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Shell No! When Your Child is Shy

All kids get bashful or uncharacteristically quiet in some settings, but what should you do if your child is chronically introverted? Experts say absolutely nothing, if this is the child's true nature, and the shyness doesn't exclude your child from opportunities that present themselves, either personally or academically. Never persecute the child, especially in front of people, for being shy. Many parents explain their child's reticence by saying "He's shy" to relatives or other people with whom the child might feel bashful. Apologizing for the child's behavior might pass along the message that his behavior is "bad" or "wrong." Recognizing why your child is shy and understanding his motivations is key in building a positive self-image. Many introverted children are cautious and try to get a read on people to assess them before getting close to them. Or they may survey social situations to see if they want to participate, and if so, dive in with eye contact, engagement and maybe a little polite conversation. Being cautious about forging relationships and trust in other people isn't necessarily a character fault. Sometimes shyness manifests as a phase. For example, it's normal for an uninhibited 2-year-old to clam up around the age of three.


At this age, stranger anxiety might kick in, which is perfectly OK. Show a child this age that it's OK to interact with strangers, such as the pediatrician, by chatting with him. It may be frustrating for a mom to watch her shy child take his time answering questions, and Mom may want to jump in and answer for the child. This behavior is a bad idea - it can make the child withdraw further and lose valuable communication skills. Shyness isn't usually a character fault or a "bad" thing, but there are red flags that parents should look for. If a child becomes shy suddenly, then there may have been some sort of incident or problem he experienced. If the child has trouble maintaining friendships or his grades are consistently low, then shyness may be more than just part of his personality. Some kids find shyness a crutch when their self-esteem is so low that they don't want to try new things or try to succeed in school. But if your child has been introverted for most of his life, has a few good friends and seems happy and involved, then "shy" shouldn't be a bad word.