he's good in settings with adults that he knows and loves, but he even acts shy around his own cousins. It dawned on me one day that I am/have always been a shy person and I began to wonder why I was trying to change him. My husband and I would try to force things on him and get somewhat angry (older yrs). I've learned to embrace/acknowledge & coach him. Now when we are going into situations we discuss what to expect and how he should behave.. he does not have to be the child running into the room happy to see everyone, but he does need to use his manners and say hello and not hang on me.

My 2 yr old has not shown this yet, but I can see that it may come. God is really speaking to me about embracing them for who they are, but also training them in how to act in certain situations. Your son is intelligent and around the same age as mine and I know that they understand when we explain things ahead of time. I highly recommend talking it through, but always make him feel that it's ok to be shy. I would acknowledge your own shyness too with him so he knows you understand. God made us all different. We just need to be mannerly in our shyness.

I hope this makes sense. It's purely my 2 cents, but i soooo understand where you are coming from.

And my 9 yr old is branching out.. even tried out and performed in the All-School Musical last Spring. That was a huge leap for him!

Be blessed and keep up the good work!

Evenspor said...

I don't know if this helps, but I have observed that at tis age there seems to be a natural shyness, even in kids who are not otherwise very shy. I think it's just another developmental phase. Maybe since he is already a little shy naturally, it just comes out extreme right now, and the best thing may be to continue to help him through it gently (and ignore those other parents!) and eventually he'll get back to where he was.

Montessori Moments said...

Dear Mari-Ann,
While reading about you sweet little James I could have been reading about our dear Snow White.
Snow White is our oldest daughter, she turned 4 in September. She has always been shy. I will give you some ideas of what has worked for us, and what has not worked.
The busier we were, the more clingy she got. We found that 2 child activities was plenty enough for her. If I said in front of other people that she was shy, she would act more shy, If we did not play into her being shy, she did better. For example, if she ran to me to hide while at a playgroup I would not focus at all on her shyness or fear, but I would acknowledge what I wanted her to be doing by going near the other children, looking at them saying something like "wow these children are playing nice and having fun" or something like it.
I found that the more I comforted her when we were in an "uncomfortable" situation, the more the shyness was brought out.
I could go on, but this comment is getting quite long. I would be happy to e-mail you with many more example or ideas if you would like, just let me know.
By the way, our other daughter (18 months) is NOT shy at all!

Ms Muffin said...

First - I love the photo on top! Okay, that was not on the topic ... but still it looks so cute I had to comment.
Now for the shy-thing ... well ... I am no expert or anything so I cannot give you a solution. (But probably noone can.) I just wanted to say a couple things ... maybe they help a little even if it might only make you feel a bit better because you are not the only one! :-)
My daughter was rather a quiet kid, too and she was also shy with strangers. I always thought of it as completely normal. She would not scream or anything but she simply would not go to strangers or talk to them or look at them. She would just stay very close to me. I have spent hours with her on playgrounds just sitting there and looking at the others play. She herself did not want to play or run around with the other kids. If I asked her whether she wanted to leave she also did not want to. So we stayed just observing. My daughter now - she is 4 now - is not that shy anymore. She plays at the playground and often even starts talking to other kids. (Yeah!) But sometimes if someone comes to visit at our place she will not leave her room to even see the person ... there was a time when she even did that with her grandparents who always were at least familiar to her. If you let her loose with some kids she might happily play. But if I go to a church group and she is supposed to join into their starting ritual (singing a song and making movements) she will NEVER do that! Why am I writing all this ...
I guess I want to say if your little guy is shy now it does not mean it has to stay that way! Sometimes kids just need time.Also I strongly believe one should not pressure the kids to do things that they don't want to do. I know that there are other opinions out there ... that is just mine. If my daughter does not want to say hello to someone - that's fine. If she does not want to join in - I tell her she does not have to. As I write this this sounds so easy. I know it isn't. There is often pressure from others and even I myself often feel like she SHOULD do that. Even if I - as you also said in your post - never tell her that I am pretty sure kids somehow feel that we feel worried or bothered. So I try to relax about it as much as I can. I know I cannot be completely fine with it - but I try. :-)
You said you want to help him and you want to go to the playground as often as possible. I did the same thing. However, I always made sure that my daughter wanted to go. If my daughter did not want to go I did not make her go. I think it is important for the child to experience that she/he is the one deciding to go to the playground/ join in some activity/ say hello to someone ... without being pressured. Also when at the playground I would let the kid do whatever he/she wants to do. If he/ she does not want to play but only observe - let her/him be. (I had a hard time accepting this!) :-) They do learn alot from just watching and they will join in when they feel secure enough. Also if it is clearly not enjoyable for him to join certain groups - I would not go. Maybe just take a break. Try again later. I would definitely ask him if he wants to go and what he feels comfortable doing.
Oh, sorry for the very long comment ... even if it does not help alot I think I understand how you feel! Let us know how things go ...

