Shyness and Anti-social Behaviors in 2 Year Old

Updated on March 11, 2011
S.P. asks from Keokuk, IA
14 answers

My daughter is almost 2 and seems so "anti-social." I was shy growing up and I am sad to say it seems as if she has that gene too. :( We try to take her out in public alot and have her around people, she also goes to a daycare with other kids her age ... yet she is still very shy and takes a long time to warm up to people, if at all. If someone even looks at her and talks to her, she will run over to me and cry/scream. I am not sure what to do. It's hard to take her places and honestly can be very stressful for all of us. Also, even with the kids at daycare, she seems to be shy with them - they want to touch her and dance or play and she will just pull away and whine (she plays really well by herself or with us). She has her own little personality and apparently has a bubble around her that she doesn't like popped. Is this a bad sign for something such as autism or am I worrying too much? She is just now starting to talk and doesn't know too many words, but sure knows how to communicate even without words ... and can comprehend everything we say (she follows directions very well). I am not sure if this is just a stage she is going through or something we are going to battle with for a long time.

Any suggestions to make this easier on ALL of us?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Parallel play is the norm for 2. They may play near each other but not with each other yet.
It's OK for her to be shy. All kids are different.

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answers from Honolulu on

1) You can on your own, contact your local "Early Childhood Intervention" organization and they do free assessments of a child up until 3 years old.
My son had that for his speech delay and speech therapy. My son LOVED it. It is free. They come to your house.

2) Both my kids were 'shy' too. It is them. I never forced it or made them feel 'wrong' about it. BECAUSE, I went according to my child's personalities. I nurtured, them. They are now well adjusted VERY wise children and very articulate about people. They are "observers" and very good about CHOOSING... their friends etc. I am proud, of them. I never made their shyness, an issue.
NOT all children, has to be extroverts. Just like adults.
My kids are very self-assured and confident... because I taught them to believe in themselves... and to trust themselves. Versus just teaching them that they have to talk to everyone and play with everyone.

Kids, OFTEN do get shy.
Nothing 'wrong' with that.

All the best,

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answers from Sioux City on

Your child is shy. Making new friends does not happen quickly or easily for him. He experiences social discomfort in crowds and around unfamiliar people. It’s not that you want to push your child to be popular, but you do want to help your child become socially comfortable and to foster quality friendships. How can you help your child reach these goals?

*Understand that some things that may look like shyness aren’t shyness. Some children prefer to be observers rather than participants in childhood games and rituals. Other children are introverted, which is to say that they are generally not outgoing regardless of whether they are in a large, unfamiliar crowd or with only one person (a beloved family member): they are more internally focused (focusing on their own thoughts and feelings). These children are not experiencing social discomfort.

*Understand that shyness can be a result of nature (an in-born personality trait) or nurture (some life experience has taught your child to be shy). Shyness can be a normal part of child development and is not necessarily a problem. It’s up to you to assess the degree to which your child’s shyness adversely affects his life. Assess this by observing him and asking him questions about how he feels.

*Arrange play dates with one child that has a lot in common with your child. When your child becomes comfortable in that setting, periodically add a second child to play dates. As your child’s comfort grows, continue increasing the size of his play dates.

*Set expectations and invite your child to discuss his feelings with you or his/her babysitter or nanny. (For example, “We are going to see Tommy today. How do you feel about that?”)

*Coach your child on social skills. (For example, “If Tommy’s mother says you are wearing a cute outfit, please say ‘thank you’ to her.”) Do not provide social responses on your child’s behalf; however, you can prompt him to give a response if he does not have a ready response when needed. (For example, if Tommy’s mother asks your child how he likes the State fair this year and your child hesitates to answer, you can prompt by saying, “Would you tell her what you told me about why this midway is your favorite?”)

*Ask questions to draw your child out and provide him with ample affirmations. (For example, on your child’s first play date with Tommy, if the children are not initially interacting, you can ask your child, “Would you tell Tommy about your neat dinosaur collection?”)

*Enroll your child in a school with small class sizes, where social development is included in the curriculum, and where parents volunteer in the classroom.

Shyness can fade (but not necessarily disappear) over time. If your child’s shyness has not decreased significantly by age seven, assess to what degree your child’s shyness is adversely affecting his life. If shyness is not having a significant adverse affect, continue with the tips above. If significant adverse affects are occurring, have your child speak with a counselor. Your child may suffer from a social anxiety disorder: selective mutism.

By following these steps, you can help your shy child to become socially comfortable and to foster quality friendships.

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answers from Saginaw on

I recommend reading the book

The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron

It may or may not be the reason your daughter is shy, but I do feel the book, if anything. can give you some ideas to learn to accept and handle handle your daughter being shy.

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answers from Hickory on

My daughter went thru this around the same age. She was an only child and was pitifully shy. We just started taking her out as much as we could to the park and things like that, also we had another child. This past year, she has completely changed, she is very talkative and she even started ballet and wants to do it by herself without us in the room bc shes a "big girl"
just give her time and work with her, it will work out...

