Friday, October 16, 2009

The Shy Child

I know what it's like to be the shy kid. When the spotlight hits you, you want your nerves not to take over, but it happens anyway. Your heart is racing and your stomach is in knots. Not the most pleasant experience.

I worry for my two sons who tend to be shy in certain situations. My heart aches for them as they drop their heads, turn bright red and shift around uneasily. They are not fans of class presentations. My 10 year old seems to manage o.k. and get the presentation done. However, he will be shy around teachers or parents. He would love to just slip away and not get into the conversation. My 6 year old is trying his best, but I know he worries about speaking up in class. Joe will always be my worry.

I think that they inherited my childhood shyness. There's a big part of me that feels like I'm not doing enough to help them with their shyness. They are involved in sports and activities, but they are self conscious during classroom presentations. I understand the benefits of learning presentation skills, but I do wonder if sometimes it can be overdone with young kids.

It seems like they always are putting a microphone in my 6 year old's hand. I know his dread when he has to say something. I think they put too much pressure to perform on shy kids. That pressure may do more harm than good. The shy kid gets through the experience, but what shape is he in after it? Is he proud of the achievement? Not necessarily. He may be just glad that he survived it.

My two wonderful boys are shy. This is how they are built. They are from my foundation. Their shyness is something that they are trying to work through in their own way. It hurts me to think that they are sometimes uncomfortable in school. They don't complain at all about it. I never did as a kid either. I was just hoping that they could have a childhood free from this shyness. I guess it was not in the cards.

I do think it was easier to be the shy kid when I was younger. There seemed to be more shy kids around in those days. Today, so many kids come across as extroverts and comfortable speaking up. The shy kid stands out more now. As a parent, I wonder if teachers and kids "get" what the shy kid is all about. Sometimes, I feel like teachers think that a kid has to "get over" the shyness. It's not that easy. Why isn't it o.k. to be shy anyway? People act like shyness should be moving towards extinction. Not all kids are the same. Why do we have to make such a big deal out of it?

These are the moments when I wish I could home school the kids.

22 comments:

Becca said...

I definitely was not shy when growing up but my sister was. She would get easily flustered in any situation. I completely agree with what you have said. It does seem as if being shy is treated as a disease that needs to be done away with. I hope it gets easier for your boys!

glnroz said...

It IS ok to be shy (one of my "secrets" in Honest Scrap post) ,but I understand the worry that parents carry for their children. Lands a goodness, I guess they understand it too, but they will probably have the same worries,,lol

Janna Qualman said...

It shouldn't have to be so hard. My oldest is similar to your boys (from my personality, too). Where's the acceptance? I think each personality should be embraced, instead of shifted into one sort of lump. And with no forcing.

This thought, paraphrased, came to mind while I read your post: "Sometimes it's not the loud people in front who have the most to say." I love that.

Gerri said...

I can totally identify with you. I was always shy in school until my parents moved us to a brand new city in my junior year of high school. I knew not one person so it forced me to be a little more outgoing but it was tough. My son is the same way. He is 23 now but still struggles a little in new situations or when meeting new people. Like you, I always agonized over it. And I agree, why do we all have to fit into one mold? Variety is what makes life interesting, and that goes for people too.

He & Me + 3 said...

I was not shy in a group of people I knew, but if I was the new kid or in front of people...I had to go pee from nerves so bad. I used to sing in front of the church and would almost pee my pants before going on stage...not so much for fear of doing it, but fear of making a mistake. I hate to be wrong or mess up. I remember speech class...that scared me to death. my husband is a natural in front of people. Everyone is different. Theater may be a good thing to get them into. My girls are both in it and it has really helped with their fear of being in front of people.

H F W said...

It's too bad that kids don't have the chance to just be who they are -- kids! Presentations as a 6-year-old first grader??? That's pushing it, I think.

Herb of Grace said...

