Should I Suggest This Shy 8 Year Old Needs to Get Help?

Updated on July 01, 2011
C.J. asks from Hyde Park, NY
18 answers

My husband's niece K, has a very shy 8 year old daughter, T. She won't respond when said hello to by us or her other aunts and uncles. We see this child usually once or twice a year at least, so far this year it has been 3 times. I was a shy child too, but I was encouraged to respond to people that spoke to me, especially relatives. K never encourages T to respond, and always says "she's shy". We saw them this weekend and as I was talking to K, T was hanging all over her, like a toddler, and K never said a word. We were all patient and understanding when she was younger, but it seems like she should be improving. Should I suggest to K that she get some professional help for this child?t

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answers from San Francisco on

Shyness is not a problem, it is a personality trait.
I also have a shy niece who barely speaks to the extended family. It's clear she's just not comfortable in large social situations, and especially around people she only sees a few times a year. I would never suggest she get "help" for it.

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answers from New York on

Well I've always been shy. I'm the mother of a very shy son. And I'd like to say -- shyly ;) -- that I don't like seeing shyness pathologized. I get these dark, dystopian visions in which only one personality type is okay and everyone is regarded as deficient. Instead, I'd respectfully recommend that you step back and think of everything that's *right* with this thoughtful, observant little girl. Honestly, "T" will probably pick up on that and start interacting with you more if you do.

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answers from Charleston on

No. She's not your child. I'm sure her parents have noticed that she is shy. And, you know what? It's OK to be shy.

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answers from Washington DC on

no way! That's just her personality. You cant' change who she is. I am SUPER shy. I always have been. I was exactally like her. Even in high school, I would not talk unless I HAD to. I did end up growing up and getting over it somewhat. I taught preschool for 5 years, got married had my own kids and now I am a pro photographer. But, even still, I don't like to be in a group of people. I prefer one on one interaction. I will not talk in a large group of friends. But, one on one, I can be your best friend.
She does NOT need professional help!

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answers from Honolulu on

My daughter has always been shy.
But she is also very self-assured and confident.
Shy does not equal, being timid or insecure.
There is a difference.

BUT my daughter is also VERY wise, about people and social situations. She 'chooses' her friends and who to interact with.
We never made her be friendly with everyone.
We nurtured HER.
We nurtured her inborn talents and intelligence.
She thus, is very self-assured.
As she has gotten older, she has NATURALLY blossomed. She was even chosen by her Teacher, to be her tables "Leader" in class. Because, she is wise about kids/people and has good thought processes.
Sure she is shy, but she can do things. And her Teacher, recognized this. Her maturity, even if 'shy.'

We never, told my daughter to be anything, except herself.
We never made her feel weird, just because she was/is shy.
She is thus, always herself, and has good instincts and is wise about things. She is not a "follower" either, and knows herself. Very well.
AND... we also TRUST her very much. Because, she knows herself and is very good, about analyzing people. More so than most kids her age.
So, her apparent "shyness" was and is, a GOOD thing. Because, she is a KEEN, "observer" of people.

Being 'shy' is not the end of the world. Many Geniuses and successful people, were or are shy.
Do you know, that even some celebrities, say that they are actually 'shy'?

She should be nurtured for who she is. So she gains self-assurance. Not it being about how 'shy' she is.
To a certain extent, if a child is told they are shy or timid, they they may be. Because that is the focus... not it being about 'who' they are.

And if others constantly regard the child as 'shy' or that something is 'wrong' with her... kids can feel those vibes. They will then, not want to be around those people. Or feel, uncomfortable around them.

Einstein, didn't talk, until he was 3 years old. And he was said to be a socially awkward person and child. But he is a "Genius."

Being 'extroverted' does not make one child better than the other.
It means, nothing.

It is not your place, to comment on their child.

all the best,

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answers from New York on

MYOB. Not your place to say a thing.

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answers from Jacksonville on

No. I disagree with her commenting in front of her daughter that "she is shy"... but there is really nothing for you to say. They are obviously "aware" that their daughter has an issue with being "shy".... and have chosen not to pursue any outside help, OR they HAVE asked their doctor(s) about it and were told not to worry. Either way-- you bringing it up will just alienate them from you, not serve to get your niece any professional help.

