Help Needed: “My 7-y.o. is Too Scared to Do Anything On His Own”

Hey yzthnradkk
Folks — I am putting this up in the hopes that we can help this mom and her son. As I told her in an email, even yours truly tends to worry when anything’s up with the kids, but fortunately, life is fluid and so are they.
It also seems that being less than adventurous at age 7 today is almost a given. Yes, I want to change that — I think it’s a great age to start exploring. But he’s part of the world of modern 7-year-olds, and most of them are constantly supervised, so he may have absorbed the idea that anything less is “scary.” Just like the parents who need proof that their kids really are ready to walk to school or play on their own (they are!!), this boy may need to see it to believe it, too. 
Finally, let me state here that Free-Range isn’t just about giving parents a break from constant interaction/supervision. It’s about making kids part of the world and excited about it, to boot! So he has to see an upside to this independence. 
From what I’ve witnessed, chances are pretty great he’ll just grow out of this timid phase. But of course, readers, if you have some ideas, please share!- L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: Help! My son is 7.  He is perfectly capable to be as Free-Range as I was at 7, but he won’t.  He is too afraid to go places alone.  I only just got him to cross a street by himself in the last year (so I haven’t been pushing him too hard, I don’t think).
He refuses to go anywhere without a parent.  He won’t use the phone to call a friend and relies on me to arrange “playdates” for him (which I have now refused to do).  He won’t even knock on a friend’s door even if I am standing on the sidewalk.  He is shy, but even though I was shy at his age too, I was still able to do things!
I would love for him to walk the 4 or 5 blocks it would take to get to the playground in our neighborhood and go play without me having to come and sit and “supervise.”   He keeps saying that when he is 13 ! he will do these things on his own!  He told me he wished he had parents like his friends, whose parents don’t let them go anywhere without them.
He is an only child and people keep telling me this is why he is like this.  He is popular in school and well liked.  He isn’t outgoing, but he is normal/shy, and that is why this really bothers me.  I can’t stand another month+ of this.  What can I do to show him he CAN do things without me before he’s 13?!  How can I foster an independent spirit in him?  How do you make a kid Free-Range who refuses?

What happens when a mom is Free-Range and her boy isn’t?

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146 Responses to Help Needed: “My 7-y.o. is Too Scared to Do Anything On His Own”

  1. Erika July 17, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    It could just be his temperament. My son is much less brave than his older sisters were at the same age. Find really small tasks for him to do on his own — like call the next door neighbor and ask to borrow something, then send him over just to pick it up. Ask the neighbor to meet him at the door or in the driveway. Next try one across the street, etc. That said, I don’t think this is unusual for his age.

  2. Jenn July 17, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    Erika gave the same advice I had intended to give.

  3. tovah July 17, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Since it sounds as if you’re parenting in a way that you’re promoting independence, I’d wonder if maybe it’s worth having your child evaluated for learning disabilities and/or anxiety? And sure, I’m not one to immediately pathologize, and this could just be a shy kid, but I do wonder if there’s some sort of learning disability or sensory issues or something going on where the child has trouble keeping track of what’s going on and keeping things in perspective, and life is just freaking him out? There might be strategies to help him better manage things and feel more confident.

  4. TaraK July 17, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    I would suggest having him start small. When you’re in a restaurant let him go to the bathroom by himself or go up to the counter for the straws/napkins etc. I also send my kids ahead to pick out a table while I finish up the paying and wait for the food. When you’re walking the 4-5 blocks tell him he can run ahead of you, but then he has to listen for you to call out “red light” or “green light” to start and stop (and to know that you’re still behind him). Lengthen the “leash” as long as he’ll let you! Praise, praise, praise him for stepping out of his comfort zone!

    Also, can he make a list of the things he CAN do by himself? Then maybe post it and add things he has accomplished (make a sandwich, make his bed, wipe down the bathroom sink, walk across the street etc).

  5. Silver Fang July 17, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    You can’t. Free range should be child led. That means when HE is ready, not when you want him to be ready.

  6. Scott July 17, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    Erika has some good advice there. I was just going to add that you are not alone. My 7yr old seems to go back and forth with this. One day he will and the next he won’t. Sometimes it drive my wife up the wall. I wish you all the best!

  7. Katie July 17, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    It actually sounds like your doing the right thing, just give it a little bit more time. For example, eventually, he will realize that no your not going to arrange a play date for him and if he wants one he’s just going to have to do it himself. Since that is what he knew though for the previous 7 years he’s probably just still holding out and testing you to see if you will give in…don’t! Also it’s a good lesson in coping skills for him, something that too many children lack nowadays.

  8. Timesnlatte July 17, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    I don’t think it’s being an only child, I think it’s just a personality issue. My son, an only child, was known as “the escape artist” as a toddler, and has always been very independent. I didn’t make him that way, but I did allow it. He’s 13 now.

    I think trying to make him do more than he’s ready for may backfire. What about getting him to do things with other adults, but not you? Give him more confidence that he can indeed survive without you.

  9. Jessie July 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    My seven year old is very much the same way. Our kids very often have different temperaments than we do, and the best thing we can do is accept that, be supportive of them, and try to listen to them. He may be introverted and need more alone time; he may have fears that he needs help with. But if you are pushing him too hard to be something different, he will start to internalize that there is something wrong with him.

    It is not “free-range” to do things because your mom and dad are forcing you to do them.

  10. Brandi July 17, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    I agree that this may just be his temperament. I am a natural introvert. At 27, I STILL have trouble making phone calls or knocking on doors if I am not sure of who will answer. That is just who I am, and no amount of “pushing” by others will change that.
    However, just because he may be an introvert, doesn’t mean he can’t be free range. Just start small. And let him lead the way. Eventually he will WANT to do more. Don’t push him to do more than he is ready for…. If he is comfortable riding his bike in the driveway, don’t push him to ride his bike to the end of the street. He will let you know when he is ready for that. If he’s a true introvert, like suspect, and this is not just a phase, then the pushing will only cause him anxiety.

  11. Daven July 17, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    “Free range” doesn’t mean “fearless,” “outgoing,” or “meets high expectations for proper social behavior as I define it.” Scale back your expectations and stop being so pushy. You say, “I can’t stand another month+ of this.” Maybe he can’t, either! Mom: enough.

    Also, I don’t know any seven-year-olds — even outgoing, brave ones — who call each other on the phone and arrange their own playdates. (Nor did I when I was a child, in the free-range 1970s. Some kids stayed home all the time; some kids roamed the neighborhood a lot; some kids had just one best friend; some kids played with anybody; some kids didn’t seem to have any friends. Some kids hated school; some kids loved school. We weren’t all alike, any more than kids today are all alike.)

    Encouragement is great, and it’s a fine thing to offer opportunities to explore, but pushing a child to arrange a date, read, jump off the high dive, program a computer, or do anything else before they are actually ready to do it can only backfire and make them hate or fear the activity, rather than learn it or embrace it.

  12. Dave July 17, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    It could be his temperament. My oldest son was very shy at that age. He would as for a free refill at a fast food restaurant alone. If you is popular at school and has friend let me make this suggestion. Find a free range friend and take them both to the park. When they are involved in play back off and leave them alone. Let him experience some independence. As he gets confident give him more and more space. Let him develop at his own pace. You sound like you are doing the right thing. He has to get this on his own.

  13. Malinda July 17, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    Using walkie-talkies has helped tremendously in our household with this issue.

  14. Kimberly July 17, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    ROFL that people are blaming it on being an only child. I was adventurous as an only child as is my only. She will go do anything anywhere and has since he was 6 or 7.

    I agree with the starting small thing. Just get him to do one thing at a time and he will be more adventurous. We watched a friend’s six-year-old this weekend and her mom always entertains her, and she is afraid to do anything. We had her playing alone and swimming across the pool underwater by the time she left.

  15. Natalie July 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Ditto Erika. No need to force it. He’ll become “anti-” if you do. Start slow.

  16. TC July 17, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    There’s a lot of good advice up there, but I’d add that it’s really important for a kid to learn how to trust their own instincts. Isn’t that the whole point of being free-range…that we let THEM learn how to navigate the world on THEIR terms and not ours? If you push him too hard past his own personal/internal comfort zone, then you’re essentially doing the same thing as a helicopter mom–telling him to rely on YOUR ideas of what he can and can’t do, rather than his own. None of which is to say that you shouldn’t work on building up his self-esteem/out-in-the-world skills and let him learn that he really CAN rely on himself and trust himself to make good, safe choices. But if everything inside him is screaming, “No. This isn’t safe,” then do NOT force him to do said thing, or else later on he won’t trust his inner voice to tell him when something really is NOT a good idea…or even when it is…without you behind him.

  17. Eileen July 17, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    TC and Erika have great advice. I have two kids (same sex) and they couldn’t be more different about almost everything.

    If he’s saying he’ll wait until he’s 13, I think he is simply saying he’s not ready/comfortable doing whatever you are suggesting yet.

    I will say, my kids are 18 and 21…and one thing that they hate is when I use a phrase that begins with “when I was your age…” or “when I was in hs/college…”. It doesn’t matter what comes after that, it just makes them feel like I’m about to be critical. I may view it as a voice of experience or a suggestion, but they do NOT take it that way. It can be something as simple as advice on how to study for a big test…it doesn’t matter.

    Still working on learning not to do that!

  18. Rebecca July 17, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    I agree with a lot of the advice that has been given but I’d also like to add some of my own. You mentioned that the parents of your son’s friends are all the type to go along with them all of the time. Perhaps it would help to find some other parents who are a bit more free-range and see if your son hits if off with their kids, who may be more likely to be used to doing things on their own. When your son sees his buddies doing things and going places on their own, he may do the same. It could have something to do with his temperament, but if he sees other kids do these things he will likely start doing them as well.

  19. bobca July 17, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    My kids were never timid about their independence. They did run into significant problems while acting that way though.

    Before they were 10, they would set up plans with a friend at school to do something together. When their friend got home from school, their parents had already set things up “for” them. The parents never once allowed their child to be the decision maker on that. My kids were quite frustrated by that, and I counseled them that being independent sometimes had challenges.

    Those problems began to disappear over time as parents determined their kids were ready to make some decisions. Some of that happened when the kids were 10, others are still “in the womb” at 14 & 15. Crazy, I know.

    My kids are happy that they suffered through the early years of independence. They are proud of their accomplishments, and they are stronger knowing that sometimes when they have no one to be with, it is not because they are unliked. Things happen in life for many reasons, and my kids are happy to know that sometimes it is “not about them”.

  20. Hittman July 17, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    How about a scavenger hunt, with things he likes scattered around the neighborhood, and clues to find them? Start with a few things in your back yard and one thing in the yard next door. Gradually expand the search area.

  21. RG July 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    I come at this from two perspectives- that of a former child as shy and terrified as he sounds, and that of a mother of two boys, one shy and one fearless. My “shy” boy actually has something more than shyness going on – he has some sort of mild but persistent sensory processing issue that makes certain sensory experiences absolutely terrifying. This has proven a challenge for a woman who wants self-sufficient, free range boys.

    My advice would be to not push it. Don’t push him. Don’t be mad at him. He isn’t this way because he’s an only child, or because you are parenting him poorly, or “allowing” this. It’s his personality, and if you push he may see you as punishing him for being who he is. It took me decades – DECADES – to become brave enough to call for a pizza delivery, or ask a friend to hang out. I got there, but I remember my mother being furious with me for refusing to do it earlier, and how that made me retreat even more. I was terrified of doing soemthing WRONG, of saying something wrong, of being put in a position where I would be exposed as ignorant or unaware of social norms. These things faded away as I grew more confident and got more education. (I also, if you can believe it, became involved in acting and theater in school, as a way to force myself to be brave. I knew I had a problem, I didn’t need my mother to tell me so, and I was bright enough to figure my own way out.)

    As far as my child goes, I get very frustrated with him when he won’t use a public toilet because he’s afraid it will auto flush on him. Or – this was kind of funny – he lost his mind with fear when we went to one of those Color Runs where people were throwing colored corn starch at each other. In his early years, our initial inclination was to force him to do the things that made him uncomfortable as a way of showing him that they were not harmful and he was safe – but that never worked. It still doesn’t work. Instead, we ask him what he needs, he tells us, and we give it to him. He was 4 before he would go down a slide – but he got there. It takes him half an hour to get up the guts to go in the water when we go to the beach, but he eventually gets there. I still have to hold his hands and calm his shaking body when he uses a public toilet, but he’s at the point where he can use them. And over time, as he decides he can approach these “terrifying” experiences, and we allow him to do them – or back out if they get too much – he is learning not to be so afraid.

    In sum – have compassion. Trust him. Call and make the playdates – have him get on the other line and listen in so he can hear how you do it. Go with him wherever he asks. Let him talk out all of his fears and listen without telling him to fix himself, or that what he feels is somehow wrong. Encourage the steps he takes on his own, but be a safe place where he can retreat if it gets too much. Only when he feels safe will he be able to be brave, and that cannot happen if he sees you as someone trying to shove him into danger – even if the “danger” is obviously not dangerous.

  22. Ellie July 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    Some good suggestions here, but I kind of agree with Silver Fang and Daven. I actually didn’t like it when other kids would arrange their own playdates at around 7 years old, because half the time it turned out the parents were unaware that the child was making the arrangement! I actually think there is a world of difference between treating/expecting children to act like “little adults” (unfortunately, and annoyingly, very prevalent in my NYC neighborhood—asking 4-year-olds, for example, to be in charge of everything the family does, from where to eat dinner to when to go home to whether the parents are allowed to go into a certain store or not) and treating/expecting children to act in age-appropriate and independent ways.

    I have two girls (now a teen and a young adult) who were very different temperamentally. The first tried everything and was champing at the bit to get out on her own, take some risks, not be so supervised. My second was kind of clingy, not eager to do much without me or on her own (though well-liked and socially comfortable at school and in activities, like your son). She had a lot of separation anxiety that certainly wasn’t encouraged or created by me or her father. I started finding it so frustrating that I unwittingly made the issue worse by really pushing her to do stuff on her own, giving her jobs and situations to deal with by herself, and it caused her a lot of anxiety. My sense is, and looking back I think this is really true, that my pushing my daughter before she was developmentally and emotionally ready caused her to cling more and harder, out of her worry that she couldn’t handle it.

    So I can really relate to what you’re talking about. My advice is to honestly back off and relax. Stop pushing your son to do what he’s clearly not ready to do. Seven is actually pretty young. The fact that he looks ahead to a time when he think he will be ready—13! very sweet, and reasonable!—is a good sign that he anticipates one day doing all those things that you so obviously want him to do. Just not yet…

    Let me tell you, also, that these days I sometimes long for those times when my daughter just wanted me with her and preferred my company to her own or her friends! My once-shy wallflower is now a confident, independent, self-assured 18-year-old who has no trouble traveling the city by herself, working two jobs, juggling school and extracurriculars all without her parents sheparding or chaperoning.

    Worry less, enjoy these days more, and give your son the time and space to spread his wings when he’s ready, not when you are!

  23. gap.runner July 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    It may just be his temperament. When my son was that age, he was quite shy and didn’t want to do things on his own. What helped him was seeing his peers doing things on their own. Germany is very free-range and kids are encouraged to be independent at a young age. For example, the way he decided to walk to a friend’s house on his own was when he was sleeping over there. He had to come home to get his things. I picked him up and his friend wanted to come too. Then the friend asked if they could walk back by themselves instead of being accompanied by an adult. My son decided that since his friend wanted to walk back to his house without supervision, he could do it. Once he did that, he had no problems walking, riding his bike, or riding his scooter to a friend’s house on his own. Once he got the confidence to do a few things on his own, that confidence carried over into other areas.

  24. nancey July 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Unfortunately, it sounds like the local culture is against free range at age 7. My kids are perfectly comfortable being out and about by themselves, but have always been cognizant of other parents being worried. At times, they would refuse to go by themselves to places where others were being supervised by parents. When we were kids, the youngest always wanted to do follow the big kids but nowadays it seems the big kids are being supervised for everything.

    Going slowly is good advice. If he is shy, it is going to be difficult for him to go against the prevailing norms in your neighborhood. Try going to the mall and letting him stay at gamestop while you go next door. This way he is not feeling judged by his peers and their parents. As others have advised, let him order by himself, use the restroom etc when you are out. Don’t push too hard around the neighborhood until he is more comfortable with public interactions.

  25. H Reagan July 17, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    My daughter is 12 now and is/was the same way – she has high anxiety and severe separation anxiety, counselors would like to see her on meds but I think she’s too young for meds. Can’t go/stay anywhere without mom. After counseling we now continuously work to push her (slightly) out of her comfort zone so she learns to deal with things and gets “successful/positive memories”. i.e. find a club (boy scouts) or a friend. Stay there with him several/many times. Eventually stay for a little bit, leave for a while, come back to pick him up. Do that until he stays by himself. Then keep doing that and add another thing: go to a library club, repeat again and again and again and again……always reassure him, tell him he CAN do it, you’ll be back, it’ll only be a few minutes, you love him, etc. Turn that into a mantra for him. It helped us big time!

  26. H Reagan July 17, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    And my daughter is an only child too, but that has nothing to do with it. It’s just who he is. Be patient. (I know it’s hard, but be patient). Take it slow. HELP him become independent, one slow step at a time.

  27. Donna July 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    I think your boy is just shy. Shyness is different for different people. For the most part, I don’t appear shy, but approaching people strikes terror in me. Casual conversation, chatting in a social setting, speaking in court, etc. no problem. Calling people, setting up playdates, asking for dates, etc I would rather die than do, often even with people I know well.

  28. Jennifer July 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    I think there’s a balance here. As many people have said, some people are just naturally more cautious, and it’s important to respect that. However, it’s also important to practice doing independent things in order to build self-confidence and become more independent. I wouldn’t just wait until he tells you he’s ready either; some kids will wait forever as long as others keep doing things for them.

    The balance seems to be encouraging small steps and making sure that independent behavior is rewarded with greater privileges. Long term progress seems more important than worrying about the details in the short term.

  29. John July 17, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    Take it easy for goodness sake. Your son isn’t you and you are not him. He sounds introverted and as if he might have some social anxiety issues. Not a biggie. Sounds like me at that age and well into my teen…actually it sounds like me now and I have two of my own. If it’s anxiety then try your best to make it safe for him. I still can’t make phone calls without working up to it for hours (and sometimes days and weeks). Keep giving him the freedom even if he doesn’t take advantage of it. He will appreciate it just the same.

  30. John July 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    My advice would be for the mother and father to be more assertive with him although they’ve probably tried that. Otherwise, it could just be a matter of the parents putting their foot down such as no more desert until you do this on your own OR we’re taking away your toys, etc., etc. Or perhaps go in the opposite direction and reward him for doing independent acts such as if you walk to school by yourself today, we’ll go out for ice cream tonight or mom and dad will get you that toy you really want! Positive reinforcement might be the answer.

  31. lollipoplover July 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    Every flower blooms in its own time. I agree with Donna- he’s shy. If he’s not comfortable going alone, start out with a good buddy. Call it an adventure and give them a simple task or idea (lemonade stand?) to make it fun. I wouldn’t worry though- he will come into his own when he’s ready.

    He should be able to use the phone and make his own calls though. Our neighbor is now 10 and still makes his mom call for him. He forgot his homework last year and his mom called me for the assignment as my daughter was in his class. I got my daughter on the phone and she asked the mom why she was calling and not the son. Mom told her the boy didn’t talk on the phone. So my daughter said she wouldn’t give mom the assignment over the phone. That her classmate needed to come over and knock on her door if he wanted it (she made him copies). He did.

  32. Warren July 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    Shy, yes a little, but also a product of the surrounding helicopter parents of his friends. Proven by his comment about them. So this is not all just natural developement. He has been negatvely influenced by others. Mom has a right to be concerned. As long as all his friends hand hold their kids thru life, this lady’s son will expect it as well.

    And please people, Playdates? Damn I hate that yuppie term.

    To those who do not let or want their kids to arrange their own playtime………..yes god forbid they should choose who they want to hang with. Mine have been doing it since they started school. They would tell me, and OMG all I asked was for them to have X child’s parent call me to verify everyone was in the loop.

    My oldest daughter was extremely shy and timid, when she came into my life at the age of five. Her mom, and grandparents played into it for years. Me being the Stepdad, kept my mouth shut for quite awhile. Then when she was around 9 I basically took over. Anything she was capable of doing I just stop doing for her, and made sure noone else did for her. Explaining that she needs to be able to deal with people, that she needs to learn how to do things, and interact. She was miserable at times because she missed out on things, but eventually realized that a little discomfort to get what she wants was far better than not having what she wanted. With everystep she took, you could see her confidence grow. And now the shy little girl is going to be a teacher.

    I give alot of credit for her independance to Rawsha, the German Shep we got her. Dogs are great for only children.

  33. Becky July 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    As the only child of an only child, I can assure you that’s not your problem. Many only children are extremely outgoing, specifically because there is no other way for them to entertain themselves than by making an effort to meet new people and try new things.

    I would agree with some others that your boy is shy and that he will likely grow out of this phase, but that does not mean that you can’t help him along. My suggestions?

    Sleep away camp. Lessons in a sport that’s slightly dangerous (even swimming would work) and that you don’t stick around to watch. Going out on long romatic dinners with your husband and leaving him with a babysitter who is not a family member and who he doesn’t kow all that well. Overnight playdates that last several days. Sending him out of state to stay with relatives (for weeks at a time). Anything to get him away from you (not that I think you’re a bad parent, quite the opposite). He needs to be ignored a bit. He needs to be forced into a situation where he can’t get attention from you; where he doesn’t have the option of running to you.

  34. Ann July 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    I agree with others that it is probably just his temperament. What about giving him some challenges that have a reward at the end that he would like, like, “Go to the frozen aisle and pick out some ice cream while I’m here in the check out line. I’ll be here when you get back, and you can choose the ice cream flavor on your own!” or “I’d love for us to make some cookies, but I don’t have any eggs. If you’ll get an egg from the next door neighbor after I call to ask for one, we can make cookies together!” Baby steps.

  35. Warren July 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm #


    Sorry Dude, but if as an adult you carry anxieties that hamper your life, like the phone call thing……..get some help. Do not tell a mom trying to help her child, that you were that way, and all turned out okay.

    Having to work your way up to making a phone call, is not okay.

  36. Stephanie July 17, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    My son has been like that too at times, didn’t even want to walk the quarter mile home on his own, but now he enjoys taking mile runs around the block on his own. Just give it some time.

    It amazes me how picky some parents are about arranging playtime. I have a friend who thinks it should absolutely be between the parents, not the kids. She is offended by the one kid who calls to her house for playdates rather than having her mother call. The particular kid who does the calling isn’t a favorite of mine for other reasons, but I love her initiative. I keep telling my kids they need to do likewise. They got as far as getting a lot of phone numbers before the end of the school year, but they rarely use them. None of their friends, other than the one, have called. We do have one kid who just knocks on the door to see if my son is available, and I think that’s great too. I gave his mom our phone number because she was having to resort to driving around the block to figure out where he was when she wanted him home.

  37. Eileen July 17, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    Everyone is different, Warren. I have a sister who is shy. She’s 8 years older than me. When she graduated from college and was getting ready to move out, she had to call apt complexes to get rates/availability. She really didn’t like doing that sort of thing and I, an extrovert, thought it was great fun. I was only in my teens but I made the calls for her.

    She talks about how she marveled at how if I wanted affection from my parents, I’d simply climb up in their lap or ask my Mom to brush my hair or whatever. She never felt comfortable doing that sort of thing. People are all different.

    There is NO cookie cutter solution to every family. I’m not even sure that a “solution” is necessary at this point. If this 7 year old is refusing to take care of schoolwork or household responsibilities, that’s one thing. If he doesn’t want to go knock on a neighbors door or go to the park by himself, who cares?

  38. Sarah July 17, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    I would not go into a store alone until the end of high school. I was also very shy about making phone calls or interacting with “strangers” ( waitresses, sales clerks etc.) My mom did a lot of role playing with me. I pretended to be the waitress and she played me. This helped her to see what about this situation made me anxious. To this day I play what’s the worst that could happen. I then figure out how to deal with the worst case. Avoiding the situation is not an acceptable option I have to work through a plan. Once I have a plan I can enter the situation knowing I can handle it.

    Also, I made phone calls using scripts for years.

  39. Warren July 17, 2013 at 3:10 pm #


    I really wish you and others would find a cure for your selective reading.

    A. The mother does not think her child should be this way. So obviously she cares.
    B. It is not just his way of being. He is being influenced by the overprotective parents of his friends. Otherwise he would not have made reference to them.
    C. And lastly, this mother is asking for advice on how to get her child to do more things. Not asking for people to make excuses, tell her how shy they were and still are, or advising her to leave it alone, it is just his way. She wants help moving forward, not standing still or falling back.

    So again obviously this mom does care.

  40. Eileen July 17, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Warren, CLEARLY I was using a commonly used phrase, it was not meant to suggest that the Mom didn’t care…clearly she does. I mean that if a 7 year old doesn’t want to do things that someone ELSE wanted to do at that age…is it really a big deal. But of course, the Mom should know that was not my intention.

    This thread is littered with people (adults) who can relate to this 7 year old. There is no way to prove “B” in your list.

    People have given a wide variety of advice. Everything from doing nothing, to suggestions to foster his independence. But it’s ok (even if it’s hard) to recognize/respect that your kid may not be the same way you are in regard to independence at the age of 7.

  41. Ben July 17, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    @Stephanie It’s great when kids knock on doors to see if a friend wants to play, but if that mom has to resort to driving around the neighborhood, then perhaps it’s time for that kid to learn to inform mom of their whereabouts (or to get a watch so they can be home on time).

    Gina: I’m a rather introverted person, but I don’t believe that your son is. After all he is well liked and seems to be perfectly capable of making friends and keeping those relationships alive.

    I believe the prevailing feeling in your community that even old kids should be supervised has gotten to him. I think this was especially well illustrated by the fact that he said he’d do it when he would be 13. The next time he brings that up (or the next time he refuses to call a friend, I’d be honest and ask him why not. The answer might well surprise you.

    My advice:
    1) Don’t make him do something on his own on the first try. Teach him first and accompany him on the first few attempts (as you probably did while teaching him to cross the road). Take baby steps — then let him do it alone.

    2) Alone might be a little bit too daunting. Let him play with a buddy. While the prevailing wind in your area might be helicoptering, there’s bound to be a couple of free rangers around.

    3) Use something he really likes as an incentive for going free range. If he wants something really REALLY bad, he might just go through with it on his own even if you can’t shepard him around.

    In short: the message is baby steps. You want him to grow self confidence, but you don’t want him to feel like he’s doing something wrong. Everything should be done slowly and gradually.

  42. Elf July 17, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    Enlist other people to help. A cashier at a nearby store, or a teenager who lives in the neighborhood, or another parent who’s often at the park at the same time–anyone who’s not family and is in a position to interact with your child.

    Ask them to say hi to your child sometimes, to ask him questions (“You have Pikachu on your t-shirt; is he your favorite pokemon?”), offer to do things for him as appropriate (“would you like me to put the toy in a separate bag for you to carry?”). Help him get a sense that other people in the world aren’t hostile, and that if he needs help, it’s available.

    Don’t pressure him into being talkative or overly-social; encourage the type of not-really-conversation one normally has with a total stranger–here, let me move that out of the way for you; those are nice-looking shoes; is that a tasty sandwich? Expect his initial answers to be one-syllable responses; more will come as he gets comfortable.

    If he’s just shy, he’ll eventually reach his own comfort level with that. If he’s got a cognitive condition where everything seems loud or confusing, and that’s why he’s avoiding new situations, he’ll eventually figure out methods for dealing with that, too.

    In the meantime, parents can find ways to let him know they’re not the only resource he has for coping with an intense and often confusing world.

    For solo exploring–maybe encourage him to make map of the street he lives on, with everyone’s houses marked. Ask him to make sure the doors are the right colors–and let him know he can go check that by himself. Give him a sense of his place in the larger world and encourage him to notice details about it so it’s not as scary.

  43. Donna July 17, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    “He is being influenced by the overprotective parents of his friends. Otherwise he would not have made reference to them.”

    No this simply means that he sees that other parents do things for their children that he wishes that his parents would do for him because he is uncomfortable doing them for himself. It in no way indicates that he would be anything but shy – which his mother readily admits that he is – even if he grew up in the 70s. There are plenty of us who grew up in the 70s with all free range friends who are still shy.

    Shyness isn’t a “phase.” It is not something that he is going to outgrow. It is not something that you can force him out of. It is who he is. He can learn to do things within the shyness but he will never not be shy. You can’t make him outgoing. You also can’t make him be free range if he doesn’t want to range free.

    “I’m a rather introverted person, but I don’t believe that your son is. After all he is well liked and seems to be perfectly capable of making friends and keeping those relationships alive.”

    First off, shyness has absolutely nothing to do with introversion. There are extroverted shy people and introverted shy people. They are two different things.

    Second, introversion does not mean “has no friends” or is “unliked.” Introverts have friends and nurture those relationships just fine. They simply need downtime and get their energy from that downtime, as opposed to extroverts who get their energy from being around people.

  44. ND July 17, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Sounds like he just needs a bit more time. Some kids are like that. I was the kid who hated talking to new people and didn’t particularly like walking home from school by myself (that wasn’t optional for me so I learned to suck it up, but I was a bit nervous about it until I was nearly twelve). I ended up competing in Speech and Debate in high school and attending uni abroad after planning, paying for, and taking the trip to London to look at potential options entirely by myself.

    Your son will become more independent on his own time. Seven really is quite young in the grand scheme of things. Kids change so much in their primary school years that by this time next year he could want enough independence to make *you* a little anxious. For now praise his small steps toward independence and let him know he has a safe space to test his comfort levels a little. When he’s ready for more he’ll let you know.

  45. Papilio July 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    Funny – this is something I wondered about while reading about FRK and enthusiastic parents suggesting that an FR upbringing ‘automatically’ leads to confident, socially well-adjusted children.
    But being confident enough to climb a tree or going down a 99 feet tall slide really has nothing to do with the confidence it takes to speak in public or complain about a malfunctioning toaster in the store you bought it.
    I went to the park by myself at 9 to pick herbs for my rabbit, but I never went on a sleepover at my friend’s place, ever. I enjoyed climbing the tree in the backyard from an early age on, but hated being sent to the bakery across the street. I took the train to school by myself for one entire schoolyear when I was 12, but only the next year I felt comfortable enough to talk to a teacher at all (except of course when they asked me something).
    I hate-hate-hate speaking in public, but a (tandem) skydive is no problem.

    Some kids just are shy. I’ve overgrown some things, and others I didn’t. I don’t think my socially fearless mother would have prevented that shyness if she had forced me to do stuff. Certainly not at age 7.

    @Donna: So true!

  46. Ben July 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm #


    Unfortunately, I can’t back it up with scientific evidence, but in my experience, shyness is something more commonly seen in introverted people. The few extroverted people who have it, and for who it hampers their interactions with people feel unhappy about it because it stops them from getting their energy from people which is what they want so much.

    There’s a lot more into that, but unfortunately we don’t have enough space to discuss all the details.

    Without that particular statement, I still feel I offered some helpful advice, at least I hope I did.

  47. Warren July 17, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Really, once shy always shy? Are you kidding me. You are smarter than that Donna. Shyness is something people outgrow, it is something you can help another to overcome. My oldest daughter is living breathing proof of that.

    Cannot prove that he is influenced by the overprotective parents of his friends? He proved it himself by bringing up his friends parents and the 13 yr old age limit.

    Like I said you people need to cure your selective reading.

    Far too many people in here that preach about making children deal with adversion, but when it comes right down to it, would rather make excuses for the poor little darlings, than actually practice what they preach.

  48. Tsu Dho Nimh July 17, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    I’d ask him, “Are you worried something might happen to you if I’m not around?”

    After you find out what it is you can figure out how to defuse it.

    Self-defense training, a cell phone, whatever it takes.

  49. socalledauthor July 17, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    I wonder if baby steps would help. Instead of making him go into a store alone, what about having him hand the money to the cashier? And some kids take seven hundred tries before they are comfortable with a task enough to try on their own.

    For the phone thing, what about if you make the call initially, but then he has to get on the phone and talk with his friend for a little bit? Tell the friend what’s planned?

    And what about brainstorming with HIM what things he’d like to try on his own? Or start in the home with chores, making dinner, or other activities that invite less scrutiny.

    What he might be saying when he says “I wish you were like the other parents” is that he wants you there, as many kids do. He wants that comfort and whatever that comes from you being there, for him. You think he’s ready to go without it, and he may be (or may be close) but he’s still saying that he wants you present.

    My son (only three) has moments of independence where he wants to walk ahead of me or will go out of my sight on his own (in a safe place.) And he has other moments where he needs constant physical contact, as a reassurance perhaps that I am still here, for when he stretches his legs and independence. Some kids need more of that reassurance.

    Instead of pushing big steps, try baby steps… go to the park, but sit further away in a camp chair or on a picnic blanket. Then further as he is more comfortable.

  50. jcard21 July 17, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    Boys are different than girls.

    Your 7 year old son needs a adult male role model; someone he can watch and imitate 8-12 hours a day.

    Your son needs an adult male role model to show him how to act like a responsible adult male, not how to act like a child.

    This male role model should be showing him, by the role model’s own actions, the following:

    Limit his interaction with his peers. He won’t learn anything of value from other 7 year old children.

    (NOTE: None of these topics are taught in school.)

    • We Are Not Supposed To Be Alone. We Are Social Beings.
    • How to treat others with courtesy and respect;
    • We teach others how to treat us; require respect;
    • How to physically defend himself (self-defense);
    • Nutrition, strength & fitness;
    • Gardening (self-reliance);
    • Build things by himself (self-reliance);
    • The Law (simple legal issues);
    • Economics: capitalism, adding value, building wealth;
    • Everything is a negotiation;
    • Time management;
    • Buy him a small pocket knife (Swiss Army Classic); every boy should have one. Teach him how it works; teach him what he can cut and what he shouldn’t cut. And yes, he will probably cut himself once or twice … it is a valuable lesson.

    Throw out the games and toys. Limit TV time. Limit sports.

    This should get him started on the right path! I hope this helps.

  51. Papilio July 17, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    @jcard21: You’re joking, right?

  52. Rachel July 17, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    There are some homeopathic remedies that help with fear, but i think this has more to do with communication than fear. Your son may feel like by not doing things for him that you don’t love it care as much as the other parents. My son is 4 and very free range and very very clingy. But geographic areas are only apart of free range. I ended up growing up free range and not being able to walk around the block. You guys could plan something to build and let him use hammer nails and saw. Or let him cook in the kitchen. the pocket knife idea is great. What about letting him see the neighborhood by climbing on the roof?

  53. Ben July 17, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    @jcard21: How long have you been following Lenore?

    Throwing out games and toys and limiting TV time and sports would turn the poor kid into a social outcast. Are you completely unaware of the importance of play in a child’s life? I agree that limiting screen time is a good idea IF that screen time of computers and televisions interferes with normal interpersonal interactions. If not, there’s nothing to fix.

    Those first two bullet points in your list are the exact reason that is NOT the right thing to do.

    And by the way, social interaction, negotiation and treating others with respect is something 7 year olds are perfectly capable of practicing among their peers.

  54. Kiwimum July 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    One of my children was a lot like this when younger, still a bit but much much less so now in mid teens. Definitely a temperament thing in our case. Something we were wary of though was making such a big deal out of it that he would dig his toes in (“this is how I AM!”) which would make it impossible to grow out of because it would be a kind of back down. So we tried to leave ROOM for him to take a step when he was ready. Example – he asks me to make a phone call I think he can do himself. I say, sure I can do it – but not right now, I’m busy, I’ll do it later, or you can do it yourself if you like it. OR, sure I can take you over to your friend’s (or the library or whatever), but NOT RIGHT NOW – you can go yourself on your bike though, I’ll meet you there. Then drop the issue, and be busy (and do it later, if nothing happens). This sets his reticence against his 7 (or 8 or 9) year old desire for quick gratification. If you do this regularly (always do the thing you agreed to, just NOT RIGHT NOW) as soon as his development means his wish for the action to occur now exceeds his reticence about doing it, he’ll do it. And you won’t have made it into an issue of pride or conflict.

    Oh, and I agree with all those who commented on the importance of teaching and modelling and letting him observe (or listen in on) the protocols. We would even discuss this explicitly – before my son got his first cash card, I made a point of showing him how there were lots of different kinds of card readers in shops, it was no big deal if you put the card in the wrong way first because people do that all the time, and so on.

  55. Liz July 17, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    The one thing I would add is to pay attention to the anxiety he experiences around doing things on his own. It may be helpful to talk to someone who is smart about cognitive behavior therapy. Just to figure out useful places to push and useful places to leave him be. He’ll be fine no matter how you handle it, but talking out a strategy with someone might be helpful for you own sanity. Good luck!

  56. Jenn July 17, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    A lot of people are mentioning anxiety as being an issue but I think today we are often quick to `diagnose’ something rather than chalk it up to being part of a person’s character. Yes, there are people and children with anxiety disorders but that is a small part of the population. For children with anxiety disorders, it consumes almost every aspect of their lives since they don’t have the skills (like some adults) to mask it. Since this boy is popular and well-liked at school, I’d be safe to assume that he is having a fairly successful school life.

    Some people are shy. It’s different from being introverted as many extroverted people experience shyness or lack self confidence in various situations. You don’t want to push a child too much because it can make the situation worse. I’d celebrate some of the little things he can do as a positive reinforcer, not as a cheerleader. “Thanks for unloading the dishwasher!”, “Your grandma was pleased that you told her about your soccer game”, “It sounded like you had fun when you went to Bobby’s to play. Did you want to invite him here next time?”, “Your mom will be pleased to see that you put away your toys”. I think these comments work because they refer to a specific situation, rather than a “Yay you”, and show appreciation or acknowledgement for the effort or job.

  57. Natalie July 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    To Gina, a quick question, why rush it? He’ll get there eventually 😉

    Lots of good advice being given here. I agree in that it has nothing to do with the helicoptered friends. “Jimmy gets to stay up to midnight! Why can’t I stay up to midnight?”

    It’s just the way he is. And that’s normal, free-range or no. Nothing wrong with it.

    The kid in the picture though? He looks creepy!

  58. Natalie July 17, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    Look up “shy extrovert.” it’s interesting!

  59. Marion July 17, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    Oh, for f*cks sake!! Really?!!

    Mom pushes her seven year old to do things the kid isn’t comfortable with, claims that she “can’t stand another month+ of this” – oh deary, how *dreadful* your life must be with your perfectly healthy 7 year old who prefers to play quietly by himself at home – and this second-grader has the intelligence and courage to TELL his mother of his discomfort and how she is the one who tries to push him into things he is uncomfortable with (“He keeps saying that when he is 13 he will do these things on his own! He told me he wished he had parents like his friends”) which I think is amazingly mature and, I have to say it again, very brave.

    I want to smack this woman, but since I can’t I will do the next best thing and quote dr. John Rosemond:

    Over the past 40 years or so, child advocates have given a good amount of lip service to the view that adults, especially educators, should respect children’s “individual differences.” In theory, this recognizes the fact that every trait is distributed in the general population in a manner represented by the bell-shaped curve. Whether the issue is general intelligence, sociability, optimism, musical aptitude, artistic ability, or mechanical skill (to mention but a few), relatively few people are “gifted” and relatively few people are disadvantaged. Whatever the characteristic, most folks are statistically “normal.” That is, they possess an adequate amount, enough to get by.

    People gifted in more than a couple of areas are rare, and people gifted in one area but lacking in another are not unusual. A person with outstanding musical aptitude, for example, may be noticeably lacking in social skills, and a person with outstanding verbal skills may be mechanically inept.

    The mere fact that a person is lacking in some characteristic or ability does not necessarily mean something is “wrong.” That a certain 10-year-old child is shy, lacks conversational skills, and prefers solitary activity to group play does not mean something is amiss inside the child’s brain. Nor does the mere fact that a child struggles with learning to read or do math mean his brain isn’t working properly. Furthermore, it is well known that the child who is “painfully” shy at ten may be outgoing at age forty-six, and a child who struggles to learn to read may grow up to be a best-selling author. Very little about a human being is set in stone.

    All of this is to say that for all the prior lip service, today’s educators seem to have absolutely no respect for individual differences, no respect for the fact that “lack” is not synonymous with wrong. In today’s schools, the range of acceptability concerning an ever-increasing number of aptitudes has been getting narrower and narrower over the past couple of decades.

    This narrow-mindedness on the part of educators has coincided with the proliferation of various supposed childhood “disorders.”

    So the aforementioned shy 10-year-old is not just shy; he has Asperger’s syndrome. And the aforementioned slow reader is not just a bit behind the curve when it comes to decoding abstract symbols; he’s dyslexic. And the clumsy child has sensory integration disorder. And the child who has difficulty executing more than one command from his teacher at a time has an auditory processing disorder. In each case, the child supposedly has something wrong with his brain. Mind you, the something has never been discovered, much less measured. No matter. We live in the Age of Mass Credulity. Maybe credulity is a brain disorder. Who knows?

    I think this mom is suffering from PMS (Pushy Mom Syndrom).

    There is nothing ‘Free Range’ about trying to mold your child willy-nilly in some semblance of the ‘perfect Free Range Kid’. LET THE KID BE!!

  60. Kenny Felder July 17, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    I remember when Benjamin would cry whenever Joyce left the room. Both Joyce and I kind of miss that little boy now. He grew out of it overnight.

  61. S July 17, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    My mom would say “Just do it! You’ll be fine!” and act like I was crazy if I didn’t think I could do something. I’m much more confident than a lot of women I know because of her.

  62. Kelly July 17, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    I agree that temperaments differ – I have an older child who is very cautious and introverted, and a younger one who is fearless and extroverted. It makes sense to start with small steps and gradually build up, and provide positive re-enforcement.

    I’ve also found that my older one will rise to the challenge if required – e.g if I go out for a short time and leave her a list of tasks to perform without assistance or only let her buy something she wants if she goes through the checkout line on her own, she will do it. (Of course this doesn’t always work, as her first, and often successful, solution is to convince her younger sister to do it for her!)

  63. renee July 17, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    This isn’t a free-range issue, it is a parenting issue. You were shy as a kid, he is even more so! Mine were just like yours, and at 13!! they did start going off on their own. I’m sorry you are feeling ‘trapped’ but kids are not always what you dream they will be. He will be fine, he will grow out of it – but at HIS pace, not yours. Yes, it is irritating, yes you want himm to be different, yes he is missing out on things that he would enjoy (from your point of view). But that is now where he is at this stage. Free-range is allowing kids to experience life. If he is finding life scary right now then letting him experience it through the safety of your support is what he needs. It sounds like he is being very clear with you that he does want to go out and do things, with your support. What do you think will happen if you yank that away? Will he suddenly feel confident and supported? “Hey, mom was right?” No, he is not mature enough for that and will feel even more terrified and clingy.

    I’m sorry, but your son is just not at the same place as you. Patience. Baby steps. And if you truly feel you can’t handle his need for support then send him with another trusted adult until you catch your breath again.

  64. amy July 17, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

    Google Child Whisperer. You will find that your probably Type 2 sensitive child has the same nature as you but has a different secondary nature that needs to be supported. I have 7 kids and this resource has seriously saved me and my kids from ME. You will find answers. In the meantime, please please stop making him be the person he is not. He’ll only become more insecure and you’ll know real troubles later, if you don’t support him now. Best wishes to you and to him.

  65. Ann July 17, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    Hi there! Sorry to spring another parenting style on you, but have you checked out RIE/Gentle parenting? Janet Lansbury has a great blog if you’re interested (, but the basic tenet is to respect your kids as people and not try to force them into what they’re not comfortable with. And I’m sorry to say it, but I think your son is telling you very clearly that he’s not ready for what you want from him. I totally understand the annoyance of having to walk a 7-year-old up to the front door of his friends’ house, but at the same time, I don’t think that Free-Range Parenting advocates forcing your kid into doing something they don’t want to do. He needs to feel safe, and making him step too far out of his comfort zone will just scare him. His temperment may just naturally be shy, and as a parent you have to (well, not have to, but I think you should!) accept that. Like I said, RIE is a great resource for figuring out how to accept your son’s emotions, saying things like “I know you’re very nervous to call Blake all by yourself and ask if he wants to have a playdate after school” as he expresses how he feels. Even if you force him to do some things, I don’t think you should make him do everything the way you think he should, even if that’s what you were comfortable with when you were his age. Free-Range is about independence, and even if he doesn’t want that, he surely knows he has it. Best of luck!

  66. Jim July 17, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    Isn’t your wish that your son bolder and more independent somewhat undermined by the fact that you’re looking to “foster an independent spirit in him?” Kinda sounds like you’re just ringing another doorbell for him. Maybe you could let him do his own thing in his own time. Free Range does not necessarily mean “not shy.”

  67. Warren July 17, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    This one really scares me, as by seeing all the commentors and the way they raise kids. Now I know where all the wimpy mamma boys are coming from, into the work force.
    Don’t have to do it if it is uncomfortable? Says it all. Wow, all these free range commentors trying to shelter, excuse, and diagnose a syndrome.

    Little Johnny wants to play with Ricky a couple houses down, but wants mommy to do all the work? Tell little Johnny to get off his ass and go. If he doesn’t then don’t do it for him. He loses out. He will eventually get over his issue with heading down the street.

    Give him a bag of cookies and send him to the park. But for the love of pete, stop treating these kids like they are some special never happened before event.

  68. Mae July 17, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    I strongly disagree with Warren. Free-Range isn’t about forcing your child to man up so they’re not wimpy. It’s about knowing your child well enough to know when to send them out on their own.

    I was shy as a child and my parents didn’t force it until I was 15. They had suggested I get a job and I didn’t want to but they knew I was ready for it. They found me a job, dropped me off, and I loved it. I loved interacting with all the people. I was ready and they sensed it. Had they done that at seven it would have been horrible.

    Baby steps will help him to get braver. IMO, free-range should be less about our convenience and more about sending capable adults out into the world. That means on their terms because every child is different.

  69. socalledauthor July 17, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    @ Warren: There is a fine line between working with a whiney adult and a child who is learning their way. And I don’t believe that having a comfort zone is the same as being a “wimpy mama’s boy.” I can hold my son’s hand while he’s learning to walk rather than yank it away and hope he “figures it out.” I can do this metaphorically as well, as he needs and at his pace, while still nudging him in the direction he goes.

    Kicking the kid out the door because they need to “man up” doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll learn confidence. They may just end up feeling abandoned, unwanted, and less confident. Internal and external support breed confidence, not a swift kick in the ass and “sink or swim.”

    Personally, from what I’ve seen working at the high school level, students who are told to just figure it out on their own are just as likely to be self-assured as they are to be completely incapable (the latter looking, desperately, for someone to care enough to support and guide them instead of just telling them to “Grow up” or “man up.” Someone to talk to them rather than tell them, “Figure it out on your own– you’re gonna be an adult soon! Then I won’t be there to do it all for you.)

  70. Captain America July 17, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    Our schools are to blame, partly, for some of the nonsense about childhood risks. . . during school hours, kids are told that they cannot do things.

    I feel awful. I consider how much I did when I was 9, and look at my son’s situation; the school handholding/babying/ belittling really crimped his former assertive independence.

  71. Warren July 17, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    I am not taking about sending a kid out to do open heart surgery. My example was of an action mom knows he can do, but refuses to, because he is uncomfortable. Big difference from your evaluation.

    If it is something the child knows how to do, and is capable of doing, and mommy keeps doing it for the child, mommy is just an enabler. Playing into his/her game. And don’t kid yourself, there are just as many kids out there that claim they cannot do something, or claim fear and shyness, because they are lazy, and want it done for them.

    And to those that insist he is not influenced by the other parents, give your thick heads a shake. Every argument you make to dispute my claim only supports it.

    Yes there is a difference between working with a whiney wimp full of self entitlement, and a shy kid. But that whiney wimp was raised by wimpy parents. And there seems to be a room full of them here.

  72. bmommyx2 July 18, 2013 at 4:48 am #

    ((hugs)) I would start out slow, don’t push but give gentle nudges. I have an almost 7 yr old. I was like you as a child, but my experience has taught me that each child is different. I think there is a big difference between boys & girls also. Don’t discount his fears acknowledge them & use it to open conversations & ask him question about why he doesn’t want to do such & such. Pick & choose your opportunities wisely. My son tends to be shy & he is fearful of many things & he goes through phases. Right now he often will not go upstairs alone because he is afraid & it’s worse at night. That said I think he also uses his fear as a crutch & an excuse to not do things he doesn’t want to. I am careful to pick & choose my battles. Just today I had a dentist apt & he wanted to pick something from the toy box. I told him that if he wanted a toy that he needed to ask, he wanted me to do it for him & I refused. The nice lady at the desk overheard & told him that he could ask her. We were at a birthday party once & my son wanted quarter to get a toy out of the machine. I was busy with his little brother so I told him I didn’t have any quarter, but I would give him a dollar & he could get change or not get the toy. I had a clear view of the cashier & he could look back & see me the whole time & guess what he did it. Now if I tell him I don’t have quarters he offers to go get change. He still gets lost a little because he doesn’t always pay attention & he gets distracted, but I give him constant gently nudges to do things on his own. He even went to the restroom by himself while I was at the register.

  73. Donna July 18, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    @Warren – Shyness is something people learn to work around. It is absolutely not something people outgrow. I am every bit as shy today as I was at 7. I have simply learned to force myself to do things that have to be done. It doesn’t mean that I am not completely miserable doing them.

    For example, I hate hosting parties. Doing so makes me horribly anxious and miserable. I enjoy nothing about it. After going to many, my daughter asked for birthday party for her 5th birthday (nope I’d never thrown her one before). I agreed and subjected myself to weeks of stress and anxiety for my kid because she is important. Didn’t enjoy a second of it. Still don’t enjoy a second of it. Can’t wait until the day my kid becomes old enough for this to be her deal and not mine at all. But I soldier through with a fake smile and only my closest friends are aware that I’d rather be any place else other than at that damn party.

    But I certainly wasn’t near this point at 7 and trying to force me to do things that made me extremely uncomfortable at 7 would not have worked (trying to force me into doing anything is extremely unproductive as I am also very stubborn). It likely would have shut me down further. Luckily I had a mother who was willing to let me be me and never tried to force me into a mini her.

    Nor is shyness a singular point. It is a continuum from not shy at all to crippling social disorder. We all fall somewhere on that continuum. We change our places on that continuum in small ways but nobody goes from terribly shy to Mr. Outgoing.

    Shyness takes different forms. I can speak publicly, try cases in court and act on stages in theaters full of thousands of people (well I’ve never done that but it wouldn’t bother me at all). I have more difficulty interacting one-on-one with people I don’t know.

  74. Laura July 18, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    I’m free-range, too, and my son hasn’t always been. I don’t think you need to worry so much. I wouldn’t push him. Right now he might just need his mother. What’s important is he knows he has permission to be free-range when he’s ready.

  75. Donna July 18, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    @Ben – Yes more introverts are indentified as shy. Since so many people conflate the two terms like you did and people have a lack of understanding as to what intorverson truly is, I do wonder if many of those identified as shy are simply introverts and not shy at all.

    That doesn’t change the fact that they are two totally separate things. Not only are some extroverts shy, but millions of introverts are not.

  76. Emily July 18, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    If that was my son, I’d probably put him in Cub Scouts or something. A week of overnight camp would be too much for him at this stage, but a few hours a week with other kids, and other adults, and without his mother, learning “independent” skills (building campfires, pitching tents, orienteering, learning about nature, etc.), might be about right. They do sleepovers/camping trips at that level, but I’m pretty sure they’re still fairly short, and not “extreme” camping–it’s usually either a one-night sleepover at the Scout headquarters (which they start in Beavers), or a weekend away at a Scout camp, in cabins. Either way, it’s a small step–a day or two away from parents instead of a week or two. One caveat: Find a group that encourages drop-offs, because some allow (or even require) parents to stay for the meetings, which would defeat the whole purpose of trying to teach your son independence.

  77. Sharon July 18, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    Drop off events are great ideas. When my daughter was 1st-3rd grade I volunteered one a year. The rest she was on her own. In 4th grade she said the moms of the younger kids could do the work. I could have a relaxing dinner alone or with my husband if he wasn’t working.

    My daughter prefers walking to the local store with other kids than by herself. She says even though she 11 people ask her annoying questions like does your mom know you are here? If she brings a friend they concentrate on the list and she is more relaxed.

  78. Katie July 18, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    I think it’s a good idea to encourage your child to do things on his own and to give him lots of opportunity to be independent. However, if he’s not ready to be independent, that’s okay, too. Still give him opportunity, and if you want him to call his friends to set up play dates or you don’t want to walk to the park with him all the time, that’s fine. But if he doesn’t want to do something on his own, don’t give him a hard time about it or put pressure on him to do something he’s not ready for. That will only make his anxiety worse.

    I would also talk to him in a non-judgmental, pressure-free way about why he doesn’t want to do these things. Maybe he’s worried his friends will say no if he calls and asks. Maybe he’s scared something will happen at the park if he’s there alone. If you can find out what is making him worry, maybe there is something you can do to alleviate his fears.

    Saying you can’t do this another month makes it sound like you want him to be free range more for you than for him. If your kid is picking up on this, maybe the reason he’s so anxious about being alone is because he feels like you’re trying to get away from him.

  79. Jen Juhasz July 18, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    Many have already posted similar thoughts. Children grow at their own pace, and props to you for wanting to encourage him become a strong independent person.
    I would suggest finding something he really wants, and then letting him have it IF he can figure out how to get it on his own. Meaning … he earns the money, but has to come up with how to earn on his own, and he buys it on his own.
    Have you seen Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close? I realize the boy in the movie has aspergers, so it is not a direct correlation, but the courage of the mom to help her son gain a massive level of confidence and independence is extremely inspiring.
    Good luck!

  80. Bridget July 18, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    There was a girl in my speech class in 7th grade that was called painfully shy. She wanted to do things but when it came time to follow through, she would seize up and shut down. Our teacher was WONDERFUL with her and he made sure we were all encouraging her. No one in our class ever made fun of her or bullied her. The day she made it up to the front and gave a speech we all cheered. Now as I look back I realize that this was far beyond “shy”. There must have been something more to it. Is there a condition or something that causes things like this?

  81. Warren July 18, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Donna, I see the problem now. You are confusing your anxiety disorder with being shy.

    Do not tell me that being shy isnt something you can out grow, or learn to beat. Just because you would rather live with it, so you can make excuses for yourself, and others, doesn’t make it fact. Makes it your choice.

    My oldest has completely wiped shyness from her life. Gone from being a shy quiet girl, to a confdent young lady that is active in theatre, community events, school and more damn friends than I can keep track of. She does not work within her shyness. She beat it.

  82. Christine Hancock July 18, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    My answer was too long to properly post here, so I wrote it on my blog.

    Most childhood fears can and should be overcome:

  83. Donna July 18, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    Yea, Warren, we understand, everyone who is not exactly like Warren has a mental disorder. You’ve said it repeatedly. It really just makes you look like the one with the mental disorder, not the rest of the world.

  84. Dean July 18, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    My guess is that like many things, this is a combination of nature and nurture – a shy child by nature who is in an environment that doesn’t foster the opposite.

    I have one child like this, and it has been a process to move him toward more independence but we have done it slowly and surely. Berating, punishing, restricting – will not help, as I suspect it will simply foster more anxiety. As others have said, modeling it for him, perhaps trying to find a more free-range child to hang out with – these things will help, as will simply time.

  85. Warren July 18, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    Have never said that Donna. But it is clear that you are confusing shyness with axiety. Because you still live with your anxiety, while my daughter has overcome and beat her shyness.

    It is rather self serving of you to proclaim that shyness is something you never get over, just to excuse your emotional issues. People overcome their shyness all the time. Sorry that you cannot.

  86. Warren July 18, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    “We change our places on that continuum in small ways but nobody goes from terribly shy to Mr. Outgoing.”
    Your words Donna, and so full of denial to support your own short comings.

    Just because you have no ambition to overcome or are just too weak to overcome, stop trying to make statements of fact, just to support your emotional weakness. Do not condemn others because you failed to beat it. Many out there including my daughter have more determination and ambition than you to overcome their shortcomings.

    And parents that are willing to just sit back and say well that is just who my child is, are doing more harm than good.

  87. Matthew July 18, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    Wow….Ok…chalk me in with the group that falls into the he’s probably fine, but maybe there’s an influence because of the environment. Some kids are naturally more cautious, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that unless it actually affects quality of life. “Normal” is a pretty big continuum. It may be worth checking in to how other kids parents are influencing him as well though. I’ve seen strangers harrass my 3 year old son on the playground telling him what he’s doing is dangerous. So I’d go with no pressure, but arranging for just spending time with more independent kids may have an influence.

    From an engineers perspective, it may be interesting to gently work on the danger with a hazard analysis in which you support and respect the fears. “Why is it dangerous if you do it alone?”….”Ok. If that’s the danger, how do we make it safe for you to do alone?” The important thing there would be to respect and not dismiss the fears.

    And Donna is spot on on introversion vs. shyness. I’m introverted but not shy, and most people figure me for an extrovert (which means people don’t get how I can be comfortable with others and still just want to be left alone). I really wouldn’t expect shy to be a fault. I expect there are advantages to be leveraged there as well. More willing to listen, awareness of social dynamics (maybe, just guessing).

  88. Emily July 18, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    @Warren–I think it’s wonderful that your daughter was able to overcome her shyness through theatre. However, I also agree with Donna–there’s a whole continuum of different personality types, from “outgoing extrovert” to “shy introvert,” and that continuum includes personality types that some people think are oxymorons, like the “shy extrovert,” who has low self-esteem, but is energized by interaction with others, and craves everyone’s approval. I think Milhouse from The Simpsons is a perfect example of this. On the other hand, I’d say that I’m an “outgoing introvert,” who’s probably more like Lisa Simpson. I’m not shy, and I can speak in public, perform on stage (I went to university for music, where I played three full solo recitals, as well as countless group performances, and smaller solo appearances as well), but I need a lot of alone time. So, while I’m not shy, and I don’t have problems interacting with others, I need to recharge my “social batteries” by spending time by myself. Honestly, I don’t think introversion is a “weakness,” or anything that needs to be “corrected,” because there are different tasks that introverts and extroverts do well. Using theatre as an example, let’s say that all the members of Free Range Kids were going to put on a production of Cinderella. Now, if everyone here was an outgoing extrovert, then everyone would want to play Cinderella or Prince Charming, and nobody would want to paint the scenery, or make the costumes, or do the lighting, or write up the programs, and the play would never happen. However, since we have people all over the personality continuum, we’d be able to have all of the components of the play covered.

  89. Warren July 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    Sorry but you just wasted your time. Nothing you said addresses what I had been talking about. Donna stated that you cannot outgrow shyness. That you will always be shy, but just coping with it. I disputed that.

    Nothing you had to say addressed that, and why direct it at me.

    Sorry if people are bothered by the fact that believe shyness is something that can be overcome and out grown. And that for the most part people love having the built in excuse. “Oh I am shy, and can never not be shy.”

    That is the cop out of the weak. There are things that cannot be overcome completely, many mental disorders, emotional disorders, and illnesses. Being shy is not one of them.

  90. steve July 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Emily, Said:

    “… I don’t think introversion is a “weakness,” or anything that needs to be “corrected,” because there are different tasks that introverts and extroverts do well.”

    So true.

    In general, extraverts don’t seem to understand introverts and think they are flawed.

    There’s a great book called:


    by Otto Kroeger and Janet M. Thuesen, published in 1988 – It examines 16 personality types. It will fascinate anyone wanting to understand personality differences.

    It will NOT fascinate anyone who thinks we should all be exactly alike.

  91. Emily July 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    Warren, maybe I wasn’t exactly clear. Maybe shyness can be outgrown, or overcome, up to a certain degree (since “shyness” has an element of “insecurity”), but introversion is different. Many introverts, like myself, aren’t actually shy, and don’t have self-esteem problems, but naturally gravitate to either solitary or small-group pastimes, than big, crowded, noisy events. So, to extend our theatre example (which I chose as an example because you mentioned it with your daughter), I’d have no problem playing the part of Cinderella in our hypothetical FRK production, but I probably wouldn’t be staying at the cast party afterwards until the wee hours of the night–in fact, I’d probably prefer to change into jeans and go home to read or watch TV instead, because the play would have put me to about my limit of social interaction for the evening. However, I wouldn’t HAVE to be Cinderella, and I’d also be fine with being the fairy godmother, or in the pit band, or painting scenery, or whatever. My “outgoing” nature could do the task, but my “introvert” side would need to recharge afterwards. An “outgoing introvert” would be ALL over that lead role, and be the life of the cast party. A “shy introvert” likely wouldn’t want to participate at all, and might choose to do something behind the scenes if pressed, and a “shy extrovert” would probably also seek a lead role, be disappointed if he or she didn’t get it, and try to adhere him-or-herself to the “outgoing extroverts,” and be “the life of the party” along with them, and feel badly if not successful.

    Anyway, I think the boy in the article might be either a “shy extrovert,” or an “outgoing introvert.” Maybe he’s insecure about doing things by himself, or maybe he isn’t, but he’d really rather play alone, but he doesn’t have the words to say so, because, besides being seven, his mother has been telling him his whole life that he isn’t “supposed” to prefer solitary time. I’m not saying that his mother shouldn’t even try, but again, small steps. That’s why I suggested Cub Scouts or another drop-off activity, instead of just turning the boy loose in the neighbourhood, or at the park, or at a sleepaway camp, because it’s a middle step. If he’s dropped off, he’d be participating independently, but in a “safe” environment, for just a few hours at a time, so he can build confidence for other experiences. Overnight camp is also structured and supervised, but it’s a 24/7 kind of deal, for anything from a week to an entire summer, and it’s harder for unhappy participants to leave. With purely independent play, you can go home, but it’s unstructured, and therefore, has the potential for bullying, etc.

    I’m not saying that every experience that isn’t perfect will scar a child for life, but for a child who isn’t ready to jump into an unknown situation right away, Cub Scouts (or theatre, or choir, or soccer, or whatever structured-but-independent activity that runs in relatively short sessions over the course of a few months, or an entire school year), could be perfect. The OP could enroll her son for any of these things in September, and he could be a lot more willing to try new things by June, or even by Christmas time. Forcing him to take the plunge right away would probably just make him even more reluctant, which is why so many people on here have advocated taking smaller steps.

  92. Emily July 18, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    P.S., On the flip side of the introvert/extrovert debate, some introverts think that most “extroverts” are loud, rude, pushy, and bossy.

  93. Warren July 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    Please read what people write a couple of times before you respond. I did not advocate tossing him to the wolves, into things he doesn’t know how to do.

    I spoke to things he knows how to do, is capable of doing and has done, but just wants mommy to do it for him. That is where you say no, and do not give in. Giving in would only be enabling.

    Is that clear enough, or do you need futher explaination.

    I agree about the intro thinking the extro is loud rude pushy and bossy. Then again, the extrovert is more likely to get their way, and move up the ladder, further and quicker.

  94. Laura July 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    Someone may have already said this – forgive me, I don’t have time to read through all the comments so far (though I wish I did!).

    I just wonder if this may be his way of asking for more connection with you – I’m absolutely not trying to say you’re doing anything “wrong”, but I wonder if you’ve tried pressing him to go do something by himself after he’s had a really truly connected period of time with you, when he might be feeling like his “mom-tank” is more full. Do you notice times where he feels more confident and outgoing (or whatever.. just different) after you’ve spent some really quality time with him? It just reminds me of what I’ve read over at about the better behavior we get after taking even a few minutes to really focus on our kids – I’ve seen that work wonders for my son (and therefore for me too!).

    Good luck!

  95. Laura July 18, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    One other thought occurred to me to explain my post above – my cats taught me something related, if you can believe it (and it has worked on my son, and even others).

    When the cats want my attention (aka won’t leave me alone), I’ve found that magically ceases if I nearly smother them with love/affection/attention – even almost literally in a physical sense! I’ll give them extra attention, even to the point of using both hands and even my body to rub them all over somewhat vigorously. Do that for just a little longer than they want it, and presto, no more pestering cats.

    My son definitely loves his mama deeply (and is the only child of a single parent), so there were times it occurred to me to try a version of the above on him – and it totally works. I try to keep his mom-tank full with pockets of relatively intense mom-time (no, i don’t give him full-body rubs, but maybe snuggles, wrestling, piggyback rides, or playful tickling!), and I find he’s so much more willing to confidently wander astray afterward.

    Just a thought – hope it helps!

  96. Emily July 18, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    @Warren–I did read people’s posts, but according to the original article, it sounds as if doing things like calling his friends to set up play dates, or going to the park by himself, or knocking on doors, ARE scary for the author’s son, because all of those situations have an “unknown” element. What if his friends say no to meeting up? Does it mean they’re mad at him, or they don’t like him? What if he says the wrong thing? What if he rings the doorbell, and nobody’s home? What if it’s a bad time and they’re upset with him? What if he goes to the park, and he’s the only one there and there’s no one to play with? What if the school bully is at the park, and has a go at him? What if he falls of the monkey bars and everyone laughs? Although he might “know how” to do these things, that doesn’t negate them being scary for him.

    That’s why I suggested something structured but independent like Cub Scouts or theatre, because that way, his mom wouldn’t be holding his hand through it, but there’d still be other adults there, and there might be some other kids who are in the same boat with him–also shy and reluctant to take initiative with things. A lot of these activities are specifically designed to help bring more reserved kids out of their shells, by giving them a safe and positive place to do so, and they start with small, manageable tasks, like leading the group in a song, or demonstrating a reef knot, or handing out the Rice Krispie Squares you made for your cooking badge. This in turn gives kids the confidence to do things like play at the park alone, and begin to manage their own social lives. Anyway, Warren, I thought you used to be a Scout leader yourself, but I must have gotten you mixed up with someone else.

  97. Shoshanna July 18, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    Hmmm…I was shy introvert when I was a kid, was a shy extrovert when I was in high school, and now I’m an outgoing extrovert who doesn’t like large crowds. Those kinds of personality traits can absolutely change over time.

    I also think it’s interesting that he’s picked 13 as the age when he can do stuff. I suspect that it’s an age that just seems really old and far away to him and it’s just his way of saying that he doesn’t feel ready yet, but thinks he will at some point in the future.

  98. Natalie July 18, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

    Bar mitzvah?

  99. Emily July 19, 2013 at 12:38 am #

    >>I agree about the intro thinking the extro is loud rude pushy and bossy. Then again, the extrovert is more likely to get their way, and move up the ladder, further and quicker.<<

    Just because society rewards loud pushiness, doesn't make it right. For example, at International House, we used to have an evening snack set up on Tuesday evenings in the dining hall, supposedly for everyone, but there were never enough of the popular items (usually donuts or snack cakes) to go around. After her first Tuesday evening at iHouse, a new student, who was the younger sister of a fellow student leader, hadn't known this. So, she politely waited her turn in the snack-cake line, and ended up with nothing. After snack, Little Sis approached my colleague, and said, "Hey, Sis, I didn't get anything at snack time, because other people pushed and shoved in front of me. Could you please get me an ice cream bar from the kitchen?" Big Sis was a high-level student leader who *maybe* could have done this, but was caught off-guard. I think I might have offered them both Popsicles that I had on hand (I lived separately in the postgrad "annex" house of iHouse), but Big Sis declined for both of them. Anyway, that exchange made me think, sometimes "Tuesday evening snack" is a microcosm of society in general, and the donuts/snack cakes could represent pretty much anything people go after in life, whether it's a promotion or a raise, a solo in community choir, or, hell, even something as small as extra cinnamon in your coffee at Starbucks.

    The only thing is, loud and pushy people make the world a much less pleasant place to be, while polite people make it nicer. On that occasion, Little Sis did exactly what she was (probably) raised to do, only to be the Nice Girl Who Finished Last, to loosely paraphrase the famous song by Green Day. However, if more people had been polite, like Little Sis, and if there had been enough snack cakes or donuts for one apiece to begin with, then Tuesday evening snack would have been a pleasant social event, rather than the chaotic melee that it would so often devolve into. I often felt the same way as Little Sis, and I'd just skip the whole thing and make myself a cup of tea at home instead. I know this sounds silly, but Tuesday evening snack sometimes reminded me of a Boxing Day sale, in miniature, but it was the same concept–put out insufficient quantities of something that everyone's going to want (whether it's donuts, or sharply discounted Blu-Ray players), and people are going to fight over it. That's why I generally avoid "Nice Guys Finish Last" situations, like Boxing Day sales, sporting events, large outdoor concerts, and any kind of "door crasher" kind of deal, where something is offered for cheap or free to the first X number of customers. Maybe the OP's son sees the playground and other "free play" situations as an NGFL kind of situation–big kids hogging the swings, or "banning" younger kids from the top of the jungle gym (like on the kids' TV show "Arthur"), girls chasing him and trying to kiss him, etc. Of course, in those situations, there's often no recourse for the proverbial "Nice Guy/Nice Girl," because even if there is an adult on the periphery, that adult's answer is often something like, "no one likes a tattletale." Well, my answer to that is, no one like a jerk either.

  100. Warren July 19, 2013 at 12:57 am #

    Okay Emily, I see what you are trying to say. Now read this carefully, because I feel noone has had the courage to tell you this. I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, or take your rose coloured glasses from you.

    Noone has ever claimed that life is fair. What you see as rude and insensitive behaviour, because someone didn’t get a donut, can be looked at totally different. You see it as domination by a loud and rude group. Because the quite, polite girl didn’t get a cake.
    I see it as, she has noone to blame but herself. If you want something in life, be it a job, raise, or just a donut, go and get it. Survival of the fittest, where the strong and smart thrive, and the weak and stupid fall behind. And yes in a group dynamic such as snack nite, to just sit back and wait, and hope that your donut will drop into your lap is weak and stupid.

    And please stop making weak ass excuses for this boy. Stop reading more into it than is already there. Not every kid, including mine is a special case that requires therapy, engineered steps to doing things. For the most part kids are just kids, and need a kick in the ass to get their butt in gear.

    I thought my buddy, an engineer, overthinks things to death. Most of the people in here are way over the top.

  101. Emily July 19, 2013 at 1:26 am #

    Warren, I think you’re being a bit condescending. I never said that I thought life was fair, so your comments about “read this carefully,” “burst your bubble,” and “rose coloured glasses” are a bit much. Also, Scouts. Guides, and theatre groups aren’t “therapy” or “engineered steps to doing things,” they’re legitimate extra-curricular activities that do wonders for kids (and sometimes even adults) of all different personality types–they just don’t consistently ignore the quiet kid on the fringes in favour of the loudmouth in the thick of everything, and I think that’s great, because who wants to be typecast at the age of seven? People can grown and change, if given the chance to do so, and co-operative activities like these are the perfect place for it. I know that it worked for me, when I was in high school–band and student government really helped me to grow as a person. However, that wasn’t their main purpose–I joined band because I liked music, and student government because I wanted to have a say in things around the school. So, with the OP’s situation, I never said she should broach it as “I’m signing you up for Cub Scouts to fix your shyness/introversion,” but rather, “I’m signing you up for Cub Scouts because I think you might like it.”

    As for life not being fair, I’m aware of that, and there’s an element of NGFL everywhere, but this boy attends school, right? Well, maybe he sees enough of that there, during gym class, or recess, or with a teacher who has a real or perceived grudge against him. Even if there’s nothing like that happening, maybe he’s simply met his “interaction quota” by the end of a typical school day, and he needs alone time to decompress. That’s not a mental disorder, and he doesn’t need therapy to “fix” it, but he doesn’t need a “kick in the ass to get his butt in gear” either. If you suspect that a child (or anyone) is an introvert, the best thing to do about it is not to give up on them, but to let them have their alone time when they need it, and don’t try to force them into being something they’re not.

  102. Emily July 19, 2013 at 1:27 am #

    P.S., My colleague’s younger sister is now a student leader herself, and she’s studying to become a lawyer, so politely waiting her turn in the snack line didn’t turn her into a weak-willed person.

  103. Warren July 19, 2013 at 1:40 am #

    That soon to be lawyer………I bet you if she wanted a donut now, she wouldn’t sit back and just hope one comes her way. I bet she would go get what she wants.

    You have come up with dozens of what ifs, that are not in evidence, so to speak. And if someone has reached their limit on interaction by the end of school, and needs to decompress, then yes they need help, because they do have problems.

    Please Emily, grow up, join real life. This whole warm and fuzzy thing you have going is getting really tired.

    Emily, do not, I repeat do not proceed to tell me what the best thing to do with a child under any circumstances,unless you can produce a degree in child psyche, because you admit to not being a parent. Again like the lifeguarding, you may have read books, but you have no experience. Your zero to my over 40 years of parenting. Two 14 yr olds, and a 22 yr old. Been there done the shy thing, and yes the kick in the ass worked awesome.

    Back to the lawyer to be…………if she is still waiting and does not get her donut……no it does not make her weak…….it makes her stupid.

  104. hineata July 19, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    @Emily – as someone with 41 years parenting experience, should I bother to total my children’s ages (which I seldom do, because it makes little sense to, but I will make an exception here), may I say that I enjoy reading your comments, and while I do not agree with everything you have to say every time, you make many valid points, and have certainly done so in this thread. I hope you do have children in the future, as, if the careful thought you put into your comments is anything to go by, I think you’ll do a great job! 🙂

    @Donna et al- the introvert/extrovert thing is interesting. My son and younger daughter are introverts who aren’t shy – just like all introverts, they simply need ample alone or quieter time to recharge their energy. Middle girl is an extrovert, and she was shy, in part due to difficulty at her first school. She as able to overcome that to a certain extent, and she now is a lot happier about life, but I imagine that she will probably have to continue working on it. I certainly have had to.

    I think the op’s son will do just fine given time and small doses of independence. That’s where siblings can be an advantage, as you have someone to go on errands etc with, but a neighbour or friend could fill the same role. 🙂

  105. Suzanne July 19, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    I have 3 children and the youngest is 7 now and I think his behavior is perfectly normal for his age. If he won’t go off to the playground by himself then he should be playing in the backyard by himself. I saw several people who said it’s not because he’s an only child and I’m going to disagree. The dynamics are different when you have siblings and if he had a sibling close in age to him then he’d have someone to go to the playground with and wouldn’t be having this issue to start with.

    The best thing to do is let him explore as he wants. He won’t go 4 or 5 blocks to the playground but will he ride his bike to the corner and back? Will he play in the backyard by himself? Those are good signs that he’ll get to the playground eventually. In another year or so he’ll be able to make plans with other kids to meet at the playground. Also, if he is shy to start with he may not want to go the playground by himself because it isn’t fun to him. Most adult don’t really like going social places alone (like the playground for kids) so it actually makes more sense that he doesn’t want to go than if he did.

  106. Andy July 19, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    When it came to overcome my shyness, I started to smoke. Smoker can come to another smoker, safely ask for fire or cigarette and discussion flows from there naturally. Even better, if other smokers seen me smoke, they often did that first step themselves.

    Prior smoking, I was much more lonely and had hard time to find friends when on camp or elsewhere. Unless other kid initiated discussion, I would spend them without finding someone to talk to.

    I want to say that if the kid is simply forced into uncomfortable social situation, the kid will not necessary find strategies to overcome shyness. It may as well happen that the kid will simply have bad time and that will be it.

    It may also happen that if the kid finally finds working strategy, that strategy will not be as healthy as you would hope to.

  107. Emily July 19, 2013 at 8:45 am #


    1. A six-hour school day (or, an eight-hour work day), is a pretty long time to be surrounded by other people with no time to be alone, so I really don’t think a person needing to decompress after that has a “problem.” Let’s take the “kid” thing out of the equation, because there are definitely adults who feel the same way. If Alan and Bob work at the same place, and Alan usually goes to happy hour after work; whereas Bob goes home for some down time instead, then neither of them are wrong, they just have different preferences. So, I didn’t limit my statement about introverts to children–I believe that the best thing to do for ANY introvert, of ANY age, is to accept them as they are.

    2. I don’t have a degree in “child psyche” (or, did you mean “child psychology”), but I do have many years of experience working with children. Not forty, because I haven’t been alive for that long, but enough that I do know something about what I’m talking about. I’ve been working with children off and on, in one capacity or another, since I was eleven or twelve, and I’m 29 now. So, I don’t have “zero experience” with kids.

    3. As for the donut story, my colleague’s sister didn’t just “sit back and wait for a donut,” she politely lined up to get one, as she was told to do. Tuesday evening snack always began with lining up, but that system only works if there are enough donuts to go around, hence the pushing and shoving that would ensue. Eventually, most people learned to stake out a spot near the front of the line by the dining hall doors, but they didn’t actively push and shove, because most people there were friends, or at least on good terms, and it just wasn’t polite.

    4. Further to #3, not everything is Serious Business. It’s not imperative to push and shove for a donut–I just used that as a “Nice Guys (or Girls) Finish Last” analogy. Likewise, it’s not imperative for the OP’s son to have to push and shove his way to the top of the jungle gym, or attempt to single-handedly stand up to two or three older kids hogging the swings (if that’s what’s happening), if there are other things he’d rather do in his FREE TIME. Not everything is a vital lesson, or an adversity that has to be overcome, and that’s a good thing, because if it was, life would be incredibly difficult–just one struggle after another.

    5. Warren, please grow up, and join real life. The “everyone must be exactly like Warren” thing you have going is really tired.

  108. Matthew July 19, 2013 at 9:33 am #


    Nice points. If I may add one additional, even in areas where there is Serious Business, the attitude of crushing the “weak”, and the “strong” should just take what they want, is foolish and childish. I routinely beat out the “Warrens” of the world for promotions and jobs because I have more success. I have a strong personality, but not pushy, and and look out for and accept different personality types. As an example, if I have a smart, quiet person on my team I’ll coach and practice with them before a meeting, and make the loudmouths shut up so they will be heard. What this means is that I have highly motivated people working shoulder to shoulder with me while the ones that see subjugation as the way to go have people doing the absolute minimum for them, and miss out on utilizing the capabilities of the less aggressive ones, or if they compose their team of all subjugation types, back stabbing and power struggles. Nice guys may finish last in low priority items, but they are well positioned to finish first when it counts, and without going all Ayn Rand.

  109. Warren July 19, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    If 4 workers take 20 hrs to complete a task, was the job done in 20 hrs, or 80 hrs? From someone that bills out for hourly labour, it took 80hrs. Sorry for logic to replace simple math.
    You have never met, not spoke with me. To think you could be anything other than my eggs for breakfast, is laughable. When I read your comments, I found the same trends as with most insecure people, that they need to put words in other people’s mouths to feel better about themselves. Never ever tried to crush the weak, but refuse to feel sorry for them, as they choose that path. And sir, I will stack my record of being an employer, and employee treatment against yours anyday. As a matter of fact there is no reason ever, logically to crush a weaker anything, as they are not a threat or obstacle. On the other hand I do love taking people like you down a few pegs, just for the fun of it. I love those that think they are stronger and smarter than they actually are.

  110. Warren July 19, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    Emily, you are sweet, but stay on point.
    1. You originally posed that the child reached his interaction limit, and HAD to decompress. Your working man scenario, is about personal choice. Apples and oranges. But to stay on your example, if either man HAD to drink or go home for solitude every night, because they had reached their limit……………then yes they have issues.
    2. On and off? By comparison, still zip on the real life experience. Some of your ideas in the past have been great, but for the most part they are the ideas of the idealistic, with no real life experience.
    3 To still do what you always do, and expect a different outcome, is sitting back and waiting. If the golden donut was really desire, go after it. To not get something because one chooses to not go after it, no matter what the moral reason, excludes them from complaining about it. You want it, get it,
    4. For the simple fact that there will always be bullies, or those that try to deny people whatever, you are damn right it is imperative for any child to grow some backbone, and thicker skin. Otherwise they will be on the losing end more often than not.
    5. No not everyone has to be like me, but the world would be better off if they were.

  111. pentamom July 19, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    Oh, we’re going to make this a contest?

    87 parent-years here, with an oldest child the same age as Warren’s oldest, and Warren’s at least 60% wrong.

  112. Emily July 19, 2013 at 11:44 am #


    1. I just chose “happy hour” because it’s a social thing. Maybe that was a bad example–maybe I should have said, “suppose Alan and Bob both go to the gym after work, but Alan goes with a group of friends, and Bob prefers to exercise alone, either in the cardio room with his iPod on, or swimming in the pool.” Is that a better comparison for you? Or, suppose Alan plays hockey/golf/poker/World of Warcraft after work, while Bob goes home to be with his wife and his dog, or watch a favourite TV show. My point is, all of those choices for things to do during your spare time, are perfectly valid. Likewise, the child who’d rather read, draw, play Legos, practice a musical instrument, etc., after school, is perfectly entitled to that preference, just like the child who’d rather go to the park with friends.

    2. When I said I’d worked with kids “on and off” since I was eleven or twelve, some of those “on” times were for a few years at a stretch. I know you have more experience with kids than I do, but you always will, because you’re a lot older than me. It’s not fair to say that you’re always right, and I’m always wrong, based on that.

    3. I don’t know how badly this girl wanted a donut, but honestly, the overall purpose of Tuesday evening snack was to get people together to socialize, and the “push and shove to get a donut” mentality kind of undercut that. In the end, I think the student leader team ended up simply buying more donuts, which disappeared the fastest, and fewer meat pies, which most people were “meh” about (since we’d already had dinner). Later, we abandoned Tuesday snack altogether, in favour of Sunday barbecues, which were more relaxed. So, yeah, you’re right–it doesn’t make sense to repeat the same action, and expect a different outcome. Since buying X number of donuts for 2X or 3X number of people didn’t work, then the student leader team changed how we did things.

    4. There might “always be bullies,” but in my mind, that’s no reason to contribute to the problem by also being one.

    5. I’ll have to agree to disagree about Warren World being a utopian ideal. I’d rather have diversity.

    @Matthew–you made a lot of good points. I just wanted to add one thing–since you said that “Nice Guys Finish Last” in a lot of trivial situations (the donut example, kids on the playground, etc.), but “Nice Guys Finish First” when it counts (all your examples with how you do things at work, helping people with all different personality types work together), well, unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way when you’re seven. Kids that age simply don’t have enough life experience to have encountered true Serious Business yet. So, their range of experience might include the pushy kids at school hogging the swings all recess, the pushy older siblings hogging the X-Box all weekend, and all the while, their parents and teachers are telling them to be nice, be polite, take turns, etc. To a little kid, that message must be incredibly confusing.

  113. Warren July 19, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    Debating with you is like banging your head against a brick wall. It feels so good when you stop. Phew.

    Your examples and deductions make no sense. For example how is getting your kid to be more confident, and stand up for himself, contributing to bullying.

    Also, I cannot cut all the what if scenarios that run thru you worst first mind, that the OP never mentioned. You are basing everything on fantasy and assumption.

    And ROTFLMAO, at the Nice Guys Finish First in situations that count. That is not an absolute. I can guarantee you that in business, sometimes more than not, nice guys finish behind aggressive people. You may not like their tactics or methods, but they work.

  114. Emily July 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    @Warren–Getting your kid to be more confident and stand up for him-or-herself, isn’t contributing to bullying, but there are limits. “May I please use the swing?” is fine. “Hey, you’ve been on that swing for a long time now, and I’d like a turn,” is also fine. Asking an adult to enforce fair turns (in a recess or supervised playground outing situation), is fine. Shoving the other kid off the swing, is not fine. If a child is faced with another kid who doesn’t respond to words, then, well, I don’t think shoving is the answer. What usually happens (and I’ve seen this), is, when Timmy shoves Tommy off the swing, Tommy gets up and shoves Timmy back, and the whole thing turns into a physical altercation, and besides people getting hurt, neither child is really getting what they want. However, if the kids are taught to take turns and play fair, then stuff like this doesn’t happen. Even without bullying, it sounds like the OP’s son is just a more reserved child, and that’s fine, because there are activities for kids like that, that give the quiet kids a fair chance right along with the more outgoing ones. Some examples include Scouts/Guides, equal-opportunity sports leagues, community theatre, and the music camp that my pianist friend and I started. Signing a child up for an activity that you think he or she will enjoy, and benefit from, isn’t “coddling,” it’s knowing your child. Besides, who knows? A year of Beavers or Cub Scouts at seven, might make the OP’s son into a life-of-the-party, mini-Warren type by age eight, which is supposedly an ideal outcome, right?

  115. Emily July 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    P.S., I just realized that I forgot to mention what WOULD be a good independent coping tool for a child who wants something that another child is deliberately hogging. I think there are two approaches:

    SHORT-TERM: Waiting Child disengages with Selfish Child, and goes to play with something else. Selfish Child sees that Waiting Child isn’t taking the bait, and relinquishes the desired item voluntarily.

    LONG-TERM: Adult enforces fair turns. Kids grow up with this mindset, and after a while, it’s the older kids enforcing appropriate sharing, while the younger kids follow their lead. I’ve seen this work too. When I was a kid, back when school playgrounds still had swings, the standard operating procedure was to count to 100 for each turn. For a fifteen-minute recess, this system was as close to fair as it was possible to get.

  116. Ellie July 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Wow. I hope Warren didn’t raise his kids with the same judgmental attitude and name-calling (lazy, stupid, weak) that he invokes with other people’s kids and parenting styles.

    Or do you just enjoy being the provocateur?

    The original LW’s son is seven, for crying out loud. Give the kid, and the mom, a break. It’s swell your child outgrew her shy demeanor by growing up to be outgoing and involved, but I doubt she was able to do that at 7. And I doubt she would be able to do it by being ridiculed, picked on, and judged.

    Try to be a little more compassionate, the way most of the people are on this site, who are giving well-meaning advice, not all of which might be pertinent or effective for the family, but you can disagree without being so snarky and self-righteous.

  117. Matthew July 19, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    I agree. It can be confusing getting mixed messages when other parents are teaching them to just take what they want. We have to be upfront and not let them learn an exclusive survival of the fittest mentality, and teach them. You’re right in your 1:04 post.

    It’s actually pretty amazing how young kids can learn fair play. My son is 3 years old. He’s fearless but not aggressive. I was very proud of him on the playground a few weeks ago when a 2 year old was slow going up the stairs to the slide and a bigger kid (unsure of age. Much bigger, but slower and aggressive…might have had “issues”?) tried to push past. My son locked onto the railing, preventing him passing, stared him in the eye, and said “It’s the little girl’s turn”, and made sure she was allowed to slide without hindrance, and gain the confidence to be faster in the future, and the other kid learned he can’t always just shove past and get what he wants (maybe). She also learned people work together, and there are and always will be people willing to stand up for what’s right. She may have even learned to stand up for others, and in a year or two will take the same stand. We never hid from him there are “Bad people”, but pointing out the smiles on other kids faces when he helps them has him more confused as to why people would choose to be mean.

    He got a similar lesson a couple weeks ago at my Aunt’s. She rescues abused dogs, and had one that was aggressive and had to be in a cage while we were there. My son asked why he was trying to bite, so we explained people before were mean to him, and he didn’t have any friends, so he was angry. His response was “Aunt Dawn is his friend now. He’ll be happy soon”

    I’m guessing Warren got shoved to the side and there was no one like my son around and so has decided no one should ever be helped, ever. There will always be some that get shoved aside since we can’t be perfect, but there will always be people willing to stand up for what’s right, and teach others to do the same.

    That’s part of why we can be free range. Not because our 6 year olds can fight off a predator, but because most people are decent and can be trusted to help. We trust most people to drive responsibly, so we can teach our kids to cross the road, but we prosecute those doing so recklessly. We don’t fear what might happen, but we deal with something aggressively when there’s something real. Even “I’m going to go out and kick this world’s dangerous butt” is a fear based response style.

    Changing oneself because other people are jerks or because we want something is its own form of weakness. Making a decision that engaging jerks to gain something isn’t worth it is a simple cost benefit analysis like any other, and doing it consciously is a strength and demonstrates self-awareness. Sometimes the return on investment is there, sometimes it’s not, and that cost/benefit is very individual.

    Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe in personal improvement. I just think we should target our improvements because of who we want to be, not what we want to have.

    Warren – “5. No not everyone has to be like me, but the world would be better off if they were.”

    Um…no. Diversity is a great thing. I’m extremely happy with who I am and am deliberate about it, and some people like me is an amazing positive for the world. But the same can also be said of people very different from me (maybe even you if you’re different off the computer), and a world of nothing but people like me would be miserable. Thinking everyone should be like you is a lack of self awareness I haven’t seen on that level since…well….ever.

  118. Emily July 19, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    @Matthew–Yes!!! Cost-benefit analysis is exactly the point I was trying to get across. My colleague’s sister didn’t push and shove for a donut, because she was secure in knowing that her older sister, or any one of us on the student leader team, would help her out (like when I offered them both Popsicles from my house), but also for another bigger reason. It was her first time at Tuesday evening snack at iHouse, she was still warming up to the place, and she probably (rightly) figured that brawling her way through the crowd at snack time might have gotten her a donut that day, but it wouldn’t have won her any friends in the long run.

  119. Emily July 19, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    P.S., Matthew, your son sounds awesome, and so does your aunt. 🙂

  120. Warren July 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    You may hold a little more credibilty, had you recognized the sarcasm in #5. Selective reading of a mindless simpleton.

    And I never got shoved aside. While others were kissing the boo boos, I was going to address the person doing the shoving, to make sure it doesn’t continue. So you all keep treating the symptoms, and us aggressive ones will go after the causes.

    And somebody please buy Emily a damn donut so she will shut up.

  121. Matthew July 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    You’ve said more than once in a serious fashion that everyone should be more like you. For your claim that it was sarcasm to be taken seriously, you would have had to avoided setting a precedent in your previous statements you were serious.

    How a troll backtracks…..

    “Oh crap! People realized I said something so arrogant and stupid I can’t defend it!”

    “Ummmm…I was just kidding…why couldn’t you tell? It’s all your fault….”

    And now you claim you didn’t get shoved, but you went to confront the person doing the shoving to prevent it. Above you said the “weak” were undeserving of sympathy, and should learn to be tough and take care of themselves. Did you start off with decent empathetic principles and lack the intestinal fortitude to stick with it? Are you now bragging about a behavior with which you now disagree?

    Also, look up false dichotomy. One can kiss the boo-boos and address the root cause to prevent it happening again. That is a logical fallacy that is truly the mark of the weak-minded. Nearly everyone here is advocating teaching the bullies to behave and the bullied to find ways to deal with the aggressors while also expressing empathy towards the bullied. The different approaches are not mutually exclusive, and in fact are synergistic. Smarter, more capable, people can handle taking more than one action at a time.

  122. hineata July 19, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    @Warren – you were the one doing the foolish addition of ages business to start with, so all I can say is, “What?” Unless you are sixty, which I am sure from previous posts you are not, no way you have forty years of parenting experience in a chronological sense.

    @Pentamom way to go! Often wish I’d had a couple or three more kids, but was too old when I started, lol!Make do with taking other kids out with mine as much as I can, though probably shouldn’t admit it, might be considered some kind of bizarre disease these days… 🙂

    @Matt – you sound like an excellent boss. All the best.

    @Emily – I actually have some donuts at home, thanks to my quiet, introvert son picking them up from the airport in Auckland on his way back from a conference about universities. Many years ago he wasn’t particularly keen on going places alone, but he grew out of that. Wish I could pass one along to you, you probably need the sugar rush after the silly comments you’ve had to plow through 🙂

  123. Emily July 19, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    @Warren–That wasn’t “selective reading of a mindless simpleton,” that was the simple fact that the printed word isn’t a good medium for sarcasm. There’s no facial expression, tone of voice, or anything to indicate that you’re being anything but sincere. With most people, I’d assume that “The world would be better if everyone was like me” was a sarcastic comment, but with you, well, judging by some of the things you’ve said on here, I wasn’t quite sure. I think Matthew was probably thinking along the same lines.

    As for the “forty years of parenting experience” thing, I got what you meant–I figured that you weren’t counting chronologically, but rather, one year as one year per kid–so, under your system, if someone raised two kids to age 18, they’d have 36 years of parenting experience. So, to be fair, I understood what you meant, even if some others might not have. Either way, raising three or four children, like you did, is quite a feat. Maybe I don’t say that enough.

    As for the “donut” comment, I don’t really like donuts that much–I just used the “donut incident” example at International House as an analogy of the “Nice Guys/Girls Finish Last” phenomenon. Actually, the reason why it stood out to me is because iHouse is mostly a positive place (and incredibly Free-Range too, with multiple initiatives run by residents–for example, I taught yoga, and a fellow mentor of mine coached the soccer team). So, the pushing and shoving at Tuesday evening snack was really out of character with that.

    @Matthew–I second what Hineata said. If I could, I’d come and work for you in a heartbeat.

  124. hineata July 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    How irritating, I actually didn’t read one of our ‘friend’s’ post properly, but never mind, I still have an extra year of parenting experience, as foolish as adding the time may be. And I bow to pentamom’s considerably greater experience.

    Have a nice day, everyone. I myself do like doughnuts, so had better go and get another before my forty-one years worth of kids finish the box 🙂

  125. Warren July 19, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

    I guess I just treat my children differently than most of you. Each one is an individual, and a year spent with one is not the same as a year spent with another or the other.. So in fact it is like having 3 yrs rolled into one. Just my take on it.

  126. K July 19, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    Having read comments, I’m not so sure that shyness is something that needs to be “fixed” or outgrown. As long as the shyness and/or introversion isn’t debilitating, what’s wrong with it? Not everyone can be a leader. I see nothing wrong with being a follower if that’s your natural inclination.

    My super outgoing and confident eight year old made his first communion this year and was chosen to do one of the readings. Right before he was due to go up, he leaned over and whispered to me, “mom, I’m a little scared.” If he wasn’t scared, I’d be worried about him. There were hundreds of people in the church, all looking at him. There are lots of adults who wouldn’t be able to speak in front of such a crowd. I told him it was normal to be nervous and to do it like he did in practice and he’d be fine. He was. I feel like if I had disparaged him for being nervous, or told him to man up, he would have been not fine.

    My two children are very different. My daughter isn’t as outgoing and fearless as her brother. It would be unfair for me to compare them to each other, and it is equally unfair for Gina to compare her son to herself at the same age. Se needs to respect the difference and have realistic expectations.

  127. hineata July 20, 2013 at 2:02 am #

    @Warren – am going to take your last comment seriously, as it raises an interesting point. My children are all individuals too, but as I am raising them at the same time, in the same house, and learning from the older and applying some of those lessons to the younger, I do not consider myself to have forty-one years experience. By that way of working, as a teacher who is ‘in loco parentis’ for several hours a day for twenty-thirty kids at a time, over many years in different classes, I have several hundred years experience with kids – for some of my colleagues, this would extend into thousands of years.

    You have mentioned in the past that your children came are stepchildren, and came into your life later on. If arrangements in Canada are anything like they are in New Zealand, I would assume you did/do not necessarily have the kids with you all the time. This might cause you to see raising them as separate units, as they may not be all with you at once. My kids have nowhere else to go – they are stuck with me and hubby!

    This is not to denigrate step-parents or parents with shared custody, merely wondering if such arrangements lead to more individual time for kids in their different households.

  128. Warren July 20, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    Actually hineata, take off five yrs for my stepdaughter. I forget to do that myself. After 20 yrs of being her only Dad we seem to forget about the first five yrs.

    You need clarification. Her donor dad, never went for any custody, no visits, no child support, no contact, no nothing When she was 18 he mailed a birthday card to her grandparents. He made the assumption they had not moved. When she got the card, she went and got a pen. Wrote something in it. She mailed it back to him the next day. She told me somedays later what she wrote.

    “You must have mistaken me for someone else. I know who my Dad is.”

    So hineata you can do the math anyway you want, I really don’t give a rat’s ass if you understand or not. I guess I just value my time with my family more than you.

  129. Uly July 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Warren, if you think everybody here is so stupid, why are you still here? Why do you care so very much about what we think about you? Why are our comments such a big deal to you and so very important?

  130. hineata July 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    @Warren, I really should have known better. My mistake.

    @Uly – the man must be fairly unfulfilled in some major ways. The only people I personally know who engage in this type of vitriol on a regular basis are pretty sad cases.

    Never mind, must go and spend some time with that family of mine, though of course I don’t value them as much as Warren values his, poor things.

    Lol 🙂

  131. gail July 20, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    You know, you should just let him be… My older child has always liked or should I say thrived on independence, riding the subway alone from the age of ten for instance, while the second one, at 9 yrs old, is extremely uncomfortable even just walking a very, very short distance alone. On the other hand, that same child will get along very well with a group of adults and act very responsibly in most situations — that’s a child who will very confidently answer the phone and take messages for example. Maybe YOU should try and make a list of the things your child DOES know/do. You should, of course, not go out of your way to arrange playdates etc but you should not “punish” the child either for their unwillingness to do things by themselves. I truly believe one or two years from now your child’s attitude will have changed. Just give that kid time.

  132. Emily July 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    Warren…….you told such a nice story about your stepdaughter, and then ruined it by telling Hineata that you cared about your family more than she did. I think it’s awesome that you both love your kids, and your families, and it doesn’t have to be a competition.

  133. pentamom July 20, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    hineata — in a way, I think someone who has raised (for example) two kids for 10 years, has more experience than someone who has raised one child for that same length of time, just because more kid-related scenarios come up and need to be dealt with. However, I agree, it doesn’t really translate to a 1 for 1, even if you do “treat your kids like individuals” (as though anyone with enough interest to come to comment on a parenting site doesn’t do that or get that it needs to be done.)

    I actually do count “kid years” in total the way Warren counts billable hours, but more in fun than anything else.

  134. hineata July 20, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    @Pentamom – I think if I had as much experience as you do, I would too, 🙂 . Good on you! I must try and work out how many years my uncle and aunty with the 18 kids put in – at 16 years a kid (times were tougher then!) that goes to ….288.

    Unbelievable 🙂

  135. Warren July 21, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    @hineata, and pentamom

    I would not discount any of your years as parents, no matter how you account for them. It is surprising though. I would never figured either one of you capable of math beyond adding single digits. Impressive ladies.

  136. Emily July 21, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    >>@hineata, and pentamom I would not discount any of your years as parents, no matter how you account for them. It is surprising though. I would never figured either one of you capable of math beyond adding single digits. Impressive ladies. – <<

    See, this is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. Even comments that start out nice, finish off with an insult.

  137. pentamom July 21, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Well, Warren, thanks for giving us a nice, clear picture of your perceptivity and judgment abilities, not to mention the way in which you go about forming your ideas about things you know little about.

  138. Warren July 21, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    You are correct, and have my apologies. I should not comment on things I know little about. Absolutely. For all I know you all needed to use a calculator to do the math. I should not have assumed you could do it on your own.

  139. science mom July 21, 2013 at 11:26 pm #

    It could be that your son has clinical anxiety or some other psychological issue that is making this difficult for him. I have a child with OCD and anxiety and as a result, any change is extremely difficult for him. THe statement about “when he is 13” sounds to me like something of this sort may be going on. Also it could be that he is equating your allowing him to do things on his own with abandonment. Make it very clear and obvious that it is not that you want to be rid of him or don’t care, but that you of course love him and will miss him and will even worry a bit, but you know he is OK and it is good for you both for him to go off on his own at times. Remember he may have heard other parents talking about those “selfish parents” who abandon their children.

  140. TW Andrews July 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    It could be that this is his method of acting out. It’s something that’s obviously important to you, and given him a very easy way to push your buttons.

    Maybe try pushing him little less in obvious ways and find situations where he can be independent that play to his strengths.

  141. Gina (The Mom) July 22, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    Thank you everyone! I haven’t gotten to the end of this thread yet, but so far it is helping me in so many ways. So lad to have a community that can relate and help with this! 🙂

  142. Quinoa July 23, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    Okay, I know this is old, but I feel like I have to respond. I was a shy child, and I think most of these are shy child issues, not free-range issues. Children have varying levels of shyness, so just because something worked for you doesn’t mean it will work for him. I was a very shy child.

    I don’t think he is trying to get attention or has a learning disability. He’s not being lazy or selfish.

    I would not push him too much. The suggestions of starting small are good ones, but don’t force anything. I can see your logic in refusing to schedule play dates. I can see where you would think that he would start doing it on his own, but he’s shy, not lazy. You know your kid best, but I think it’s more likely that he just won’t have play dates, if he’s afraid of talking to other people on the phone. I didn’t call my friends and set up play dates regularly until I was around 12. It’s hard for people to understand, but phones are problematic for a lot of shy children. Try suggesting to him that he just talk to one of his friends on the phone for awhile, instead of setting up play dates. If that’s too much, start by having him talk to YOU on the phone. Even though I was afraid of calling with a specific agenda, I would talk on the phone to my friends for hours when I was that age.

    Brandi said it perfectly, I think, and I like Dave’s suggestion. I didn’t go places on my own much at that age, because I was shy, but I did go places with my brother.

    Be patient. Go slow. Encourage independence, but don’t force it. And don’t EVER yell at him about something relating to his shyness, because that will make it worse. I’m glad you’re asking for advice about this. After reading some of these comments, I now see how fortunate I was to have had parents who didn’t push me to be independent.

  143. D July 26, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    What would being an only child have to do with shyness? Most of the only children I know are outgoing.

  144. Jacob Hugart July 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Don’t be surprised if it takes a while. I recall my mom, back in the early 1980s, telling me that if I wanted to have pizza delivered for dinner, that I had to make the phone call and order it. I would have been 11 or 12 at the time. However, I did it, and learned not to worry about it.

    Some things just take time to develop.

  145. lucy gigli July 29, 2013 at 1:26 am #

    Don’t know if this has been said yet, but try having him go places with a friend. My 11yo son is pretty hesitant to go anywhere, even though he is capable. It is a stretch and difficult for him if he doesn’t have VERY strong motivation. However, when he has a friend over, they go all over the place.


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