I’d like to share something that’s been happening to me and a precious child of mine a lot lately, in the hopes we are not alone. First of all, this relates directly to my 6 year old, the one I mentioned here.
I have come to realise that a lot of her behaviours are born out of a lack of confidence and sense of security and so I try as much as possible to let her know she is loved and cherished, even when those are not the first feelings that come to mind. Often when she feels embarrassed or shy, she behaves in a way that comes across as erratic and irritating, and it has taken me a long time to see the vulnerable little girl in her at these moments instead of barking at her to snap out of it.
I’ve realised it’s so easy to get tense and frustrated with her at these times, because they are always in front of other people. Strangers, friends, relatives, anyone. She can go from being a calm and considerate person with me, to a wild animal, bouncing off the walls, or a loud baby, forgetting how to use words, and instead making loud babbling noises. Sometimes I can’t tell the difference between her wanting to be focussed on by others and her anger at being focussed on. I sometimes get the feeling she’s angry at herself because she wants to be outgoing but doesn’t know how. But I do know that at these times she needs my help. I have to pull those words out of her that she wants to say and help her to say them, I have to hold her tight so that she knows she’s as treasured as the next person, I have to encourage her, and also protect her.
It’s taken a lot of give on my behalf to care less about what others think of me and my parenting skills, and to let go of the frustration at her being seemingly normal one second and a child possessed the next, in front of people whose opinion I respect.
I have to reassure her that no one expects anything of her, that it’s polite to say “hello”, but if she really is having trouble I can help her out. That it’s polite to say “yes please” to the waitress, but if she wants to bury her head in my chest, I can say it for her.
So for now, I’m happy for her to whisper in my ear instead of speaking in front of others, I’m happy for her to sit on my lap and smile instead of telling people her name. I’m happy to tell Grandma she’s not in the mood for a kiss today, and I’m happy to give the Easter gift to the teacher while she acts all loopy and loses her voice.
I love the advice given by Jan Hunt on The Natural Child Project here:
While there is no way to force a child to be friendlier in social situations – any more than we can force a rose to bloom – there are things you can do to reassure your child. When you are alone with her, you might talk about a recent get-together that was challenging, validate her feelings, and offer encouragement: “I remember how hard it was for me to meet new people. When we see them next time, they won’t be so new to you, and it should be a little easier.” If a situation has been especially stressful, it might be helpful to try some doll play or art work to help her express her feelings about what happened. If you consistently show that you accept your child and love her unconditionally, she will then be free to develop in all areas at her own best pace.
I’m continuing to work on our united defence in these situations, so, where is the fine line I speak of?
At these times, I feel judgement from others. Sometimes more than just judgement, they tell me outright to take charge, or even worse, they tell her to stop behaving like a baby. Or they tell her she’s shy. I certainly remember being told to look adults in the eye and say Hello/Please/Thank you when I was a kid and being labelled as shy or rude when I didn’t. So, where is the line between a shy child needing nurturing and a rude child with no manners?
I hope that by being her crutch she will eventually become that well mannered person, but who knows?