Most children will exhibit some amount of shyness in an unknown setup, which is ok, but being excessively shy is what causes the problem. In this article, we focus on excessive shyness.
Let us begin by clearing a misconception that most of us as parents have: a shy child is the same as an introverted child. No, a shy child need not be an introverted child, he may be an extrovert, and an introverted child need not be shy. An introvert is a personality, while shyness is an emotion. Introvert children will speak up confidently even around new people, though they may take a longer time to get comfortable than extrovert children. On the contrary, shy children may not be able to make conversations in a new setup at all or may end up conversing with nervousness, timidity, breaking words, or under their breath. Shy children usually become uncomfortable in an unknown environment. Shyness, most of the time, is attached to anxiety or self-consciousness.
For example, let us understand this better: you organize a playdate for your child’s friends. An introverted child may prefer to be home alone, away from the noise, or he might come but may interact less than the other social butterflies. He is not fearful of speaking, but he prefers a quieter environment and maybe a smaller group to interact with as it is his nature. A shy child may want to come but may not do so for fear of being around a group of children, fear of making conversations, fear of negative judgments, or interacting in a relatively new environment.
Fear, nervousness, timidity, self-consciousness are the emotions dominant in a shy child. At the same time, preference for alone time and opening up after getting comfortable with people or situations may characterize an introverted child.
Children who exhibit shyness will usually stand with folded hands or cover the expressive parts of their face, like their eyes or their mouth.
They may even hide behind an adult, beneath a blanket, behind a door, or anywhere that they find themselves secured in.
All children display a certain amount of shyness in new or regular situations, but in some children, it tends to be much more, deterring them from coming out of their shells.
Some of the causes of shyness in children are:
1. External negative situation: Children who’ve experienced external adverse problems like shaming, exclusion from groups, negative treatments meted out by peers or family members are likely to show traits of shyness as they go along.
2. Parenting Style: Parents who adopt an authoritarian or helicopter parenting style are more likely to push their kids into a shell, causing them to withdraw in overwhelming situations.
3. Fear of failure: The fear of failure or the fear of being looked down upon can also cause children to display shyness in most situations.
4. Parental behaviour: Children who’ve seen their parents display emotions of shyness tend to model themselves on that behaviour.
Children will seldom know for themselves that they are shy unless they have been told or labelled ‘shy’. Hence it’s crucial as parents to help children overcome their shyness without negative labeling them or affecting their self-esteem.
Below are a few ways to help children deal with their shyness:
1. Avoid pushing shy children to speak up in public: Allow children their time, pace and space to open up. Pushing shy children will cause them to retreat.
2. Avoid labelling their shyness as arrogance or misbehaviour: Encourage children to be themselves without judging their behaviour or labelling them in public. When we label our kids, we tell their personalities to model themselves around our labels. Negative labelling is the worst that we can do to our kids. If there is anything, we should do for our shy kids, keep silent in public or stand with them.
3. Accepting them as they are: We will be able to support our children only when we accept them as they are and not as we would like them to be.
4. Avoid jumping to help at every instance: As parents, it is our instinct to want to help our kids, but choosing to help them at every instance, without allowing them to explore new areas or to experience failure, will do no good to them, especially in helping them overcome their shyness.
5. Avoid over comforting or overprotecting: When we over comfort or overprotect our children, we send them signals that the situation is daunting, preventing them from wanting to deal with that situation.
6. Avoid silencing them: When shy children speak up, acknowledge and appreciate their views. Encourage them to continue speaking up and putting forth their ideas and opinions. Avoid discouraging them or shutting them up.
7. Appreciate small steps: Appreciate even the tiniest efforts children make to overcome their shyness. Appreciating their little attempts to make eye contact or help someone in need can go a long way in helping children cope with their shyness.
8. Stay with shy children till they get comfortable: Refrain from pushing shy children straight into unknown or unfamiliar situations. Support them till they feel comfortable or find their ground.
9. Practice role-play at home: Teach shy children ways of starting a conversation, replying to general questions, making eye contact and etiquettes while interacting in public to feel more confident to face new situations.
10. Ignore stammering or stuttering: Children who are excessively shy or nervous often tend to stutter while trying to make conversations. In such situations, refrain from completing the sentence for them. A patient ear and an encouraging word can take them a long way in overcoming their fears.
11. Give them examples: Give them your examples or examples of people who were shy and ways they overcame it. Children tend to get encouragement from real-life stories and experiences.
12. Avoid comparisons: Avoid comparing shy children with other more social children. Accept shy children as they are and keep reminding them that they are loved just the way they are. Strong self-esteem and positive reaffirmation is the best medicine for most of a child’s emotional needs.
A shy child is no different from an average child, just less social and in need of more encouragement. Shyness is not permanent. Children overcome their shyness when they are supported, loved, appreciated, and encouraged, then pushed, compared, or teased.
If not in our home, let us look around and see if there is a child who exhibits shyness or similar emotions and whom we can encourage and support. After all, every positive difference made in the life of someone creates ripples of positivity and happiness.
Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions (including content in any form) expressed within this post are those of the author alone. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The responsibility for intellectual property rights of this content rests with the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with him/her.
This post was last modified on January 11, 2022 12:30 pm
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