Advice about Shyness
Berkeley Parents Network >
Worries Big & Little >
Advice about Shyness
My daughter, who is 4.5 years old, is extremely shy and sensitive.
When she's in unfamiliar situations, she doesn't talk. I've set up play
dates with other children, and she won't interact at all. She's been in
preschool for 2 months, and has only talked to one other child. (I had
her in preschool last year, but removed her and put her back in family
daycare because she seemed so withdrawn and miserable at school).
Now I'm trying to figure out what private school would be a good fit for
her. I'm contemplating Archway, Aurora, Berkwood Hedge. I live in the
Oakland area. Anyone with an extremely shy kid with
Mother of shy 4.5 year old
Wow sounds like me when I was that age...Until I was about 11 I
refused to ever go to a playdate at anyone's house and generally
was VERY quiet. Now I think I'm making up for it! My son was
quite shy as well when he was 4 and we were deciding about
schools. We looked seriously at public school but were
concerned that he would ''disappear'' in the crowd. He likes
other people, he just had a hard time speaking up and/or
approaching them. He is now at Berkwood Hedge and we're very
happy there. The school is small enough that there is no way for
him to ''disappear'' and his kindergarten teacher, Hanan (who by
the way is one of the most amazing teachers I have encountered)
very gently but very persistently drew him out of his shell and
made sure that there was room for him. He has made friends with
a lovely group of other boys and seems to have found his social
niche. He will always be somewhat shy I think but has learned
(and I give Berkwood Hedge a lot of credit for this) to feel
safe and content in his circle. I will also say that when we
visited Berkwood Hedge, he immediately felt at home there--so
there was some gut response on his part! Good luck with your
Formerly shy parent
My sister has two children at Archway school. I shared your
concerns with her and she believes Archway would be a good match
for a shy child. There are only 12 to 13 kids per class, only
one class per grade, and everybody knows everybody. As an
Archway ''aunt,'' and as a former shy child myself, I've seen the
small community they have there and think it would be a school
you should definitely visit and learn more about. Good luck.
My daughter is a kindergardener at Aurora. I think you should
definitely check it out for your daughter. Aurora is a warm,
welcoming place where all different kinds of kids are fully
appreciated. Social/emotional development (e.g. communication
and conflict resolution skills) are incorporated into the
curriculum. There is a small teacher:student ratio. In all
grades (K-5) a teacher and full-time aide (sometimes 2 full-time
teachers) is in each class of about 20-24 kids. There are LOTS
of parent volunteers in the class, which means there is almost
always 1-2 volunteers in the class as well. This means there is
lots of small group work and individualized attention. For a
shy kid, it means they won't get overlooked, and they will be in
smaller groups where it is easier to speak up. We--and our
child-- have been thrilled with Aurora academically and
socially. The website is www.auroraschool.org. To schedule a
tour contact Lisa Piccone, Admissions Director at 428-2606.
This isn't exactly answering your questions about schools, but
may be helpful otherwise....
I wonder if your daughter has a social anxiety disorder called
Selective Mutism. Selectively Mute kids will talk to a few
people, but not most people...it varies in different kids.
They may have one or two special friends they talk to but no one
else in the class. Often they talk to parents and siblings.
My 9 year old son has SM. He has progressed over the years....he
now talks to most kids, a handful of adults, but no one new, no
teachers...etc. Essentially, they get so anxious when people
talk to them that they simply close down...like stage fright.
They become physically unable to speak. Pressuring them to speak
just makes the anxiety worse.
