Tag Archive | shyness

Public gaffes and private writes!

Just made a complete fool of myself!

My daughter and I often have a phone date in the morning. I ‘walk’ her to work with a chat. It’s not every day but our close connection is something I treasure. Doubly so after you worry at the early stages of parenting and home educating whether they’ll still speak to you when they’re grown ups.

Anyway when the phone rang at the pre-scheduled time, I picked it up and sang a really musical “Hellooooeee” down the line.

Silent pause.

Then; ‘Is that Ross Mountney? This is Katie from Channel Five’ asked a complete stranger. It was a researcher looking for information about home ed and people to contribute to their programme. I felt such an idiot.

You’d think I’d learnt my lesson as this has happened before. Pestered by continual sales calls I could feel irritation mounting every time the phone rang. So when another call came and a strange voice asked ‘Is that Ross Mountney?’ I answered with ‘It depends what you’re selling’.

“I’m not selling anything,’ came a very formal reply. ‘This is your mother’s solicitor’. Cringe!

Why is it I always seem to mess up when I need to look a little bit more intelligent and like I know what I’m about?

Anyway, these gaffes aside Channel Five want to make a programme about home education and wondered if I’d contribute. A serious programme offering information instead of derision and myths would be great, wouldn’t it! I said I might, if this was the case. They’re going to get back in touch – it remains to be seen whether my singing has put them off.

It also remains to be seen if my courage holds out. I find all this public stuff excruciating really. This is after all why I write; I choose the medium that offers the most invisibility (not something publishers want to hear, I know). And it’s enough for me to emerge from my cave and meet others like at the Home Education Fair this Sunday.

Click on the picture for details of The Home Education Fair

Don’t get me wrong; I truly love meeting people and welcome the opportunity to chat to others. That’s what my work is all about; offering encouragement and support. But I also need encouragement to get out of my reclusive habit.

So if you come along on Sunday and think you’re too scared to come up and say hello to me, take courage too; you won’t be as scared as me. We’ll muddle along through together and I’ll try and answer your questions intelligently and as if I know what I’m about! 🙂

Hope to see you there.

The value of the Quiet Ones!

My treat for the weekend is to take a book outside and read. DSC06096

Doing it outside makes it less of a busman’s holiday for me. Since I’m concerned with words all day, it feels less workish to do it under birdsong, roses and the lullaby of the breeze, with the occasional annoying fly just keeping me from dozing off.

With some books I don’t doze off. ‘Quiet’ has been one of those.

It’s full title is ‘Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ and it’s a fascinating observation of the valuable personality traits of Introverts. (TED talk here)

In fact, it’s a celebration of Introversion; of all it’s valuable attributes, and how it should never be seen as something wrong with us that needs to be corrected – as it is in many social climes, particularly with reference to children. The author Susan Cain talks about shyness (which I’ve blogged about before) and how it’s often tied up with Introversion yet is quite different.

We are all different, and we need that diversity for our species to survive, but it is often only the loudest that get revered, overlooking the quiet ones and the huge contributions they make to progress with their reflective and considered thinking and the fact they spend less time polishing their image and partying and more time in deep thought and invention. Whereas extroverts need a high stimulation environment, introverts feel most stimulated and do their best stuff in low key environments. The ‘key to maximising our talents is to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that works best for us’ says Susan in her TED talk. Sadly most school environments fail to provide a low key environment for those who need it. no wonder so many kids fail to thrive there.

The last chapter contains some important ideas with regard to raising and educating our children with respect to the fact that many children need smaller social environs in which to learn and grow. And this is okay. We do not have to force them ‘to get out there’ as some parents believe, in order to socialise or succeed, but respect their preferences and grow their confidence within that respect.

I have always believed, back from when I worked in classrooms and through the contact I’ve had with a diverse range of home educating families, that many children fail in school simply because the climate of crowd and buzz does not suit them. But this does NOT mean they have a character defect, any more than someone with blue eyes has a character defect, it’s just our inability to accept differences between us and provide for the needs of those quieter children.