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answers from Spokane on

Nope, don't say a word. If this were a child you saw every week, and she still acted this shy, then maybe you could mention something to her mom about it seeming to interfere with her socialization.
Maybe when they push the issue with their daughter it makes her retreat further into her shell. This is how my son is, if I try to push him out from behind me or force him to verbally recognize the adult talking to him, he just shrinks down and stares at the ground and it takes even longer for him to talk. If I start to answer questions about him in my own words and let him hide behind me, he usually steps out and joins in the conversation in a few minutes.
He HATES having all the attention focused on him, and the more I push him the more attention he feels is being focused on him and he just CAN'T make himself talk. If I threaten punishment, or tell him he's being rude (even in private, without others watching) it just makes him cry and retreat into his shell even more!
You don't know what is going on during daily life with this child by seeing her three times a year, leave it alone.

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answers from New York on

While I think that the parents should not make excuses, she isn't a preschooler anymore, I don't think it's your place to make suggestions. If it was my child, I'd tell them that at this age, not responding is simply rude. However, you don't know what she normally does because she only sees you a couple of times a year, you don't know what she does with people who she knows well and sees often. The parents have chosen to allow this behavior and while I don't think it's in the best interest of the child, it's would be very presumtuous to make suggestions to parents of a child whom you see a couple of times a year. I wonder what the niece would be like if you had time alone with her? There's a teacher in my building whose son (same age!) acts like that, and if I say hello to him when he's in his mom's classroom with her before or after school, he will ignore me and mom will say he's shy. If I come upon him alone, he talks to me! For some kids, it's a way of getting attention from their parent

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answers from Columbus on

As a shy person myself, I can say that finding something I was passionate about as a kid (which for me was horses) and being given the opportunity explore that passion and become an expert at it (via riding lessons, horse camp, etc) helped me overcome my shyness and learn to interact with people more (because i wanted to share my passion).

I also wholeheartedly agree with Miranda O---shyness and introversion should NOT be pathologized. Shyness & introversion are part and parcel of the human population and are not a disease. :)

I encourage all parents to read this really interesting article on the subject of shyness & introversion:

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answers from Los Angeles on

Unless you're ready to sever ties with these relatives (who might be highly offended at a suggestion their child needs professional help) I would accept her for how shy is, bless her heart, and realize it's a personality trait just like being loud and boisterous is.

I was once so shy I would cry when spoken to, even by relatives. Over the years I've changed.

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answers from New York on

I agree with everyone else. Although you have the child's best interest at heart, it is none of your business.

They may already be getting "help" for her, assuming she needs it. Parents do not always advertise every detail of their child's life. It doesn't sound like you are close, so they may not feel the need to mention health or developmental issues with you.

Its wonderful that you are a caring person, but I think you should stay out of this one.

Good luck.

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answers from Kansas City on

being shy or not wanting to talk is not an "issue" that requires fixing. yes, it is not the most polite thing, and her parents probably should encourage her to speak out more instead of pigeonholing her as the "shy" kid....but you don't get a say. sorry. gotta stay out of it.



answers from New York on

Other than not talking to relatives, is her shyness actually affecting her life? i.e. does she have friends? Is she doing fine at school? If so, leave her alone. You rarely see her, so it's understandable that she is shy around you, especially if she senses your tension around her regarding her shyness - the more you try to draw someone out, especially a child, the more likely they are to retreat.

Actually, if she doesn't have any friends and she won't participate in class, her teacher has probably already spoken to her parents, so I wouldn't brooch the subject at all with her parents.



answers from New York on

Saying that she is shy in front of her is only perpetuating the behavior. And reprimanding her to speak when spoken to in front of guests will not help things either. The mother has to talk to her in private to understand what's going on. Speak to the mother about this (if you can).



answers from New York on

No, they know if she needs help. The parents might need more help than the child though, because they are hanging to close to her. The child might be fine in school and around her friends. It's really no big deal. She'll grow out of it.



answers from Seattle on

I will have to agree that this is none of you business. I don't think a shy 8 year old needs professional help, nothing that you describe would seem so extraordinary that it needed to be "fixed".

Stay out of it, especially since you are not that close to them anyways.


answers from New York on

Of course it's OK to be shy but this could be something else and they are pretending she is just shy. I would ask the parent (when daughter NOT around to hear) if they are doing anything to help T. If they refuse to talk about it you must let it drop, if they ask your opinion, you can recommend they discuss it with a professional who will know if they are doing the right thing by just letting her be her. In my opinion, they are doing her a diservice by saying "she is shy" and reinforcing and encouraging her behavior

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