Learn how taking small steps and embracing a lifelong approach can help alleviate stress for kids who are shy. Featuring Robert Coplan.
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Learn how taking small steps and embracing a lifelong approach can help alleviate stress for kids who are shy. Featuring Robert Coplan.
Send us an email: email@example.com.
Find us on Facebook or Twitter: @scienceofparent.
This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext.
Welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast where we connect you with research based information that fits your family. We'll talk about the realities of being a parent, and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks. And I'm a parenting educator.Lori Hayungs:
And I'm Lori Hayungs, parent of three in three different life stages, launched, in college and in high school, and I am a parenting educator. And today, we are going to continue through our temperament series. We launched it in August. So we're continuing all the way through November. And this week, we're going to talk about how all of those traits, all nine of them, we finally got through them. We made it through the nine and how they all come together to form a pattern. And this week, we're going to specifically talk about just one pattern that the temperament gurus sometimes talk about as slow to warm or inhibited. And you might just know it as the shy temperament. But let's first talk about what temperament is and what temperament isn't just as a reminder. So temperament is the predisposition to how we react. It's always been there from the beginning. And some people ask us, well, how is this different from personality? Well, temperament is the foundation on which we build everything else. So it starts with our temperament. And think about those babies in the nursery. You know, no one told this particular baby to cry loudly and this other particular baby over here to cry softly, they just did. And it's because of their genetics. And then what we do is we pile on top of temperaments how we respond to the environment, how our families responded to us, our growth and development and life experience as all those things begin to add layers to form our personality. But temperament has always been there, and it will always be there.Mackenzie Johnson:
Yes, and the research supports all of this. You know, we talked a lot about Thomas and Chess as we went through those first nine traits. And there's also Jim Cameron and his colleagues at Kaiser Permanente who've been doing this research for 30 plus years, right? They follow thousands of kids' temperament profiles, and you know, kind of found these commonalities, right? Everybody's getting all nine traits. It's just figuring out whether we got a little, or whether we got a lot. And so as we think, again, Lori's had these patterns, this shy or inhibited, those kinds of things we're going to dive into, you know, but as we think about temperament, and there's so much good stuff out there. So we do have kind of a landing page on our website, scienceofparenting.org. So you can go there to find all the temperament resources, lots of stuff we've been talking about this season, as we look at temperament.Lori Hayungs:
Yes. And to kick us off with our slow to warm or inhibited pattern, we reached out to a researcher who's been looking at this shy pattern for a number of years, and Mackenzie got to interview him.Mackenzie Johnson:
I did, and he had so much interesting insight into this temperament pattern of kids that are slower to warm up. And you know, I can say as a parent myself of a child that has a sort of a warm up temperament, it was just fascinating to hear from him. And yes, so willing to share the research, and so many great examples.Lori Hayungs:
So yes, Mackenzie had a great conversation with our researcher. Our researcher is Rob Copeland and he is a professor, a developmental psychologist at Carleton University. And like we said earlier, he is a researcher looking at this exact set of temperament traits in terms of the shy pattern. So let's hear what he has to say about how we might define or describe this slow to warm up temperament.Rob Copeland:
So there are a lot of different terms that we use in the literature to refer to children who might be a little bit nervous when they meet new people. So the classic historical one would be slow to warm up channels, which researchers Thomas and Chess often talked about. And then more from the biological side, Jerome Kagan talked about the term behaviorally inhibited kids. For me, I tend to just use the word shy, because I think it encompasses a lot of characteristics that these different terms have in common. And I would define it differently depending on the age of the child. So for very young kids, shyness first tends to manifest as being scared of new things, like nervous or hesitant in new situations, like meeting a new person or going into a new place. And that's kind of like the classic slow to warm up. That's I guess where that term came from.Mackenzie Johnson:
Yes, I definitely see that. And both of my kids, like my youngest is about one and he is also slow to warm up or shy. And yeah, just like a little bit of fear, doesn't like to be passed around, you know?Rob Copeland:
Yeah, exactly. And around age one is just around the time when kids develop that sort of primary attachment to their parents, and then they start to differentiate between people I know what people that I don't know. And then of course, a natural reaction for most children at that time is, if I don't know you, then I'm a little bit nervous to meet you. And then when kids get a little bit older, their self system develops enough to understand that other people might be thinking different things than they are thinking, so very young kids are quite egocentric, that's the term that we would usually use where they think everybody thinks everything that they do, if I like chocolate ice cream, everybody likes chocolate ice cream. If I'm happy, everybody's happy. But when we get a little bit older, we come to understand that someone can actually think different things than we are thinking and more than that, they can think different things about us than we think about ourselves. And that's where their embarassment and self consciousness can come from. And children tend to be more shy when they reach, you know, ages four, five, six, sort of middle childhood. They also start to be sensitive to being the center of attention. They start to not like, you know, feeling like they're being evaluated or watched by others. And so situations like show and tell, standing up and having to talk in front of the class, or just having everybody congratulate you on something or even something good, where everybody's looking at you and talking to you can be a stressful situation for some. Shyness can have sort of physical, emotional and behavioral kinds of characteristics. So the physical ones are usually the easiest to spot, right? So blushing is one, averting gaze, not looking people in the eye, right? Not making eye contact, contracting your body making yourself small is often a sign of feeling nervous. If I want to identify the shyer children on the playground or during recess, I will look for the kids who are watching others play but not joining in. Okay, so we would call that hovering behavior. And that's because kids who tend to be shy, it's not like they don't want to play with other children, right? They have this desire, they have this interest. They are generally quite interested and wanting to be engaged to play, to hang out, to speak to other kids. So I would call that an approach motivation, right? They have a desire to approach, they want to play. But at the same time, that approach motivation is being wrestled with by an avoidance motivation. And their avoidance motivation is this is kind of scary and feeling a little bit nervous. What if they're thinking something bad about me? What if they say no if I asked them if I want to play, right, and so it's that push, pull, push pull. And that's why sometimes they literally get stuck, right? They inch up closer to where the children are playing, and they're clearly interested, they're watching, but they just can't get past the lip of that crater to dive in and engage with them. So they end up watching but not joining in. So those are some of those more overt kinds of behavioral science. You might see at times, signs of anxiety, maybe biting nails, or pulling on your hair, right, sucking on a finger or thumb, those are classic kind of signs of nervousness that sometimes accompany feelings of shyness. So those things are relatively easy to spot once you know, kind of what to look for. The other ones are a little trickier, right? So the emotions that underlie these responses, usually, you know, are either having to do with fear and, and you know, just being scared of a situation. It's almost like they're expecting something scary to jump out anytime, and their body is already kind of primed for that fear response. And that just has a lot to do with the way that shy children's nervous system is wired, right? There's pretty good research to suggest that there's a pretty strong biological basis, right? There's things that we know from temperament, these are things that you come into the world with, right, so for shy children. Well, for parents, I think a good metaphor would be they're, they're kind of like a tightly coiled spring. So it's like their body is already coiled up and waiting for something to trigger it. So when something does trigger it, like off it goes, right, then they have a very strong response to those kinds of stimulus. And what might set it off? Meeting a new person, being in a new situation, right, being startled by something. Right. So those kinds of feelings about fear, and then the other kinds of feelings would be more related to feelings of anxiousness. And that's more like anticipating something bad that might happen, thinking about something bad that is going to happen or thinking about something that happened and thinking that it was bad, right? So anxiety doesn't take place in the now, it's either ruminating about something that was in the past or you know, being nervous about something that's coming in the future. And so those kinds of feelings underlie these responses as well. And a lot of them are focused on self presentation. You know, being embarrassed, being self conscious, being being overly concerned with what other people are thinking about you and then assuming the worst, right jumping to conclusions about how people are thinking bad things about you or don't like you or are thinking negative things.Mackenzie Johnson:
And I think understanding that our shy kids might be having those feelings of what are people thinking? I think reinforces to me as a parent that I never want to shame this trait to them.Rob Copeland:
I agree.Lori Hayungs:
Wow, what an in depth understanding and description of this temperament trait, this temperament pattern, and I'm wondering what stood out to you from what you heard him say.Mackenzie Johnson:
I could have just sat there and listened to him all day, and be like, oh, my gosh, that makes sense to you. Uh huh. So all of it is so good. But in terms of understanding, and kind of recognizing this in our kids, some things that were together, one was understanding that my child who's slow to warm up, their body is biologically primed or biologically wired, for a fear response. And I think there's, you know, like I've said, I'm pretty high approach. And so sometimes it's like, come on. And so that opportunity to remember, their body and their brain is wired this way. My child's not being difficult, um, that their body is primed for it. And then the other one that I was just like, oh, my gosh, yes, of course, him talking about that hovering behavior, how kids like, creep up, not creep up, but they sit and wait next to other kids, and they want to engage and they want to play, but they have trouble, you know, getting to the next step of actually asking or getting involved. And so those things of like how their body and brain are wired, you know, that's temperament, it's inborn. And then yes, recognizing that hovering behavior of like, oh, I would like to play with them. I don't quite know how to ask. I just thought that was so interesting. What about you?Lori Hayungs:
Well, I really liked how he described how this pattern interacts with the different developmental tasks that are happening at each different age. And as we look at the physical and emotional and the behavioral characteristics, that can really begin to help us recognize this slow to warm pattern.Mackenzie Johnson:
Yeah, so good. So good, well and you know, like the blushing or, you know, the little anxious behaviors. He gave us so many things to look for as we think about understanding our kids and kind of their temperament and behavior. So I just love that so much.Lori Hayungs:
Absolutely. And in that clip, you also mentioned that hearing this explanation really made you think that you don't want to shame this trait. Tell me what you mean about this thought process?Mackenzie Johnson:
Well, okay, honestly it hadn't really occurred to me and I'd like to think I'm hopefully not shaming my slow to warm up child anyway. But him talking about how they reflect on what's going on and how people perceive them. And that that's something they, you know, I think he used the word ruminate, you know, they think on and think on. And so it's just like, okay, so if I would tell my child, gosh, why are you being like that. That makes you look like, you know, I just feel like that would just kind of affirm their worst fear, right? And I just think of how painful that could be. And so I mean, yeah, I hope I'm not doing that anyway. But it's just like a really important reminder that is not a thing that I want to be doing with my slow to warm up kid who's already very sensitive to how other people perceive them.Lori Hayungs:
Absolutely. And my slow to warm up kid is about to be 21. And this idea that there is no amount of coaxing, yelling, pushing that is going to bring them around sooner. I mean, I can tell you at 21, no.Mackenzie Johnson:
No shoving is going to do it.Lori Hayungs:
No, just don't. And they become anxious honestly, if they're pushed too soon. And I know that there are times where Emily was truly, absolutely, 100% feeling afraid. And her fight or flight kicks in, you know the sweaty palms, the racing heart, and just that legitimate psychological, physiological response.Mackenzie Johnson:
Yeah. The body and brain, right? They're wired for it. And I mean, it really can be a strength, right? They're prepared. Their body's preparing them to respond to a threat. It's just that there might be threats they're experiencing that I might not see as a threat.Lori Hayungs:
Mm hmm. Absolutely. And, you know, I love the conversation that you all had on how do parents who have a slow to warm up child, you know, how do we work with that child? What are some strategies we can have? What are some ideas and things that we can do with them?Mackenzie Johnson:
Oh, yeah. And so we actually, this is the majority of what we talked about, is how do we parent our kids who have that slow to warm up pattern? You know, you're gonna hear me talk about being this high approach parent of a slow to warm up child. But yeah, as parents, no matter where we fall on that temperament continuum, how do we parent our kids that have this pattern of being a little slow to warm up. And so this clip is a little longer. But it was just so good to talk to him. And so I just think it's so good to share with other parents, because he has so many good strategies and things to listen for from Rob. But I tend to have a very high approach and so with my daughter, it was like, come on. But naturally for me, it was like, it's fun to do these things.Rob Copeland:
It's like having a different species in the house, right? If you're an extroverted outgoing parent, and you have a shyer child, then you could feel like it's like, you know, night and day, right? It's very difficult to put yourself in that person's shoes to understand their feelings. And so for those kinds of parents, there are unique challenges. If you happen to be an outgoing parent and you have a shyer child, then part of it is just learning to understand that their body reacts to these situations differently than yours does.Mackenzie Johnson:
Yeah. And I think that point of this temperament being misinterpreted. You know, especially, I mean, yeah, I'm fortunate that I have some of the knowledge I do about temperament. And so I understand my, you know, my daughter. Yeah, when we get in a new situation, she's gonna need some time, or when we're working, or even with familiar people in a new place. But I do feel like sometimes other people, you know, they think it's disrespectful, or they think it's a game, or they think it's attention getting, I'm like her hiding behind my leg is not her trying to get your attention. It's the opposite.Rob Copeland:
Yeah, yeah. So I mean, and that's why, you know, it can be really important for parents to be an advocate for their child when they tend to be shy, because other people may misinterpret that, or, you know, or they may label it and end up sort of encouraging in that way. So, you know, another sort of classic example is, you know, you're with your four year old child, and you're in the park, and you bump into a friend that, you know, but the child hasn't met before. And you say, oh, you know, you introduce your child, this is Emma. Emma, please say hello to my friend, Mary, and Emma buries her head in your knees. And then some parents would just say, oh, don't worry, she's shy, right? Or even the other person might say, oh, I see your child is shy. It's not meant as anything more than just, you know, a comment. It's not meant in any derogatory kind of sense. But it does put a label on the child that they listen to and hear. And in some ways, it sort of, you know, reinforces their behavior because what they're hearing, Oh, I'm shy, right, and therefore, it's okay for me