How to Talk with the Shy Child


The shy kid grows up. Always. How they grow up depends on how much room they are given to be themselves.

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” — Luke 18:16 (NIV)

Big, brown deep eyes. Even on a little two year old, Andrew’s eyes made me stare.

He was sweet, calm, and beyond shy. The kind of shy that made him cower behind Claudia’s legs.

She would talk away to me everyday dropping our boys off at preschool, and there was Andrew. His extroverted mother was (and still is!) a chatty, tiny Colombian woman. This shy child and extroverted mom were a perfect fit, however.

She respected his personality. He learned how to respect hers. She buffered his world to meet his needs.

I honestly thought she was being a pushover—yep, I said it.

Me? I couldn’t get on board. It was just weird that this kid wouldn’t talk to me. Shouldn’t she just REQUIRE him to speak to adults and be polite? Oh sure, he would make eye contact — straight into my soul, as if to really say, “Lady, when are you going to stop talking to my mom?”

She knew her child better than me.

She gave him exactly what they needed without any interference from my judgmental little self.

All I wanted was for Andrew to talk to me. It drove me crazy.

It would be proof that he was OK.

Ok… not really. It would be proof that I was OK.

After TWO years of constantly berating that poor child with my perky little self in his face saying, “Good Morning, Andrew,”  I thought that this obnoxiousness surely would cure is shy nature.


I just needed to shut up—as usual.

I finally found that out on a Pre-K field trip. Andrew was a passenger in my car along with my extremely extroverted son, Paul, who seemed to always get Andrew to talk. Really, I don’t know if Andrew cared if Paul talked. He just couldn’t stop him — just like me.

“Hey, Andrew, what do you think about Stormtroopers? We’ve been watching Star Wars lately,” I said.

The usual silence. Then, more.

And those adorable big, brown eyes.

Then, his talking floodgates opened.
Two years of listening to me talk about stuff he didn’t give a lick about was cracked.

He talked to me! Not just a few words. A full TED talk-like speech about how Stormtroopers were cool in Star Wars and how Luke’s Lightsaber was a certain color and how Darth Vader was really his dad and Princess Leia….and……

What was the magic question? What was it that finally allowed him to break out of his shell and open up?

Me shutting up……and the mention of Star Wars.

I needed to stop rapid-firing questions at this kid and just bring up a topic that was of interest to HIM.

I used to think that shy kids were really just manipulative.
Their LACK of talking must be some sort of passive-agression.
As Andrew grew up, he completely proved his mother right…

and me completely wrong.

Yes, he was “shy” in elementary school and middle school. Then, I remember my son coming home and saying, “You are not going to believe this. Andrew ran for class president and won. He is also number one in our class, too.”

The child who cowered behind his mother’s legs and wished for me to disappear?

The shy kid grows up. Always. How they grow up depends on how much room they are given to be themselves.

Claudia is not shy. Andrew was. I will never be. 

We all respect each other. And Stormtroopers of course.

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