Julee Huy said...

Maybe take a break. Don't go anywhere for a couple of weeks, then, slowly try adding in a few new people at a very slow pace. Prepare and warn him for the transition. Tomorrow ">>>" is coming over! Make a big deal and make it fun. Then give him time, don't push the issue, just have the person in the room and you talking to them without the threat that he will have to participate. As he warms up, encourage him to engage more and more.

I have 5 kids, one was very shy and one is autistic. Learning to take things slower, let them get used to the idea without any pressure has been a tremendous help.

Also take into account that this may be a developemental stage and after a little time away he may just jump right back in.

We also go to church so sometimes the kids don't want to go into their classes. When they cry, I pass them over to the teacher and am very clear that I do not want them crying more than 20 min (or sometimes 10!) and that they are to come and get me if he doesn't stop. Usually he gets over it and enjoys his class, after I do this a few times they usually begin to go in with no problem. HOWEVER, I did have one child who would cry for the entire hour and a half and that is why I started having them get me if he cried for a period of time.

Angela said...

I would not even pretend to know what this was like. We have the opposite problem. I have an overly friendly child that senses no danger. I know given your current situation it's hard to believe that would be a problem. But there is a good thing about being caucious of others. Your little however is shy to an unhealthy level. It must be terrible to feel so insecure. I thinkthat you are doing a good thing by taking him to as many play groups as possible. He may be young but it's not to early to begin social stories with him. They are typically used with special needs children but I have founf them usful with many different children. I would also try and figure out what is causing him to be so fearful. Have you left him alone anywhere? Maybe someone was mean to him. Anyways, i would be willing to talk to you more about social stories if you are interested. Just shoot me an e-mail. best of luck to you and your little one.

Jen said...

Oh my friend, this is all a surprise to me! I NEVER would think you're a shy person and I'm positive the 3 minute conversations have nothing to do with you!!
Shyness is such a common trait in children this age. And while I completely disagree with Angela about James' behavior being unhealthy, I do agree with her about his shyness being a positive thing. Overly friendly children can often find themselves in trouble. I found this just now while doing a search for shy children: "The Plus Side: The naturally withdrawn child tends to be thoughtful and levelheaded as he matures. He is likely to take stock and weigh his options before acting. Your youngster may become a good observer of people and situations. Like many children with this nature, he may have a strong ability to understand others' feelings."
You're such a good mommy, I know you're worried and doing what you can. Hang in there!

Anonymous said...

(((HUGS))) I really do believe it will just get better on its own. I only have my experience with Sammy to base this on.. however, he was exactally like this. He would scream and carry on when people came up to him. Even people he knew well he would do this with (my parents, my best friend -saw her at least twice a week).

As his language increased so did his confidence. His speech was a little delayed and I think that made him self conscious. I doubt that is James' reason since his vocabulary seems great (through what I can tell in the blog). I will say that I think its just something they grow out of. However, I agree that giving him more chances to socialize certainly wont hurt anything :-)

hikingmama said...

((HUGS)) My son (2 y. 7m.) went through a phase of getting really upset and crying when I took him to Music Together (similar to Kindermusik). Over time things have gotten better although he still tends to be an observer. He is not a fan of birthday parties even when he knows most of the kids. He seems to be most comfortable with one or two kids. My gut feeling would be to give James some time to mature and not push the group activities. In the book "Hold On to Your Kids" by Gordon Neufeld it says kids this age don't need group activities or playgroups but the safety of their families. I would follow James' lead and slowly build some relationships with a few kids who he (and you) feel comfortable with. He seems like a smart kid who will quickly learn the social rules once he feels comfortable and learns some strategies to use when he feels shy. Maybe tell him some stories about a little boy who felt shy and what he did when he was around new people. HTH

Sheryll said...