Hmm. As the mother of a very shy girl, I say yes, it's ok to be shy. But. Eventually they're going to have to learn how to speak up when they NEED to. And honestly, from my experience as a music and drama teacher for fifteen years, it is much easier to learn it when you're young. I recommend drama/speech lessons :) I never cease to be amazed by how many shy, awkward children, once given the tools and the training, learn how to put their shyness aside momentarily when the need arises. Not that they'll suddenly turn into spotlight-hogs or anything. You can't change their personalities (nor would you want to). But I think it's something you can't really protect them from forever and it's better to teach them how to cope with it.

christy rose said...

I think being shy is not something we should try to change in our kids. There is a reason that they are shy. And it is different for everyone. Fear, insecurity, or just an internal thinker, whatever the reason, the shyness is the result of a deeper issue. Trying to change the shyness is pointless. Building up the areas of their lives that seem to be weak is the answer. And I do not think that is possible in a school setting. Confidence is what overcomes shyness and confidence comes from acceptance and success in accomplishments. So, in a sense, there can be growth in overcoming shyness in our kids but it will happen when they have times of acceptance and success not feelings of rejection and failure. And, in all efforts of fairness, teachers do not expect different things from different students. So, each child is not individually taught at their level or on their learning style. But they should be. That is really and truly the only hope of our children growing to the capacity of their abilities and overcoming areas of weakness in their confidence. Making a child speak in front of a bunch of their peers when they are afraid is not going to cause them to overcome shyness at all. If they feel as if they made a fool of themselves or that everyone laughed at them, it will actually cause regression instead. Finding what they do feel confident in and giving them opportunities to excel there would make steps in growing their confidence and overcoming shyness to maybe step out in some other areas of interest on their part as well.
I know what you mean about homeschooling. I used to do it, until I had too many kids for it to be easy anymore. It was not easy for me to put them in school because I knew that their teachers would never know them the way I do and would not be able to teach them in the way that I knew was easiest for each of them to learn. But somehow they do make it through. As I pray, God helps them!
Your boys will make it too! Pray that their teachers have wisdom to teach them in their learning styles so that they can become confident in what they have learned desiring to communicate it to others. You have favor!

God bless,
Christy

T Rex Mom said...

It is tough being the shy one. Both my hubby and I are really shy and inevitable one of our children will inherit that. T Rex will often cover his eyes if someone unfamiliar addresses him so he might already be showing signs.

Joanne said...

My first thought reading this was "What's wrong with being shy?" I much prefer shy, which can also be seen as thoughtful and reserved, than loud and abrupt. I'm also very surprised at the amount of oral presentations the kids get assigned today. We had an occasional one when I was in school, but it seems like every project now is a presentation!

Analisa said...

Boy did you bring back memories and hit a nerve. I was so quiet that one of my sister's friends asked if I could talk. When my son started daycare they came to me and asked was he able to speak. They really thought he couldn't talk. I got over my shyness, God's doing and you would never think I was shy.

My son is still that way at 17. It took a long time for him to make friends. I think it is torture for them at times but I remember when he was about 4 years old he went to a christian daycare. They had each child say a couple of lines for a Christmas event. I told the instructor Oh Paul will not talk, but he did. I was so shocked. He said it loud enough for everyone to hear. I asked the director how they did it she said they teach the children a scripture about being bold in God.

I know the word works but I think Paul was just afraid not to do what he was asked.

A lot of folks like me grow out of shyness with time. I known it can be very hard and is based in our fears, well it was for me. The fact that they are in sports shows they are not totally hindered by it. Public speaking is a nightmare for most of us. I do have a sight I plan to recommend about public speaking on my blog. Who knows she may have some tips on that too.

But know this they will be fine. I don't meet to many adults who are still suffering like they were as children.

http://eloquentwoman.blogspot.com

Jessilyn said...

I was always shy growing up but as I'm getting old I've gotten better I even tried karaoke of course I was extremely drunk the first time up there but the second i did better and i got up there by myself which before I probably wouldn't have gotten two words out.. hopefully my two girls we learn from me and be a little less shy from the start I have one already that is shy around new people but she is getting better since she started school.

