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Shy or Introverted??
Episode 104 β€’ 1st June 2023 β€’ How Not to Screw Up Your Kids β€’ Dr Maryhan
00:00:00 00:23:43

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Being shy and being introverted aren't the same thing, although they may look the same. I'll help you understand which your child is, and how to best help them flourish more in social situations.

Here are the highlights:

(1:55) Difference between introvert and shy person

(3:00) A shy child

(6:02) An introverted child

(10:26) Get super clear on whether it’s shyness or introversion

(11:25) Do not label 

(14:37) Set up scaffolded social situations 

(18:31) Rehearse and role play

(20:45) Set small goals

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Hello, and welcome to the how not to screw up your kids podcast. So pour yourself a cup, find a comfy seat, and enjoy the conversation. This is episode 104. And today's episode, shy or introverted, I want to help all of you who are listening, who have a child or children who seem reluctant to engage in social situations who seems slightly nervous in those situations. Or maybe this is a child who permanently avoids or is always behind your leg. Whenever you're meeting someone new, or wherever you're going somewhere new. Quite often, we confuse them. But being shy and being introverted are not the same thing, although they may look the same. So we're probably going to need to do a little bit of probing and a little bit of auditing and a little bit of observation. But I'm gonna give you some just general kind of characteristics of a shy child general characteristics of an introverted child. And this will be the same for adults as well, just so that you can begin to be able to recognise those, and then I'm going to talk you through my five top tips in terms of supporting them. And the reason why I note this is something that I get asked it a lot. Because it can often feel really painful for us on the on our children's behalf when we see them in social situations where they're so withdrawn, and they're finding it so difficult. And sometimes it can just be around those sorts of bigger social situations. For some children, this can just be around friendships, that they really struggle to make friends because they're either shy or they're introverted. So they do often look the same, but they are different. So an introvert tends to enjoy time alone and get emotionally drained. After spending a lot of time with others, we will look at it in a bit more detail, but I'm just trying to give you some broad, a broad brush difference between the two. So this idea about an introvert wanting to spend time alone and they get emotionally drained. A shy person, on the other hand doesn't necessarily want to be alone, but is afraid to interact with others because that creates a sense of nervousness and anxiety and stress. being introverted is more of a permanent characteristic is more of a permanent state is part of who you are. Now, that doesn't mean that introverts are not sociable. But being introvert is more of a permanent state. Shyness generally is more relative to the situation, and comes from this perspective of feeling quite fearful or anxious or overwhelmed. So that's broad brush, how we can know the difference. Hopefully, that's helping give you a bit of clarity. If you're listening about this specifically, with a child in mind, let's look at about a shy child first, and then we'll look at an introverted child. So a shy child, probably around 15, or 20% of children typically have this temperament that leads to the behaviour that we might typically say that they're shy, or they're reserved, or they're quite timid or fearful. But typically, we tend to use these words. So probably around 15 to 20% of children tend to exhibit this temperament. And a shy child can often feel very anxious, very nervous, very inhibited in unfamiliar situations, or when they're interacting with people that they're not familiar with. So they're more often likely to feel that they're on show. So when they're meeting someone new or having to speak in front of others, and what they tend to do is take in their environment before they start responding. So they tend to be quite observant, and they can be highly empathetic. But that's why with a shy child, you will get this sort of standing behind you, their head and their eyes are facing down or with younger children, they're kind of gripping on the back of your leg. These are temporary states with a shy child, once they warm up, they are then generally then much more sort of outgoing. So you may well have a child that tends to exhibit these behaviours when they first go somewhere. So whether you go to a playgroup, whether you're going to a birthday party, whether you're meeting new people, is that they're just that slow to warm up, that they sort of need to observe, they need to take in information, they need to become a bit more familiar. And then you typically find that they'll then come out of their shell that is much more typically a shy child and it will be situation dependent, so you can get shy children. And it's quite interesting when I start working with a family for the first time I have this particular exercise that I do when I first meet the child. And sometimes when children will say to me