Don’t Call My Daughter Shy (or any other kid for that matter)

shyness in kids family photography

My daughter started a new school this week. One day, when I came from work, I asked her casually about her day. She replied ‘Mommy, I am shy.’

My daughter is a child who takes a while to ‘warm up’ to people and situations. That is just how she is.

She does not respond immediately to a greeting nor does she proactively greet new people. I researched this behaviour. Oh, and by research, I mean I GOOGLED THE CRAP out of this topic (as parents do!)

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I discovered that little kids are not necessarily shy, sometimes they just need more time to warm up. That is okay.  When I walk into a room, I do not want to talk to everyone immediately either. Even if she is introverted, that is fine, but I don’t want to her to carry the ‘shy’ label at this tender age.

[bctt tweet=”Labels have power. Here is why I do not want my daughter to be referred to as ‘shy’.” username=”cherralle_”]

Don’t Call My Daughter Shy (or any other kid for that matter)

shy kids

The world favours the child who is openly boisterous and talkative. Not the child who needs time to warm up before she shows her personality. My daughter is smart, witty, helpful and has a crazy weird laugh! But she will not show that side to anyone immediately.

Labels have power

The fact that my daughter takes long to ‘warm up’ is okay.  I know her. She is funny, smart, talkative, has developed friendships, and is a feisty one. She actively seeks out social settings where she can play with others.

What is not okay is her adopting a label of ‘I am shy.’

When she told me, she is shy I mentioned she must take her own time. I also told her what I always tell her when I don’t know what to say ‘You are Strong and Smart.’ When I am in these ‘teachable parenting’ moments, I never know what the hell to say, so I always remind her  that she is ‘strong and smart’.

[bctt tweet=”If she must carry any label, let it be that she is strong and smart (which she is). ” username=”cherralle_”]

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Not shy, but thoughtful or slow to warm up

So when we enter new environments, and the moment comes when she doesn’t greet or respond when asked her name, I let it go. I casually say to the other person, ‘she just takes a while to warm up; or ‘she likes to observe her environment first.’ Pressuring her and covering up by saying she is shy, will not help my child.

While we are on the topic, I also do not make her hug or kiss anyone if she does not want to (it is her body). You will get a high-five at best.

I do chat with her alone about greeting and that it is a nice and friendly thing to do, but I do not make a scene about it.  At her previous (play) school, she settled in well although it took a while.

However, now that she is at a new school, she will need a little time to warm up again. You know what, she is four. It’s fine. Calm down.

I stopped telling people she is ‘shy’ two years ago but it still gets used by others. I prefer to say ‘she is thoughtful; she takes a while to warm up; she likes to observe first.’ Which is the truth! I prefer to look at it in the positive.

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Give them the right label to live up to

Next time a little kid does not want to greet and anyone says they are shy, don’t leave the ‘shy’ label hanging over their heads. Keep it casual but don’t let it slide if someone says they are shy, say they ‘take some time to warm up’ or something along those lines.

Do not apologise for who they are, it makes them feel small.

The shy label may keep a child from trying new things, or from reaching out to connect with someone. Labels have power!

Here are 10 Reasons Why You Should Not Call your Kids Shy from an article that appeared in the Huffington Post.

‘Mommy,  I am shy.’

I don’t want this to be her internal voice.

That is why I tell her, ‘you are smart, pretty and strong’. That is a better internal voice.

Can you relate to this? Do you have a ‘slow to warm up’ child? Or were you an ‘introverted child’?

Author: Cherralle

Mom, wife and career loving parent. This blog focus on career and work life topics for mothers.

19 thoughts on “Don’t Call My Daughter Shy (or any other kid for that matter)”

  1. My child takes a while to warm up to people in certain situations too, don’t even want to say “hello” to people. We often see how she dominates the areas where she is. I like your take on this. Thank you – I will keep it in mind for the future.

    1. Thank you for commenting. Indeed I see the same with my daughter when she is in her element. I guess it’s being mindful of their needs, feelings and not pressuring them. In their own time- I say.

  2. My daughter is going to school for the first and she is exactly like your daughter. When I drop her off in the mornings she doesn’t greet the teachers back or the other kids, she is very quiet around them but I know is because it’s all so new to her and she will warm up eventually, or at least I hope she does.

    1. All in their own time. My daughter was sand at her old school- but boy oh boy did she WARM UP and made besties 🙂

  3. I love this post, people must be careful on how the label children at such a young age. I always get irritated when people call my daughter shy – at least I now know there is nothing wrong with me :-). She is far from shy, she is opinionated, strong willed, and very outgoing. She does take time to warm up in unfamiliar situations and to strangers, but I support that – especially with all the freaks you get out there these days.

    1. Thanks Esmari. Agree we need to give them space and be careful they don’t internalize the messages. Oh yes regarding the freaks.

  4. I absolutely love this post, it is so true if I think back to when Emma was little and even when I was younger.Speaking the right positive words over our children is soooo important! Thank you for sharing!

  5. I think this is more the norm than the exception. My middle child is that child…and I decided long ago that I will not force him to greet/hug/etc. He needs time to warm up (usually 10 minutes before we leave, when we’ve been there for 2hrs….lol)

    And I am the same..I do not walk into a room full of new people, double my size….and high five them all with a chest bump and a ‘hello’. In fact I almost hate meeting new people…why should kids be held to a different standard?

    Love this…. labels are important…and we need to make sure we’re using positive and strong labels <3


  6. Love how you put this into context and you are absolutely right – this should not be a label hanging over her and be something that she feels is her inner voice. Everyone is unique in their own way – yes she has different character traits to that of other children and that is all ok. Imagine we were all the same – life would’ve been very boring. Sometimes people should stop and think before they say things to kids.#Lekkerlinky

  7. Such an important thing to remember, not only with shy “… give them the right label to live up to”. Just love this advice. #Lekkerlinky

  8. I never know why we are so quick to label kids… shy, cheeky, too active etc. Especially in front of them, and allowing the child to take it on as their own label. Thanks for writing this piece!

  9. Love this post! You make so many great points. I especially like that you mention that little ones should never be forced to greet or hug people, if they’re not comfortable with that. I wish more people would get that!!
    Thanks for linking up to the #LekkerLinky 😊

    1. Thank you for commenting. Indeed – I think we (me included) sometimes forget they are little and we adults are twice or thrice their size (can be kind of intimidating).

  10. Not labelling kids (or ourselves) is something I talk about a lot on my blog. Labels become part of our internal dialogue and how we perceive ourselves. I love your alternatives about warming up to the room first.

    And congratulations because someone loved this post so much, they added it to the BlogCrush linky! Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” blog badge 🙂 #blogcrush

  11. This is 100% my youngest daughter! She is a spitfire at home but can even be quiet around close family depending on her mood that day. I support it. Her older sister talks to everyone and although I love the fact that she’s so friendly, it scares the crap out of me! I do worry about her going to preschool next year but I also know she will adjust and be just fine in her own time.

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