Question About Shy/Introverted Child

Updated on February 10, 2014
M.P. asks from Peoria, IL
13 answers

After reading today's Mamapedia blogger, I have a question. My 8 y/o son is the shy type too. He prefers small groups and doesn't initiate much contact with others. He opens up nicely when there are just a few kids but put him in a large group of kids (i.e. lunch or recess) and his lips are sealed. He is a good kid and I have embraced the idea of him being shy. My question to you other mamas with shy children is how do you help them when they want interaction with other kids but just have a hard time pushing themselves to do so? He is completely comfortable when kids come over to play but when he sees the same kid at school playing with other kids, he feels overwhelmed and does not want to approach them. Any suggestions?

BTW, we have role-played asking to join in and being more assertive, etc but I can see that it is still really hard for him. I don't want to push him too hard.

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So What Happened?

ETA: I don't think there is anything "wrong" with him and I am perfectly okay if he doesn't want to interact with other kids a lot or prefers to be by himself (I am kind of that way too). I asked this question because HE feels sad sometimes about not sitting with other kids at lunch or playing at recess, etc. I want to help him but don't want to push him or make him feel that there is something wrong. Thank you for all the positive feedback. :)

Featured Answers


answers from Grand Forks on

I was a shy child, and I am a shy adult. I wish someone had been able to "fix" me as a child because I don't want to be shy. I wish I could walk into a crowd of people and strike up a conversation.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Kansas City on

It sounds like he's an introvert. That is not the same thing as being shy. An extrovert can be shy. Introverts get their energy by being alone while extroverts get recharged in a huge group of people. Introverts prefer small groups to large groups which suck the energy out of them. They are observers and choose their friends carefully. There is nothing wrong with your son. I would encourage you to read up on introverts to understand them better.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I wish I had stood firm when wellmeaning people encouraged us to help our child be more outgoing. I wish we would have understood the difference between introvert and shy then.
I would have kept her away from the scout leader who made it an issue and embarrassed her three times about not speaking up. I would have signed her up for one or two group activities with other kids so she could be a part of the group and get to know kids in a group setting without the pressure.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My daughter, now 19, while not really shy was just picky about who she opened up to. She was guarded as far as who she made friends with, socialized with, etc. even at a young age.

She did thrive with martial arts and has a black belt. Not many people know this because she is like we are... pretty private and keeps her cards close to her chest.

He'll probably come out of it to some degree and you sound like you are managing through it well by not being pushy and communicating with him.

Best wishes.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

I agree that introversion and shyness are not the same, although they may appear that way to some. Being somewhat reserved, and preferring small groups to large ones, is a facet of a God-given nature. Being shy or timid, on the other hand, is a facet of self-consciousness.

While there's nothing wrong with being introverted (said this introvert!), a child (or adult) needs to overcome a degree of shyness and learn to reach out to others by saying hello to them, being able to answer questions, and helping them feel comfortable. If your boy can do that much in small groups, he will eventually learn to be comfortable in larger groups.

I would "prod" such a child to be friendly and helpful, but not object to his preference for "small crowds" or for spending time alone. He may need to learn that just smiling at other children is actually a big boost to them! And saying hello... well, there are some kids who would give their lunchtime dessert to have someone say hi to them. (Not that he needs to make it a business deal!)

You'd be surprised how many reserved children blossom by the time they're adults!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Instead of giving him advice when he mentions his struggles, ask him what he thinks he can do in those situations. Let him figure out a solution that's comfortable to him.

Don't try to change things for him. I was very shy and introverted as a child. I had close friends but was never one to initiate conversation. The worst thing people would say was, "Oh, you're so shy!" It made me feel like a freak, like shyness was a bad thing. It's not a bad thing.

I became less shy as I got older. I did it on my own terms. By the time I hit college, I was fed up with people treating me like a doormat because I was quiet. I found my voice. I'm still not outgoing by any means and remain an introvert, but I get by just fine in life.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

He is who he is. You can try some role playing, but he will find his way eventually. If he doesn't that is okay too. We are all different.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i don't know if that's something that can be fixed. i'd feel exactly like you- role-playing so he's got some tools, but not wanting to drill him and make him feel as if he's weird and in need of repair.
i think this is an ongoing progression that he'll work on, with your help, throughout his childhood. if you keep making sure he has small group and one-on-one opportunities he'll continue to enjoy friendships and playing with other kids, even if the break-into-the-group dynamic remains challenging.
i didn't really care for the article. i don't think most parents today consider shyness to be a negative. and i roll my eyes at the compensatory over-reaction of believing that shy kids are smarter than others. reminds me of the book written by a ghastly smothering anorexia mom who insists that anorexic girls are actually angels here to enlighten us lesser mortals but beaten down by what clods we are. shyness isn't a negative, nor is it an indicator of superiority. (that mini-rant was directed at the article-writer, not you, M. P!)
it sounds as if your guy has just the right mom.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I agree with the folks who say to read up on introverts. He might be both introverted AND shy. But they are not the same thing. You don't want to change him (maybe you do, but you shouldn't)... but it is important that he has the tools to understand how to accomplish what he wants. So give him the knowledge to be assertive when he needs to be (my daughter didn't drink fruit drinks or soda, and needed to know how and be comfortable with asking for plain water instead at parties, whether at school or friend's birthdays)... and not expect him to host big groups or be in the middle of group activities if he prefers one-on-one play or work. Don't force group play on him... let him initiate that, when and IF he chooses it. You can encourage one-on-one play or friends... but don't expect him to always want even that.

People (and that includes children) that are introverted get tired and stressed in prolonged social situations. They need alone time to recharge. Make sure he has opportunities for alone time every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Our daughter is an introvert. She blossomed in college. It was completely amazing.

It was as though those were her people. Her face lit up, she was empowered.

Our daughter does not do well with small talk, She finds it tedious and so she chose to not say anything in those situations.

And she cannot deal with silly people. She shuts down around people like that.

She has always been very mature. Her teachers all loved her. they all said she got their humor and their instructions.

You just have to acknowledge this and then teach him what is expected to be considered a polite person.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Our son has a 'wait and see' learning style.
The first 10 weeks of every school year the teachers would tell me he needs to speak up in class.
And then the rest of the year they couldn't get him to shut up.
Now at 15 he's as outgoing as anyone else but he still doesn't jump in before taking a good look at how a situation works.
I've seen a lot of shy kids open up eventually while taking taekwondo.
8 yrs old is a good age to start.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Introvert alert! The best thing you can do is to help support his natural tendency. There is NOTHING wrong with him! He is going to come home from school and retreat to his room as he gets older. I have a friend whose daughter likes to stay home from school sometimes (middle school) because there is only so much she can take of the BIG school setting.

There is a book you can read... one chapter is devoted to Introverts, another to Extroverts and it will open your eyes to how they think, and what they need. Introverts NEED friend time during the day. Introverts need solo time, like you and I need water and air. Just make sure he gets it and don't stress him out.

Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic
by Maureen Sheedy Kurcinka

Those 2 chapters should do it. There are other books you can find if you want to keep reading.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

M. P-

Very narrow tip & suggestion for you. When you roleplay, try to choose the sort of discourse that is right for an 8 year old boy. They speak differently than 8 year old girls and than adults. If appropriate, an opener like - "hey, want to play ball, tag, chase, angry birds with me?" would probably serve him just fine.

F. B.

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