because I asked them to use words to describe themselves, I'll often be presented with this notion of oh, I'm shy, and I'll often say to them, okay, so if I went to your school and spoke to your friends and asked them and said, Oh, Becca's just told me that she's shy. Would they say to me, oh my goodness me, Becker is not shy. And they often laugh about that. And the reason why I say that is that helps me understand whether they're a bit of a slow to warm up and unfamiliar situations. So a shy child may and I think that often as well, for us as parents, while we feel frustrated or overwhelmed, or we can't quite make sense of it is that when people are supremely familiar with and sometimes this can be these can be adults that they're very familiar with is that they can be incredibly gregarious, or maybe at home, they're the Bossy one. And they're really outgoing. And we think, oh my goodness, me, they're not shy, they're not afraid of making friends, because in those situations, but in other situations they are and that would be a typical shy child, I'm weighing it up, you know, these people are unfamiliar to me, I don't know them. I don't know the situation, I don't know how to act, I'm going to observe from behind your leg or behind your back with my head down. I'm just going to scan the situation. And then when I feel more comfortable, I'll then engage an introverted child. As we've said before, it's much more that this is going to be part of a permanent character trait. And one of the things that is a really common misconception around this idea of introvert and extrovert and I do think sometimes people think, oh, goodness me an introvert, I don't want an introvert is a bad thing. And that an introverted child is not going to be sociable that is so far from the truth. introversion and extraversion has nothing to do with confidence, nothing to do with how outgoing your child is, or even you are, it's much more to do with where you get your energy from. an extroverted child. an extroverted adult, is energised by being around people, so they seek to be with people a lot because that gives them an builds up their energy and fills their batteries. It recharges their battery. an introverted child and introverted adult being around people drains their battery. So they will actively seek to recharge the battery by seeking solitude. So it's really important that we're able to understand that distinction, particularly because I think as a parent, we can often feel that we've got an introverted child, that that's kind of like a kiss of death, it isn't, it's just understanding where their energy flows, they can be just as confident as an extrovert, they can be just as sociable as an extrovert, they'll just need downtime afterwards. So some of the key things that will differentiate an introvert is that they prefer to kind of have conversations to communicate best one to one, they are very strong listeners, they typically will seek solitude of varying different kinds, because that's how they recharge. So they may go to a party, or they may spend all day at school with friends and being around other children, when they come home that actively seek out time on their own. And that's might be why they then don't seek to engage with us initially when they come home. So they actively seek solitude in whatever shape or form that takes that could be reading a book that could be just playing on their own, but it is colouring drawing creative things, that's a natural part of their recharge, which is why it's really important that we allow and create the space for them to do that an introverted child will often need time to process a question that they've been posed before answering. And that is a really crucial thing to remember, if you are an extroverted parent, and you're then sort of thinking my child has been rude, or just, you know, you've been asked a question, why not responding is just being aware so that we can give them time to answer they often prefer not to talk about or share their emotions, they are highly self aware. And they learn through observation. So they're observing others and they are generally quiet in large social settings. Because remember, the large social settings, lots of people lots of buzz, lots of noise is likely to be draining them. So they are subtle differences. But there are some very key differences. A shy child, if it helps you takes a while to warm up and will then be very full on and engage an introverted child, it tends to be much more of a permanent state. So hopefully, that's given you a bit of a clearer distinction between the two. So what can we do to help whether we've got a shy child or an introverted child to help them because one of the things that we need to remember is, of course, we need to accept them, accepting them for who they are as they are. But it's also being aware that there are going to be times in their lives where they are going to have to step up and be uncomfortable in a social situation or overcome their shyness and step out of that introversion. So it's really important that we help scaffold and help them then build up and feel able to cope with the situation. So we want to help accept them for who they are. That's really, really crucial. But we also want to make sure that we equip them because that's our role as parents remember, we're


