9 Year-old Boy Doesn't Talk to adults......is This Normal??

Updated on March 26, 2016
S.C. asks from Medical Lake, WA
13 answers

My nine year old son (my first child) doesn't seem to talk to adults besides my husband and myself. We went to my Mom's (his Grandma's) for Thanksgiving dinner and he didn't really socialize with anyone. He was the only kid his age there. Another example of this behavior happened yesterday when we went to a store. The cashier asked him a question and he gave zero response. Could this have to do with self-confidence or that he just doesn't feel like talking and doesn't care if it is socially acceptable or not? Thanks for any suggestions you have. S.

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So What Happened?

Thanks for your responses. They made me realize that my son has become "shy" and I didn't realize it. We had another family dinner (with the same people) and I helped him to feel more comfortable by playing a card game with him right away. His grandma also joined in, so that helped. The best thing about your responses was that I now look for ways to help him and teach him in social situations versus being frustrated with him. Thanks again!

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answers from Portland on

What happens at school? Does he talk with/to his teachers, school staff, or peers. Maybe it's just people he doesn't know really well. If you're far from family and only see them occasionally, he may not feel comfortable around them.

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answers from Seattle on

Hi S.;

The family dinner doesn't seem as concerning as not speaking to the cashier.

In family get-togethers it can be difficult to find someone to connect with especially since there were not any other kids around his age. Babies are not too thrilling to a nine-year old boy, older kids are not too thrilled to hang out with younger kids and the adults are usually wrapped up in their own conversations.

As for the cashier, maybe he didn't hear her, or he didn't feel comfortable with the question, or he is super shy and it was just out of his comfort zone. Whatever the reason, I'd bring it up to the pediatrician at the next appointment. They can check his hearing to rule out anything on that front and give some good tips on how to help him feel a bit more comfortable in those situations if he is super shy.

In the meantime, maybe you can help him learn how to find ways to connect with other people. Say he likes football and Uncle Jerry used to play in college, pair them up, help them get a conversation flowing then step out and let them have at it. Maybe he really enjoys the zoo and would like to know more about what goes on there. I know the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium have week long courses for kids to learn about different "behind the scenes" staff. I believe they are small class sizes, too (I want to say around 9). That may be great for helping get around kids his own age who are interested in the same things and also around adults who share the same interest.

Just some thoughts, let us know how it goes. OH! Maybe ask him what his thoughts are on these different situations, his logic may surprise you. Sometimes we put more thought into being polite and maybe there was just something about the cashier that didn't seem so comfortable to him.

I have three boys: 14 and 8-year-old twins who each have their own comfort levels. THe 14 yr. old will only speak to adults if he must. The twins are pretty exclusive and will only open up IF they have had plenty of time to adjust to their surroundings AND the environment is condusive to them speaking. For example: Grandma walking by on her way to the kitchen and asking question will get her no answer. However; if grandma has given them warm-up time and goes and sits down with them and acts interested in what they are doing will get some conversation.

D. J.

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answers from Eugene on

My nephew who is now 14 has always been shy. This Thanksgiving weekend, his dad had him help barbecue the meat and serve it. It really helped him open up to others, and he actually ate the food he helped to cook (he's a finicky eater, so this was good)! You might have your son help next time in the meal preparation.



answers from Seattle on

First we tell our children not to talk to strangers, then we tell them to say hi to the nice lady....
Yes this is normal, it sounds like he is shy to me.
My 12 year old still does not like to talk to strangers. She also refuses to shake hands at church.
Once she gets to know you, then she will shake your hand, and talk with you. But she has always been the shy one. As a baby she would not let just anyone hold her.
I also have a child that would hug anyone. He would go up and talk to anyone. Kids come in all sizes, shapes, and personalities.
When we are out and my daughter does not want to talk to strangers, I just say something along the lines of "She is shy". Most adults understand this.



answers from Richland on

Is he just shy, maybe? I was very shy when I was young and I remember that adults were more intimidating than other children, so I would not look at them when they spoke to me. Hope this helps.



answers from Portland on

Socialization is a learned habit. So, I really think, being a middle school teacher, and a mother of a 15 month old, that you have to teach children to say hello to adults. In a way, "make" them interact with adults. In many cultures, there are many more adults that children are around more often, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. Here, we get too isolated. I make my middle school students say hello to me, when they just want to slip by and not interact with an adult, like a teacher. I think it is healthy and good. With a 9 year old, perhaps you can give him some lines to say, and you can practice with him in a loving, fun way. Perhaps you can make a "play" or act out meeting an adult he doesn't know, and perhaps an adult he does know. It will be WAY better off for him in the future. When getting a job, I always tell students "it is not WHAT you know, but WHO you know," when getting a job. I hope he has some other (besides you and his dad) loving adults in his life, he could possibly practice his skills with. Good luck!



