Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Shyness is a personality trait, not a fault" Dr. Sears

This was Madeline on her first day of preschool - a little nervous, but curious about what it might be like.  Well, we haven't seen this smile since.  She goes to bed sobbing because she doesn't want to go and wakes up sad saying, "I don't think I can do this" over and over.  I'm trying to be positive and assume with time it will get better.  But it breaks my heart and I've shed many tears over it. Madeline is very reserved and quiet.  She has been since she was a tiny baby.  She much preferred sitting on the sidelines just watching and observing.  She struggles being herself in a large group.  She's most comfortable playing with one or two other kids, and even then she's slow to warm up.

This morning, after loving her through her morning, we were walking down the school's halls to her classroom, when we saw a little girl turn around and say loudly, "That's the little girl who won't talk to anyone."  My reaction was a smile and to keep walking, pulling Madeline quickly behind me, but I really had to hold back the tears.  And then when we got into the classroom, Madeline was already in tears.  I helped her get settled, but she was obviously struggling.  The main teacher said, "Another rough morning?"  Somehow that hit me the wrong way - probably I was already in a sensitive mood. I just said, "She'll need some time and patience to get used to a big group, classroom setting."  The teacher said, "So she hasn't ever had anything formal like this?" I said, "no, no daycare." She said, "Kindergarten is going to be challenging..."  Again, a little offended, although I believe she didn't mean any.  "Well, that's why we're doing preschool this year to help her prepare." As I turned to leave, a mom said to me, "Don't feel bad. My daughter was the same way." I was touched by her kindness, but on the other hand, I'm really tired of people thinking being "shy" is some kind of problem. I have even had to catch myself as I think I need to "fix" Madeline to make her be like the other kids. Saying, "she's just shy," especially around her, may make her think something is wrong with her - when that couldn't be any more false.

Some of the  best people I know are more reserved. Some may view this personality as weak, but they have a lot to offer. They are very kind and thoughtful.  They aren't the center of attention and don't push their opinions on others.  They make very good listeners, are cautious, are smart and strong, and they are loyal friends.  I really don't know how to handle this situation - any advice would be great. Maybe it's the mother bear in me, but I'm feeling committed to standing up for her.  She has a lot to offer if people will give her a chance.  She has many strengths.  I hope I can help her feel comfortable at school, so she can express her personality, even if it's different than some of the others.

This parenting thing is not easy and my kids are so young! I can't even think about down the road... I hope I can help them be happy and confident, no matter their personality.


  1. I know a girl who was pretty quiet and reserved at that age also, and matured into a thoughtful, caring and confident adult; actually, both of my girls were similar. I was thinking of you though. I remember your Mom calling and having a few playdates with you and Mandy before kindergarten started so you would have a friend. That is what I would recommend to you. Meet a little girl that lives near by and get them together outside of school so she has a friend. I bet she will warm right up once she has friends and is comfortable. Otherwise just keep encouraging her to be herself and be quietly confident.

    1. Thanks, Becky. There is a little girl she knows in her class that she also goes to church with. We need to have some more playdates wiith her.

      I had similar separation anxieties when I was little, so I just need to keep a larger perspective. :)

  2. Oh Mal, I really do appreciate what she is dealing with. My little brother required me to sit in his Sunday school class with hm when we were kids. He was just very shy and cried otherwise, poor little guy. Not any more, although he is reserved and thoughtful - and a brilliant scientist by the way. I think she will adjust as long as she is treated well by her teacher and not bullied by anyone. Please do watch out for that. Thinking of you fondly.

  3. This post made me cry! I'm sorry it's been challenging, but you're right, there's nothing WRONG with being shy. I was super shy almost even up through my freshmen year of college and I'm pretty awesome right?! ;) Madeline is so lucky to have a mom like you Malerie! I'm sure it will just take time. I think it's great you're trying preschool with her and of course, having patience with her throughout it. Is it everyday? If it is, maybe try just a 2 or 3 day preschool?? I also think Becky's comment is a great idea.

