Of all the labels and stereotypes I’ve heard throughout my life, the one that impacts me most, is one that I hear often about my son.
“Oh he’s so shy.”
Ever since he was a little baby, A, my oldest has always been the intuitive one. He was the baby that stared into my eyes and made me feel like he knew everything I was thinking without saying a word. While that might have been the sentiments of a first time mama enamored with her new baby love, it hasn’t changed much in the past years as he’s grown into his personality.
He thinks before he acts, he looks before he interacts, he listens before he speaks.
My son is the one who stands by my side as he scopes out the scene at the playground, instead of jumping on the swings.
My son is the one who needs a few minutes to himself putting his things away in his cubby, before he runs off to play with his friends and classmates.
My son is the one who doesn’t say hi to strangers, but sometimes has a hard time saying hi to friends and family too.
“It’s okay, he’s just shy, he’ll grow out of it.”
It’s not the label that bothers me. It’s the connotation behind it. Everyone who mentions his shyness says it with a tone of pity. They try to reason with us as to why we shouldn’t worry about it; all the while, saying the words like they’re actually the worried ones.
And I get it. They don’t mean any harm. Society teaches us to be social beings. Everyone wants to interact with an outgoing person. It’s a natural reaction to a child who doesn’t greet you the “right” way. But why? Why is it wrong to be timid? Why is it bad to be shy?
“I’m shy, umma, I don’t like to talk a lot. I’m a bad boy.”
My heart was crushed the minute I heard those words. That’s when it hit me. Those words that often gave me pause, impacted my son too. My little three year old thinking negatively of himself because he heard the same words. He heard that label and its negative connotation.
While I know that this isn’t the first time that I won’t be able to shield him from harm, it’s definitely made an impact as to how I cultivate an environment that nurtures his spirit. I want him to know that it’s okay to be shy. It’s okay to be cautious. It’s okay to be timid. Those traits are all equal parts of who he is and he is perfectly and wonderfully made.
He has the biggest heart for people and animals. He finds joy in the mundane and shines his light everywhere he goes. He is patient and kind. He loves to lead and be adventurous. He is brave and bold. He loves the arts and loves to be active. He is smart and clever. He is our first born.
Please don’t call my son shy.
He’s so much more. So much more than “just shy.”
Any mamas out there who feel the same way?
I have a son who was like your son. Finally came to the conclusion most people didn’t know what to say when they first was around my son so decided he was shy. Once they got to know him they soon changed their mind.
Yea, I try not to take offense because I know they don’t mean harm. I just want to be mindful of reminding him that it’s not a bad thing.
“It’s not the label that bothers me. It’s the connotation behind it.” – this is great! So many times we say things with good intentions, not thinking about how it will make the person on the receiving end feel. If more of us were like your son and took a moment to think before we spoke, this world would be a better place. Thank you for sharing this beautiful message!
You’re so right! If we were all a bit more like my son, I think it’d be much easier to think before we spoke.
Awww he is so cute. Sometimes it just takes time for kids to open up and that’s okay.
Amanda || http://www.fortheloveofglitter.com
Thank you! Yes, definitely okay. I need time sometimes to open up, too!
Very thoughtful piece. My little ones were/ are “shy” too. You’re right, it’s a damaging label because all labels are damaging. Little people have emerging personalities. They shouldn’t be pigeon-holed. I think we tend to want to categorize people because that makes it easier to makes sense of things, but to truly understand someone, we need to go deeper.
It’s so very true. Passing comments aren’t meant to be harmful, but it definitely is hard to hear past a label that is put on you by others. I definitely want to make sure that I enable him to be who he is and proud of all facets of himself.
This is amazing. So well written. I have a 5 year old who has the exact same personality. I get frustrated with people always commenting on how shy he is. I read an article a couple weeks ago explaining how “shyness” is actually nature’s way of making sure the person is influenced most by their caretakers as opposed to the outside world. Of course, every kid is different because of personalities. But it was a different perspective, I’ve never realized.