It's funny, I got towards the end of your post and I thought I'd see you say that you would take it easy for awhile, instead you are going to expose him to as many people as possible! I'd do the opposite. Stay home, let him cling to you. He's telling you that's what he needs right now. Let him feel extra secure. He will move past the "extreme-ness" of this and you will be able to help him when he does.

Christine said...

My daughter is the exact same way. We had incidents similar to what you are having when my daughter was 24 months old. The "no no no!!!" and hysterial crying when others came around was particularly disheartening. The extreme behavior only lasted about a month and then things got better. We did enroll her in preschool one day a week for 2.5 hours. It was a tough transition but she finally enjoys it now but she still cries when I leave. (Only for a minute)

The turning point for us was when my husband and I accepted that this is the way she is and is not going to turn out the way "we hoped she would". My husband is an extreme introvert and I was a Mama's girl and we had hoped our kids would be more independent. We both struggled with being shy and had difficulties relating to others and had hoped different for her. Our daughter is the way she is and once we let it go the whole situation became easier for us.

I have to say that the preschool was a real growing experience for her. The first few months were painful but we had the support of the teachers and we all worked through it together.

Quixotic said...

Mari-Ann, I was quite a shy child too, and there is a bit of folk wisdom that says around 3 or so, kids go through a shy stage, so try not to worry to much.
GG is a bit shy when she first encounters a group, but I don't push, or even say a word about joinging the others, and soon enough, she's streaking across the playground with the rest of them. Like most things, the more you push for one outcome, the more you get the other. :o)

Counting Coconuts said...

Oh my goodness. You guys really came through on the support and advice! Thank you SO much for your comments and personal emails. I have to admit though, my head is now swimming with all of your suggestions, but no worries, its given me A LOT to think about and I'm grateful for that. So many insightful suggestions and constructive opinions. My husband and I are going to think and pray on it and we'll figure out what's best for James and go from there. I'll let you know how things are going in a couple weeks. Thank you again. Hugs to each and every one of you.

Theresa Mezo said...

I am so sorry that James is going through such a difficult phase in his little life right now!
My son is starting to show the same behavior, I am almost afraid to take him to playgroups, as I have no idea what his additude will be like!
Have you tried reading books to him about shyness.. so he can identify with the story?
I think that he will probably just grow out of this himself, I agree with you about taking him to as many social things as you can.. he can always run to you if he needs you too!
I'll be praying for you & your family, I know how things like this make you want to pull your hair out! :)

Tilly said...

I also love the pic of James and his kitty:)

I know how you feel with the whole shyness thing! Luke is pretty shy too, sometimes it's worse than others. I am also not a very outgoing person (my husband is less than me!), and I think Luke can pick up on that when we go somewhere new and I'm uncomfortable. He seems to be more shy/cranky during those times. I'm working on myself (my class helps!), so hopefully if I can be more outgoing, he will follow suit. I do agree that it is inherited, but I'm not so sure if it's purely genes or copied behavior.

Hopefully this is part of a phase that James is going through and he will get back to his less shy self.

I also haven't figured out if going out and doing more or doing less will help us. I know for me, I tend to feel better the more I'm around people. It's like I get out of practice:-)

I'm not sure if this helps, but I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone (as I can see from other comments too!).

Keep us posted!!


Nicole {tired, need sleep} said...

Mari-Ann, I can relate to so much of this post (which was very well written, I must add). I was *painfully* shy for much of my life and still have tendencies in that direction, but have worked hard to get to a better level of comfort with others. As a baby Matthew always took a wile to "warm up" to someone or some place new. But when he was around 12 months old we started going out and doing child-focused activities in the community (naptimes didn't allow for it any sooner). Matthew LOVED these activities and was always the child who gleefully ran to the front and was excited and well, NOT shy. However, this all changed somewhere along the line and now he is much the same as how you describe James. It's torture for him to participate in a group activity with children he does not know well, even something he would normally think was really fun.

Knowing what it's like to be shy and self-conscious, I haven't made much of a deal about it. But *I* participate as much as I can and keep him with me. It may be that he sits on the floor and stares at me while I act out the song motions or whatever it may be, but he is there with me. I think deep down he wants to participate, but well, shyness can be a very overwhelming thing.