working with the end in mind. We're reverse engineering, we're thinking of the adult that we're raising and what are the steps that we can do to help them and and the adults that we're raising is going to have to have a job interview. At some point, the adult that we're raising is probably depending on the job, but for most jobs going to have to interact with people, they're going to have to probably present their ideas in some shape or form at some point amongst a group of their peers and potentially superiors. So we're really thinking about it from that perspective, how can I build that skill set for my child, so here are my top five. The first is that we just need to get super clear on whether what we're seeing is due to shyness or introversion. This is to help us and to help you understand how best to support your child and to help make appropriate choices in your expectations. Because you then understand now remember that these are not negative life sentences, introverted and shy adults still manage social situations admirably and love them. But it goes back to this notion that the world often requires us to step out of our comfort zones. And what we're simply doing is equipping and preparing our children to do this now, and also for when they're older. So we just want to get super clear on that. And if we're not super clear, but we've got a bit of a hunch, then let's work on that basis, but then be a bit more observant. Let's do that audit, let's be mindful, let's look out for these things. So that we've then got a bit of an idea about how best to support them moving forward. That's number one. Number two, do not label your child, do not call them shy. Do not call them introverted, not because I want you to be to be deceitful. But I have a very strong belief that they may have a particular temperament and we know it's not a life sentence. But I also don't want it to be a determiner or an excuse for not fully engaging socially in a way that we want them to. We don't want to wrap them in cotton wool. What we want them to do is we want to be able to recognise that that's, that's their temperament. That's how they are, and how best can we support them. When we give children labels, when we repeatedly call them shy when we repeatedly call them introverted, in my view, we can then potentially give them an excuse for not doing things. I can't do that because I'm shy, I can't do that because I'm introverted and introverted. People don't like those situations. And that's not to say that I don't believe that labels in other aspects of our children's development in terms of neurodiversity, and autism, and ADHD, and dyslexia, and dyspraxia and all of these other things are not important. They can be I just believe, and that's a whole episode for another podcast. But I do believe that when we label our children, which we do sometimes that you're my little helper, or you're my little cheeky monkey, whatever it is that we do, that we do from a place of love and kindness, I think quite often it can create our reality, the words that we use are incredibly powerful, our brain does not know the difference between what's real and what's imagined. And if we label our children in terms of their temperament, and in terms of why they find certain situations difficult, then that becomes, I believe, slightly self fulfilling, and then that gives them an opportunity to opt out. And I don't think that's helpful, we can be aware that we can, in some situations you find difficult, of course, we can acknowledge that when they're meeting new people or new situations that they find that a little bit overwhelming. I think that's part of a broader challenge. And as I say, potentially another podcast episode, but I just think labels create roles and personas that our children then take on, which I don't believe are helpful when we're looking at problem solving when we're looking at scaffolding when we're looking at overcoming challenges, because instead we say, well, I fit this pigeonhole, this is where I sit. And that role that I inhabit is then incongruent, can't do that they're not capable of that, and then it gets in the way. So of course, we want to be super clear whether our child is shy or introverted, so that we can best support them. But we do not need to give them that label. And if they use that label, then reframe it. It's not that you're shy, because you just find some situations more challenging than others. introversion is just simply the way that you find your energy. So this situation is going to drain your energy, the sort of responses I'm giving are if that introversion comment comes from your child. It's much more about that. It's about how we see our energy. So let's talk about how we can top up that energy or make sure that our batteries are fully charged before we go into that situation. So number one gets super clear. Number two, do not label number three is so these are much more now how can we start looking at we know where our child sets? How can we now best support them moving forward and number three is about setting up social situations which are scaffolded. So we're not talking about forcing our children into frightening situations immediately because that's we want to we want to set challenges. It's about feeling an element of stress and anxiety, particularly if we've got a child who is shy who wants to avoid that particular situation, but it is much more about pride. problem solving and advance through setting up the social situations. So if you've got a child who's shy, who's really struggling with friendships, one of the ways that we can set up a social situation, which is scaffolded is to organise a play date, but a play date that that has a very definitive start and finish and is a very task focused. So if you're shy the idea of inviting somebody over to your house or you going over to somebody's house, where you're simply playing in an unstructured way can feel overwhelming because they can often feel like the spotlight is on them. They're like rabbits caught in the headlight. So instead, when we talk about setting up social situations, which are scaffolded, is it's actually creating a playdate around a specific task. So it may well be going to do pottery class, you know, pottery painting, it may be going to the cinema, it may be going to a zoo, it may be going to a museum or a park to play on a playground, or to go on a bike ride, it's really thinking about how can I set up the social situation for my child, which gives them a bit of a scaffold on which to frame to hand some of these interactions onto Now we may we'll have to start doing that quite regularly for each of their social situations that they find themselves in. But in time, we will do less and less of that. But particularly if you've got a shy child needs a bit of time to warm up, then that can be a great way and then obviously, the more familiar they are, then you don't need those as much. For an introverted child. Though social, setting up social situations to calf scaffold may also be helpful, but for a different purpose, because it helps them not feel overwhelmed in terms of the discharging of their batteries. So all of these strategies are helpful, regardless of your child, whether they're shy or introverted, they'll just serve different purposes. So it's about setting them up, and then problem solving with your child in advance. So what we're doing is we're agreeing in advance how we might be able to help them should that sort of situation feel slightly overwhelming. And we need to make sure that when we're problem solving in advance about how we can help to support them that this comes from our child saying to us, this is what I would like you to do, rather than us saying, This is what I will do. So for example, if you've decided that you're going to go to the park as the scaffolding for that social situation, and you're aware, you've had conversations with your child about how they feel and those interactions can feel difficult. So you will then have a conversation about you're not going to use this language of a How are you going to anticipate but we're going to be in the park? Where do you think the areas the things that you're going to find quite tricky, and you're not going to feel particularly confident in so it might be about starting a conversation, it might be about asking them to come in on a particular bit of equipment in the playground. So it's helping them reflect and problem solve in advance where they might find their shyness comes out the most. And then ask them. So if that is the case, how can I help in that situation? What would you like me to do, and it may be that they want you to initiate the kind of conversation and start things off so that they can then and then you back off and they continue. It may be that you're problem solving which order of rides to go on, it's really thinking about in advance. So what you don't get as you've done all of this great work to set up a social situation which you've scaffolded agree that you're going to go to the playground or you're going to go to a funfair or something like that. And then your child has paralysed you haven't had that conversation about how to best help support them. So it's really setting up those situations in advance. So that's number three. Number four, is about rehearsing what to do, and how to be in those potentially stressful situations and scenarios before we place our children in them. So this is roleplay in a hat role playing with your child. So we've decided that we're going to set up a social situation which we scaffolded and our child's happy with problem solved and


