Celebrate Your Child’s Shyness
I’m very shy. If you were to meet me in person, I might say a handful of words, and that would be it. I actually like people, but they tend to think that I don’t because I don’t know what to say and I get self-conscious.
When my daughter was smaller, her personality was a lot like mine. She’d try to hide behind me. She had to be pulled off my leg during the majority of her dance classes, though dancing is her favorite thing to do and she completely lit up once she got started on the routines. If anyone got within three feet of her on the playground, instead of saying hello, she’d cry.
I had the instinct to “help” her out of it. Okay, push her out of it may be a better term, and it actually seemed to backfire for a while, frustrating both of us when we tried to get her to open up around other kids.
It’s not easy to be the quiet one in the room; it may be harder as an adult than it is as a child, and I wanted her to have a good start, catapulting out there, personality blazing, unafraid of speaking her mind so she wouldn’t end up like me. Let’s just say, I wasn’t the only one who thought that way.
Thinking that way was wrong.
She eventually came out of her shell on her own once everyone lightened up about it, and she’ll talk to anyone now for as long as they’ll listen. She’s still polite and thoughtful, but she’s very open to meeting new people and gabbing away.
And thankfully, she’s much less likely to pants me in the middle of the grocery store as she clings so desperately to my legs because someone said hello and complimented her dress.
Growing out of it is one outcome for children who start out shy, but you know, if a shy child remains that way, so what? Celebrate it. Just be sure to wear a belt.
If your child is shy but otherwise happy, there’s nothing “wrong” with him or her, and there’s nothing that needs to be fixed except the label people use to describe the personality trait.
Don’t call the child shy as an attempt to excuse their behavior, since that has a negative feel to it. If a label must be used, try words like reserved, cautious, thoughtful, etc, as Dr. Sears suggests, even correcting others when necessary. Using those positive descriptors will teach the child to appreciate those qualities about him or herself, not feel inferior to the more outgoing children.
By not spending a childhood wrapped around the idea of somehow being less of a person than the more outspoken ones, a child can grow into a sensitive, thoughtful, loyal, loving, peaceful, intuitive, modest adult without any additional, unnecessary growing pains that come with being shy (I mean reserved).
Photo credit: allspice1