The Gifts of a Shy Child
How interesting is it that most of us, in fact, at least 40% of people would self-identify as being ‘shy’.
It is so natural for parents to want to protect their shy child but, could over-protecting them mean the child is unable to learn from experiences?
I remember being in primary school, always hoping I would not be put on the spot, I did not like to answer questions (because, when I did, I got it wrong, but, if I didn’t, it would be the right answer). I hated speaking in front of the class, I never wanted to perform in assemblies and found it hard to join social situations growing up, and through to way past school days. If only I was given the tools to be able to deal with these situations, no doubt I would have seen life differently. I certainly would have been more confident earlier on in life.
Overcoming shyness has lifelong benefits particularly when curve balls are thrown at us.
Quite often, shy or quiet children are overlooked in needing support because they may not stand out or be disruptive.
Shyness with familiar classmates can be a cause for concern as a child could be worried about how other kids treat them or whether they will be liked or accepted. Of course, being excluded or victimised can be fundamental to children’s emotional health, notably, more so, when these conditions persist over time and interfere with a child or family’s routines and activities. However, if a shy child is happy and is treated well by classmates, it is less of a concern.
Essentially, parents want their children to be included in a group or school environment. Shyness can actually be a positive character attribute, as well as being useful socially. Professor of Psychology Ron Rapee found that; ‘shyness usually comes with a range of positive attributes, including greater sensitivity and greater levels of honest, reliable, conscientious and good empathetic listeners’. This sounds like me.
However, in some cases, it can be damaging for children who are extremely shy, especially if they are unable to adapt socially in a school environment.
Tell them – ‘Everyone is different, you are a great observer and thinker who likes to watch and learn before participating’ instead of labelling them as ‘shy’ which may lead to them believing in this characteristic permanently.
So much can be done to help children and parents cope with shyness, my favourites are to:
- Find out child’s ‘love language’ to see how your child interprets love; https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/child-quiz/
- Focus on the positive things (our brains automatically point out the negative things we do)
- Ask for help and help others (give a child responsibilities and a sense of belonging)
- Organise play dates (building relationships with friends out of school is so special to children)
- Express appreciation (practise gratitude – start a gratitude jar or journal)
- Give compliments (praise efforts instead of results)
- Show child love, trust, understanding, value and security
- Give children the opportunity to make decisions
These are just some strategies I have tried (and still use) with my teenage boys as they were growing up.
However, I love helping and supporting children as a kids life coach. It means I get to educate, motivate and inspire children to be a leader of their own life by giving them tangible tools to be confident in making choices in life easier. I do this by using the language of childhood – PLAY!
Written by Candy Fung
Nurturing Minds Kids Life Studio®
Bromley, Kent, UK