to do this. And that's what shy kids do. Right. And especially when kids are young, the way that they develop their sense of self, the way that they come to understand who they are, and what attributes they have, what characteristics, it comes from the feedback they get from important others. And if your mom or people around her, your dad or grandparents are saying you're shy, then you're going to grow up thinking that you're shy. And then it also kind of excuses you from the behavior, right? So it's like, I'm shy. So I bury my face and I don't say hi. So what I actually do, this is an example that comes up all the time with parents who might have kids who tend to be a little bit more shy, they say, what do I do, then my advice would be to be an advocate for your child. So don't use that label yourself. And if your friend says, oh, I see your child is shy, then intercede on your child's behalf and say, actually, sometimes she's just a little bit nervous when she meets a new person, but you know, in a little while, she will say hello to you. Okay, so what's the message that's sent to the child? I understand that this is a little bit stressful for you. It's okay to be scared, no problem to be a little bit nervous, I accept, I validate your feelings, right, of course. Kids have big feelings. It's really important for them to understand that parents understand and accept those feelings. But then at the same time, it kind of also establishes a bit of an expectation, right? So even though you're feeling a little bit scared, at some point, I think it's gonna be okay for you to say hello. And if you're not okay to say hello, you can wave, you can give them a high five, you can bump fists, or these days, maybe bump elbows. Right. And, you know, it tells the child that your feelings are important, but at the same time, there are limits in terms of where the range of appropriate behaviors are, even when you have those kinds of feelings.Mackenzie Johnson:
Absolutely. And I think that, yeah, that's a beautiful balance of we talked about. We've talked about the authoritative parenting style. Yes, we usually just talk about it in terms of, we can hold an expectation and provide warmth for our kids.Rob Copeland:
Honor those feelings, and help them learn what the expectation is going to be.Rob Copeland:
Right. So when we talk about parenting and especially parenting around emotions, a lot of the focus is always on more externalizing aggressive and angry emotions, right? Where the parent accepts the feelings. It's okay that you're mad. I understand that you're frustrated. It's okay to feel frustrated. But when you're frustrated, it's not okay to punch your brother in the face. So there are limits of behavior that even when you're mad, it's still not okay to do these things. And here's some other things that you can do that would allow you to, you know, more successfully negotiate those feelings. So what we would suggest is a similar approach but around fear, right? It's okay to be scared, it's okay to be nervous. But even sometimes when you feel scared, and when you feel nervous, you still have to act in a brave way. And make the child understand that being brave is not the absence of fear. It's not the absence of nervousness, but it's moving forward and trying your best, even when you feel nervous, and even when you feel scared.Mackenzie Johnson:
Oh, I love that. And I think that's just like such empowering. And that's, I mean, like, I could say that to my child. Sometimes when I think about it, it feels very abstract, but I could say, like, it's not that you're not gonna feel scared, it's that we're gonna choose to be brave, like, we're gonna try these things. And I love that so much.Rob Copeland:
Yeah. I mean, and it's how much to push? And under what circumstances to push. That's one of the biggest challenges for parents that have kids who tend to be shy, because there is no one right answer for any one right situation or any one child, right? It's a constant negotiation. It's a constant, I'm not gonna say struggle, but it's a constant challenge to do that, because, you know, some parents will push too hard, right. So the classic example I would use is going to a swimming pool. So you go to a swimming pool, and your child says, I'm scared, I don't wanna go in the water. And the parent who pushed too hard, picks them up and throws them in the water. Right now, at this point, you know, it's literally sink or swim, and that child is going to be so overwhelmed with being in the water and not having any skills or develop any strategies for what to do when they're in the water, that it's very poss ble that they're going to sink and they can't really apply anyt ing that they know, because they re just overwhelmed. Right, so t at may do more damage than good But then on the other hand you might have a parent who' so concerned about sparing the hild feelings, never lett ng them get too upset, alwa s making sure that they stay at an even keel. But when the hild says, oh, you know, I'm cared, I don't want to go i the pool. Okay, let's go home and they never go back to the ool. Okay, now, under both of hose circumstances, the child ever learned to swim. Right. So what would be a comprom se? A compromise would be like, okay, I understand that yo 're a little bit scared. So oday, we're not going to jum into pool, but maybe we'll ta e off our shoes and socks, we'll stick our feet in the water, we'll sing some songs, we' l get comfortable. And that's t for today, then we'll go have n ice cream. Then we'll come ba k the next week and we'll go in p to our waist on the first s air, right, and then go have an ther ice cream. And then we'll come back the next week and we'l go in and I'll hold you and w 'll float around in the w ter together. You can see I'm setting small little step for them to do, rewarding the with lots of praise and lov and reinforcement, as they make the smallest little advancement long that little step ladder hat I've set for them. And ev ntually, we'll get to the goal hat we want to do. But the key s not to do it too fast or too low or not at all, right. And i 's easy to apply those kinds f situations, you know, to tha kind of approach to a social ituation, right. So you know, yo don't have to say your name and introduce yourself when you mee a new person, but maybe you jus have to look them in the eyes the first time and wave. Or m ybe you just have to, you k ow, give them a high five, r you can just say your name wi hout having to say anythin else. And you can eventually ove towards being able to in roduce yourself and talk t them. But again, little goals instead of one big goal and brea it down for them and talk o them about each one. You can ven plan ahead for these thing . Talk about some strategies or dealing with it. Als , that it's not so overwhelming and large for them.Mackenzie Johnson:
