I want people to stop calling my son shy. To be fair, I must also stop calling him shy.
It’s such an easy word that comes out of your mouth.
My almost three-year-old son Remy and I had lunch at a coffee shop one day. It was a weekday and we were early, so we were the only customers there.
As we entered, the waitress greeted Remy, trying to get an answer. Remy said nothing in return, just smiled. He grabbed my leg.
“He’s so shy,” the waitress offered. I said “Yeah” or some other vague, non-binding answer and led Remy to our table.
As we waited for food, a waitress came up to her and pulled up a chair to get Remy to talk to her again.
She was intense: she made faces. Children’s voices. He even tried to tickle him. Remy, who was not safe in my leg, flinched into a chair.
The waitress said again, “He’s so shy.” I just smiled politely.
‘I wish people would change their minds twice’
It’s not an isolated incident, but it bothers me that day for several reasons.
I know she didn’t mean anything wrong, but I really wish people would change their minds twice before they tried to get a child to deal with them.
And Remy started calling himself shy whenever it took him a while to warm up with someone new. And when he does, there’s always the look on his face that makes him feel like he let me down.
I don’t know if the cafe incident was the trigger for Remy to mention it like that, or if it’s just the culmination of months I’ve heard the word; not only by strangers but also by their own parents.
But most of the time, I’m mad at myself for letting the waitress get so close to Remy and make him back away in that way. And I’m mad at myself for not stepping in and asking her to back off.
I think I was used to Remy being a kid we can tell anything without consequences. Now that he is older, I am still adapting to being aware of the world around me and finding my place in it. Now he is someone who really understands what is being said about him.
What’s really going on here?
Emma Spencer, a clinical psychologist with a special area of interest in children and parenting, tells me that before we can talk about anything else, we need to start talking about attachment for Remy-aged children.
“Typical attachment behavior would be, ‘I’m with the person I feel safe with, and I’m going out a little in my comfort zone to explore the world and see if that person is still there,'” he explains. .
“Or maybe ‘when I stop feeling safe, I withdraw, but this is my safe haven as I set out into the world and where I can return as a safe base.'”
Of course, I have a theory as to why we so freely reject children’s behavior and call them shy:
- 1.An adult who tries to get a child’s attention feels embarrassed, so when he says he is “shy”, he concentrates on the child and away from what the adult is doing.
- 2.Parents feel embarrassed and / or embarrassed that their child is not following this person. So we use ‘shy’ to make the situation less awkward and awkward.
It’s easy and everyone wins. Besides the boy.
Mrs. Spencer reminds us that we must respect the child’s personal space.
How could I better handle the situation in the cafe?
Mrs. Spencer suggests that I could have told Remy something like, “It’s okay. You can take the time to get to know the man.”
He also recommends helping Remy feel calm and safe to talk to.
“They need us to support and guide them and use useful language,” says Ms Spencer.
“Because otherwise they grow up with these stickers and they can start to develop a sense of self that goes with it, which can be largely useless.”
The only thing you shouldn’t do, Ms. Spencer advises, is to push the child into a situation that is not comfortable for him, as this may provoke his reaction to a fight or escape.
“Then you could get a fear response and then it can have a real effect on future strangers or new people,” he says.
Spencer tells parents that it’s important to remind all eager adults that while their child may be withdrawn, they may open up to become more familiar with them.
I stopped calling Remy shy. But we haven’t returned to that cafe since. Maybe it’s time. And if the same thing happens again, I can do it a little better this time.
“Overall, labels can be useless,” Mrs. Spencer reminds me.
“So let’s try to look at the behavior and understand it, not just briefly explain it.”
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