When he does participate in some way he is praised and I say things like, "That must've felt SO GREAT! You must be so proud of yourself!" etc. It has helped. The shyness with Matthew started a little before James' current age, and just now (at about 3 1/2 yrs) it is starting to slowly get better. Very, very slowly. As in, once in a great while he'll participate. Maybe twice a month, and that's with us going to two different things every week. We keep going to things he really enjoys and we have plenty of playdates with children he already knows and is comfortable with. I understand how you feel; believe me, I know it's hard when it's your kid that's acting this way. (((hugs)) to you and James. He will find his comfort level some day and until then I say just keep being his *safe place* to go to when he feels this way, and keep taking him to these places. If there is one place in particular that is really fun for him, go there as often as possible. For us it's been our local nature center and community center playtimes. He still does not participate all the time, but these are things he looks forward to, and I feel offer the best incentive for him to overcome a bit of his shyness, so I am just being patient for the time being. Good grief, I am sorry this is so long!!!

Gaby said...

Hi Mari-Ann, I just wanted to say that you are not alone. This is also the case with my boy. He has gotten so shy since he neared 3 years old. Of course his parents (us) were also shy so it came as no surprise to me that he turned out this way. I was painfully shy as a child though most people don't believe it now. These are the things I try to live by:
1) Shyness does not have to be a negative thing, it just is. When he first started showing his shy traits sometime after 18 months, someone stated "he's so shy", and I just replied, "you say it like it's a bad thing"
2) When we are out in public I don't make a big deal of his shyness: like when he comes running scared because someone tried to play or talk to him, I tell him matter of factly that it's okay they just want to say hello. But don't comfort him too much as this might give him the idea that there really is something to fear with other people.
3) After my son clings to my side and people don't get it and ask what's wrong, I simply tell them, he just needs to warm up to people, and he'll be fine later.

That's what I am doing to get by right now. Though that doesn't mean that it doesn't bother me. But like you I try not to let him know.
One thing I have known from education and personal experience is that it takes a good dose of self confidence to overcome shyness. And at 2 and 3 years old children just don't have much self confidence because they are still developing a primary sense of self. I honestly believe that if you (and I) continue working with your (my) child, he will have the self confidence necessary to overcome the "shyness" if he wants to and do things that this trait may be hindering at the moment. Hope this helps you to at least know you are not alone.

Debbie said...

While I have never had a shy child myself, I was a shy child. I agree with Montessori Moments, in the fact that for me the more my parents tried to do the more shy I became.

I seen this characteristic in a little girl who was friends with my children. She was fine so long as she was just playing with one maybe 2 other children, and it took her a long time before she felt comfortable to come to our house to play.

Don't push too much at him, this could make him even more shy. I know you want him to socialize, but let him do it on his terms, let him learn about himself along the way.

It took me years to just break away from the cousins and people who made my shyness worse, and to learn who I am. Sure I still am shy in large groups of people, but am getting more comfortable in reaching out to converse with people.

I only wish Selena had a little bit of shyness in her blood, she is way over the top on the social butterfly scale, that it is almost scary!

Anonymous said...

I was terribly shy when I was a child, and my outgoing mother would cringe and push me to make friends when all I wanted to do was stick my nose in a book and be left alone. I still remember the trauma of being forced to go to the deli counter to ask for a pound of ham...

My dad is also extremely shy, so yes, it is both and inherent and learned behavior.

Do you know when my shyness eased up? When my mom started accepting me for who I was, and when I found the voice to tell her that I would rather be by myself. Sadly, that took upwards of 15 years, but I don't regret who I am or how I behave among others.

In my classroom, I have two male students (almost 5 yrs old) who are VERY shy around their parents. They will cling to mom's leg and will not even look at anyone when they are being addressed. However, in the classroom, among their peers and the teacher who accepts them for who they are, they are positively gregarious! They won't shut up! :) (in a good way, of course!)

One thing is being shy and another is being rude, so I think you should definitely talk about the minimum courtesy of greeting others and answering someone when you're being addressed. But, why is it wrong to be shy?

God gave us two ears and only one mouth, so it's a blessing to find someone who would rather stay in the background and take things in without having to be in the middle of everything.

And as for the parent who bragged about her child not being shy... I have a few choice words for her, which I will keep to myself so as not to offend anyone.