Yes, I’ve been trying to find more articles and books to read to help me be a better support to my son. I love that message from the article.
Yes! My son has always been the same way. From day one and now five years later. I never called him “shy” but others would say the word and it would always, and still does, get me all bent out of shape. If I ever, ever referenced his personality I would say that he was reserved. Love my little man! Thank you for posting this. Thank you, thank you!!!
Reserved is such a great word. I try not to take offense to it since I know it’s not meant to be harmful intentionally. But, I def feel uneasy every time I try to shrug off the comment.
So sweet – love those pictures of him. My son was so shy too, and I would hear comments as well. But, just like yours, he has the most tender heart – still at almost 8! Great post, mama!
Thanks so much Kim! What a sweetheart, makes me so happy to know that his tender heart will only grow with age!
I feel the same way!! My son is quiet near new people and I actually LOVE it.
Yes! His preschool teacher said it’s a great quality and loves that he is reserved!
Love love love this! I hate that people think we should change how someone (especially a child) is. ❤️
<3 you friend, thanks so much and yes, completely agree and feel the same way! We are who we are and we should be proud of that!
I can really relate to what you are saying. Our son is more on the extraverted side. Appreciate how intuitive personalities are so often labeled and boxed in.
Thanks Miri! I know that labels on either end aren’t productive, but I still don’t understand why “shy” has such a negative connotation.
I wanted to keep yelling, “yes!” as I was reading your piece. Well said, my friend.
Thanks so much!
Oh man this spoke to my heart this morning! My son is the same way and I love him to pieces for it. The worst response was when I had a pastor say TO MY SON after morning service. “Well you’re kind of weird aren’t you.” Needless to say we stopped attending that church. It is so sad that sometimes people, especially adults who should know better, don’t think before they say things. And it broke my heart to hear that your son said he was a bad boy because he didn’t talk enough. Thanks so much for this post!
Thanks so much, A!! I cannot believe the audacity of that Pastor!! A Pastor!! We all need to learn how to be better at loving and encouraging one another. Ugh, makes me so mad that he said that to your son!!
Thanks so much mama <3
I can relate to your son. People have called me shy my whole life and, for me personally, it’s just not the case. I was timid but only because I learned from watching. I didn’t always say “hi” to people because I didn’t always want to talk. When people called me “shy” they made it sound like I was afraid of something, which just wasn’t the case. Your son is lucky to have a momma who will stick up for him and help him see past that label.
You have described my son to a T! He’s wild and loud and outgoing once he has a little time to acclimate to different situations. Yes!! He definitely isn’t afraid and I don’t like that the word has so many negative connotations vs positive! Thank you so much for sharing!
This was beatiful. I have two very outgoing and overly social boys. Obnoxiously so sometimes. Haha. But I was also a teacher. A kindergarten teacher. And that was one of the “labels” I always hated too. There is nothing wrong with taking it all in. Being intuitive. Being cautious. Being observant. What a sweet boy with such a wonderful
AHH I wish we could get our boys together for a play date!! Thanks so much for sharing your experience as a teacher, A’s preschool teacher said exactly the same words you did about his cautiousness and being so intuitive. Thanks friend!!
I can relate to all this so much with my 8 year old. He is so smart, observant, practical, wise… But he always gets called shy. He has a hard time making friends and tells me all the kids talk about things he doesn’t like. Why can’t a kid be shy? Those are the kids that KNOW stuff… They watch everything and everybody . My son will open up to people who are calm and ask him questions, for his opinion, or show/tell him something new.
He sounds like a gem! Thank you so much for sharing about your son and reading. It helps me much knowing that there are other parents out there who experience and feel the same way!
Beautiful post! It´s so true what you say about what is linked to the label, maybe the label “shy” isn´t negative per se but the fact that it´s repeated so often gives it another connotation. And obviously your son picks that up as well… Love this post girl!
