Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Please Don't Tell My Child That She is Shy

I'm blogging as a mom today, with a little girl who thinks there is something wrong with her. Please, Please, Please, Please don't tell my child that she is shy or quiet. Especially do not say it to her face. I know you mean well but please don't.

I know my child is shy.
I know she is quiet.
I know she is reserved.
I know she is serious.
I know she may not raise her hand, even when she knows the answer
I know she may not ask for help, even when she knows she is struggling.
I know she may never laugh at your jokes, even when she thinks they are hilarious. 
I know she may not smile, even though she's happy.

I know these things, I don't need you to tell me or her. I know its not how she sees herself.

This is what she thinks she is:
She thinks she's a deep thinker.
She thinks she's an observer.
She thinks she's funny.
She thinks she's creative and can make anything out of kleenex and a little tape.
She thinks she's an artist.
She thinks she can sing at the top of her lungs and no one can hear her (i.e. when she is in the bathroom).
She thinks she's an amazing dancer, and she can't decide if she likes ballet, jazz or lyrical better.
She thinks she wants to play the violin and she knows she has the persistence to stick to it even though it is sooooooo hard and sounds sooooo awful.

She thinks she's a kid that likes to play school with her dolls.
She thinks she's a kid that likes to play with her friends.
She thinks she's a kid that loves to read and write stories.
She thinks she's a kid that will get up in front of 200 plus people and dance her little heart out.

She thinks she's a kid who loves roller coasters.
She thinks she wants to learn how to ski.
She thinks she wants to be able to swim in the deep end (but not off the dock because there might be a turtle...but it's fine with her life jacket on).
She thinks she wants to be old enough to stay home alone.
She thinks she wants to be a teacher like her mom when she grows up.

This is how she sees herself. Is she wrong?

She DOES NOT think she is SHY. She thinks she used to be shy, but, that she isn't anymore. 

You have NO idea how far she has come.
She no longer hides behind me when she meets someone new.
She no longer refuses to acknowledge familiar adults and kids.
She is no longer silent, when a stranger asks her a question. She is able to very politely answer you. My heart soars and fills with pride when I watch her interacting with people.

She will probably never be the most outgoing child. But, she truly does not believe that she is shy.

Here is my problem. Remember, she doesn't think she's shy. So when you tell her that she's, "so shy" or "too quiet". You are telling her that you think there is something wrong with her. If she did think she was shy, do you think telling her that you noticed that she's shy is going to bring her out of her shell? Will saying this change her? 

Really? Why does she need to change? Why isn't she okay the way she is?

One of her friends asked me last year, "Why is Anna so quiet?" Well, here is my answer. "THAT'S JUST THE WAY SHE IS AND THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. I WOULDN'T CHANGE IT FOR THE WORLD" Of course I didn't yell, just emphasized in a very teacher-y voice.

I've had teachers tell me that they can't assess her because she is so shy and quiet. Well, my answer is, that they need to find a way to get her to show them what she knows, because she a little sponge who just soaks it all up.

You might be wondering where all of this coming from? Last night, Anna got her report card from dance. Did I mention that she loves dance? If she can't be a teacher she would like to be a ballet teacher. She came out of class all excited. She was looking at all of her check marks. Then, she read the comment. It said "Anna is very shy..." I watched as my little girls heart broke and mine right along with it. Her posture deflated, her eyes lost their sparkle and her smile disappeared from her face, and why? 

What is the purpose of letting her know that you noticed that she was shy? I know you didn't mean to hurt her. That you think that you are encouraging her to step out of her shell. But in fact, I'm pretty sure you pushed her back in farther then she was the first day.

I think we as a society have decided that there is something wrong with being shy. That we all need to be outgoing and the life of the party. I need to tell you. That there is nothing wrong with being shy! I am shy! I turned out just fine.

My little girl is HAPPY! She's LEARNING! She's having FUN! Please just let her be.

I understand that she will be hard to connect with. But, please, don't tell her that she is shy or quiet.

What I would love is for you:
  • to continue to encourage her to come out of her shell
  • to continue to try to connect with her
  • to continue to share your experiences with her
  • to continue to ask her how her night or her weekend was
  • to continue to tell her corny  jokes
But most of all, please just let her be herself. 

One day when she smiles at your story, or giggles at your joke, or tells you about something exciting that has happened, please know that you have made a difference in her life. That might be nothing for most children, but, for my child its HUGE. You are one of the people she trusts and feels she can be herself with. My little girl can light up the world if you let her. Please don't tell her there is something wrong with her because I KNOW she is perfect the way she is. I wouldn't change her for anything in the world.

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  1. Thank you for sharing this. It's great to see it from another perspective and I will definitely be more careful with my "shy" friends.

  2. My little one is also extremely 'shy' especially when meeting new people - thanks for a great read, I don't often think of things from his point of view.....

  3. Emily, thanks for sharing your daughter's story! What a beautiful and strong little girl you have!! Here's to being who you are, no matter what!
    Elyse :)

  4. Beautifully written, Emily! These are great reminders for all of us!

    Mrs. Beattie's Classroom

  5. it is interesting how our society perceives shyness, or quietness. Like it's a bad thing. Here in the arctic, shyness is an admirable trait. If I tell everyone my kids are being shy, I'm bragging.