In short, please accept your child for who he is, don't push him into anything he's not comfortable with, because you'll just be ruining his sense of trust in you. And for a shy child, trusting a few adults is one of the most important things in life.

Trust me, I was a shy child, and still am one inside.

Elise said...

Hi Mari-Ann

Have you tried role playing? Savvy can be very anxious at times about certain situations and we have found role playing an excellent tool to help her overcome some of her "fears".

She used to let other children at playgroup take things off her,push in so she never got a turn. She was becoming withdrawn at playgroup. Then we started role playing such situations and giving her dialogue she could use in these situations. Also when we were role playing she would say things that allowed me to understand more about what was on her mind. Perhaps this could work in for you and James.

I was a secondary school teacher for ten years before having Savvy and Blakie and taught many beautiful, shy children. As you said, it is about constant reassurance, letting the children know in advance what they are going to be doing and preparing them (through discussion or possibly role playing).

I cannot believe the rudeness of other parents - just ignorant. All different personalities are what we need. Who wants a class full of extrovert children?

Mari-Ann, I am really interested to know what sort of things you end up trying and what works.

I wish that I could help you more and be able to offer something that could really help.

Our Little Family said...

Hey girl! I've been wanting to email, ever since you left the sweet comment on my blog about (both of us) feeling a little down (by the way, how do I send an email to you?! I know it MUST be obvious and I'm totally missing it).

Anyway, what GREAT feedback you have received here! I've read each and every one VERY closely because we're dealing with a similarly unsettling situation here with Maddie. While James is shy, Maddie has her own quirk in that she has slowly developed a crazy distaste for all things LOUD. This can range from fireworks to people clapping to someone dropping a book. It's been VERY upsetting to me and I've tried MANY things (letting her know that what she's about to hear is loud but it won't hurt her, helping her "create" noise with our instruments or pots/pans, getting her physically close to something loud so that she can see that it's not harmful to us physically). NONE of it worked. In fact, it only frustrated me and upset her.

About two weeks ago (when she was in her beloved ballet class but flipped out when the teacher's iPod accidentally flew up about 40 volume levels), I finally realized that it's just a part of either a) her personality and she will always be sensitive to sounds or b) a developmental stage. Either way, it's helped me navigate things for us and I've also calmed down a touch (and, just a TOUCH! I know that you and I are SUPER similar!!).

Gosh, I don't know if any of this is making any sense. I know that J and M's issues are different, yet still, similar. I'm thinking of you guys (and will try to find out how to email you!). :)

Montessori on Mars said...

Hi Mari-Ann,

There's a cultural bias in favor of "extraversion" and your concern is of course, understandable even if the situation may be a phase or a genetic or developmental attribute.

In my class, I also have several children, 2.5 year-olds coming in who are just like James. Because the Montessori set-up is multi-aged, I would usually request an older student (the 5 or 6's) to approach the shy child and introduce himself or maybe (if the shy child is willing), even have the older student present a material or read a book to him. At this point, the parent/guardian of the shy child stays with him.

"If the shy child is willing" is an operative phrase here because I would ask the child's permission for anything. I would say, "Good morning. Can I shake your hand?" If he says no, I'll say, "Maybe next time," with a smile. And then the next day, I'll just do it all over again, until it becomes routine and he knows what to expect everytime he comes in.

I also present choices. Like when it's almost time for circle, I say, "Would you like to sit on the circle or on the chair?" Or sometimes, I calm them down by counting and I say, "Let's count softly. You have to be quiet so that you can hear me. Would you like me to count trains or cats?" Presenting them with choices helps make children feel more secure in another environment. And it also helps them feel that the teacher or the other person is someone they can trust.

Speaking softly is also key, I find. When you talk to him, no one else should be able to hear. It's a simple thing, but it has done wonders.

I think that exposing him to social situations is a good idea. In addition to that, bring him to play dates or other settings where you've already made arrangements to ensure some success. Like talk to the teacher, or maybe if a friend has an older mature child, or maybe bring him to a Montessori preschool (*smiles). I'm a Montessori teacher so I may be accused of bias, but a Montessori classroom may work for James--children work individually (or in small groups), children work at their own pace and they choose their own work, plus James has been exposed to the Practical Life and Sensorial materials which he will find comfort in).

In any case, just be willing to experiment and find out what works (what works today, might not another day) which you already are and for that, kudos to you.


