Letting Our Shy Children Call the Shots: What Do We Do?

As parents, we face situations where we have no idea what to do or say. We go back and forth, in our head, trying to determine the right action. The most recent incident involved my very shy three-year-old. Do I force him out of his comfort zone or do I give in?

My three-year-old recently finished his first year of preschool. There was a graduation and celebration. Part of this involved the children going up on stage and singing. Then, they would then get their certificates.

My child is incredibly shy. I knew going on stage would be scary for him. In fact, he clung to my leg the second we set foot in the room. He nestled in my lap and refused to look up. When I mentioned going on stage, he shook his head. I could feel his little body tremble. What in the world was I going to do? I could bribe him. I could tell him we would get ice cream if he went on stage. I could carry him up and basically force him. Or I could hold him and let him stay on my lap. Since I am good at doubting myself, I was convinced I would make the wrong decision.

As it turns out, there was a similar discussion in an online moms group I am a part of. It took place less than a week prior. The scenario was similar with the exception the child was much older. My friend asked us what we would do.  I had no advice. Other moms offered their input. There were differing opinions.

“If it’s a matter of not wanting to then I’d say he needs to do it. If it causes crippling anxiety, I would probably let him not.”

“I would definitely tell him he has to go. There are things that are not optional in life. I think all children should be pushed out of their comfort zone and encouraged to learn life skills.”

What life lesson did I want to choose? Our children need to understand that we have to step out of our comfort zone at times. Sometimes we have to do things we do not want to do. You simply can’t walk through life following the easy way out. We also want our children to know that they cannot call the shots on everything.

We also want our children to feel comfortable and, ultimately, not forced to do something that intensifies their fears. I think of myself, growing up. My fear of talking in front of others intensified over time. Exposure after exposure did nothing for me. I once gave a speech in front of a class, my senior year, and passed out. If my child is that terrified, and it is not a matter of simply not wanting to do it, why force it?

This is what happened. I never had to decide. My son has a teacher he feels comfortable with. She took him to his place. She stood by him the whole time. I still don’t know what I would I have done had she not brought him up.

A teacher will not always be there to hold their hand. This will come up again. They will receive awards in front of large groups. There will be more end of the year celebrations. Speeches will be a part of classes.

I will wrestle with my thoughts. I will doubt my decisions. At least I know I have time to give it more thought. 

What would you do?

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