Why So Shy???
July 18, 2012Posted by pamela |
Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Melissa Lapides, Marin mom, licensed marriage and family therapist, and parent educator.
A shy child can be quite frustrating to deal with, even embarrassing at times. You are at a party, the playground, or a playgroup and your child is hiding behind you refusing to greet others. You encourage them to look into the other person’s eyes and say hello, but this makes them clam up even more. Now you begin to feel clammy as well because you have run out of ideas for them to “snap out of it” at this point.
Sometimes parents feel they owe people an explanation about why their child is unable to cooperate and join in conversations, greeting or other interactions. Using an excuse of shyness for your child is usually done out to make the situation more comfortable. The best way to really address the issue is to understand it more and use prevention before you get yourself and your child into these uncomfortable situations.
There is no question that a parent could worry or be concerned if every introduction and interaction your child has with others becomes a painful and uncomfortable experience. I invite you though to take a breath and really assess the situation before panicking.
The truth about shyness is that often time’s is not a choice, but an inherent personality trait. Shyness is not always an indicator of self-esteem or confidence, although it seems like it may be. Children, who are shy, usually don’t consciously choose to be shy and if they are being shy by choice, it also takes the same support and patience from the parents as it does with a naturally shy child.
With any behavioral situation pertaining to children, the most important part is to find a way to connect to your child. In trying to change a reaction or behavior we first need to understand more about it and this can take a great deal of patience and a lot of inquiring.
It is important with shy kids to become an investigator and to try and identify the nature of your child’s shyness. There are various reasons and ways shyness can show up. Does the shyness show up in every situation? Are there other behavioral symptoms along with the shyness that may be pointing at a greater issue? Are there times when your child is not shy?
If it seems like your child is just shy and there is not a bigger issue going on, the best thing you can do for them is to be a role model. Go out of your way to greet others politely, make eye contact and strike up conversation with people in front of your child. Just keep on showing them how it is done. As we all know and have heard many times before, children learn by example.
It is important to check your own level of shyness and see if you are expecting something from your child that you may have not even conquered yourself. Sometimes we can have hopes for our children that may be undiscovered hopes for our selves. If this turns out to be the case you and your child can learn and practice these skills together.
The worst thing you can do for your child is to force them to greet others or talk when they clearly are uncomfortable doing it. The more you force, the more the child will retreat. When you put more attention on a child that clearly does not feel comfortable already, it tends to get the opposite results you are looking for.
Shyness is not an issue to condemn your child about. The more understanding and less judgment you can have with your child, the more comfortable it will be for them to express what is happening for them.
Preventative measures are definitely appropriate to see small improvements. You can act out different situations with your child and practice how to interact. You could gently encourage your child before entering into a social situation to just give a simple “hello”. Starting small and rewarding them for their accomplishments can go a long way.
Try not to label your child “shy” or they may become more attached to that identity and never see the need to work towards anything different. It can easily become an excuse for them to never have to work on social skills.
Once you can understand you child’s shyness more and really connect with them about it, the quicker you can give them the tools to support whatever is coming up for them. Remember, manage your own frustration first and then take the necessary steps to create connection with your child.
Melissa Lapides is a licensed marriage and family therapist, mother of three young children, and a parent and birth educator. Her passion is to empower and support parents, as she knows how challenging it can be. She is the founder of Parenthood Partners in Kentfield which offers family counseling, in home parent coaching, individual and couples counseling and parenting groups. Look for upcoming groups on "Finding patience for your strong willed child" forming over the summer. www.parenthoodpartners.com