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answers from Appleton on

I have a 4.5 year old who was sooooo shy as a baby and toddler. Playdates at other homes were not enjoyable for him. He would sit on my lap and watch others play. Kids were dancing and he had no desire to leap along with them. He was really sensitive to sound, too. For some reason, a talking toy would send him to my lap right away. That's who he was and he's free to be the person he wants to be. I let him come to me and didn't force or cajole or push him to leave my lap.

We rarely went to the children's museum. It was too overwhelming. McDonald's playplaces? Forget it...too many screaming kids that startled him. So we invited moms and their kids to our house....only about 1-2 other kids really. Kept it small and low-key. I still did large playgroups about 1 time a month, let him stay by me, or left when he wanted to go home. I let him have control of how to handle the situation.

Fast forward to now and what a difference in my son. Much more social...orders his own food at the table at restaurants, waves to people passing by on our walks outside, asks his grandparents questions about their lives, and shares stories and the things he likes. He wants to go to the McDonald's playplace, but it's still a little too noisy for him. One time he came running back to me and said, "Mom, why can't the kids play and not yell?" He's much more sensitive to strong emotions and sadness, too.

I would continue to be your daughter's rock and support. She needs to know that when times get tough for her she can run back to you for balance. Let her know she can always be dependent on you. True independence comes after a solid foundation of dependence.

She's still so little so there's no telling what qualities she'll have at 4 or 24. But for now just let her be who she wants to be. Even at 2 you could put her in a sling on your hip and walk around. She can watch you interacting with people and feel real comfortable so close to you.

Take care!

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answers from Spartanburg on

I think she's too young to make definite statements...let her grow at her own pace, you never know how she'll react a couple of years from now (or even longer...who cares?). Children have their own ways to deal with situations, she may just be very sensitive, maybe a little anxious...she is so small!

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answers from Minneapolis on

First, share your concerns w/your pediatrician at her 2 year checkup. There are many many factors that go into a diagnosis of autism (or anything else) and your doctor is the best person to help you sort through what is significant and what isn't.

Second, as a shy person with a shy oldest child (and an exuberant outgoing youngest child, who knew?) - large groups can be hard. If you can, try to arrange some one-on-one playdates. I always do better in small groups and one-on-one, and my son does, too. Smaller groups or one playmate can help your daughter practice social skills in an environment where she's more comfortable. (P.S. my oldest still prefers smaller groups, but is a warm, friendly, enthusiastic kindergartner with lots of good friends.)

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answers from Bismarck on

I recommend reading "The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child" by Marti Olsen Laney. There are a lot more introverted people out there than you might think. It may also be part of your daughter's personality that she is slow to warm up to people. If that is the case then it would be good to learn strategies for how to help her (and you) deal with this. A wonderful book about personality traits is "The Difficult Child" by Stanley Turecki. I'd start with the book about introverts because that might tell you all you need. Someone suggested taking your daughter to get tested for speech. It is a wonderful idea but please don't expect too much from your first visit. If your daughter is slow to warm up to people she may refuse to participate in the assessment which makes it tough for the therapist to accurately assess your child. Be patient. If the therapist is willing, go see her several times so your daughter gets used to her or ask if the therapist can visit you in your home where your daughter might be more comfortable. If nothing else see if the therapist will give you some activities or exercises that you can use at home.

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answers from Dallas on

I have a 4 1/2 year old son like this. He's gradually changing but has never been too much of the social person. He use to growl at people, and he has really cute hair and lots of people would comment on his cute curls, boy did he hate anyone getting into his space. When he was born, we lived 5 hours away from my parents, when they would come to see him he wanted nothing to do with them. We moved close to them when he was 1 1/2 which it still took over a year for him to be semi-close with them. Just recently he will actually give hugs to them, most of the time he'll get in the position so they can hug him.

I wouldn't worry too much about it and let her be herself. It just takes a little more time with some children and there isn't anything wrong with them being shy.

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answers from Denver on

Might just be her personality and at this age kids don't really play together - so don't be too concerned about that. I would just continue to let her be in social situations to get used to it even though it's tough. Make sure she knows she's safe and it's ok. Focus on building her confidence and self esteem. I would not worry at this age at all.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Just make sure none of her issues are due to a Sensory Processing disorder... high sensitivity to sound, etc. can (sometimes) be a precursor for future issues.


Just make sure none of her issues are due to a Sensory Processing disorder... high sensitivity to sound, etc. can (sometimes) be a precursor for future issues.



answers from New York on

So did she just turn 2 or is she almost 3? Have the teachers mentioned that is is not in the typical range of development? Her shyness sounds a little extreme especially since its impacting your life. Don't automatically jump to autism. It could be social anxiety, it could be sensory issues or it could be nothing at all. But I would call the Early Intervention in your state since it sounds like her language is possibly delayed and she does sound like she has some social issues.


answers from St. Louis on

I don't know a whole lot about autism, but I do know this kids that do have autism love to line things up no matter what it is. My boss has a grandson with autism and he lines everything up from his fruit loops to his cars to his shoes. If you call your local health department they should be able to give you an agencies name who can give your daughter an eval.

Best of Luck, but I'm sure she is prolly just being a shy little girl. Nothing wrong with that either.

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