  4. Aw Malerie, just reading your words about sweet Madeline shows how wonderful of a mom you are. We've struggled with this with Max, especially with him changing schools this year. Having her in preschool will definitely prepare her for kindergarten. It's a really really good thing to encourage independence without stomping on her sweet shy spirit which is exactly what you are doing. I think with a reserved child it's important to be an advocate or voice for your child without being overbearing and making sure you are listening to your child along the way -- all things YOU are doing. Scheduling play dates is a really great way to introduce Madeline to kids in her class without being overwhelmed being a new place around a larger group. We did that a lot with Max and it worked really well for him.

    Good luck! You are doing all the right things, especially when it comes to supporting WHO SHE IS and not what she should be.

  5. Okay, re-reading my comment just now and I think I made it sound like I thought you were stomping on her spirit!! NOT WHAT I MEANT!! I forgot a comma. I meant to say you are encouraging her independence. Haha, wow sorry about that!!

  6. This post sure hit close to home for me—her words of “I don’t think I can do this, I don’t think I can do this” are so familiar it makes me wonder if there is a gene for it. I had that same reaction at the start of every new school year, and still feel that way at times (though to a lesser degree) when faced with a new project at work. It helps me to try to remember that I don’t have to have it all figured out right now, and to try to shift my mentality to one of just doing my best rather than worrying about how my performance reflects on me on a being. I’m not sure if these things could be translated into something that could help kids?

    A few ideas from a non-parent, so please disregard if I’m way off here…I’m wondering if you could ask her further about what she is worrying about, and what she feels like she can’t do, to try to get to the root of it. If she is making it through each school day, then she is showing that she can, in fact, do it. Could you celebrate the end of each school day with a “You did it! You did it!”? Then try to set school and the worries aside as much as possible and help her enjoy the things she regularly does? (Easier said than done, I know.)

    I think you are doing a great thing by doing preschool this year to transition to kindergarten. I would keep giving it time. I wonder if the transition to preschool is also being combined with the transition back to home for all of you after you’ve been away for a couple weeks, making things more difficult.

    We’ll be sending our prayers your way. I have no doubt in my mind that that little girl CAN do it, and she will.

  7. I feel for you. There is no pain like watching our children be in pain. I found a book in trying to help my kids (particularly Kenley and her intensity) that I felt was loving in its approach and practical in its application. "Raising your spirited child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and IC library has it. It teaches that temperment is inborn and not learned (which is what Dr. Sears was saying). I found it helpful and encouraging. Madeline will figure this out and will feel your love and constancy as she does. I hope this helps.

  8. Hi Mal. I can relate with you and with Madeline, I think it's in our genes. Tanner had such a hard time and I ached watching him in pre-school, and watching the teachers not understanding. I was relieved when he was done and a little scared and puzzled when reading their analysis of his behavior (part of their job) at the end of the year. It was kind of like what the little girl said about him being the kid that wouldn't talk to anyone. So I was terrified to think of Kindergarten. BUT...he LOVED kindergarten. I talked with his teacher beforehand, and let her know my concerns. For some reason he loved the kindergarten setting a lot more than pre-school. All the kids were his age, and the teacher was so kind. And there was a bit more structure which he does well with. To know him now you would never guess the things he has had to endure starting at that age. He is outgoing and funny and comfortable in crowds. He has a large group of friends and can even sing in his rockband in front of large groups of people and not be nervous. I would never have guessed this from his preschool experience. Best wishes to you Mal. She is darling and I wish for her a good kindergarten teacher. However long it takes at least she has you for a mom and you've got her back. Hang in there!!! Lots of love to you both!

  9. My heart goes out to you and Madeline! You are SUCH a good mom. I can only imagine what a tremendous difference it will make for her to have parents who are unwaveringly confident in her, even when she lacks it. Prayers your way!

  10. I was and am a very shy person and always thought it was this terrible fault (because everyone told me so) and it really damaged my self-esteem. I think it so so great that you are telling her that it is ok to be shy and that it is a part of her personality. I think your confidence in her will carry her a long, long way. She will figure it all out and excel in school and that will give her tons of confidence.

  11. Oh Mal. This brought tears to my eyes. As you know we have a similar story. Katelyn still gets kids saying, "she's the girl who doesn't talk." etc. And it does break my heart. It sounds like you are handling it perfect! I love how you said this isn't a weakness that needs to be fixed. So true! I often catch myself feeling like I need to "change her" because you want to take away that pain, but you are SO right. You stated it beautifully. We all just want our children to be happy. Just keep loving her as you do and her little personality will continue blooming just fine. :) (I will let you know how Kindergarten goes next week for us!)

