August 31, 2010

Parenting Shy Kids

My daughter is such a sweet girl.  She is so desperately shy sometimes though, that she hardly has a chance to show people who she really is.  As a recovering shy girl, I had hoped she would not be like me, but now that she is, I understand her more than my husband (Mr. Outgoing) can. 

We went to church this last Sunday morning.  It has been a while since we have been able to go, things are always getting in the way in our busy life- work, travel, illnesses etc.  So I dropped Em off at the child care place where she could play with all the kids her age.  She usually liked it before, but mostly played alone.  This week though, she just screamed and cried until they finally paged me to come and get her.  She has become increasingly shy and anti-social. 

I am wondering if my decision to not put her in preschool was a bad decision.  So now I am scrambling around thinking of ways to socialize her a little more.  I think as a kid though, I was forced into many things I was terrified of and was really unhappy about it.  I don't want to force the shyness out of her but rather nurture it out of her. 

Why are some kids shy?  Research shows shyness is inherited, they are born to be more sensitive new people and situations.  I do see the truth in this with Em.  As a baby if we went to large events, I would have to stand away from the crowd where it was quieter and calmer until she was adjusted enough for me to join the party (still holding her of course). 

So how can we gently nudge them into socializing?

Prep them in advance.  Days before an event, such as, birthday parties or a new dance class, talk to them about what is going to happen.  Emily will be starting a couple new things in the next week, MOPS and dance class.  I am afraid to overwhelm her and have her tense up and sit in the corner alone.  So I should start now by telling her that when she starts dance class, mommy can't go with her, she will have to be brave and make mommy proud by making a new friend.

Give them a chance to tell you why they are so scared.  Talk through the fears and maybe even tell them about how you were once shy too.  This might help them not feel so afraid and alone.  I try this all the time but all I ever get out of her is "because I scared".  One day I may get a better answer.

Sensitive parenting will be helpful.  Be aware and sensitive to their feelings and nervousness to help ease them into situations.  Don't respond harshly or sarcastically to their fears and shyness but work with it and realize that it makes them special. 

Be a social role model by being friendly and outgoing.  This one is a bit hard for me too, but I have lost a lot of my shyness as I have gotten older.  So when we are out in social situations, we will show Emily that we can be friendly. 

Develop relationships with other care givers and teachers.  This is important so they can be comfortable with them also.  When I leave Emily with any of our friends to babysit she has no problems.  So maybe if we had her Sunday school teacher over for dinner one night, she would be happier in her care at church.

Practice.  This idea seems silly to me but it might help. Practice pretend situations where your child needs to make new friends.  Teach them to introduce themselves to other kids and ask them their name. 

Shyness is not a bad quality, it can be limiting but if we nurture them though the roughest time, they will be able to manage their shyness and maybe even grow out of it. 


  1. Ohhh... Thank you for writing this. I was painfully shy, and it looks like my son is heading that way. I will do ANYTHING to help him not go through what I did. I just enrolled him in a toddler gymnastics class in the hopes of socializing him more. I plan to make use of your tips!

  2. I was very shy as a girl into my 30's. A very wise friend(extravert extraordinaire) coached me a few years ago on staying focused in the present situation--so if I go to a dinner, I can talk about my trip over, the menu, the restaurant, and ask people about their trip etc. This didn't every occur to me--and really helps calm my nervousness and connect with the people in the room. It also helped to learn that if I do the scary social stuff, that if I just let the anxiety be there, eventually it fades and you can actually have fun--but it takes courage to take the plunge, and you can reassure your daughter that you are proud of her for every step she takes toward being in scary situations, and work with her to decide which step she wants to do first.

  3. I was a shy girl, and my daughter exhibits shyness in certain situations. I have found that practicing (although it felt silly to me) really helps her. She does better when she is really prepared to enter a new social situation and a little role play (ie pretend I'm a girl you don't know in your class, what would you say to me?) never hurt, and they always help!

    Different topic-What is the Coach Poppy Project? Looks interesting!

  4. I was extremely shy when I was little and my mother continually shoved me into social situations, saying, "Go make friends." My oldest son was a lot like me when he was little - and I handled it this way. I would say, "You're going to be shy at first and that's o.k. You can hang out with me until you feel like joining in." Because he needed to absorb the environment before he immersed himself. Recognizing that they feel unsure, saying it is o.k. and giving them time - makes them feel more confident. And, you know, he would decide, "I'm going to play now."

    At Mother's Day Outs and places like that, some people think you need to say, "I'm leaving honey." - Don't buy into that. Stand off to the side,maybe sit in a little chair, as they gradually pull away to play - and then when they're involved, you leave. It works perfectly! (5 out of 5)



Related Posts with Thumbnails
© 2010 Laura Jane Designs
Elements by Jennifer Fox