Some kids are naturally shy and some are shy due to circumstances. Some children naturally grow out of their shyness as they grow up and mix with different people. The problem begins if the shyness does not go away even by teenage and early youth. Shyness in adulthood negatively affects our relationships, social status and also career prospects. Therefore, the concern of parents whose kid is shy are genuine. We have to help the child grow out of his shyness.
Understanding the Child’s Natural Temperament
Every person has a different unique temperament with hidden or exposed talents and attitudes. Not every shy kid is or will be a depressed loner, neither will every outgoing child always be a happy social person. Chances of a shy person becoming someone famous in later life is almost equal to that of an extrovert child becoming a loner in adulthood. The great scientist Albert Einstein was a shy person! Artists, writers, musicians, scientists often love to work alone to find or create something. These people love to observe the happenings around them more than mixing and talking all the time. It helps them pursue their creative interests.
There is a child in my neighbourhood who comes out daily to play, but does not play in the group of children. Sometimes he plays with them, but most of the time he plays by himself. He is very quiet at home too. His parents were worried because he doesn’t play with everyone like the other kids. The busy parents knew that the child was good at sketching and creative writing, but did not bother about it much. They were more worried about his mixing with other kids and were even planning to consult a counselor. But they dropped the idea when they talked to the art teacher. To their surprise, the art teacher never knew the child to be a shy one. Other children in the art class waited for this child, because he made them laugh and laugh with his great sense of humor. The parents knew nothing of this quality of the child! Then they realized that whatever little time they spent with the child they indulged in negative parenting (scolding, criticizing etc.) and tried to force him to mix with others. They also noted that even though the child did not play with the group, he rushed out every day at playtime and engaged himself around the group. He just liked it that way. He was not lonely! These type of kids will not have many friends but as they grow they will seek and make one or a couple of deep, lasting friendships.
There are others who are shy around elders but have a big group of friends of their own age.
Sometimes sensitive kids become shy due to failure or embarrassment. Parents need to locate the cause of shyness in such cases and help the child to gain confidence.
How to Overcome Shyness
As adults we have to deal with many strangers in our day to day life. Too much shyness may hamper our growth and may be dangerous in many situations. Sometimes it leads to psychological problems like anxiety, stammering, fidgeting and finally loneliness and depression. Therefore, it is important to overcome shyness, before the age of stepping out independently. Below are some ways which parents can adopt to help their children overcome shyness.
- Take the child to park and playground daily, where other kids come to play. Initially, the child will cling to the parents but gradually will try to play with the other kids when she sees the fun they are having.
- Socialize yourself to be a role model for the child. Take the children along for social visits and parties where other children also come and also invite others to your house. Children learn social etiquette by observing and slowly get used to mixing with people.
- Make friends and meet often with parents of children who are your child’s age. Constant interaction helps the child to slowly become comfortable to a bunch of friends. When parents are also involved, the child feels more secured and comfortable.
- Take the child along to markets, libraries, religious places etc., where she can observe how you interact with strangers.
- Smile, greet and compliment people whom you meet and encourage children to do the same.
- Make your home interesting for kids and invite them to play at your home. The shy child will be more comfortable and confident in his own home and so it will be much easier for him to learn to mix.
- Encourage hobbies and expose the children to many interesting things like sports, photography, art, music, quizzing etc. so that the child has many things to talk about and share with other children.
- Help your child to gain confidence in something he likes, like some sports or art, by engaging yourself. For example, when a child has gained expertise in some sport technique by playing with you for some time, this expertise will give her/him the confidence to go out and play with others.
- Ask the class teacher to pair the child with another shy child in the class. When they sit together every day they may understand each other’s situation and also help each others. They will be more comfortable in sharing with each other. An outgoing child may suppress the shy child more.
- Appreciate and praise the child for her talents, good behaviour etc. to generate self confidence. Show her works or awards to others in front of her.
- Never scold the child in front of others.
- Do not criticize other people in front of the child. This will make it difficult for the child to love and approach people. Becoming suspicious and choosy will only withdraw the child from people.
- Join some hobby classes together with the child and interact with the parents and kids in the class.
- Encourage group and stage activities.
A positive environment at home where the child learns to love everyone will go a long way in building trust and confidence in the child. The child can then step into the world without misplaced fears and suspicions. Give them the taste of the beautiful world!