How to Help Your Shy Child
Most shy children usually prefer to remain on the side-lines. Here’s how you can help your child overcome his shyness and feel more confident.
By Arun Sharma
Shy children have a tough time dealing with everyday situations like making friends, interacting in the class, taking part in extra-curricular activities, or even making simple requests. Also, because of their shy nature, they are often ridiculed, bullied and made the butt of jokes. However, parents can help their child overcome her shyness and become a confident and assertive individual. Read on to know how you can do it.
1. Don’t label your child: When speaking about their child, most parents tend to label them according their behaviour. For example, “My daughter is very mischievous,” or “My son is lazy,” and so on. When children hear their parents repeating these labels, they internalise them and start thinking about themselves as they have been described. So, parents of a shy child should refrain from describing their child as shy.
2. Empathise with your child: For various reasons, shy children feel reluctant to interact with those around them. During such times, instead of pushing your child to go ahead, empathise with her to understand why she is behaving so and then suggest the solution. For example, if your child seems worried and reluctant on the first day of attending a new school, ask her what is going on in her mind. Then, try suggesting that perhaps she is feeling excited and nervous and not shy.
3. Model outgoing behaviour: Children always look up to their parents to learn how to conduct themselves. Children of parents who are loners or reticent usually shun social contact. So, if parents want their child to behave in an outgoing manner, they should model it themselves. For example, join children in their activities, invite friends and relatives over, take the family out to attend functions, or strike conversations with acquaintances in public places like parks or the playground. Of course, instruct your child not to interact with strangers.
4. Prompt child to interact: Shy children feel lost when they are asked to start a conversation or join one. Parents of shy children should provide them with specific cues. For example, “Tell her what is your name and ask her name”, or “Ask him what is his favourite game?”, or “Tell her that you want to play with her.” Over time, the child will slowly learn how to converse by herself.
5. Expose to unknown settings: Most shy children feel uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings and around individuals they don’t know. So, expose the child gradually to unknown settings. Allow him time to get used to it before you coax him to interact. It is also a good idea to expose your child to children younger than him, as shy children open up easily to younger children.
6. Praise outgoing behaviour: Nothing works better than praise with children. Whenever your child sheds his inhibitions and exhibits outgoing behaviour, make sure to shower him with compliments.
7. Involve others: Try to involve individuals whom your child meets regularly, for example, teachers, neighbours, friends and relatives who visit you often. Interacting with them will help your child shed her shyness.
8. Use simple confidence-building strategies: Simple confidence-building strategies like asking your child to order food at the restaurant, going to the nearby grocery store to buy something, answering the phone, or speaking to his paediatrician during visits can go a long way in helping your child shed his shyness.
Replacing your child’s shy nature with bold and outgoing behaviour isn’t something that can be accomplished in a day. So, be patient but persistent in your efforts. However, if you find that your child’s shyness is abnormal, or your strategies aren’t working, then consult an expert for guidance.
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