  12. I love Madeline and I love you.

  13. Thank you all for your sweet comments and words of advice. I feel so blessed to have such wonderful and supportive friends/family. She actually did well today. When I picked her up, she said, "mom, I did good today. I listened to the teachers, did what they said and even talked to a girl." She's trying, bless her little heart. :)

  14. This post made me teary. Because you are an amazing mama, Malerie. And that Madeline is absolutely wonderful. Exactly how she is right now. I echo whoever mentioned that it might be a good idea to ask her some questions about specific things that are happening. (What was your favorite thing you did today?, What do you hope you won't have to do again?,Ddid you get to smile at anyone today?, Did anyone smile at your today?, Did anyone say something that made you feel happy?, Did anyone say something that made you sad?, etc.) I don't mean to be annoying and give examples, I've just found with my kids, I can't usually ask general questions and get answers that help me to help them. I have to ask more specific questions, but phrase them in a way that almost seems like a game and do it with a smile. And sometimes I'll ask one or two questions and then leave it alone and come back to it later.

    Anyway, I know I don't know her really well, but it just seems like she would be one that would be fine to go and do her own thing and handle preschool in her own way. But it seems like maybe someone might be saying things to her (maybe things that seem benign like you heard, but that aren't, especially in her mind--or in my mind quite frankly). You are exactly on, in my opinion. She doesn't need to be fixed. She doesn't need to change how she feels. She just needs to feel welcomed and smiled at and spoken to in a loving way, without thinking something is wrong with her because she isn't ready to talk to anyone yet. Or wants to handle things in her own way. Which is just as valid and good as how anyone else handles a similar situation.

    One other thought (and I don't mean to be annoying, I'm just dying to help this be better for her), I wonder if having some conversations about what people might say and help her interpret them in a way that may seem more positive to her. To be honest, it annoys me to no end that people are saying what they are saying and I don't think it is right, but since it isn't always a possibility to change them, maybe you can help her hear what they are saying and help her understand that they aren't saying it because there is anything wrong with her (whether the person saying what they are thinks that or not is beside the point, the truth is there isn’t anything wrong with her, so you can help her understand everything with that perspective, because it is the right one), but because sometimes people say something that sounds one way, but what they really mean (or in some cases should mean) is something else.

    Does that even make sense?

    I adore you and will be praying for you and that sweet girl of yours. Grand things are ahead for her. I just know it.

    PS. Have you heard of the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”? I haven’t finished it yet. But it is amazing. And I think it would well be worth your time. Oh, and I married a big time introvert. And it was the best decision of my life.

    Thinking of you, friend.

    (And just a side note, do I win the longest comment award? Good grief.

  15. So so glad she had a good day today!

    (See, I know how to write short comments.)

  16. I love this post. Thanks for reminding me that we are all different and that doesn't mean better or less or strange . . . . I think the toughest thing about being a parent is watching your kids go through tough things like this. You're doing great. Madeline is lucky to have you!

  17. When I read this post I was transported back 5 years to the beginning of Corrine's preschool year. When she was 4 she would not look at an adult and talk to them, so we put her in preschool to help her adjust to kindergarten the next year.
    The first week or so was great with smiles, then the tears and clinging, and crying began. It lasted a few weeks and it was awful. I would walk away in tears. After a few weeks and a bribe of a Happy Meal for lunch, she finally got comfortable and began to enjoy preschool.
    Fast forward to this year and 4th grade and she's still the quieter, more slow to warm up type of kid. After 3 days her teacher was beginning to think she didn't like her, but she just needs more time to make a connection and figure the schedule out.
    It's not a bad thing to not go into new situations instantly. She can see the little details that are missed by those who run in head first and don't take the time to look around them.
    I'm glad today was a better day for her. Hopefully it'll get easier with each day and maybe before you know it she'll tell you at the van "You don't need to walk me in!" Sigh-I'm not needed to walk my older kids to their classrooms or school anymore and I'm not sure what to think about that yet. Luckily I still have 1 little one left who hopefully will want me to wait at her door.

