My Son Is Very Anti-social... Please Help!

Updated on May 20, 2010
A.P. asks from Salt Lake City, UT
8 answers

My son is 3, he will be 4 in October. He is extremely shy! All of his cousins are older than him and they are all girls. He is the only boy in the whole family and there are about 12 girls! Poor him! Anyway, everytime we are around family, like at family birthday parties he is shy for hours! I cant take him to babysitters cause he screams and clings to my legs. Im a little nervous to take him to preschool cause Im afraid how he will react or feel. Yes he is my baby, maybe I still treat him like he is, Im not sure. But he has an older sister who is outgoing as can be and its odd to me to have him the total opposite! Maybe he gets it from me, I am not the social butterfly that my daughter is either, but I have actually changed quite a bit over this past year, for my kids! I used to not talk to other moms or even do play dates, but now Im all about them, even though I feel terribly uncomfortable around other moms, I still do it, for my kids! We tried taking a gymboree class, it was about a 45 minute drive there and another 45 minutes home for a class that was only 45 minutes long! Plus it seemed that when he did go to this class with me, that he wouldnt feel comfortable until the very end, when we had to leave! Ugh! Any suggestions on what I can do to help him out a little more? Im willing to do anything to help him out! I dont want this to affect him making friends! Please help!

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So What Happened?

So... I signed him up for preschool with someone who is his age and he knows them. They have played together a time or two! I no longer call him shy and I let other people know that he is just watching to see whats going on first! So Ive noticed that he is doing better by just avoiding the, "oh he is just shy" saying that I use to say quite often! Thanks everyone for all your advice!!!!! :)

Featured Answers



answers from San Francisco on

Three years old is a little early to worry about this being a huge problem for him. At three they still often don't "play" much with others. But preschool would be a good place for him to start learning to socialize without you.

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answers from Dallas on

He is still very young. Not many 3 year olds have a group of friends just yet. I wouldn't start worrying. It's okay to be shy and since he is so young it will give you lots of time to help him become more comfortable in new situations.

For starters I wouldn't make a big deal about it. Shyness is often a personality trait. So don't focus on it or label your child as shy. Just find things your son likes and keep plugging away. If it takes the whole 45 minutes to warm up at gymboree then keep going! The goal would be to warm up after 20 minutes!

I was extremely shy all through school. It took college to bring me out of my shell.........hang in there!

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answers from Salt Lake City on

Reading your post, I wouldn't yet classify him as antisocial. Shy, maybe. Inexperienced in social interactions, yes. But he can learn to deal with this.

Honestly the best thing you can do is to have him in some sort of social setting. Find something closer to home, though. Do you have any neighbors, friends, church members, etc, who have boys near his age? Maybe he'll do better starting off in a 1-on-1 situation. Or look for established play groups you might be able to join. Just make sure to let him enter the activities or whatever at his own pace. Some kids are slower to warm up to new situations, so don't push him into it.

I would definitely suggest pre-school! He still has a couple of years before kindergarten, but if you can afford something this fall, it would probably be good for him. I should emphasise a GOOD preschool. Look for one who's teachers have formal training (a degree in early childhood is best!). You don't want a glorified daycare, you want adults who know how to work with kids and all the varieties of children's behavior. The best one, in my opinion, in Salt Lake, is at the U of U, but I don't know if they're still accepting applications for fall. (They're on president's circle, in the building just east of the museum). Also check with your local school, many of them have a pre-k class (though he might have to wait another year for that). I'd go with a 2-day or 3-day a week program this year; nothing to overwhelm him, just to get him into the flow.

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answers from Denver on

I think you just need to embrace who he is. Some people are just shy and some people grow out of it and some people don't. I have three kids, one was very shy until about kindergarten then he broke out of his shell. I have one that has never had a shy bone in his body and one that is shy once and a while. They are all totally different! Your son is fine and if preschool is too much for him, wait a year, he might grow out of it a bit. Just keep up with the fun things you do with him and keep your excitement up for his efforts (not successes - efforts). He is who he is and he is wonderful. He will not have any problems making friends, in fact he may be the one that has a couple of good friends and is selective, which is a great way to be.

Enjoy and good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

We have 2 kids with completely different personalities. My husband and I both have strong personalities and are relatively social (though I'm admittedly shy in new environments).

Our daughter (2) takes after us. Our son (almost 4) is very opposite. He's a little more shy, doesn't transition to new environments well, and is certainly a follower rather than a leader. I very much embrace his personality as his natural instincts and want him to be as comfortable in his skin as possible.
He's not good in situations where he doesn't know other kids well, but I think the best thing that you can do for them is to let them have to adjust on their own (with the help of a teacher) without you always being there as a crutch.

When my husband wanted to put our daughter into dance (at 22 months), I thought he was crazy. She cried for about the first 3-4 weeks and required us to be out on the floor with her to do anything. Then, all of a sudden, she loved it. We're hoping the same happens for our son in t-ball where he's forced to meet new kids and interact more socially.

I'd personally recommend preschool or another activity in which he can be social and not have you there to comfort him. Teachers are truly gifted at being able to divert their attention to something comforting and interesting to make them much more comfortable.

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answers from Norfolk on

When my son was 3 1/2 he was invited to a friends birthday party at a taekwondo place. He spent almost the whole party in my lap. He wanted to watch, but he wasn't comfortable running around with the other kids. Towards the end he got into it a bit more. He's always been a kid who has to watch first to see how everything works before he'll join in. Every year at school at teacher conference time they tell me how quiet he is, then the rest of the year they have a hard time getting him to be quiet. He's 11 now, a black belt in taekwondo and helps to warm up the classes. He's a straight A student and people go out of their way to tell me what a smart funny outgoing kid he is. Give your son a chance to out grow it. He'll be fine!

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answers from Minneapolis on

At three, my son was very selfish. I was sure he would be a self-centered adult and be miserable his whole life. As he grew, this lessened. At five and six, he is a normal boy and shares and thinks of others as much as the next six year old.

My point is to have patience because his personality isn't set. If he's content to be shy, relax and talk about being more outgoing in simple and brief conversations. He will come around. Encourage him, but only to the extent that he is not frustrated about it.

He may be somewhat shy, so honor that in his personality. My guess is that he will come out of his shell and if you look at his actions in 6 month timeshots, you will see improvements.

In the meantime, speak for him and exchange the social niceties on his behalf. He will learn from this. DO NOT say things that will have him feeling embarassed by his actions, but rather say things that will help him to be comfortable doing things that are outgoing.

It's hard seeing your little one struggle, but he still has a long way to go maturity-wise.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A.,

I like your thought on how you might treat him and it would make sense that, as you have grown in your own branching out, that he is not there yet. He probably got used to all the individually mommy time. What about having more play dates at your house, and outside in the yard, and then out at the park (or wherever he is more likely to be comfortable).

When these are going on, try to remain engaged in your own conversations with other parents and not let him see how his angst is affecting you. Yes. It is ok to check on him out of the corner of your eye but some of his reaction may be due to the response he expects from you. Remind him you are there and he is safe and to have fun. He needs to see and know that you are comfortable there. Eventually, he will come around. Model to him that is ok. If it takes him hours at parties, so be it. Good luck! S. A. K., MFT

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