December 24th, 2010
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626004_handMy son is pretty shy, painfully shy actually. His teachers are always telling me how quiet he is and that he is the perfect student because he never makes any noise. Well, he may be perfect (proud mom talking now) but not because he is quiet. He is just so timid he doesn’t dare utter a sound. This is very opposite of his father and myself. So much so that at times I am confused on how to help him overcome what has become a stumbling block for him.

I am also puzzled as to the source of the shyness. He had a rough childhood before he got to our house at 18 months. Domestic violence marked his first year and the next months were spent moving around to seven different homes before he came to settle in ours. All that, understandably, caused him to look for protection when around new people or situations.

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He is also from a culture where they are known for their quiet, almost reverent, presence. Having lived close to the Dineh’ Reservation while growing up, I know this behavior is something that is cultivated and prized in the Native American culture. His tendency not to look people in the eyes and remain quiet while others are making spectacles of themselves is very common, and even taught to the Indian youth.

Then you include the label of fetal alcohol syndrome, which has caused him some developmental delays, and you can see why I am unsure about the cause of his acute shyness. With all these factors in mind I often wonder how much of it is just him. If he had been born into our home would he still exhibit this personality trait? Nature vs. nurture raises his ugly head again and I am left to question if this is who he is or how society made him?

This is a question we face as parents, especially those who have adopted, time and time again as we strive to help our children become all they can through a combination of nature and nurture. In the end I guess it doesn’t really matter, the only thing that does is how to help him make it work for him rather then against him. After all is said and done the important thing to remember about him is just how perfect he really is, regardless of how he came to become so!
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2 Responses to “Nature vs. Nurture”

  1. buddhababy says:

    Hi! I am 55 years old and have been painfully shy all my life, as are several members of my family. I believe, and there is a lot of new research to bear this out, that shyness can indeed be genetic and very much “nature” rather than “nurture”; it also sounds as though your precious son has had some experiences (domestic violence, specific socialization) that enhance/support the shyness — quite frankly, why WOULDN’T someone who has witnessed and experienced violence become shy, it actually makes sense. As someone who has dealt with this “condition” all my life (and at times I would say it was almost a disability to me — more because of how people treated me than how I felt about myself, as our society seems to prize people who can be described as outgoing, bubbly, vivacious, etc. and doesn’t really “get” or value shy, introverted people), I would encourage you to not focus on the shyness and instead help your son develop his other gifts and talents..for example, I was and am very artistic and my parents always made sure I had art supplies so that I could engage happily for hours, creating paintings and drawings. Making sure that your son has lots of opportunities where he can feel successful and confident is really important in case the shyness is coming from low self-esteem. So glad to hear you say that you realize he is perfect just as he is, but you understand that shyness can also be a handicap and hinder him from certain experiences. For me, coping with my shyness has been about learning skills and how to “fake it” in certain situations,(ex: the dreaded office Christmas party!) but of course this has come from many years of living and having opportunities to hone those skills. Really, the best thing you can do, which you are already doing, is loving and accepting your child consistently, w/o judgment, and recognizing that he is beautiful and wonderful just as he is. If you and your husband are both very vocal, outgoing people, it will be especially important for you to do this — I had a mother and several other relatives who were just like me, so I didn’t feel different.
    Hope this helps, and I think it’s great that you are giving thought to how you can help your son in this area.

  2. Amy B says:

    Thanks so much for your comments. It really helps to hear about this from an adult point of view. Its something I have never dealt with and although I try to be understanding its helpful to have someone give their thoughts and ideas on the subject. Thanks again!

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