Timid children seem easier to live with than reckless ones—until you start suspecting that your seven-year-old will still be hiding behind your legs when he’s in twelfth grade. Some children are naturally cautious, and pushing them to step out just scares them further into their shells. Instead, work with their natural instincts to help them discover their places in the larger world.
Forcing a shy child into a big playgroup is like starting swimming lessons by tossing someone into the deep end. Let your child warm up slowly by introducing her to one or two peers with shared interests—preferably peers who are good at drawing others into larger circles at comfortable speeds.
Be a Good Listener
Introductions to new activities will be easier if the activities match things your child is already interested in learning and doing. Encourage him to talk about his personal passions, and to share any concerns about these and other matters. For his worries, be an attentive and empathetic listener: avoid belittling his concerns, immediately telling him what to do, or offering to solve problems for him. Help him talk out his own solutions; always express confidence in his ability to handle things.
Let Children Be Themselves
Especially if you love huge gatherings yourself, be careful not to confuse natural introversion with toxic timidity. Some people are naturally energized by large groups; others feel most alive when they have space to think deeply and engage in heart-to-heart conversations. If your child falls into the latter category, it will always be part of her nature to be over-stimulated and quickly exhausted by active crowds. Rather than push her to socialize more—which will only hurt her confidence by implying that something’s wrong with her—let her be her own best self. Trust her to find personal fulfillment through solitary or small-group activities.
Watch For Signs of Real Trouble
All the above assumes a naturally introverted child. If a formerly outgoing child turns withdrawn, clingy, and moody, that may be a red flag indicating he’s the victim of bullying or abuse, or that he has an undiagnosed illness. Any sudden change in a child’s personality or behavior should be promptly investigated so the cause can be remedied. If your child is unable or unwilling to tell you what’s bothering him, take him to a doctor or therapist for professional evaluation.
Note to Teachers
You may find quieter students either a blessing (“Thank goodness someone sits still and listens”) or an annoyance (“Doesn’t she even know how to raise her hand?”). Regardless, don’t let anyone get too lost in the crowd: everyone needs opportunities to develop her natural skills through participation. Don’t be the pushy teacher who regularly calls on kids when they obviously don’t want it; but do note students’ individual comfort levels and points of interest, and do invite them to contribute at appropriate moments. Nothing brings shyness out of its shell like an opportunity to follow natural passions.
WE TEACH CONFIDENCE AT SHADY OAK PRIMARY SCHOOL
Whether naturally timid, dutiful, or daring, all children deserve ongoing encouragement to develop their individual strengths. Shady Oak’s whole-child program emphasizes teamwork, creativity, and purpose alongside reading, science, and mathematics. Contact us to learn more.