Shy boy

Shy boy

Children can be painfully shy when among strangers, but there are ways to draw them out.

MY son will be turning four in July. He has been attending preschool since the age of three. Every morning he kicks up a fuss, giving all kinds of excuses not to go to school.

However, once he reaches school, there are no more tears and he is able to participate in the activities. Due to unavoidable reasons, I had to move him to another school and he has been there for a month.

The problem is that he does not want to talk in school or when he is with strangers.

In his old school, the teachers had a tough time trying to get him to speak up. They had to ask repeatedly before they could get him to open up. He would participate in activities such as drawing and colouring, but when it came to singing or talking, he would clam up.

As a baby, my son had terrible stranger anxiety, so much so that we could not visit our friends or relatives as he would cry non-stop.

As he grew older, he stopped crying but would refuse to look at anyone. If someone should talk to him or touch him, he would start crying.

After going to preschool, his social skills improved a little. He would play with children his age but refused to talk to them. When we went to relatives’ homes, he would only start talking after several hours. Before that he would only nod or shake his head when spoken to. When he wanted something, he would point to it.

At home he is a totally different person. Sometimes he is so talkative and curious that we have to practically tell him to keep quiet. He can speak English very well and speaks Malay to the maid. I am surprised that he uses big words in his sentences, and proper grammar too.

I am upset by his class teacher’s suggestion that he might have a speech problem that requires professional help. I have asked him many times if he was scared or perhaps somebody had physically abused him at school and that is why he is afraid to talk, but his reply is that “I am shy”.

I have tried in vain to bribe him to talk, but failed miserably. He would promise to talk at school but the next day he remained the same.

I do not know how to handle this situation and am getting very worried. How can I make my son talk in public? – Worried Mother

Your son’s problem of refusing to talk to unfamiliar people is common among children his age. Not all children are bubbly in nature and warm up to new situations easily.

At this young age, many children find it hard to adjust to the demands of new surroundings and new faces.

Children who are timid start to open up when they feel secure and know that they are accepted.

This may cause teachers to worry that there is a greater problem when the child does not offer any verbal responses in class. Since they do not have sufficient background information on the child, they cannot assess him accurately.

As his parent, you are in a better position to explain your son’s disposition to his teacher. Work out a plan with her to help him feel relaxed and secure in class. You may want to volunteer in some activities to show him the ropes. Children tend to feel comfortable knowing that their parents have a keen interest in what they do at school.

Another possible solution is to start a two-way journal with your child’s class teacher. She will record his daily activities in school, who has played with him or how he played, while you can write down all the things he said and did at home.

This way, both school and home can reinforce your son’s interest.

To encourage him to feel better about school, you may not want to focus attention on his lack of communication with others. Instead, you will do better by helping him develop language and social skills using role-playing. He can pick up the right words to use and the appropriate way to approach different situations with people.

Children are natural actors. Different situations are acted out in dramatic fashion. Children feel empowered when they take on roles that are strong and bold. It is easier to see how we come across socially in this make-believe play.

It is important that you do not unintentionally reinforce shyness by showing anger, or being overly-attentive or over-protective. Children who are told “No” or “Stop” frequently tend to feel defeated before they attempt anything new.

Try encouraging him by saying: “Let’s see if we can find another way of doing this that works for both of us.” Acknowledge his efforts and accept his mistakes.

Refrain from making all the decisions for your child or being too strict with him.

Give him practice in making decisions by himself and doing things for himself.

To help him feel good about himself, highlight his strengths with pride.

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