You can find out more about Selective Mutism at
Feel free to e-mail me if this sounds like your daughter. I
have lots of local resources
Hi-We just had our parent-teacher conference and the teacher
told us that our kindergartner son is a bit introverted. I
just read the archives on shyness, but I am not sure that it is
the same thing as being introverted. He enjoys school and has
regular playmates at recess. I guess the issue is that he does
not necessarily respond to all social advances. Anyone know of
anything I can do to help my son become more outgoing?
thanks in advance
you make it sound like introversion is a bad thing. and you are
right, introversion is not the same as shyness. you will not
be able to force your child to be an extrovert. you can just
teach him to say ''no, thank you'' (rather than just ignore
requests) if he doesn't wish to engage with others. forcing the
issue will make him very uncomfortable.
introverted mom of introverted kids
I find the Myers-Briggs personality types useful (and fun) to
learn about; introversion vs. extraversion is one aspect of
their analysis. You can find tons of books on Myers-Briggs
at the library or bookstore: one easy intro is Type Talk by
Otto Kroeger and Janet M. Thuesen. Those who study
personality type through this lens also address children and
temperament. (Some books explicitly about children and
type: Nurture by Nature by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara
Barron-Tieger, and Understanding Your Child's Personality
by David A. Stoop.) They warn against trying to turn
introverts (maybe 25% of the population) into extraverts, and
Type Talk notes the importance of letting these kids do
things at their own pace. As an introverted child I was lucky
to have parents who valued my personality traits as
strengths. That said, I know they also had to help guide me
and encourage me to step beyond my comfort zone at
times. (One random example: they'd have me phone in our
pizza order when I was a pre-teen or so, to help me be more
adept at situations like that. I don't remember them ever
pressuring me to be more extraverted, though.) I think that
your interest in learning about temperament can only help
your child be happy in a largely-extraverted world.
I found the book ''The Highly Sensitive Child'' informative.
Also ''The Highly Sensitive Person'' helped me understand myself
a lot better!
If your son is happy & doing well in school (and you say he has
friends too) I certainly would not worry about the way some
teacher is labelling him. Not responding to all social overtures
sounds like a positive trait to me, not a negative one. Being
an extreme introvert can be a problem in modern society, but
mildly introverted is great, in my opinion. I think the worst
thing you could do would be to send your son a message that
there is anything substandard about his perfectly normal, nice
Extroverts -Who Needs 'Em
Is your son's shyness creating problems for him? If not, I
wouldn't really worry about it. The world is made up of lots of
different types of people -- thankfully so. Imagine a world of
loud-mouthed, out-going, extroverts. I always test as an
introvert on the Meyers-Brigg exam, although I am a very social
person. I take it to mean that I am thoughtful, think before
speaking, and listen to others.
My advice? Give it time. Why do I know? I'm an introvert...which
is a fancy term for shy and prefers to play/be alone or
socialize with only a few children, as opposed to extroverted,
which is outgoing. There is NOTHING wrong with being an
introvert, we're just less common than extroverted folks and
harder to read, especially for teachers. They want to feel every
child is really into what they're doing and really wants to be
involved. For introverts, getting ''involved'' in an activity
takes a lot of comfort with the situation...and time.
My daughter is the same, and her p/s teacher pulled me aside
early last year to let me know of her ''concerns'' about my
daughter because she was so reserved and reluctant to join in. I
assured the teacher that all she needed was time, and she would
come out of her shell...the same thing I went through every year
of school. So, I'd say if your child is enjoying school and
playing with other kids, there's nothing to worry about!
a fellow introvert
What's wrong with being introverted? Your best bet is
to accept your son the way he is.
I do not think of shyness and introversion as necessarily the
same thing. Furthermore, introversion is a temperament style and
is not a problem!!! Sure, introverts are more likely to feel
uncomfortable in certain social situations than extroverts and
may do well to learn some techniques for coping with stress
related to public situations, but that doesn't mean that they
have to stop being introverts. In fact, they can't.
Shyness, of course, can become problematic for people and can
interfere with someone's social well-being. (Just a note -- I
know plenty of basically extroverted people who experience
shyness in certain types of situations.)
There was a great short piece at the end of an Atlantic Monthly
a few months ago about being an introvert in an extrovert-
centric world. Quite amusing, but also good food for thought.
