By Natasha Daniels
Being born a shy kid is tough at times.
Add an outgoing parent to the mix and it might be a squeamish existence. It is like being parented by another species.
You don’t get us and we don’t get you. In an effort to spare other kids the humility I have endured so far, I have made a cheat sheet on how to parent what you might term—us shy kids.
Let me break down the basics free spirited, outgoing parents. You and your kid feel different when you’re around other people. When you are around people you get charged up. I have seen your type out there at parent pick-up. Buzzing around like a busy bee. You get back into the car revitalized and full of juicy gossip. You my friend, are a battery and you get recharged every time you make contact with other people.
We, on the other hand, are charging stations. Every time we are around other people we are giving off energy and getting depleted. Sometimes we like expending our energy, and other times it is frankly freakin’ exhausting. When you have a limited commodity you tend to use it sparingly.
So, with that in mind, let us discuss some situations that tend to go down between kids like us and folks like you:
It is obvious that our solitary existence on the playground upsets you. I know you think you are being helpful when you shout loudly to the kid next to us, “What’s your name? How old are you? Oh, you are the same age as my kid! He likes to play that too? Don’t you? Don’t you? Where did he go?”
We are over in the shade, dying a slow death of embarrassment. Seriously, could you guys be any louder? I may be little, but I get embarrassed easily. I am mean—really easily. Things that aren’t remotely embarrassing to you make us want to curl up and die. Seriously. We love your help (really we do), but could you please try to be a little more subtle? Dial it back a notch or two…hundred.
The Grocery Store
We can spot the danger all the way across the store. They stare at us. They make eye contact. We will your shopping cart to turn left, but usually you continue right towards the target. It is if a gravitational force pulls you closer and closer.
The stranger’s words drip out, “Ahhh he’s so cute. What’s your name honey?” We usually look at the floor, look at the ceiling—anywhere, but at the stranger who is breathing directly in our face. And then comes your usual cajoling, “Say hello honey.”
We ignore you. Wishing we had an invisible cloak. Hoping for an escape hatch.
And then come the apologies. “I am sorry. He’s not normally rude!” As we walk away you give us your predictable scolding. You tell us we were so rude. We embarrassed you. Trust me—it goes both ways Momma.
Look, I know we need to learn to interact with people. But, give us time. Don’t put us on the spot. We are not intending to be rude, we are uncomfortable. There is a difference. You can tell the lady that we are slow to warm to strangers. Maybe teach us to just smile. We might show our teeth if we know it is not an invitation to talk more.
Ah, the family gatherings. A place full of nightmares. Where else can you have a whole room demanding hugs and kisses and asking you awkward questions? Please, do us a favor and don’t force us to hug and kiss everyone. I know you love your great aunt and that uncle that pops his teeth out, but we don’t share your fondness.
By the time you make us hug everyone, we are completely depleted of energy and we are ready to go. Don’t put us on the spot.
I know you love those silly dances we do or those funny jokes we tell you, but we are not trained monkeys. If you ask us to perform we are just going to embarrass you. We will throw a big—and I mean—big fit. We’ll give you an opportunity to make more excuses for our behavior—to make lovely family memories.
I have noticed that you often think we are just being difficult kids. We hear you on the phone venting to your friends. Sometimes we throw huge fits when you want to go somewhere. You ground us, send us to our room and give us lectures. But, sometimes you don’t dig deep enough to find out why we really threw the fit.
Maybe we didn’t want to go to karate because the instructor always embarrasses us. Maybe we refused to get our shoes on to go to swim class because all the parents watch us and we feel like an uncomfortable fish at an aquarium. Maybe we loved the idea of a birthday party, but the reality hits us like a ton of bricks right before we have to go. You might see cake and games, but we see 30 loud, unpredictable kids and 120 minutes of no escape.
Don’t move into punishment mode until you take time to figure out what is really going on.
Our personality is our personality.
Just like you can’t be taught to be an introvert, we can’t be taught to be an extrovert. This is who we are. We are the kids with one best friend, not a zillion superficial friends. We are the kids who sneak off during a play date to play by ourselves. We are the ones that turn a deep shade of red when someone says hi.
It is okay.
You don’t have to apologize to others for our behavior. We don’t apologize for yours and there have been some cringe-worthy moments. We love that you care and sometimes we do need your help, but sometimes we are just being who we are meant to be.
For guidance on how to parent an anxious toddler, check out Natasha Daniels’ book: How to Parent Your Anxious Toddler.
*This article was re-printed with permission from author. Original post can be seen on Natasha Daniels’ blog: Anxious Toddlers.
Natasha Daniels is a Child Therapist and a mother to three vibrant, challenging and insightful children who keep her on her toes! She has spent the last 15 years working with toddlers in her practice and helping families with parenting issues at Hill Child Counseling. She is a Clinical Social Worker and has received her post-graduate training in infant and toddler mental health at The Harris Institute. She is one of only a handful of child therapists that offers a specialty in toddler mental health and who has a practice that offers counseling to families on toddler parenting issues. She spends half her week in her practice and the other half of her week soaking up the innocence of her children and enjoying the simpler things in life! Natasha has written for Huffington Post, Scary Mommy and has her blog, Anxious Toddlers. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and be sure to check out her book: How to Parent Your Anxious Toddler.
Editor: Dana Gornall