I'm pretty sure I don't have a shy cell in my body. I have no trouble talking to anyone, anywhere, and I don't remember ever having a problem doing so.
Imagine my surprise when I gave birth to a child petrified of talking to adults. Imagine my complete and utter shock when 4 more kids were struck with the same affliction.
Some were worse than others. Some outgrew it. One has not.
Basically, I've been encouraging kids to talk to adults and ask questions for many, many years.
I wish I could give you an easy, magical solution to the problem of social anxiety, but it's not easy.
It's simple, but not easy.
The only thing that I've found to work is preparation and practice.
When Buttercup was in preschool, she would not talk to her teachers. Ever. Months and months went by, and still, despite the fact that her teachers were awesome and continued to ask her questions, she wouldn't answer.
It all changed on one particular day.
For her birthday in March, she and I made cookies for her to share with the class. I had a gut feeling her teachers would ask her about them, so I had a chat with her.
Me: If your teachers ask you if you helped make these cookies, what can you say?
Me: If they ask you what you put in them or what you did, what can you say?
Her: I poured everything into the bowl and helped hold the mixer.
Me: Awesome. Do you think you can be brave enough to say that?
I reminded her of the conversation before we went into the classroom.
When I picked her up, one of the teachers was holding up a sign that said, "She talked to us today!"
I asked what she said, and the teacher replied, "We asked her if she helped make the cookies, and she said yes. She also told us how she helped".
I finally figured it out.
My kids weren't talking because (1) they didn't know what to say, and (2) they didn't want to say the wrong thing.
After that day, Buttercup quickly shrugged off her shyness and by the next year became the mouthpiece for all of her shy friends.
All of my kids have outgrown.learned to work through their shyness except for one.
I have a teen who still wigs out when confronted with a new scenario in which speaking is required.
Until I had this child, I did not know that asking a librarian for help in finding a book was scary.
I did not know that paying for lunch at a restaurant was anything to worry about.
I did't know that calling to order pizza could cause stress.
I was blissfully unaware that asking a hotel clerk for extra towels was akin to being held at gunpoint.
But I know now. And I know that this teen needs to be able to function despite his fear. So, I don't let it go. I make him do all of the things he is so afraid to do.
He is not happy with me.
(That is an understatement.)
He gets so scared, he actually becomes defiant, which is completely out of character for him.
I still don't let it go. It really just makes me more certain that he needs to face his fears.
Perhaps an example would be helpful...
At the library last year, this particular teen wanted a book that should have been on the shelf. When I suggested he ask the librarian for help, he replied, "No. It's OK. I don't need it".
That is basically my Batsignal. Red flags waving all up in my face. By saying that, the boy is unknowingly telling me that he is petrified of doing any such thing and would rather not have the book than actually talk to the librarian.
Batman does't ignore his signal and neither do I. I don't let him get away with not talking. Instead, we discuss the situation in great detail. I walk him through all of the possibilities, basically giving him a script.
"Here is what will happen. You will walk up to the librarian's desk. She will look up and ask you if you need some help. You will say, 'I was looking for a book the computer says you have, but it's not on the shelf. Can you help me find it?' She will ask you for the title, look it up on her computer and say, "It is probably in the back waiting to be shelved. I'll be right back." You will wait for her until she returns, most likely carrying your book."
Him: No. I really don't need it.
Me: We aren't walking out of this library until you talk to the librarian.
Him (more forcefully): NO!
Me: What are you most afraid of? What is the worst possible thing that could happen?
Him: I don't know.
Me: This is her job. This is why she is behind that desk. No one is going to die. No one will even get hurt. No matter what you say, she will not come after you with a pair of scissors, claiming you are an idiot of epic proportions. You can do this. You will do this. And you will be ok.
Me: Any questions?
Him: I don't want to do it.
Me: That wasn't a question. What are you going to say to her?
Him: I was looking for a book the computer says you have, but it's not on the shelf. Can you help me find it?'
Me: Yup. Now off you go. (I actually have to give him a bit of a shove.)
He did it. Yes, I was standing right behind him, but he did it.
And no one died. No one got hurt. No one was humiliated. The librarian simply left and came back with his book.
I always ask, "What are you most afraid of? What is the worst thing that can happen?" Sometimes he tells me, sometimes he doesn't. Either way, I find it is helpful to go to that worst scenario. Naming that worst fear takes away some of its power. Making a plan about what to do in the unlikely event that the worst will happen gives him a bit more confidence, since he knows he can and will live through it.
It would be so much easier for me to just do these things myself. To not put him and me through the ordeal. But that isn't my job. My job is to prepare him for life outside of our home. He MUST learn to do these things himself in order to function in the world. So I make him.
He will thank me some day.
And I probably won't even have to make him.
Have a lovely day!