You have a great point mama! Maybe it is the frequency that we hear it that projects a negative connotation. Something to think about. Thanks so much for reading!
I’m still the “shy, quiet one”. No one realizes that I just don’t feel like talking unless I have something to say. I’ve been like that my whole life so I always had a hard time making friends. So I completely understand why it bothers you that people label your son. It’s like they still don’t understand that we’re all different, yet somehow the same..
I’m so sorry! Yes, at the end of the day we are our own individuals, but should empathize and sympathize with one another as human beings.
My son is similar and it is a word I don’t like either. He assessed and watches before he jumps into situations and I don’t like that people use that word as though there is something wrong. I think sometimes the way he assesses a situation can be a very good thing. Some of it they may grow out of and some is their personality but I don’t care if he doesn’t grow out of it. This is him. Beautifully written and showing how much love we have for them.
I definitely think that being cautious and assessing situations is a great thing! I love that, “This is him.” Thank you so much for reading and empathizing!
I’m so sorry your son felt like that. It would crush me to hear my kids say that too.:( Like you said, its like people think of being shy as a bad thing. Some people are more extroverts, and others and introverts. We need both in the world.
Heartbreaking! Yea I get so confused with the negative connotation. We definitely need both intro- and extro-verts!!
I get your frustration. Shy doesn’t mean weak. So eloquently stated. I think your post will make people think about their words more.
Yes!!! Shy doesn’t mean weak! I hate that it has such a negative connotation!
Omg tears in my eyes!!! My kids are the opposite, but ppl need to chill out with those comments! Especially when the little ones are around and listening.
You’re perfect and wonderful, Austin ❤️
First, he is such a cute little guy! Second, I can totally relate to this! My daughter is very shy, and even though she is only 16 months, people are already saying this to me about her. She has quite the little personality around us and can be very social at times, but only if you stay far away from her. If a stranger or new friend get too close, she immediately clings to me and turns away. Great post, and wonderfully written!
Thanks so much Sumer! She is so sweet and so perfect! I hope you are better at shielding her from the comments than I have been!!! <3
My oldest is exactly like yours, and I was and maybe still am “shy”, I was called that for years my whole life.. And I started to think that way and I became comfortable with that.. There were days when I wanted to talk or ask questions but didn’t because ..well, I was shy and no one expected me to talk , and I thought if I did it would be something outrageous or people would be shocked lol..so I didn’t.. But bc I know how it feels and what I was thinking I really try not to ever call my child shy or give them other labels, I want to give him options, I want him to choose what he wants to be, instead of putting him in the box and labeling it.. It’s the same thing about calling a wild child “wild” , he will only become wilder, bc ppl put that label in him and he will do wild things bc that’s what everyone expect from him anyways..
All I wanted to say that it’s a great post and I can relate lol!
Xo Jane xo
Thanks so much for sharing your personal experience. I definitely want to be cognizant of him not being boxed in with a single label. I totally agree that we should give them options and know that they are more than just a singular trait! Thanks so much for reading, Jane!
Great post. As a teacher, it really resonated with me. I have a hard time when people in schools label students with certain characteristics.
I know it’s just a natural habit that isn’t intentional, but it definitely is hard to hear as a parent.
Oh my gosh, my heart hurt to read the words that your little boy said! I related to this post SO MUCH. My daughter is only a year old but it’s already apparent that she’s more on the shy side and I HATE when people say, “Oh she’s so shy. She’s so serious.” Thank you for sharing this. <3
Thanks so much Lauren. Olivia is the sweetest ever! I hope that she doesn’t ever associate the negativity behind “she’s so shy.” It is truly heart breaking.
So much power in words. I loved this message and your son is absolutely adorable!
Yes! So much power in words. Thanks so much!
My youngest is like your son and when people call him shy, I don’t really like it either. Being a little introverted is not a bad thing!
Not a bad thing at all!
My oldest is extremely extroverted. Though my littlest is only a month old he is much more reserved in nature. I can already tell. I think it is important for kids to feel encouraged to be themselves.
