Parents with shy kids know how frustrating it can be when you’re child refuses to participate in group activities. No amount of encouragement and assurances can make them do it. They would hide behind your back and on a bad day they would even cry when pushed too much.
As early as a few months old, Timmy already showed that he was an introvert. He didn’t want to be carried by other people except family members. Between 1 to 2 years old, it would take him 2 to 4 hours to warm up to guests. By the time he’s ready to play with them, the party’s over or they’re about to leave. I couldn’t help but think that he was just waiting for them to go away and he couldn’t contain his excitement that’s why he played with them for a few minutes to make their visit worthwhile. Haha!
My son is shy and he got this from his dad. :) Most of our friends don’t know that my husband Omar is an introvert. Maybe because he’s a teacher and he really speaks eloquently in front of a crowd. But if he had it his way, he would rather stay at home.
On the other hand, Timmy’s momma has no idea what it means to be shy. I’ve always been a people person so I had to adjust to my son’s personality. Unlike his dad, who has learned the ropes of socialization already, Timmy is just beginning and it’s not easy especially for someone who’s still exploring and discovering things for himself.
For most people I’ve already perfected the “bad parent” equation:
Only child + shy personality = homeschool
It may look that way on the surface but as I see my son progress in his socialization skills God affirmed that our decision to homeschool him was the right one. God removed my fears by showing me first-hand the improvements in the way Timmy interacts with different people as he grows older. :)
Confidence begins at home
A child seeks approval from his parents. We are the big people they look up to, run to, and extend their arms to. Our nod is the incentive they want most. Whenever Timmy says or does something really funny and we laugh at it, he keeps doing it again and again. He gains satisfaction that what he does solicits a positive response from us. Every time he receives compliments from us, he beams with pride. :)
He loves showing his artwork, writings, block buildings—anything he creates because he wants to hear what we have to say. Are we going to approve? Criticize? When he gets an enthusiastic cheer from me, whether it’s a homeschooling exercise or the basketball shots he makes, he’s encouraged to do more. :)
When he talks, I look him straight in the eye and listen intently. If he can’t find the words to say, I would encourage him to go on. I would fill in the words sometimes but mostly I would let him figure out a way to express himself and help him process it better after he’s able to finish his sentence. Timmy knows that mommy and daddy are ready to listen so he can take his time when telling his story. :)
At the heart of socialization is confidence. It takes confidence to talk to someone, express one’s thoughts freely, and interact with other people. We first noticed Timmy initiating conversations with old people. He loves grandmas and grandpas in the malls or restaurants. Maybe because he talks to adults most of the time. He’s more comfortable talking to strangers than having people we know talk to him. In short, he prefers initiating. :)
Even in his homeschool coop, I noticed that he has significantly changed in the way he interacts with his friends. Warm up became shorter and shorter as he got to know them longer. He enjoys playing with them even if most of the bigger kids like to carry him. Haha! They look at Timmy as the baby in the group. Whenever we get home from our coop, he would say that he misses his friends. :)
Timmy is not rejected or put down at home. It’s the safest and most secure environment for him emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and socially. This gave him the confidence to socialize with other people. He is encouraged to speak his mind. I ask him questions and allow him to interrupt our storytelling if he has ideas or some random thoughts. When he makes mistakes in our homeschool exercises, I would tell him that it’s okay and ask him if he wants to do it again, to which he will agree. :)
Sometimes he intentionally commits mistakes because he likes my “oh no” face. Haha! So I have to tell him that we can fool around later but he needs to focus on his activity first. I would challenge him to show his toy animals or something else that he can finish it. Haha! He would cooperate not out of fear but out of obedience, respect, and I guess fun. :)
My shy boy’s shining moments
Once we were eating at this restaurant that had a play area. Timmy always looks forward to going there. It was a weekend I think and there were a lot of kids. He approached everyone and said, “Hey, guys!” I was like, “Did he just say that?” Haha! He then started talking to the boys there. He has the habit of telling other kids the object he’s holding like, “This is a dragon. This is a porcupine. This is a killer whale.” It didn’t bother him that some ignored him. I mean that’s rejection right there. He just kept talking until someone responded!
I think he’s a teacher in the making. :) He likes to share his books to other kids and sharing something informative. At first, he would put the book on the floor near the kid because he’s shy. Now, he would give the book directly and tell the title like, “This is Barry the Fish with Fingers.” Most of the time, kids are not interested in the books he offers. And it breaks my heart! Not because he looks rejected but because a lot of kids don’t like books anymore. :( But when Timmy shows toys, he gets their attention.