Yes, and I can picture those conversations that we've been able to have, you know, with our daughter, who's for right now, just like even in the car, like, Okay, this is where we're going, this is what I'm you know, and being able to say, like, there will be people here you don't know, or this is a place we haven't been before. And like, okay, you're gonna have sometimes it's two minutes, you know, not a lot of time. Like, this is where we're headed and what's gonna be going on there.Rob Copeland:
Yeah, so that's, I mean, that's a fantastic strategy, because you're trying to take some of the novelty of the situation. And you're trying to tell them some things to expect so that they can at least you know, prepare themselves a little bit. And maybe even you talk a little about, here's some things that you could do, or maybe one thing you could try is this. Now, of course, it's still going to be hit or miss, right? Sometimes they're going to have successes, sometimes they're going to have steps back, right. So it's really important to understand this. It's a lot like when you are helping your child with these kinds of coping strategies, it's a lifelong set of goals that you have, right. You are trying to set them up with coping strategies, abilities, skills that are going to help them deal with their initial kind of nervous reaction to a new situation with a toolset that they can use for the rest of their lives. So you got a lot of time to do this. You don't have to solve it in a day. Right? You can be effusive in your praise and support for every small little advancement. You can be understanding and empathetic for every little two steps back after the one step forward, and aim for the long haul, because that's really what you're in it for with your kids. And then, you know, if you step back and look over a longer period of time, hopefully you see it's kind of a slow and steady increase in how things are going.Mackenzie Johnson:
Yes. Excellent. I mean, yeah, kind of those hills and valleys but hopefully the overall trend is a good thing. Excellent.Rob Copeland:
For parents who do try to jump in and solve the situation, it's a pretty understandable response, right? You're perceiving your shy child as vulnerable. You don't want them to get upset. You don't want them to cry. You don't want them to have their feelings hurt. And so it's a very understandable and natural temptation to jump in and solve the problem for them. Right. And so what solves the problem? Either you do it for them, so you speak for them when they don't speak, right, or you remove them from a situation that is causing them stress that they don't have to face. Okay, which in the short term, it works great, right? The child doesn't have to face the difficult situation, and nobody cries, and everybody feels better right then. Unfortunately, despite the short term effectiveness of that kind of strategy, it has longer term implications that are not so positive, right. So if you're always jumping in and solving the problem for your child, or removing him or her from the situation so that she's not having to face it, then your child never develops his or her own coping strategies, her own ways of dealing with those stresses, and then they hit school, and you're not there to do that for them. And then it's much more of a problem, right? So you're not actually helping them by doing that. The way that we always try to, you know, balance that is that you want to push them just enough to give a little bit of edge, I guess, to what they have to do. But as you mentioned before, with tons of support, you know, understanding that there's going to be hits or misses. One step forward, two steps back, just always providing that kind of support and aiming for the long slow set of improvements, as opposed to trying to get them to fix it in one day.Mackenzie Johnson:
Yes, yes. And I think that also gives us a little grace, like you said, about the long haul, right? That's what we're aiming for, the long haul and so it's not that we're gonna have to quote unquote, do it perfect, which doesn't exist. Over time, we want to be building those skills or helping our child because they're gonna have this temperament forever. So how are they going to handle the world with it.Rob Copeland:
Absolutely, and I think it's really, I mean, you know, a really basic message for parents around this kind of stuff is that like, you know, shyness is a temperamental trait. It's part of your personality, okay? There are people all over the world who vary on this trait, some are higher, some are lower, right? This is a part of who people are, okay? It's not a clinical term, it's not associated with a mental health problem, this is just part of people's personality. Okay. And with every personality trait, with every temperamental trait, there are some situations that are going to be easier, and there's some situations are going to be harder. And our goal whenever we talk about these kinds of, you know, parenting interventions, or parenting strategies, we're not trying to change who the child is. We're never trying to tell them not to be who they are. All we're trying to do, as I mentioned before, it's just give them a good set of tools, give them coping strategies, give them skills that