Do you have a painfully shy child? Research says it's up to you - the parent - to help them come out of their shell.
Click start to play today’s Spell It, where we learn how the shy ‘label’ can stick to children and leave them feeling insecure in their adolescent and teenage years.
According to a December 2022 study in the US-based psychology news website Psychology Today, shy children are at greater risk than outgoing children, of being bullied, feeling insecure, experiencing chronic sadness, giving into peer pressure and suffering from anxiety. Moreover, a 2017 study in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology found that shy children who grow into adulthood are likely to remain insecure and socially withdrawn.
As parents, it’s difficult to watch your child struggling, and not know how to help them. When encouraged to act independently, shy children frequently freeze in fear, or begin to cry. Then, it can feel cruel to force the child to do whatever was asked of them. So, do you give in and rescue them from the situation?
According to Psychology Today, doing so gives children the idea that they need to be ‘saved’ – it can lead to further insecurity and the inclination to avoid uncomfortable situations.
The solution, however, is straightforward. Parents have to persistently continue pushing their shy child towards greater assertiveness, while at the same time being kind and patient.
One way to do this, according to the report, is to behave as if your child is already bold and self-assured. You can explain to them exactly what you’d like them to do – say hello to your acquaintance, who is approaching you from the other side of the street, for instance – and then model the desired behaviour so your child understands exactly what needs to be done.
Be prepared to repeat the behaviour several times, in different situations, and when your child does put in the effort to follow through, heap on the praise and make them feel special. The key is to keep repeating the desired behaviour, until it becomes boring for your child – an action that comes naturally. Then, you can move onto a more challenging behaviour, like getting them to invite a classmate over for a playdate, or to purchase something at the store.
For most shy children, it may take just a few months to develop greater confidence. Those who are extremely shy, however, could need help all through their childhood and adolescence.
Have you tried any interesting measures with your own shy child? Play today’s Spell It and share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.