Yep, my youngest is already so different from his big brother. I agree, extrovert or introvert, I think our kids need to feel encouraged to be themselves!
I could have written this post. The word “shy” is banned in our house. My 5 year old son has always been cautious; a look before you leap type- he’s similar to myself and his dad in that respect. People would say “oh he’ll grow out of it” as if there was something wrong with being a thinker. Then I read the most wonderful book called “Don’t call me shy” by Laurie Adelman and it was a real life changer for me. It gives you tips on how to handle the fools who make comments like that, especially in front of your child! And how to take the pressure off your child to allow them to just be themselves. It celebrates the child- she shares techniques which have empowered me as a mother and in turn unquestionably seen my son’s confidence and self-esteem flourish because he’s been allowed to feel comfortable, accepted and loved just for being him.
Thank you so much, I am definitely looking into getting that book! It’s so encouraging to hear your experience, thanks so much for reading and sharing!!
I really just love your blog. You are so wonderfully relatable and your writing is fantastic. Your son is adorable and incredible exactly the way he is. I know that you know this, just wanted to reiterate ????
Oh wow, thank you so much Mal, for making my day! Your words are so, so encouraging especially for a newbie like me. I’m so glad we’ve come across each other in this big, small blog world. <3 You are so kind.
Great post! Your son is absolutely adorable (and so stylish!).
Thank you so much Amanda!
I went through the same with my son when he was little, and it really bothered me. He is 20 now and has really come into his own. My quiet little boy grew up into a brilliant scientist. He is in his 3rd year of college now and going to take his MCATs for medical school this year. He is loving his college years and I am so happy for him I could just pinch myself. You just keep loving that boy of yours. Enjoy the ride, his future is bright!
Thank you Lisa!! Your story makes me so happy! And congrats to your son and med school! <3 You have so made my day with your encouragement.
Oh this is SO, so good. Throughout my motherhood journey I’ve really come to realize that people generally don’t think before they say things that are commonplace to them. People often don’t temper their words with thoughts of the effect those words may have. Your little man is so sweet and so amazing. You are a blessed mama indeed. xo
Thanks friend! Yep, people make passing remarks, and I truly do believe that they don’t mean harm, but sometimes they do damage our littles’ souls. I am definitely blessed with these babes of mine.
i never really gave it much thought before this but my gosh – so heart breaking when you hear them think something negative about themselves. he’s so cute and sounds just like my 3 year old. i can’t stand when older kids don’t include him and he’s not ready to speak up and force himself into a group.
Awww so sad. Why are you so far away!!!! We need to get our boys together!
I love this! For one, your son is so sweet. For two, people act like it’s a bad thing! I love people who are reserved as adults; they often think longer about what they are saying. I nannied for a toddler who was so “shy” and I just thought he was the sweetest little boy ever.
Thanks so much Chelsea! What a sweet boy you nannied! You are def right that they think longer before they speak!
What a sweet boy you have! And bless his heart that he would ever think there is something bad about him.
Thank you so much for your kind encouragement, Kelly!
I love this post! My son is only one, but he is a lot like this already and he always takes a while warm up to a situation. He has this cute little scowl he makes while he is thinking too. I love all these things but I can already tell strangers have the same “oh, he’s shy” reaction, which is sad because I am so grateful that he is a thinker, it’s not a bad thing!J
It’s great for him to be a thinker! You are such a great mama to encourage his traits!
Ah the labels. If only we could eliminate them! Your little boy is so cute!
This is such a great post. As adults we are blindsided to the impact our words have on children. Glad to see you are speaking up! Positive self image is key!
Thank you so much Sabrina! Yes, always positive self image. I hope to create that for my sons always!
What a beautiful post about your son! He’s going to do big things!
Thanks, Shannon, for your encouraging words!
This is such a beautifully written post ♥ I can see where there is a negative connotation associated with being shy. However, what I don’t get is why. Why is it a “bad” thing to be shy? To want to think before he interacts should be a good thing!