they can use for their whole lives, so that their shyness never puts them, you know, at any kind of a disadvantage, or puts them in a difficult situation. Because sometimes the world demands that we speak in front of people. Sometimes the world, you know, is new, and we're gonna encounter new people and new situations. You know, school is a classic example of an environment that is really not designed for shy children at all. Right? You know, show and tell is like the child's worst nightmare. This is supposed to be a fun thing in kindergarten. Stand up in front of all these other people, speak, we're all going to stare at you, and then I'm going to grade you on how you're doing. One of the things I always make sure parents understand is as a species, it's good for humans that not everybody is like bouncing off the wall extroverted and sociable. Right? It is good for us that we're not all high super approach people. It's very good that not everybody just jumps in and is, you know, you know, gregarious and full of positive. These are good people to have but you don't need everybody to be like that.Mackenzie Johnson:
It's probably good for some people to have caution, right?Rob Copeland:
Exactly, it's like some people need to be a little bit more cautious, maybe focus on some threats in the environment a little bit, you know, think a little bit before they act, be a little bit more sensitive to their surroundings. This is a great balance to have in any group or in any sort of situation. And in fact, some of our recent work, we've been speaking to teachers and coaches of sports and extracurricular activity leaders about what are some of the positive aspects of having shy athletes on your school team or shy students in your classroom? And, you know, we were, you know, really pleased to see exactly those kinds of comments come from the people who are working with these kids every day, right? So they'll say things like, oh, it's wonderful to have some shyer students on my soccer team, because, you know, they listen really well. They're very coachable. They give more variety to the social interactions that are going on with the team. They can be quiet leaders. They lead by doing as opposed to leading by talking and they really help other children understand feelings, and they're very good at being sensitive to other people's feelings. They talk about all these, you know, really wonderful, positive components of having a mix of temperament and a mix of personality on the team and we get very similar things from teachers. So you know, again, you know, you love your child for who they are. And then it's our job as parents is to just again, help them cope, help them use the benefits and disadvantages of some of their immediate temperamental responses so that they can always make the best out of the situation.Mackenzie Johnson:
Absolutely. Our writer, Barb, often reminds us like, she'll write temperamental gifts, the temperamental gifts that we have, because there's something wonderful about every temperament trait and we all have asset and liabilities and we know those assets and liabilities even look different across different ages and stages.Rob Copeland:
Yeah, they vary across very different situations. Right. So, you know, it's, yeah, it's really important to remember that these are not, you know, I think shyness gets a bad rap in terms of popular press and media, you know, because it's often equated with more serious, but in some ways similar, to clinical mental health disorders, like social anxiety disorder, right? That does share some conceptual similarity with shyness and maybe think of it as like, you know, a super extreme version of those underlying traits. But, you know, it is true that if you have a shy temperament, it does put you a little bit more at risk for developing some of those issues. And I think we would be remiss if we didn't make sure that parents understood that, but, you know, biology is not destiny. This is not a straight path from being born somewhat inhibited or somewhat shy to developing social anxiety disorder. There's lots of stuff that goes on between them and that serves to push children in different directions. And that's why these kinds of early skills and coping strategies are so important.Lori Hayungs:
Oh, it was so good to listen to him share so much insight for this pattern. Um, okay, can we just recap a little bit of what he shared? Because there were some really good things in there. So what stood out to you?Mackenzie Johnson:
Oh, man, okay, like, so right off the bat, this idea of being able to advocate for my slow to warm up child, you know, and even just saying something like, oh, you know, if someone calls them shy, he said, we want to avoid that label, or we try not to call them shy ourselves. And so saying something like, oh, yep, they'll say hello in a few minutes. They could just use a little time to warm up. That's more empowering and allows us to advocate for our child a little bit. So I thought that advocating and avoiding labeling right out the gate, he went with that. And I was like, yes, that is important. That sounds so important. What about you?Lori Hayungs:
And then that idea of validating feelings, and I think that as I look back through my daughter, her growth and development and just validating and letting her know that, you know, it is okay to be hesitant. And then there were times where I would say, it's okay to be hesitant, but we need to make sure that this happens, or we need to do this. And so validating those feelings, while at the same time setting appropriate expectations of social situations. And you know, what, we're gonna have to find a way to get in there and engage.Mackenzie Johnson:
So, yeah, validating the feelings, and holding the expectations, right, we're doing both. And then I actually think of on my daughter's first day of school, she had been telling me beforehand that she was so nervous. And so when he said, another strategy of encouraging them to be brave. It's not that you're not going to feel nervous, but that we're going to move forward anyway. And I was like, oh, okay, I've done that. All right, I'm doing okay. It's always like encouraging, helping them understand that being brave doesn't mean you're not nervous. And so it's like, okay, I can encourage her to be brave. I do that sometimes. Okay.Lori Hayungs:
