Feb 28, 2019

In recent years, treating shyness as an illness has become something of a fad. Doctors the world over have begun to place shyness on the same spectrum as things like Autism, but it is not really clear that being shy should be treated like a disease.

Shyness probably is not a disease, but there is a difference between being an introvert, someone who simply likes to be alone, and being shy. Shy individuals often want to be more outgoing, but do not quite know how.

You should never push a child to be more outgoing if it is not in his or her personality to be an extrovert. However, you may note that your child wants to be more extroverted, but simply lacks the confidence. You can help to boost a shy child’s confidence by applying the following tips.

1. Lead by example

Children learn best through emulation. Just like they want to wear their parents’ clothes and pretend to go to work like mom and dad, children will emulate confidence that they see in their parents. This is particularly true of young children.

To give your kids a positive, confident role model, try to make an effort to be more outgoing yourself. Talk to people when you are out, have friends over more often, and make it a point to talk to the parents of your children’s friends. The more your kids see you interacting with others, the more comfortable they will feel doing the same.

2. Let your kids make decisions

When you are at restaurants, encourage your children to order for themselves and to interact with the staff. Do the same thing any time your are out. If it is practical to let your kids do the talking, then encourage them to do so. Take care when doing this that you select interactions that will bolster your child’s confidence. The earlier you start doing this, the more natural it will feel to your child and the more confident he or she will become.

3. Do not pull

It can be tempting to want to help the shy child by thrusting him or her into the spotlight. Doing that, however, can cause some children to recoil and become even more introverted.

What is worse, your child will be less trusting of you if you put him or her in an uncomfortable situation. Your goal should be to set up situations in which your children feel comfortable being outgoing. If you do that, they will make the transition on their own.

4. Empathize

The concerns of a child may seem trivial to you, but they are very real anxieties. Empathize with what your child is feeling and never, under any circumstance, should you shame your child for being shy. Talk to your child about why he or she feels uncomfortable and focus on mitigating those fears rather than chastising your child for them.

5. Teach basic skills

Kids do not know that they should smile, make eye contact, or respond to polite conversation. You can help them recognize these important social cues by making games out of them at home. Kids learn a great deal through make-believe, so use that as a tool to help them overcome social anxiety.

6. Teach self-reliance

Teach your child how to express his or her needs. Read books that deal with children who express their needs in difficult situations and talk about the situations with your children. Ask “what would you do?” regarding various scenarios to help your child work through the possibilities.

7. Play dates

You do not have to schedule and plan the perfect outings, but you should make sure that your child has the opportunity to interact with others on a daily basis. That means going to the park, having friends over, or taking your children with you when you head out shopping. Be sure to encourage your child to invite friends over when he or she is old enough.

8. The value of friendship

Teach your child the value of friendship by modeling it yourself. In particular, let your child know that having one close friend is just as great as having lots of friends. Everyone is different, and that’s okay.

9. Do not create more problems

Do not teach children to be afraid of strangers. Instead, teach your child that he or she should always be with someone trusted. This is a fine line to walk, but you need to balance creating a fear of strangers with keeping your child safe. In general, “stranger danger” isn’t something that needs to be addressed until your child is old enough to be on his or her own without the supervision of a trusted adult.

10. Consider underlying fears

There may be something that has frightened your child into being shy. Sometimes children repress these feelings and don’t express them. A child who is trying to express fear will find it easier to do so during games and fun time, when the fear is not quite so palpable. In those instances, a child with anxiety will feel free to express it, at which time you should welcome the meltdowns that are bound to happen.

Shyness is not a disease and there is nothing wrong with a child who prefers to be alone. If, however, your child is fearful, anxious, or expresses a desire to be more outgoing, then you can use the tips above to help him or her. In the end, your role is to be supportive and understanding, so always make that your top priority.

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