Counting Coconuts said...

Thank you again for everyone's input - it's been SO helpful! As you can imagine I spent much of last night thinking about all of this, but I'm happy to say this morning I feel MUCH more at ease now that I have a new "game plan". :) I've decided not to stress out about this any more- it's not doing anyone any good. I've also resolved to accept James' shyness whole-heartedly and to put a positive spin on the rude remarks I get from parents. Paul and I also decided we're not going to force the playgroup situation, but we will try going to just one for now and allow him to warm up to it, IF he wants to. I agree now that bombarding him with new, unfamiliar situations is NOT a good idea. And, whenever we do attend a function, I'm going to "prepare him" in advance so he knows what to expect. Most importantly, we are going to watch his cues, offer him choices and respect his decisions.
I just feel so blessed that each of you took the time to write out your thoughts and even share your own personal stories with me.
I promise to give you all an update in a couple weeks or so.
~Mari-Ann :)

Rusheika said...

well I am late to the party but all I was thinking as I read your post has been expressed beautifully by others and by reading your comments it seems that you have taken their advice to heart and seem more at peace about this. My oldest too is terribly shy around strangers and I have not pushed him.. he has gotten a little better and now all I expect is that he is polite (ie. says good morning, good afternoon etc. answer basic questions someone may ask) I do not push him beyond that. I have accepted that that is who he is.. it is interesting because once he sees his brother or sister who are more out going being social, it is easier for him to then engage in a conversation. Even my more outgoing son did not benefit from a school setting...I think I told you he cried everyday for a year and a half when I dropped him off so I am not sure school is the answer. I am actually finding all of my kids to be much more confident and outgoing since we have started homeschooling them. All the best... and let's try for a play date, although I'll let you decide when it is best so that my crew won't overwhelm James!!

Cara said...

Ok, I've been out of town for a few days, but I definitely wanted to add my two cents!

I can SO relate to James. I'm extremely shy and so is my husband. (How Finn wound up an extrovert is really beyond me.) The more people pushed me to socialize, the more I resisted. I still hate large groups and meeting new people. I have to talk myself into doing stuff, and DECIDE that I want to reach out to other socially. Only then will I do it (and I still have a hard time).

So I agree with those who said to just take a break for a little while. And maybe he's just not comfortable in settings with lots of other kids, and for the most part, I'd say that's just fine. I still prefer being with just one or two friends as opposed to large parties/events.

If you really wanted to encourage his comfort in large(r) groups, I might check out some activities that AREN'T mommy and me....not sure if he's old enough for any classes like that in your area. Most of the ones in our area start at 3yrs old, but if you could find a small one (5-10 kids) that allows the parents to stick around and observe, that could be super. I'm thinking of The Little Gym (which I do with Finn as Mommy and Me right now), but there may also be art, music, science classes similarly designed. The key would be to find something that James is really excited about. And as the other commenters mentioned, you would really need to talk it up before hand.

That's all I've got for now since Finn just woke up from his nap, but I just wanted to let you know that I'm sending big hugs your way!!

Rachel said...

Hi Mari-Ann,
Don't have kids so I don't know what to do from a parent perspective but I was a super shy kid who went to day care my whole life. I was still shy. My dad tried to help by putting me in drama and speech/debate. I was horrible at it and guess what, still shy. Don't push him too much. Rachel

Lara said...

Hi Mari-Ann,
Although you've already received loads of advices, I thought I might add one more... I also recognize your situation. Our oldest son (almost 4 years old) is also shy, sometimes terrible, sometimes just a little. I too was often disappointed because I thought we did enough to encourage him to be self-confident.
What I've noticed is that his shyness increases when his 'world gets bigger'. Every time he learns a new skill, his world becomes bigger. This is of course a wonderful thing, but for those little ones it is also a bit scary. So he seeks reassurance and safety with his mommy (or in our case mostly his daddy).
Reading your blog, I get the impression James' world is increasing rapidly through all your efforts of teaching him. I'm not saying you're going too fast, to the contrary, I think it's wonderful you stimulate him so much. But I think it's just normal that this also sometimes bewilders him. Some children express this by becoming angry and disobedient, your James expresses this by becoming shy. So my advice would be to give him the feeling of safety and familiarity he seems to need. Maybe understanding his needs helps to accept.


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