Shyness is often a learned behavior, but can also be inherited. I think I was one of those children who had inherited shyness as a trait. I was always quiet to begin with, but certain experiences in my life led to my shyness becoming a lot more concrete.
In grade school the kids used to tease me and I didn’t have very many friends. When I felt like I had something important to add to a conversation, whether it is among family or friends, I tried to speak up only to be interrupted or ignored. I started feeling that no one cared about anything I had to say, and eventually stopped trying to say anything at all. By the time I reached high school, I wouldn’t speak to anyone I didn’t know extremely well, unless they spoke to me first and then they had to ask me a question. I eventually overcame my shyness, but not until my adult life.
A child who is teased will often avoid other children, spending more and more time alone. A child who is constantly interrupted or ignored will stop trying to be heard. A child who constantly receives disapproval will develop a low self-esteem. A child who is laughed at will learn to become invisible. All these things can led to shyness, and usually also lead to a low self-esteem.
The shy child does not know what to say or how to act in order to gain approval. He or she is often afraid of what other people will think.
There are several things a parent or friend can do to help a shy child:
-Don’t set your expectations too high and always praise the child for a job well done.
-Explain to the child that it’s okay to be quiet, and that some of the world’s most important people started off quiet.
-Never laugh at your child unless they are telling a joke or trying to make you laugh.
-Never put a child down for making a mistake. Putting them down makes them scared to make mistakes and hence try new things. Instead, explain that it’s ok to make mistakes.
-When your child has something to say, stop what you are doing and give them your full attention. Listening helps the child to learn to communicate better.
-Try role playing with the child, practicing what to say and do. It can help improve self-confidence, and works in many different situations. If the child is scared to meet someone, practicing can help.
-Help your child to practice affirmations, little positive statements that are repeated over and over to help gain belief in one’s self. Some examples might be: everyone like me, I have lots of friends, everyone likes the things I do, everyone listens to what I have to say, what I have to say is important.
-If you were shy, tell them some stories about your shyness.
-Give your child lots of opportunities to interact with other children.
-Give your child time. Don’t expect them to come right out and talk and play with other children. Sometimes the best thing to do is to tell him or her it’s ok to just sit and watch, then leave the child alone.
If none of these suggestions help, or if your child seems to withdrawal further away, don’t worry. There is professional help available and sometimes counseling is necessary to help him or her. You should be able to get a good referral from your family doctor or pediatrician. Shyness can be overcome.