In our image conscious, Facebook crazy, media driven culture we have to sometimes stand against it to be who we need to be and respect our personalities for what they are, rather than try and be all the same. That goes for our kids too. Particularly important is to recognise that they are not us, are different from us, and should be respected for who they are, even if they are quiet, require alone-time, prefer smaller interactions and dislike crowds.

That’s perfectly okay. Quiet people are just as successful and don’t need to be made into anything else.

I know it’s my quiet reflective times, often with my books (often in the garden), that has made me who I am; able to work, parent, home educate, write, and develop two reflective home educated beings who as adults still have a vibrant social life, loving friends, and a successful life out in the fray without ever being forced!

Do children need forcing over shyness?

Charley and I had a jaunt out together the other day. She’s a lovely young adult now and we share grown up things together like art centres, charity treasure seeking or walks. And I always enjoy the opportunity to chat – and listen. How did she become so intelligent and astute? Sometimes I feel I’ve been overtaken!

Quite randomly we got to talking about shyness, particularly in children. She was painfully shy; pulling hat down over eyes rather than engaging with people. Hated crowds, hated people noisy places, and generally had a serious frowning face as a baby. It was a good job our first child was beaming as I might have thought it was me making her miserable.

Her Gran could get her giggling though and when she did crack out a smile the sun shone. But she was never one for leaving my legs and joining in.

Yet she recently managed a very difficult conversation with a boss. How did she get from being the shy little girl, shy big girl as well, to someone who could deal with situations like college, Uni, colleagues and bosses? As a home educating family, whose children don’t experience the affray of school, you’re often accused of failing to push them out into the big wide world. ‘They have to get used to it’ you’re told. Is this true?

It’s a dilemma for parents: How much do we push interaction and how much do we leave it to develop naturally?

Not being a parent who was comfortable with any kind of enforcement, and being shy myself, I felt very strongly I shouldn’t push. That in the right environment, with the right encouragement and a consistent demonstration, with exposure that a child feels comfortable with, you don’t need to push interaction it will develop naturally through developing confidence. And confidence comes from support and experience.

This is what Charley says about it; ‘I hated it when people approached me when I was little. I felt sick and like I wanted to cry. I was so grateful to have you as a shield if I needed it and I can look back and see now that you let it be alright if I didn’t want to talk to people. If you’d pushed me out before I was ready I would have thought you were ganging up on me as well, as that’s what it felt like. Instead I had the choice to interact or not and very young children need that protection’.

I knew that sick feeling well, so I was determined that she shouldn’t suffer the same. We are all different and all have different characteristics.

However, I knew that Charley did need to become confident in dealing with people. And I thought about certain strategies to pass on as she grew to help her over those difficult situations. I remember telling her that sometimes all you have to do is look people in the eye, say hello, then look away and they’re satisfied with that and leave you alone. I made sure that I approached people with confidence so she could copy my example (I was bluffing but she didn’t know that!) and told her about ice-breakers, where you talk about something that’s common between you – even the weather. And smiling always helps! Little tips like these she could put into practice and gain experience from using.

As we were chatting about this Charley went on to say; ‘As I got older I realised that being shy, and not being physically able to speak to people, wasn’t going to be help me progress and get where I wanted. So I had to get over it so I took courage and went for it as my confidence grew. I also wanted people to think I was approachable. Looking at people and smiling changes their responses to me and helps them relax’.

And now you wouldn’t know she was shy and she seems very good at putting people at their ease. Better than her mother probably! She certainly does when she’s photographing them – there’s no worse subject than me, but she managed it for my blog.

Yet this was a child who was not taken to toddler group, contrary to the advice of health visitors who think it’s a way of ‘socialising’ them. (That’s rubbish and you can read why in my book ‘Mumhood’). She was not sent to school. She was not forced into group situations before she was ready. She was not forced to party, mix, engage, unless she chose to, just came along as we did it, but whether she interacted was up to her.

And I wanted to write this here in support of all those painfully shy children who are forced to ‘get over it’. And all those parents who worry or who think they should be forcing their children to mix – you shouldn’t. Or that home education is going to compound the problem. It doesn’t.

You don’t have to push them out there – they want to get out there for themselves when the time is right. And they will do – Charley is proof.