Nice to hear from you again. Thank you for requesting me.
True, I do not know your son personally, but I worked with many, many boys his age, have a boy very near his age myself... and have struggled with issues like this with my own children.
First things first: Boys present their own unique issues in parenting. And, contrary to a lot of psychological material that I have read they seem very easy to parent in some areas but hard in others. The hardest area: Social expectation of maturity. (More on this in second.)
Some boys just seem to struggle tremendously with social-educational demands. They act shy, even reclusive, reluctant to try new things, and sometimes seem afraid of experiences that at their ages should be easy to face....Well, as a parent, sometimes you just wonder if everything is okay or not.
My take on this.
I feel you made a very good choice to hold your son back. He will benefit greatly from the added time he now has to mature and develop emotionally. And that is what I feel is being shown here, simple maturity issues, not a significant developmental problem.
Why? He likes to do things outside, with the people he chooses, so overall socialization is good. But he shows some emotional immaturity, like crying and having a difficult time with a social demand like first day of school or participation in a parentally desired activity. This is sometimes referred to as a emotional dysregulation related to maturity. In simple terms, he is younger than his chronological years in his ability to regulate his emotions.
Is this some thing to be worried about? Not really. I am almost willing to bet the farm that this issue will be greatly diminished with maturity and that he grows up to be a sensitive and intelligent man. The traits he is showing seem in line with an introspective personality, and those types tend to be a bit slower to mature and respond to social requests than the more overt types. But, by the time he is a young adult he will should be stellar, of that I have little doubt.
What to do in the meantime? Nothing wrong with reinforcement of "social courage". If you do this thing, son, you will get this reward. That pattern is life quite honestly, and there is nothing wrong with an application of reward for a desired behavior as long as it is used occasionally and reserved for larger goals.
He does not sound at all like he has self esteem issues. Instead, he seems a bit anxious to me, a personality that underneath all the seeming insecurity is actually quite demanding of his own performance. I would guess he is actually quite concerned with how he performs, and tries to simplify his social choices so he does not disappoint you or himself. A new opportunity to you may be a big stressor to him because he is not sure he can succeed. But time will cure that problem, and as far as being abnormal? Not at all. He is fairly typical for a good percentage of boys. I have seem this, a lot.
He does need structure at home. Rules and following process at home is good for his maturity. Praise, from you and others, is needed as well. But he must earn it and that comes by making some home expectations, iron clad. But some have to be more flexible, especially those outside of the home. That is because he is a boy, and forcing him to be more extroverted is rough. Boys will often rebel or withdraw if this bar is set too high. And, at seven, he has years left in him to work through these more complex social issues.
Some boys tend to avoid organized social exchanges like the proverbial dentist, yet they do need some of them in their lives. So, an event or two that is required is not a bad idea. But, for a good while, those events should be group events. Solo activities such as talent shows and similar can take the confidence right out of a boy rather than increase it. But group activities, no issues there. And, like it or not, he should have some exposure to them.
Your parenting style sounds well balanced and secure. Those two things are terrific and encourage social maturity and emotional balance. I think you can relax about your style of parenting causing any of these struggles. Honestly, all children should be so fortunate, as you give him both slack and structure, which is what children need.
Bot***** *****ne: Your son seems like he has some issues with brain maturity, specifically prefrontal cortex control. No big deal. About 1/3 of boys do anyway. So foster that in increase in maturity with organized structure; some demand for social activity (if he can choose one choice between two + activities, the better.) And continue to praise and encourage him. I feel he is sensitive to his own performance so so not hesitate to tell him that he is valued no matter what. But time here is his best friend. As he grows he will mature out of this phase and will stabilize into a thoughtful and caring young man.
As a final thought: Some research shows that Omega 3 Fatty Acid helps speed brain maturity in boys. Some studies contradict this. But as s children often find a way to avoid this substance in their diets it doesn't hurt to ask a pediatrician if he could take a daily dose. My one child does and I feel it has helped him. It is worth asking about. You are doing well and I see no issues with parenting. Keep steady and time will do the rest here.
My personal best to you and your family. Steven