The basic message was: stop trying to fix us because we're not
extrovert married to an introvert
I'm a shy mother who is starting to see signs of similar shyness (or
''slow-to-warmism'') in my 18-month-old son. I'm looking for books that might
help me learn how best to support him as he grows up. Can anyone give me
recommendations for books they've found helpful, particularly if the books
discuss shy toddlers? Still Slow-to-Warm
I don't have a book recommendation, but this website might be
It was recommended by Rona Renner, local RN and radio show host.
Her website http://www.childhoodmatters.org/ has a lot of good
information and additional links.
My third child was shy; it was clear from birth. I got all the
books I could find (very few) but the most helpful was the one
associated with Stanford, where there is a shyness clinic. I
used the ideas in there, and over time, a long time, it made a
big difference. I started reading when she was in pre-school,
mainly stood next to other children and observed, had trouble
looking people in the eye, in fact, didn't like knowing the
people were looking at her, and had trouble saying what she
wanted to others. At home, she was fine. Everything I did
helped, and there were specific suggestions in that book. Also,
don't apologize, find words to explain, that won't hurt your
child if hes/she hears it. It's important to acknowledge that
the condition exists (you don't even have to call it shyness,
call it something that makes sense to the kid), and talk about
it. We did a lot of feedback and try again next time. This will
always affect her but she has changed a lot; if I did nothing, I
can't imagine her coping with much of anything as a t
For the shy mother seeking books on shyness in children--
Elaine Aron's book The Highly Sensitive Child is worth a read.
Elaine has taken earlier research on shyness the next step. Even
if you don't relate to the highly sensitive label, there's a lot
of great advice in the book for anyone with a shy child. I would
recommend her book The Highly Sensitive Person for shy adults.
I found the book: the sensitive child by Janet Poland, to be very
I am reading ''The Shy Child'' by Ward Swallow right now
and it is helpful for my almost 3 year old.
The kindergarten teachers told us that our 5-year-old daughter is having
trouble answering questions in class even though they know she knows the
answer. They see the light bulb go off in her head, but when they call
on her she freezes and no answer is forthcoming.
(Whereas this happens to everyone occasionally, it seems to happen to
her quite often. We don't see thisat home.) I attribute it to shyness,
but a family counselor thinks my daughter may have a "word retrieval"
problem (she knows what something is, but can't think of the word) and
has recommended that she undergo a speech andlanguage evaluation.
The counselor recommended two places for the evaluation: Amy Faltz and
Associates and Gage Herman at Children's Hospital. However, our
insurance will only pay for it if it's done at Alta Bates/Herricks.
Does anyone have anything to say (good or bad) regarding any of these
three places? (There is a one-liner on Gage Herman in UCB Parents.)
Shyness? Word retrieval problem? Any ideas about whatelse it could be?
Does anyone have any words of wisdom or experience with the problem my
daughter is said to have?
Gage Herman is a genius, a wonderful person, and extremely supportive to
me when I brought my daughter in for speech therapy. I cannot say
enough about her.
For more speech therapy recommendations, see:
Recommendations: Speech Therapists
I am interested in hearing from other parents of "shy" children, or
adults who were shy as children.
I have an 8 year old daughter who is very stoic and socially
uncomfortable. She doesn't like sharing vulnerable feelings (even
with her warm, loving parents!), and always looks stiff and
uncomfortable in new and familiar surroundings. She does get invited
to lots of birthday parties, in part, I think, because of my close
connections to many of the moms of the kids in her class. She always
wants to go to the parties, but often returns looking quite strained.
She has one good friend who she has lots of play dates with.
She *loves* school and begs to go even when she is ill. I suppose if
school was that stressful, she wouldn't want to go. It's hard for me
to observe her in class and in other situations where she looks so
uncomfortable. At home, she is like a different kid--funny, talkative.
Her teachers say she's doing fine, that she is quiet, not shy. I'm
not convinced they know her very well. I believe that the smart,
quiet (shy) girl often goes unnoticed. Whenever I volunteer in the
classroom she looks visibly strained to me. Of course it's possible
she behaves differently when I'm not around...
