Shyness is pretty common amongst children. It’s estimated that between 20% and 48% of children have shy personalities. Shy kids are typically thoughtful, self-reliant, and empathetic, but often don’t like trying new things. They are often slow to warm up and take longer to adjust to a new situation. These children may want to be social, but avoid approaching others because they’re afraid or don’t know-how. Bernardo Carducci, Ph.D., director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast says “It’s important that they approach situations at their pace, not your own”.
Most shy kids are simply born that way, although negative experiences can also play a major role. Did your outgoing child become shy suddenly? If so, an event might have triggered it, and they may need help getting past it. Shyness can include tension, apprehension, fear, and anxiety. You should get professional advice if your child:
- Doesn't go to school
- Has trouble making friends
- Frets about going to birthday parties or sports practice
- Is anxious about being shy
How can you tell if your child is shy or not?
A very shy child might show a combination of the following behaviours when in an unfamiliar place or situation:
- They rarely speak voluntarily.
- They don’t respond when an adult or peer asks them a question.
- They follow directions but don’t respond verbally to them.
- When they talk, they usually speak in a very soft, quiet voice.
- They turn away when others try to talk to them and make little or no eye contact.
- They often look at the ground.
- They watch other children play, but don’t join in.
- They look tense, distracted, or worried.
- They might refuse to enter a new place without a parent.
What are the possible causes of shyness?
The causes of shyness among children have not been demonstrated adequately to justify any firm statements on the issue. However, shyness experts identify the following as possible causes
a) Genes predisposing a person to shyness
b) Poor acquisition of social skills
c) A less than a firm bond between the parent and child
d) Parents, siblings, or others harshly and frequently teasing or criticizing a child
How to help your child overcome shyness?
As a parent, you can gently encourage your child to become more outgoing. Keep in mind that children aren’t being shy out of stubbornness, so they shouldn’t be punished for shy behaviour. Instead, consider dealing with shyness as any other learning process, such as learning to read. The key is to be gentle, patient, and understanding with your child as you boost their confidence.
The following tips will help you deal with your child’s Shyness:
- Don’t give them the tag of being “shy” – Be careful, avoid using the word “shy” for your child while talking about them with others, and don’t let anyone label your child as “shy” either. Because children tend to live up to the tags that other people give them. You can use lines like “Shivani likes to think things through before rushing in” or “Hitesh likes to listen to others before sharing his views”.
- Children learn from adults – Your child learns social skills by watching you so model the kind of interactions you want to encourage; be warm and friendly with other people you know, ask for help, introduce yourself to other people, give compliments, and thank others for their time.
- Boost your little one's self-esteem – Use descriptive praise to clearly identify specific behaviours that you value like “You said hi even though you felt nervous. That was really brave”. It will help your child to develop an inner sense of achievement and pride.
- Make them do little things – What may seem like a simple activity can actually give confidence to your child. Activities like, have your child pay the cashier when you go out for shopping, let your child place the order to the waiter. This will give them an opportunity to take control of the situation as they will be the ones in charge.
- Follow your child’s interest – Children make friends by doing fun things together. If your child loves any activity like drawing, then they will have something to do and talk about with their peers. Some shy children just need help getting over the initial hump. Any favourite activity can serve as a bridge.
- Listen patiently and express empathy – Encourage your children to talk about their fears and try to empathize. Tell them that you can see they’re feeling shy and that even you feel that way sometimes. Share stories about times when you overcame your own shyness.
Some children may benefit substantially from the regular application of a few of the strategies listed above. I suggest trying as many strategies as possible for at least a month or two and continuing with those that seem promising with a particular child. Many of the strategies are worth continuing because they are just principles of good parenting. Be patient with your child. It will take some time for reputations to change. People may not notice immediately when your child has turned over a new leaf. Express your faith in your child’s ability to learn and grow. With guidance and persistent effort, your child will soon be able to build connections with other kids.
This article has been reviewed by our panel. The points, views and suggestions put forth in this article have been expressed keeping the best interests of fellow parents in mind. We hope you found the article beneficial.