we've talked about what we're going to do if they feel overwhelmed then roleplay it because I say this quite often to shy and introverted children is that actually if you can practice this and feel uncomfortable, because it feels uncomfortable doing it with your parent, then if you can overcome that discomfort that uncomfortableness that awkwardness, that weirdness, then in lots of ways you're doing something that feels a little bit like what you're going to actually be doing in the real situation. So it's really important that we roleplay and when we do roleplay, and we rehearse it's making sure that we both take the role of the child so of course your child roleplay with your child being themselves in that situation and working through it and how they what they're going to say but also make sure you switch and you play your child but play your child compassionately, knowing the things that they find difficult and trying to implement in use the scaffolding techniques that you've talked about the things that you've suggested that you've problem solve together that might be helpful in starting those conversations. Because that's really helpful because children are going to learn in all manner and we know that we all learn in different ways and some children are very excited. reinsure learners, they learn by doing. And by role playing, we're creating a scenario and an opportunity for them to roleplay. And if they don't want to roleplay with you, they can roleplay with their sibling, whatever it takes, is really trying to make it fun. And if you all end up sort of laughing and not necessarily taking it massively seriously, it doesn't have to be a perfect play out of it, it just has to simply be getting them to think on the spot to experience some of that on the spot thinking and what they may say, or they might do in that moment. So that's the fourth one. So the first is get super clear on whether they're shy or introverted. The second is not labelling them. The third is about setting up social situations which are scaffolded. The fourth is about rehearsal about practising about roleplay. And then the fifth is about setting small goals, you know, we must remember, we're not trying to throw our children under the bus, we're not trying to put them into overwhelm, we're not trying to put them in Super frightening situations, of course, they're going to feel anxious and overwhelmed, to some extent. And we want to manage that by starting with small goals. Remember, my ladder resource, which I've spoken about before, which we will include in the giveaway in our free resources, but it's looking at it from that ladder perspective, the top rung of the ladder is where we want to help our child and support our child to get to so being able to be in those situate social situations and not feeling overwhelmed. And then the rungs of the ladder is simply what might be the first step, what's a small goal that we can work on, that will just help you feel that little bit more comfortable. And let's work and let's practice and let's roleplay. And let's set up social situations, which are scaffolded. In that situation, let's learn, let's feel empowered, let's feel confident and motivated. And then let's move up to the next rung and the next rung and the next rung. So it's working through setting small goals, we don't have to take hugely we're a work in progress. It's a long journey, there's no rush, we don't have to rush at this, we have to get our children on board. And we have to set small goals which help them work up. So those are my five top tips. So my give this week are going to be these top five strategies along with the ladder resource, and a full explanation of that if you have not worked through it previously, I've mentioned it in a number of different podcast episodes around anxiety and confidence and goal setting. By all means, if you want to hear me talking through it again, in more detail, then go to one of those particular episodes, where I speak about it in a lot of detail. So my give is going to be these five strategies, as well as the ladder resource so that you can use the checklist as that reminder, and that practical tool so you can reflect on whether you think your child is introverted, or shy and why and what you're going to practice first, but you will also be able to go back and use it and also looking at the ladder resources, you can do that a number of ways. As usual, all you need to do is head over to my free resource library, forward slash library, where you'll find the link to download the resource. All you need to do is pop in your email address and you'll get instant access not only to this week's resource, but all the other free resources across all my podcast episodes. As ever, I would be so grateful if you have enjoyed this episode. If you could please please, please follow and review this podcast. It literally only take you a few minutes but it is so important in terms of others being able to find us so that we can spread the love so until next time





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