I guess the bottom line is I don't know how much to worry about my
daughter nor do I know how to best support her. I would appreciate
any tips from parents of children with my daughter's temperament.
Also, are there any good books on this topic? Thank you.
I recently heard a show (maybe Forum on KQED?) about shyness and
there was a representative of "The Shyness Institute" on it. I
believe they are in Palo Alto and they have a web site at
www.shyness.com. I looked it up because I too have a shy daughter (4
1/2) who sounds much like your little girl--open, funny and talkative
at home, and very reserved and uncomfortable in group situations.
The web site had a book list and when I emailed them they sent back
some titles of books for parents. I also did a search on Amazon.com
for children's books about shyness and came up with some good ones in
her age range. Good luck!
While I was a student at Stanford, I remember hearing about a Shyness
Clinic run by psychologists at Stanford University. They may have
some valuable resources for you. The phone number for the Stanford
Shyness Study is (650) 723-7498. I have heard many wonderful things
about this program/study.
Your daughter sounds a bit like me as a child. I loved school,
performed very well, but was often extremely self-
conscious/uncomfortable, particularly in elementary school. I was
very aware of the social pecking order (and perceived my place in it
as very low), extremely worried about embarrassment, and utterly
terrified of boys (particularly the "popular" ones). I think I didn't
speak to a boy from about 3rd grade through 6th! I did better in
junior high and high school when I was able to surround myself with
friends and when the intellectual pecking order (in which I excelled)
ecame more important. My early self-consciousness is probably deeply
connected to my becoming a sociologist as an adult.
If your daughter's shyness doesn't get in the way of her enjoying
school and she has the skills to make one-on-one friends (even if she
doesn't excel in larger group situations), I wouldn't worry too much.
It must be hard to see her be uncomfortable, but there may not be
much you can do. It may be that having a sensitive, self-aware
temperament may just make it difficult to be a child in the kinds of
groups kids are expected to enjoy.
It sounds like your daughter might benefit from a good counselor, who
can help her overcome some of the issues she is dealing with and also
help her be more comfortable in social situations. This does not
sound like "just quiet" to me; it's sounds painfully familiar! I was
very shy as a child, and was in my mid-20's before I really got over
it. There's probably no cure for shyness, but it doesn't have to
cause a lot of pain; I hope she doesn't have to suffer the way I did!
I am an adult who was painfully shy as a child. Your description
of your daughter sounds almost identical to my memories. I was very
comfortable at home, until strangers came, or even extended family
members. I remember I have a cousin who is 17 years older than I
am. I was very close to him when I was a child, he was in the Navy
and stationed near our home. I saw him quite often, until he went
out on his ship. I cried when he came back because he had a beard.
I think it is actually change that I didn't like. I was never
comfortable when my Mom came to my classroom because she
wasn't "supposed" to be there. I wanted her there but something was
out of place when she got there. She wasn't part of my routine. I
gradually grew up and more comfortable with my surroundings. I'm sure
your daughter gets invited to lots of parties because she has lots
of friends. Don't assume because you don't see it, she doesn't have
friends and interact while you're not there. Again, being
uncomfortable after a party may just be from being somewhere that was
new. I don't think you should worry too much right now. Some of shy
folks just don't automatically open up, even with our parents. Good
PS I think I do pretty well now, I had a job in Personnel for
several years and there I met new people every day. If your daughters
teachers don't see her as being a recluse, I'm sure things will be
If the child has a good friend, is willing to go to parties and
enjoys school, I'd say relax and let her work it out on her own. I
think it's natural for a lot of people to be shy in certain
situations. As much as we, as parents, would like to fix everything
for our kids, we have to admit that we can't resolve everything for
them, and sometimes we make it worse by being too anxious ourselves.
I'm sure I was shy many times as a child and I don't think my mother
could have done anything to make me feel more comfortable. In fact, I
have plenty of memories of wishing she would back off a bit and given
me a chance to find my own way.
this page was last updated: May 25, 2012
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network