Shy kids may be what other parents wish for when their own children blurt out tactless comments in public—but if you have children who rarely speak or look anyone in the eye, you’re carrying a burden of your own. You try to introduce him to a friend; he turns away and buries his face in your leg. She cries because no one invites her to play with them; then if someone does, she panics and mumbles something unintelligible while scrambling out of reach. He’s so quiet you wonder if he has some chronic illness. She’s falling behind in school because she’s afraid to participate in class.
How on earth do you encourage such children to become more outgoing and assertive, without scaring them even further into their shells?
Help Them Develop Their Natural Skills
No matter how timid a child may be, her best self will come out through working at things she enjoys. Observe how she chooses to fill her time when the decision is left to her. Then, organize family activities to help her spread her wings further in those areas:
Reading books (together) that cover her interests
Planning outings to relevant parks or museums
Playing games, working puzzles, or doing craft projects she’s shown signs of talent for
Let Them Warm Up Slowly
You wouldn’t start a first swimming lesson by throwing someone into eight feet of water, so don’t try to “cure” your timid child by dropping him into a new play group with twenty noisy strangers. He’s likely to “drown” in panic and either become hysterical, or curl up into a ball.
Start by introducing him to just a couple of new friends who share his interests—preferably kids you personally know to be understanding and empathetic. Then give him time to get comfortable at his own speed. Ideally, once he gets started, let his new friends take over introducing him to additional friends.
Appreciate the Positive Aspects of Their Personalities
Chances are, even after he learns to make friends and participate in outside activities, your timid child will always be a natural introvert with little interest in huge gatherings. Don’t pester him to become a social butterfly, even if that’s your natural personality: trying to force him into the wrong mold will only push him back into the fortress of timidity. Be proud of what he was born to be: a natural at long, deep concentration, who may grow up to be a great writer, computer programmer, or inventor.
Note to Teachers
Encouraging shy students means treading a careful line: letting them stay quietly in the background keeps them trapped in timidity, but being called on feels like being shoved into a gladiator’s ring to them. Always focus on the positive aspects of their work (specific compliments are preferable to a general “Great job!”): timid children are often perfectionistic and ultrasensitive to criticism. Note what they’re good at, and provide them with opportunities to contribute in those areas. Show them how their skills can be genuinely helpful to others in the classroom—and, ultimately, to the larger world.
A SCHOOL THAT BRINGS OUT THE BEST IN CHILDREN
At Shady Oak, we believe a healthy education provides everyone with opportunities to discover and actively use their unique talents—and we make sure every student gets the right kind of attention for his or her individual needs. If your child is failing to thrive under the traditional academic approach, it may be due to feeling ignored or out of place. Contact us today to explore whether Shady Oak Primary may be the right school to help your children become the best participants they can be.