answers from Seattle on

Hi S.,
My son is 16 now but he was the same way as your 9 year old. The older they get the better they become social. My father was the same way too, but over came it as an older child just like my son. I think part of it is in the jeans but I think his 2nd grade teacher made him scared of adults too because she was so mean.
My son was in the 2nd grade when it started with him. He would not talk to any adults at all. I could not understand and I was scared for my son. It made school life a living hell for my son. After fighting the schools for so long they always wanted to put a label on my son. We went to doctors, councilors and nothing was working.
I then found a wonderful school that took the time with my son and he began braking out of his shell. It was so so wonderful and it was like he was reborn.
My son sometimes has a set back but comes out of it pretty fast.
At home, school and around friends and family my son is just like any other kid. My son has many friends and is a wonderful person. He is still shy and I think that will be with him.

I hope all the best for you.
I hope some info helped you.

P.s Just try to be very understanding with your son and don't let family members get mad at your son for not talking to them. Some family members don't understand and can be as bad as the school system.

Take care



answers from Seattle on

-- Aren't 9 year old boys the best??? - ( and challenging, my yes). I'd try some really simple solutions first. When you see a relative getting ignored - say quietly- ''' I think Grandma is a little disappointed that you didn't answer - she was asking you a question'' - and see if that prompts him. Or when you leave the store ''' The man asked you--"" Sometimes children this age are uncomfortable - or get '''lost in a day dream'' and really don't attend. If that doesn't help-- ask him '' did you ignore Grandma becasue you didn't know what to say?" - If none of that makes any difference - you'll know that either you have a behaviour issue or a counseling issue or ---- --- but before you can select a solution- you need to find out what the issue IS.




answers from Seattle on

I wouldn't worry about it. Many children, including when I was one, just take it all in rather than exchange much. That will come later :)



answers from Dallas on

My son is the same way. Looking for advice as well.



answers from Portland on

He may just be shy around other adults. Be greatful that he does not talk to other adults. At least u can rest assured that if he was ever alone he would have a better chance at being safe due to not talking to adults. Let him know that it is ok that he feels this way. I am sure when he is ready he will grow out of this phase.

My 3 year old daughter on the other hand talks to everyone. Yesterday we were walking back home from the park and a stranger (a guy) was walking past us. My daughter tried ton give that man a hug. Now, that is scary. I wish my child would not talk to other adults. U r lucky. LOL!

A little about me:

I am a full time employed mom of 3 children ages 3, 5, and 7. I was a single parent up until about 1 month ago. My children's father and I decided to try our marriage one more time. Hopefully it works this time!



answers from Bellingham on

Boys are not big talkers to begin with. My eleven-year old has always been chatty, but he'll go on forever and bore someone to death, spouting facts, etc.
My six year old daughter was PAINFULLY (painful for me) shy, until I did the same thing one of the other moms did, and explained to her that it's RUDE to ignore someone when they are talking to you.
Simply put, there are acceptable ways to be a part of society, and it's our job, as mothers, to teach our children these ways. Women are the social ones, most of the time, and boys don't have a natural instinct for this. He just needs to be taught the right way to interact.
It's not his fault he just doesn't know. And he may not pick up on certain 'social cues'.
I think role-playing is good. Look into some books where the main character is super-shy or quiet and what he/she does to overcome that. You can ask your local librarian, they are wonderful resources.
Good luck, and I wouldn't worry at all. This is totally normal, in my opinion.



answers from Seattle on

Oh, my... yes. We have certainly dealt with this one in our household. What I did was to acknowledge my daughter's shyness, but explained that her behavior was considered rude. I followed this up with some roll-playing. First, I had her pretend to introduce herself to me, and I said nothing. Then, I mumbled down to myself. She got the giggles SO BADLY over that! Eventually, I had her practice introducing herself with her sister. They did this back and forth. (This is a Montessori excercise that we did in my preschool class.) :) The practicing did make her feel a little bit self-conscious and silly while she did it, but it helped to make her future introductions more automatic. She also had less of an issue with the frustration of not knowing what to say. I hope this helps! He will outgrow it soon enough, though. Blessings to you and yours! :)

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