I love that. And then that idea of breaking things into small steps.Mackenzie Johnson:
Yes, I love the swimming pool example so much. Yeah. So much.Lori Hayungs:
Yes. And along with those small steps, really reinforcing and praising that tiny bit of progress. Like we all need wins, right? We all need little wins throughout the way and especially with that slow to warm or inhibited child, we need to celebrate those little tiny progressions and wins.Mackenzie Johnson:
Yes, I noticed you went up to someone that you didn't know and asked if you could play with them. Or yeah, I noticed that you were hanging out with so and so or you went to someone's house and you hadn't been there before, or there's all these opportunities along the way with our slow to warm up kids to celebrate the progress they've made, right. Three years ago, they couldn't have done that and now they can. And I just think yeah, totally with you on the celebrating.Lori Hayungs:
Oh, let me tell you the amount of celebration we did when Emily would order her own drink at a restaurant. And then we would be able to order our own meal at the restaurant. I mean, those are huge celebrations, huge celebrations, which drives right into that lifelong mindset of goal setting. Okay, well remember how we broke this down, ordering your drink at McDonald's into you know, you order the drink, I'll order the food and then that long term goal of, okay, she's been working on a speech this week. Okay. How are you going to break that down and celebrate the fact that you're going to have to stand up in front of a room of people for five minutes.Mackenzie Johnson:
Oh, you're doing it? Yes, that lifelong goal. I think also gives us room for grace as parents, right. That even if we're not, quote unquote, getting it right. You know, kind of like I said, in every single moment, it's that long term upward trend. Yeah, I just think that's so great.Lori Hayungs:
And it's hard for us as parents, because sometimes we do with this particular pattern, I found that I wanted to solve Emily's problems. I wanted to make this easy for her, because there was a part of me that totally understood, and I didn't want her to be afraid and scared of things like maybe I had been, and I can't do that. I cannot always solve the problem for her.Mackenzie Johnson:
Yes. And I think it is hard. You know, we want good things for our kids. We don't want them to feel pain or feel hurt or feel embarrassed. And so the temptation is, you know, it's real to just like, oh, yep, they're shy. So this is my child, and did it, uh, and then you go about the situation, you know, honestly, cause it's easier. It's easier than to try to coax you through these multiple steps. It's a totally understandable response. And it's not a, well, every time they have to, right he talks about that there'll be steps backwards. But we don't want to always be solving the problems for our kids. And then one of the other things he said towards the end that biology is not destiny. You know, he talks about, yes, this is their temperament. But it doesn't necessarily mean they're always going to be shy, and that they're never going to be able to speak in front of a group or never going to be able to order their own food, or any of those things. This is their temperament and the temperament trait, their pattern of behavior over time, it will be their reaction, but they can learn the skills to navigate it. And so I think that also helps me take heart as a parent, right? Like, yes, right now I'm trying to teach you to look people in the eye when you introduce yourself, or when they say hello to you, okay. Well, eventually, we're gonna build up to a point where you can speak in front of other people, like, oh, we can do that. Just a lifelong mindset.Lori Hayungs:
It is, and just when you think that, you know, now that they've conquered ordering the drink, you have to recognize that, like he said, sometimes you're gonna need to order the drink for them, and they're gonna go backwards, and that's okay. And, you know, these are really strategies about how we, you know, go about developing that goodness of fit that we've talked about this whole time with our child and we're learning to respond to their temperament and how to help them successfully navigate the world. And he also shared some what's wonderful, and we've talked about that, too. And I love his what's wonderful ideas in terms of these temperament, shy, inhibited, slow to warm, kiddos, they end up being really coachable. And they're going to be those strong, quiet leaders, and they take caution, and they're sensitive to other's feelings, and they can actually help other kids understand each other's feelings.Mackenzie Johnson:
Oh, yes. And I gotta be honest, right? You know, I laughed a little bit in the middle of that clip. I'm like, well, somebody needs to take caution. Because this high approach person right here maybe isn't. So we need that balance. And yeah, sometimes we worry so much, I think, about our kids' slow to warm or shy behavior that we forget, like, but this is also wonderful. Because, right? Because of these other things, like yeah, being sensitive to other kids' emotion, like, that's a quality that I want. And for kids that are slower warm up, that might come a little more naturally. Like that's a great thing.Lori Hayungs:
Huge gift, like Barb Dunn Swanson says. It's a huge gift.Mackenzie Johnson:
Yeah. And so in addition to all these great strategies, we do have another clip, you know, we usually try to kind of come together towards the end of our episode, and outline all these strategies. Well, Rob kind of did that for us from the research and from his insight. Yep. Thanks, Rob. And so this time, we're gonna do things a little different. He gave us this really great example, when we were talking, that kind of, I think brings home all these strategies together in like a real life way and a real life situation that we might have with our kids. So let's go ahead and let's take a listen to this last clip. So I guess like I said, I even think with my own child, my daughter that's kind of slow to warm up or shy, like when we're going somewhere new and I can, temperament is that pattern of behavior, I can anticipate might be hard for her. What can I do?Rob Copeland:
Right? So I mean, I guess the classic example would be like, you know, you're on your way to a birthday party and there's gonna be some kids that she knows there but also some kids that she doesn't know so well and some new adults and a new situation, and you're driving over in the car and you look back and you see that she's already getting a little bit nervous. As we kind of talked about before, you want to have that conversation in the car where you just kind of maybe do a little roleplay, talk about little strategies, try to make the situation less novel, less new, less intimidating for them. So I even heard you say something before, we're going to a party, there's going to be some kids that you know, there's also going to be some other kids that you don't know there. No problem. I'm going to stay with you at the beginning, you could stand right next to me if you want to. Maybe we'll try waving at some kids. You might try to look for someone who you know well. I think your friend Mackenzie is going to be there and you can talk to her. And, you know, what do you think would be something that you could say to one of the children that's new if you want to introduce yourself, practicing that back and forth. So you're sort of priming them a little bit in a nice, relaxed way. Just letting them know, letting them know, I understand it's gonna be a little bit scary, no problem, we got this, you might feel a bit scared but I'm going to help you. And then when you actually get there, just be prepared to support them as much as they need. And if you walk in the door, and the child grabs you by the legs, and buries her head in your knees, you can say I understand this is scary. No problem. Take your time, we can stand here for a little while. And we're going to go speak to some people afterwards. And if someone comes up to you and says, oh, I see that your child is shy. That's a chance for you to advocate for them and say, no, it's okay. She's just a little bit nervous sometimes when she meets new people, but she's going to be fine. We're going to come talk to you in just a couple of minutes. Just give her a minute or two so she can collect your feelings. It's all going to be okay. Right. So again, you're communicating to the child, your feelings are okay. I understand that this is a little bit stressful for you. I'm on your side, I'm pulling for you. And we're gonna work through this together.Mackenzie Johnson:
Oh, I love that so much. And things that I feel like I can do. You know, that realistically, we can pull off in a wide variety of situations. But those are like great strategies.Rob Copeland:
And then in the car ride home, it's a great time to have the conversation that says I'm so proud of you. I know you were feeling a little bit scared and I saw that you went over to Sally who you didn't know before and you stood next to her and you guys talked for a little bit. That was wonderful. That was so brave to do that, you know, that was great. Like, you know, pull up something, find a little something that they did well, and give them praise and tell them how brave they were and how much you loved them and how wonderful it was that they did that.Lori Hayungs:
Okay, he is so great at giving us a real example of how these strategies might look in a real situation. And, you know, even thinking with older kids, it's maybe not a birthday party. But maybe it's a family reunion, or maybe it's going to a prom or quinceanera or a big group meeting as a young adult, and maybe it's someone's house they haven't been to and all of this, oh.Mackenzie Johnson:
Oh, yes. I think all of the strategies he covered really do fit, you know, from our little ones who are so shy, even maybe to say hi to Grandma and Grandpa in a new place all the way up to our kids who are in high school and older. So, yeah, so many great strategies. And so to kind of wrap all of it back together, right, Rob kind of helped us describe and define some of the characteristics that we see in our shy or inhibited kids, you know, and then he walked us through all those great strategies. And towards the end, he kind of gave some summarizing ideas that I just thought were great. And so as a parent with this temperament pattern, being able to encourage small steps forward, while offering lots of praise and support. You know, that's kind of a key takeaway that I thought I heard. And another one is that this temperament trait is a part of who they are. So we're going to accept who they are, we're not going to change it. We're just going to help them build the skills to navigate. So good to talk with Rob Copeland. And just honestly to take a look at this shyer, inhibited pattern of temperament.Lori Hayungs:
Absolutely. So thanks for joining us today on The Science of Parenting podcast and remember to subscribe to our weekly audio podcast on Apple or Spotify or your favorite podcast app. Watch the show on video each week and every once in a while you can find us on Facebook live where we take your comments and questions.Mackenzie Johnson:
So please come along with us as we tackle the ups and downs, the ins and outs, and the research and reality all around The Science of Parenting.Anthony Santiago:
The Science of Parenting is a research based education program hosted by Lori Hayungs and Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. And connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This program is brought to you by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full nondiscrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext.