Sure, she may show all the signs of being “shy,” hiding behind my legs when first meeting someone. Or meeting someone for the 10th time for that matter.
It takes her anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour to come around. To show you the real her. I take it as her adjustment period, and often catch her watching this new person out of the corner of her eye.
She asks me to protect her, to shield her from the unfamiliar, by wanting to be picked up. Firmly planting her cheek on my shoulder and throwing her arms around my neck in a tight embrace.
Upon seeing this behavior, you might think my daughter is shy.
But please don’t call her shy.
You see, I believe we become the way we are when frequently told that how we behave, (shy, angry, etc.) is who we are. If we agree to those statements as truth about ourselves, we become it. Saying it once doesn’t necessarily make it true, but saying it over and over again makes it easier for us to believe.
I don’t even say the word shy anymore. I’m not going to put her into that box. I won’t stamp her with that label.
My daughter likes to take her time, easing into situations that might first be just outside her comfort zone.
Allow me to provide you with a beautiful scenario that describes more fully just what I mean.
This week, I decided to take my children to the library for a family story time. We arrived right on time, but the room was already full of loud, rambunctious children and their mothers.
When I opened the half door and presented the room to Ella, asking her to go inside, she refused.
“Are you sure honey?” I asked her. “This is why we came to the library today – to go to circle time.”
“No.” She replied. “I don’t want to.”
She was certain. Not budging those little feet.
I could immediately tell this was not a defiant moment on her part. No, she was afraid to go into that room full of busy children. And when everyone stopped what they were doing to stare at her, wondering if she would come in so we could close the door safely behind, she felt intimidated.
I don’t blame her. If I were her, I’d have felt the same way.
So I said, “okay honey, we don’t have to.”
When I turned to close the door to the children’s room, the mothers seemed to gawk.
No, I’m not forcing my toddler into the room if she doesn’t want to. And no, I’m not going to get flustered or lose my cool over this. Not when I respect her thoughts and feelings.
I realized at this point, we need to arrive 10 minutes earlier than the class begins and be one of the first families in the room. Ella would feel much more comfortable with the other children entering “her” space, rather than the other way around.
We’ll try that next week and I’ll report back with the results.
My point with this post is to encourage you to look at your child’s behavior in depth as I did with Ella in this situation. What could be going on in their mind? Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if a room full of people stopped and looked at you as you entered a room? Would you feel a little nervous? I would.
Let’s not jump to labeling our children, especially when we all change and grow so frequently, learning from our daily experiences. One day Ella will have the courage to step into a crowded room, and I hope I’m there to see it, or hold her hand and walk in with her.