Hudson has always been our shy boy. I probably haven't helped the situation by "labeling" him shy, verbally telling people this is why he refused to talk to them and appeared rude. I'm pretty sure I read in some parenting article somewhere that this was a no-no, but I have always felt that I needed to explain his deep resistance to talking to strangers. I'm not sure if this helped or hurt him, but it is what it is. Compared to his brother (and now his sister), he is the total opposite. Porter was always willing to talk to anyone and everyone. When he started Kindergarten pretty much everyone in his school knew him because he was so friendly and talked to every adult he met. Amelia is following the chatterbox footsteps- she says HI to everyone in the store and keeps saying HI until they answer. Hudson was NEVER this way. Painfully shy, he was the child hiding behind me, glaring a anyone who dare spoke a word directed his way.
This year we've really been working on getting him out of his shell when it comes to strangers. He's terribly shy when people who he is unfamiliar with talk to him, and while it was acceptable when he was a toddler to brush it off and apologize for his shyness, he's definitely at the age where he needs to learn to cope with his anxieties of talking to strangers. Ignoring people or just staring at them when they ask him questions is now unacceptable and rude. He's done great with being pushed outside of his comfort zone, although it hasn't been without struggle.
In the fall we were at a birthday party and he needed help with something. I don't remember what it was- a drink refill, another slice of pizza... I don't remember. Another parent (who I also don't know) helped him and he accepted her help without a word, and then went to run off and play without saying thank you. I stopped him in his tracks and explained that he needed to tell her thank you for helping him, and it turned into a half hour battle of the wills. (If you know this child, you'll know he is ALWAYS a battle of the wills!) He literally would STARE at her and refused to tell her thank you. So, I made him sit down next to me while the other kids played, and explained to him that it is rude not to thank people for doing something nice for him, and that I'd walk over with him so he could tell her. We had a couple false attempts, and each time went right back to sitting down until he was ready. He finally got up the courage to tell her thank you. HURRAH!
This spring, Porter's baseball coach bought the team pizza. Hudson wanted pizza. But, he wanted ME to go over and ask for him. Nope, not gonna fly. I told him he was almost 5 years old and if he wanted pizza he needed to go ask for a piece himself, otherwise he could wait to eat dinner when we got home. He bravely allowed me to walk over with him for support, and with a little coaxing, he went up to the coach and asked nicely for some pizza. He didn't want to, but he did it! Baby steps. Baby steps.
He still doesn't like to answer people at stores when they comment on things, or ask him questions. Slowly but surely he's getting better. He no longer hides his face or glares, it is usually just a stare at them (in which I feel like strangers are surely thinking my child is deaf or doesn't understand english!). There are still times we have to remind him to thank people, or answer people (and sometimes it goes as far as us insisting that he do it, though he wants to refuse). I have no idea if this is the right thing to do, or if I'm further scarring my child by forcing him to face his anxieties, but my gut feeling tells me that he's going to need these people skills as an adult- hell, as a child in school- and any amount of pushing will only pay off in the future.
Have any of my readers dealt with a shy child? What did you do to help them overcome their fears/anxieties? I'm curious to know if there are any other methods/things I could be doing to help him along. I know once he starts kindergarten next year he'll blossom little by little, though I know deep down he'll always be that shy child with strangers. I just want him to be able to push that shyness aside and be able to acknowledge others in a polite way. I know he'll likely never be the child that just strikes up a conversation with a stranger (Ahem... Porter...) but I want him to be able to be confident enough to answer people who strike up conversations with him without being rude.