One time we were at a bookstore and Timmy approached this little girl sitting on the floor. He offered his book again. She didn’t look interested so he got another one and showed it to her. I think the girl was only two years old. He read the title and some of the words inside. The little girl just stayed there but looked at other books. Timmy didn’t leave! He stayed there and kept trying to engage the girl in a conversation. Haha! :)
He actually does this every time we’re in a bookstore. He would approach kids, give them books, and talk to their parents! Sometimes he would sit beside the parent reading to the kid, listen, and answer the mom’s questions. Seeing these moments affirmed our decision to homeschool Timmy. :) We took our time developing his confidence at home, observing what kinds of environments overwhelm him, managing his emotions, and helping him adapt.
It’s a process
As Timmy gets older, I’m also learning how to deal with his shyness better. Omar has also been very helpful giving me an inside look in the world of an introvert. :) This socialization progress didn’t happen overnight. Being with him all the time allowed me to see what situations are threatening to him and allowed me to help him cope under those circumstances. Let me share with you some of them:
Timmy doesn’t like it when he’s asked to perform on the spot. Sometimes he just runs away, although he does this playfully. I told him that instead of running or hiding to just tell me or the person asking him, “I’m shy” or “I feel conscious.” I told him that they will understand. He doesn’t like it when people are staring at him. This has helped him especially when friends or relatives ask him perform his antics. Given enough time, Timmy shows off his dance moves and shooting prowess but not instantly. :)
Timmy doesn’t like being surprised. The anticipation scares him. I have a friend who has a big personality and she tends to get really loud and shout whenever she sees Timmy. He gets shocked every time he sees her. As a result, he doesn’t like being with her. He has this impression “na gugulatin sya” (that he will be surprised) when she’s around. He would play with her eventually but it would take a long time. We slept at her house for two nights and he only felt comfortable on the day we were about to leave. I told my friend not to surprise Timmy and when she took my advice, the next time they saw each other they became instant best friends! Homeschooling allows me to not only help my son but also other people around him by orienting them on how to deal with shy kids like him. :)
Timmy doesn’t like loud birthday parties (e.g. Jollibee or McDonald’s parties). The noise is just too much for him. One time I told him that we’ll be there to just watch them. No one will force him to join the games. He took comfort in the fact that we’re just there to observe. Being an introvert, new environments can be overwhelming to him. So we would stay at the back and I would let him go and roam around when he’s ready. He would leave my side eventually and interact with other kids but at his own pace. :)
I’ve learned NOT TO FORCE my son because socialization doesn’t really work that way. There’s a way to approach people and interact with them without feeling awkward or coming on too strong. Some kids are just not built for the stage. My son is one of them. And it’s definitely okay. :) God beautifully and wonderfully created him that way. Maybe he’ll be the director or scriptwriter but not the actor. Other children are born to perform. I was the type who could sing and dance whenever my preschool teacher would ask me to. Meanwhile, my husband wailed his way through preschool not wanting my mother-in-law to leave.
We didn’t want to subject Timmy to that. Now, our shy boy is getting more and more independent and confident. He skipped all the stress of being thrown immediately to a new environment and being left there to survive alone. I’m sure some kids will thrive there but not my son. I would rather build his confidence at home and let him go at his own pace rather than rush him to “socialization maturity” and be traumatized in the process. He’ll get there anyway and we see it right now in the way he interacts with other people regardless of their age. :)
Yes, he may be an only child and a shy one at that. But he is our child and we know him more than anyone. Homeschooling didn’t shelter him from the world. It prepared him in a way that best fits his spiritual, emotional, mental, and social progress. He’s still an introvert but he’s learning socialization in a way that’s easier and more enjoyable for him. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. :) He even has random spurts of performing on the spot when asked to! He’s still finding his way with people and we’ll happily take our time. :)
Socialization was the homeschooling giant I secretly feared but I held on to God’s promise in Deuteronomy 31:8, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” And that meant that He will also take care of his people skills. All He asks of me is not to fear nor be discouraged. He’ll give my son the ability to slay that giant. :) God has already gone before me in this homeschooling journey. He is with me, covering all the bases. I just need to stay close to Him every step of the way so that I don’t lose sight of what truly matters—building my son’s character and creating a loving, God-fearing, and accepting home where he can thrive inside and out. :)
P.S. My husband cried while reading this blog because I was able to articulate what a shy child needs. Those were the very things he needed, too. He added that he was grateful that we’re able to do it right with Timmy this time. :)