Corrie Howe said...

Nice and thoughtful post. I don't have any thoughts, but I wanted to let you know I liked what you had to say and how you said it.

Don said...

"As a parent, I wonder if teachers and kids "get" what the shy kid is all about."

I think more teachers "get" it than kids do. But most kids don't care: they're too oblivious. I think most adults are oblivious of the contributions shy people have to offer, and it's their loss.

Nature is more shy, so are cats, but there are those who have learned to appreciate bot.

My favorite shy coworker was a gal named Rose. When I was a software manager, I often took Rose with me into planning meetings. She seldom spoke; she mostly sat quietly and listened.

Towards the end of the meeting I turn to Rose and ask, "So Rose, what did we miss? What else do we need to talk about?"

Invariably she'd list two or three things that we "extroverts" had missed. Being set free from the obligation to be an active participant in on-going conversation, she was free instead to see things that others were missing. I got that, and I used her "shyness" to help my team be more effective.

I've carried that knowledge over into the classroom. (Some teachers get it, because they see it repeat each year in their classrooms.)

Judith Ellis said...

Your boys will be fine, Kelly. They're great and they have a super mom! No worries. My mother had 12 kids and we are all oriented slightly differently. We all have various careers and diverse interests. Some are shy and others aren't. I have never been so. :-) It might be a good idea to have your boys in various settings. Growing up we had a very active children's church where we presented every week and went out into the community. I learned a great deal from those times. I also remember the shy kids and brought them along. They are great scientists and business people today. It's okay to be shy. But I would also like to say that perhaps some shyness is stubbornness, excessive pride, and fear of failure. Kid have the same issues as adults, only expressed differently. As a mother, you will decide what particularly, maybe none of the above at all, bother them, if anything, and you will find the wisdom to address it. This I know as you are as my mother used to say "thoughtful and prayer." This she said to us each and every day we left the house. "Be thoughtful and prayerful." Peace and love to you and yours...

::She Poet:: said...

Kelly, your worry over your children is understandable especially with so many aggressive kids out there who tend to fish out the shy ones. But shyness is a good trait and I'm sure they will overcome it as they become older. I can relate to homeschooling. I know your reasons and that is a family decision. I hate presentations, speaking out and crowds too, this is something they will have to learn to endure in a school setting even in college or in their careers. Once they get used to doing it, then it will become less painful. You are a good mother and your anguish is natural in today's unpredictable world. Cover them in prayer, leave them in His hands as they begin their day.

Jenners said...

I hear you. I really suffered in high school sometimes doing presentions ... one time, I burst into tears and ran out of the classroom. Horrible. But eventually, I got better and better at it. Unfortunately, it is something you do have to do in life -- not always public speaking but talking to people you don't know. I don't think kids should be pressured but it is probably something they need to know how to do. The best thing is just to be familiar with your material so that you don't have to worry about that aspect of it and to practice some breathing exercises to calm you down.

Amias said...

.. i am still shy.

Susan Fobes said...

I too was a shy child, and of course I see it in both my kids. On the bright side, kids are resilient, and things usually bother us more than them.

Karen (KayKay) said...

This was such a wonderful, heart-rending post for me. I am shy. My youngest child is terribly shy. She has to contend with an older sister who can't even conceive of shyness. It's hard on her. I struggle with how to help her - or if I should help her. My heart goes out to her because I can soooo relate.

chens said...

because there is some speaking problem I'm a shy boy too. my teacher and classmates gave me much time to live with my shyness, so it was gone graduately when I grew up. and now I'm shy sometimes, but I know when i need to speak in public or not It will not be a ploblem. man are 'fragile' indeed, but they can be strong also if there is a confidence inside.
take care of youself also. regards.

Gerri said...

Kelly, I agree with you. I think we spend too much time trying to change children instead of supporting them as they are. I pray for your boys that they learn how to handle the pressure and that you learn how to continue to love and support them through the trials. Blessings my friend. :)