  18. I think when it comes to introversion/extroversion and shyness/out going- ness, we are all complicated beings. I always think of Eliza as an extrovert, and yet at times she struggled as a child with going to school in ways similar to Madeline. Here are some things that helped her:

    1. I had some "conferences" with me, Eliza, and the teacher. We did several of these when she was trying to adjust to first grade. The three of us sat down and talked about Eliza's days at school. Basically it was a chance for her to bond with the teacher without so many other little ones around.

    2. I did ask Eliza at home more about her feelings and her days at school. At Madeline's age, she might not even be able yet to articulate what is so hard about it, but being asked can help her begin to figure out over time what is difficult and what might make it easier.

    3. Having even one good friend in the class really can make a huge difference. Also, bringing a class snack or treat can help create positive feelings. Then the kids can say "oh, that's the little girl who brought doughnuts"

    4. I do wonder if she feels a need for more time at home with being gone so long this summer. Would they allow her to start with fewer days a week at preschool, and then work up to more?

    Madeline is an incredible being and over time everyone around her will find that out.

  19. I just remembered one other thing I tried with Eliza:
    we invited the teacher to her harp recital and the teacher was kind enough to come. It seemed to help Eliza strengthen that relationship and then being at school everyday didn't seem so foreign. I don't know if Madeline's teacher would be open to something like that?

  20. Mal, you are going to get many comments that will be uplifting and educational, but this is what you need to remember, YOU are the best mother for your children. I've spent many days and nights worrying and crying over my children and their obstacles they are facing. Don't forget that Madeline is Heavenly Father's little girl, too. You, Matt, Madeline and Him will work together to make the dream team that only wants Madeline to win. No one can guide her better than that team, and although it will be hard, all will be well. It is so hard to see our children sad. We really are only as happy as our saddest child. I think you are doing great. Heavenly Father gives us raw moments with our children so we can take advantage of sharing our testimony and love for them. Madeline is yours, and you are the only best mom for her. You can do it!

  21. I like what you said here:
    "Some of the best people I know are more reserved. Some may view this personality as weak, but they have a lot to offer. They are very kind and thoughtful. They aren't the center of attention and don't push their opinions on others. They make very good listeners, are cautious, are smart and strong, and they are loyal friends." These are my favorite people! The easiest to be around. So, I say tell Madeline to stand tall and love who she is, even if she's a little "shy" that's okay and absolutely fine. That's who she is. I used to be painfully "shy", ask mom.
    There is absolutely nothing "wrong" with Madeline. Her personality is certainly not a weakness, and I hope she never tries to be like someone else. I've watched my children, and each of them work through different struggles, different fears. Just because it appears other children don't have the same struggles, they do each have their own.
    After parenting children who don't fit the mold (whatever that is), I finally realize that our children came the way they came, and add parents who love them, and everything works out. If I had to do it all over again (and I do thankfully with some), I would only focus on their positives. I wish I would have done that better. And that mother bear instinct, it's amazing isn't it? I surprise myself sometimes :)

  22. I wanted to comment on this post all week, but I'm not sure what I want to say. Just that I really feel for you and Madeline and you are not alone. 4 of the 5 of us in our family are pretty shy and I think one of the positive outcomes of that is that we are our own best friends. S was supposed to bring one of her favorite treasures to the first day of 3rd grade and she wanted to bring J but he needed to be in his class. There's a lot of sweetness that comes from shyness. Lots of love going out to you!

  23. "Some of the best people I know are more reserved. Some may view this personality as weak, but they have a lot to offer. They are very kind and thoughtful. They aren't the center of attention and don't push their opinions on others. They make very good listeners, are cautious, are smart and strong, and they are loyal friends." I'm going to take that as a compliment. Thanks for your vote of confidence for shy people. We're pretty cool, if I do say so myself. Madeline will be fine. My Pre-K teacher was pretty worried about me: I cried every morning when my mom dropped me off the first week of school; I grew up to be a pretty well-adjusted individual though. Everyone's challenges are different, but with a good, loving family and a good relationship with Heavenly Father you pull through them. Love you, Mal!