“My child is shy”.

I have heard this quote too many times to count as a young child puts his head on his mother’s shoulder, hangs on to her leg, or stands quietly beside his mother with a “shy smile” on his sweet little face.

So what is shyness?  Merriam-Webster defines it as “feeling nervous and uncomfortable about meeting and talking to people; showing that you are nervous and uncomfortable about meeting and talking to people;  tending to avoid something because of nervousness, fear, dislike, etc.”

I am forever grateful that, soon after I became a mother, someone was kind enough to explain to me that shyness was just a cover-up for rudeness.  That 2 year old who won’t say “thank-you” to his hostess for a delicious meal is, in fact, being rather self-centered.  He is thinking of his own feelings rather than the feelings of someone who may have spent hours or all day preparing for her guests so that they could enjoy a meal together.  A little child who won’t introduce himself is being rude to an adult or young friend who is taking an interest in him.

Philippians 2:3 says, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” 
 Luke 6:31 – “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”

Let’s teach our children to consider others, to be kind, and to focus on those around them rather than on themselves.  As mothers, we should spend time teaching our children how to shake hands, look someone in the eye, and speak clearly as they introduce themselves.  Don’t let that toddler bury his head in your shoulder when someone speaks to him.  You should tell them to smile.  Do NOT excuse any sort of rudeness at any age by telling the adult (and your child) that they are “shy”.  Have fun practice sessions at home where you pretend to be someone else so your child can walk up to you, shake your hand, look you in the eye, and say “hello, I am (your child’s name)“.  I remember the fun we had when I would make up a name or simply call myself “Mrs. Bontrager” (for some reason it made my children laugh to call me “Mrs. Bontrager”).  We would laugh as we practiced introductions, answering the phone, or saying “thanks for the good meal”.  I also remember a certain 2 year old daughter (her name begins with an A!!) who was not allowed to play after a meal at our friend’s house until after she said “thank-you” for the meal.  Lessons learned at an early age usually stick quite well.  It is a blessing to have all of our children, on a regular basis, gratefully thank their hosts & hostesses for a meal at one of our concerts. (more often than not, someone that they only met that evening before a concert) I am also grateful that, whenever necessary, each of our children can introduce themselves clearly and with a smile on his/her face.

If, in spite of training and practice, you still have a child who refuses to introduce himself or shake an adults hand, simply tell your friend “looks like we need to work on that some more”.  And then be sure you do work on that after your guests leave.  🙂

“But my child is an introvert”, you may say.  While that may be true, it is still no excuse for rudeness.  I find that our introverted children (not very many of them in this family!!) are some of the best conversationalists. They truly enjoy that one-on-one contact with people, more than a large crowd situation.  The introvert usually knows how to draw out someone who may not be comfortable with talking to a stranger.  I have been blessed to see our sweet Rebecca cheerfully conversing with a dear grandma or other elderly person before a concert. She is one of our “quieter” children, and yet is becoming a great little conversationalist as she learns to think of others first.

Just like appetites for food or media, a child can learn to enjoy and be comfortable with talking with others when they consider that this is not about themselves, but rather about sharing the love of Jesus with others.  How can a “shy” person share the Gospel?  The same as anyone else!
We need children and young people who will smile, say a kind word, and most of all “go into all the world and preach the Gospel”.

{Written by Becky}


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  1. I strongly disagree that a child who does not say thank you is self-centered.
    Therefore I strongly disagree that "shy" children are being "rude".
    What would your thoughts be on adults that are "shy" and don't like speaking in public because of fear of public speaking?

    1. I agree that being "shy" is not inherently rude; it is when that shyness keeps one from using good manners that it becomes rude.
      I can certainly identify to the fear of public speaking!! Even though I would rather sing on stage for 30 minutes than talk on stage for 5 minutes, going on stage has been a journey for me. When we first began giving concerts, I was very nervous. It is still a struggle for me at times, but I have dealt with/am dealing with my fears. It is my desire to look at every opportunity to share the Gospel (singing/speaking on stage, giving a tract to a cashier, speaking a kind word, etc.) as a time to bring honor and glory to God. It is good to remind oneself of how much we need God's strength!
      I recognize that not everyone is asked to speak on stage but all Christians are given the commandment to preach the Gospel. Mark 16:15 "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." We need to encourage one another. Hebrews 10:24 "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works." I believe the best way to deal with "shyness" and "fears" is to live your life in brokenness before our Lord; ready to do whatever He asks you to do. Whatever He requires of you, He will give strength for!