Thank you so much for your encouragement, McKenzie! I don’t understand it either. It’s definitely a good thing in my book!
My oldest daughter (3.5) is the exact same as your son. And when she was younger we really tried not to call her shy because we didn’t want her to think it’s a bad thing. But you can’t stop other people from calling her shy. So we tell her that it’s okay to be shy and that Mommy and Daddy were super shy kids too (and are still quite quiet in new situations). You’re absolutely right when you say that people say the word “shy” as if it’s something to pitied. But it’s just who they are and there’s nothing wrong with that. Love this post!
Yeah, I’m a firm believer that you are who you are. I don’t deny that my son is shy. It’s just upsetting because it’s always said with such a sad or pitied tone. Carrying a negative connotation and clearly picked up on by my child. Thanks so much for reading!
Like your son, I’ve always been considered “shy” and quiet by people who don’t really know me. Hearing people regard me in the light you speak of has always made me a little uncomfortable, and that’s shaped the way I interact with children as an adult. I would never tell a parent that a child will grow out of a personality trait, especially within that child’s hearing! I’m way more likely to say “Oh, you’re shy? That’s okay, I’m a little shy, too!”
Thank you so much for sharing your experience! Your approach to letting the kids take the lead on defining themselves is so much more productive that boxing them in with our words and opinions! <3
Your son calling himself a “bad boy” for being “shy” makes me so sad. Kids are so much more in-tune with what others say than we realize and a random comment can really hit home. Good for you on speaking up! He sounds like a wonderful boy. 🙂
So sad right? I was so heartbroken. They are very much in tune with everything. Thank you for your encouragement, Aileen!
I think it is wise to be reserved and to observe or think things over before acting. These qualities are missing from a ton of people these days. I don’t think of shy as being a horrible label personally. Most kids today are labeled with ADHD, ADD, OCD, or some other label. Yes, I get that there are kids out there who are those things but most just are just being a kid in my opinion.
My son has Selective Mutism which basically means he only talks when he feels like it. He didn’t ralk to his teachers at his preschool pr classmates the entire year past year. My son is the same, very intuitive, highly sensitive and smart as a whip, he was also diagnosed with Aurism. My son Trevor is highly functional but with Autism there are certain characteristics that are just part of his personality that we have ro live with. I feel for you. My son I say is five going on fifteen, his vocab is way beyond others in his grade level but his school called in a speech therapist, I just laughed, if they only knew what he is truly capable of.
Bringingmomshome.org is my website the link was wrong.
Great read!! Unfortunately, many people say things without truly thinking of the connotation of the words. I applaud your message.
My son sounds the same as yours. He is a “highly sensitive child”. Elaine Aron has coined the term after years of research. Check out her website and book to see if it does indeed fit your son. About 15 percent of kids are. It’s a beautiful trait. Once people get to know my son they see that he is a deep thinker who thinks before he acts and is very caring and intuitive. Loves babies and animals. He gets overwhelmed when strangers talk to him and when he is invited to participate in group activities. I wouldn’t change him for the world.
I identify myself in this so much. My parents have always been very outgoing social butterflies. Meanwhile I was very quiet and reserved as a child. I felt at fault for something every time people would say I was shy. 🙁
Hugs to you!!! Shy is NOT wrong!! It’s a great quality and I wish the negative connotation with it would just go away!!
This tugged at my heartstrings. Not only was I a shy child and am still a shy adult, I can see that one of my twins is already a bit more like me (and they’re 11 months). I worry that people will compare them and make him feel that he’s not as “fun” or “likeable” as his brother:( Thanks for sharing!
I’m so glad I found this post. My son is very quiet/reserved/shy. He has a hard time talking to adults especially and people mistake him for being rude, which breaks my heart because he is so big hearted. It actually makes me prefer the label shy. People are forgiving of shyness, but not rudeness. Thanks for sharing your story.
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