Many children are labeled as shy, but if you understand what this term really means, you might just decide that having a shy child is not much of a negative after all. Shyness can help or hinder a child, depending partly on how it’s handled.
Why Shyness Helps a Child
Shyness is a personality trait, not a fault. Some of the nicest people are shy. These people tend to be attentive listeners, private people who exude a welcome presence without even saying a word. Therefore, there is absolutely no need to apologetically say to another adult that your child is shy. Many people do not understand shyness and equate being shy with having a problem. They feel that a shy child must suffer from poor self-image, and this is an unfair label. In fact, many shy children have a solid self-concept – they have an inner peace that shines.
Parents tend to worry when their child freezes up in a crowd. Are they just shy, or is there a serious problem? Here’s how to tell. A shy child with healthy self-worth makes eye-to-eye contact, is polite, and seems happy with themselves. A shy child is nice to be around, and people are usually comfortable in their presence.
Some shy children are deep-thinking and cautious. They are slow to warm up to strangers because they want to study them beforehand to see if the relationship is one worth pursuing. Once they make friends with somebody, it’s usually a friendship that will last for life.
When Shyness is a Handicap
In some children, shyness is the manifestation of inner problems, not inner peace. They avoid eye contact and have a lot of behavioral problems. Furthermore, people are not often comfortable in their presence. When you delve deeper into this little person, you’ll find that they operate from anger and fear instead of peace and trust. When you delve even deeper, you will find that they have a lot to be angry about.
Hiding Behind the Shy Child Veil
Some children decide to hide behind the shy child veil so they don’t have to reveal a self they don’t like. It safer for them not to show anything, so they retreat into a protective shell. The ‘shy’ label becomes their excuse for not developing social skills and a reason for not exercising them. An unmotivated child can use shyness as a defense against trying harder and an excuse for staying at the same level of skill development. For these children, shyness is a handicap, reinforcing their weak self-esteem. To cure shyness, you have to build up self-esteem. This type of child needs parents that they can trust, who discipline them in such a way that does not lead to internalized anger and self-dislike.
Outward Child Turns Inward
What about the bubbly infant who smiles and waves at everybody, but who one day turns into a clam? Parents often worry about what they did to cause such a change in their child. The answer to this is ‘nothing.’ Before the age of two, many children are spontaneous. They act without thinking, especially when they’re in social situations. Between the ages of two and four, children sometimes go through a second phase of stranger anxiety, as they become afraid of people they don’t know. Social retreating is a normal stage of development, so before you apologize to your relatives, get embarrassed, or call a therapist, be patient. Give your child encouragement and space and they will soon blossom again.
Parents often wonder what to do about their child’s shyness. Is it just a passing phase? Should we encourage the child to be more outgoing? Is there an underlying problem? Here’s what to do:
Hug Your Little Blessing
First, recognize that you have been blessed with a sensitive, deeply caring, reserved child who is slow to warm to strangers, approaches social relationships cautiously, but seems to be a happy person. Hug your quiet child – the world will be a more gentle place because of them.
The Harder You Pull, the More the Shy Child Retreats
It’s tempting to want to help a shy child, but be careful as the more you pull, the more some children recoil. You cannot pull a child out of shyness, so why bother trying? It’s better to create a comfortable environment that lets their social personality develop naturally. Never label a child as ‘shy’ as, if they hear this, it will make them feel like something is wrong with them. If you must use words to describe your shy child use ‘private’ or ‘reserved.’
Don’t Put the Little Performer on the Spot
The grandparents are visiting, and you cannot wait to get your child to play the piano for them. Don’t spring this request on your child without warning. The young performer may run from your request, leaving you apologizing, and leaving the grandparents wondering why the child is so shy. Instead, before the grandparents arrive, ask your child permission first. This respects a child’s comfort level at showing a skill in public. Some children are born performers, while others guard their skills cautiously and must gradually become comfortable as their skills develop.