  2. I don't agree with 'shyness is just a cover up for rudeness ', Mrs. Bontrager. I am incredibly shy and believe me, I am NOT rude, nor do I ever want to be. Just because you might happen to be an extrovert, does not mean you can class all of us as rude. If you could understand how painful it is for me to meet people or hold a conversation, you would actually think about that comment. I am over 40 and it is better now than it used to be, but it is still hard!

    1. I am not classing every extrovert as rude; it is when the shyness keeps one from bringing honor and glory to God that it becomes rude. (Another subject for another time could be how extroverts can be rude by saying everything that comes to one's mind!!!) I am sorry that it is painful for you to meet people or hold a conversation, but that is one of the reasons why I am encouraging parents to train their children when they are young! Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." It is exactly the kind of training that I am recommending that can prevent an adult from being in such difficult situations.
      It is also true that even extrovert children can be quite unwilling to say thank-you, to shake an adult's hand, or to look an adult in the eyes when speaking. It is my experience as a mother with both introverted and extroverted children, that these habits are taught by both example and training.
      As I mentioned in the article above, we were very intentional about teaching manners in our house but we also provided practice opportunities by inviting families, missionaries, widows, neighbors, and more into our home for a meal. Singing at a nursing home was another great time for meeting people. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 " And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

    2. Children are to be brought up in the ways of the Lord. This means that we understand that they are children and need to be taught the ways of the Lord. They are not adults so when a two year old does not say hi we should not put adult like thinking upon them like what was suggested in your article, 'That 2 year old who won't say "thank-you" to his hostess for a delicious meal is, in fact, being rather self-centered. He is thinking of his own feelings rather than the feelings of someone who may have spent hours or all day preparing for her guests so that they could enjoy a meal together.' If you really thought that a two year old was capable of this kind of reasoning then the consequence would be accordingly to this understanding but because we know that they are not capable of this reasoning we politely say to our hostess, sorry we are working on this. Foolish judging of a young child's heart may lead to harsh and unreasonable parenting.

      I too had a shy child and we role played etc… He is now ten years old and is a happy social child. I would also like to mention that until my son is saved he is only practicing social graces while knowing christian values. Being personally motivated by love for our Heavenly Father and His glory only comes at the point of salvation which is obviously the prayer of every believing parent.


  3. I really appreciated this. I never really thought of shyness being rude, but I can think about a couple situations that I've heard of/been in which makes sense now for it being rude. Thank you for sharing this! Dornink

  4. Thank you for your post. As a young woman, I do appreciate your thoughts on this, both as applying to my peers and for the future day of motherhood. Recently, I might have disagreed with you in these opinions, but I have since met a couple families who's children were not taught to mature out of their shyness and have left them as young adults with very little experience in social etiquette or the ability to carry a conversation with anyone but close friends or family. It has been difficult to identify why they were this way, but I had come to the conclusion on my own that they were shy growing up and just weren't taught those skills you mentioned. They are wonderful families and we have gotten to know them well, but it did take quite some time to be acquainted and for awkwardness to wear off. I tell this example only as a means of agreeing and concurring with you in my own personal experience. Thank you for you thoughts and for being so passionate about sharing the Gospel through discipleship!! God Bless!

  5. Thank you for this post. However, more than what you said here, what makes the strongest impression on me is having met your children. Though they only know me as an acquaintance or distant friend, each of them down to the youngest greets me like they think I am important, and I leave the conversation feeling cared for. Thank you for taking the time to train your children this way. I certainly hope I can do as good of a job teaching my son those lessons once he can talk!

    ~Elissa M

  6. Speaking from my own experience of teaching in an elementary school, there are children who are painfully shy to the point where it causes them anxiety. To make that child (even as a 2 year old) say thank you at the dinner table of someone else's home could cause anxiety. I have a sister who was painfully shy as a child and therefore I can, in fact (quoting you in the very first paragraph) say that such children are not rude. And there is nothing wrong with laying a head on Mommy's shoulder (their comfort). We taught our children to say thank you and such but I truly understand not all children are like my own.. or like yours. Please consider that your children grew up around many, many people for their growing up years and that cerrainy makes a difference. Above anything else, we studied Romans 14 last night which came to mind as I read your post. Let's follow Jesus's teachings on judging others and be careful in how we perceive others!

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