Shyness is a matter of personality. So it’s not your child who has to change; it’s you. Maybe it sounds harsh. But it’s not hard at all. It just requires less pushing.
Inside of you it hurts, you feel so sorry for your little one. From time to time it can also be very frustrating to experience. And you really wish there was something you could do. Just anything to help.
Shyness is not unusual; actually one of two is shy. And in some periods everyone has a more or less cautious attitude towards others, especially during separation phases. But some people are naturally shyer or more introvert than others. They need more time to warm up to a situation; they are clingy and retreat from groups. It could be about strangers, new situations (play dates, day care, preschool), being the focus of attention, or leaving Mom or Dad, that makes them uncomfortable.
That’s just the way it is, and nothing you do or say, can change that. It’s a matter of personality.
Sometimes the shyness lasts for a relatively short phase, so patience is always a great start. Pushing or scolding won’t help to make this stage pass. On the contrary it will most likely prolong it by causing your child to feel less secure. If it’s not a phase, you have to have even more patience, and accept the possibility that your child may not outgrow his or her shyness any time soon. According to studies only 40 percent of shy toddlers overcome this by the time they start kindergarten. And the majority of toddlers who are shy continue to take a cautious approach to life.
So how can you help? Research shows that parents who tend to gently encourage and loosely supervise their kid’s social activities are more successful than parents who micromanage and supervise too closely. Meaning that shyer kids tend to need less pushy parents. They need parents that are calm, understanding and sensitive.
- Say you understand. Acknowledge your son or daughter’s feelings. Keep your cool; don’t get frustrated, she or he can’t help it. They actually can’t.
- Schedule warm-up time. Go early when there might not be such a noisy crowd.
- One to one. Rather than trying to force him/her to socialize, try to create situations that are not too overwhelming, like one on one play dates.
- Let your child watch the others for a while and figure out what’s up; offer a suggestion or two as to how he or she could get started, but let the child decide for him/herself when to join. Be patient, don’t push.
- Praise your kid’s any and every social attempt.
- When your kid is older, talk about what to expect in social situations.
- Sometimes playing with smaller children for a brief period of time can help in practicing and trying out new social skills.
Don’t stop trying. Continue to expose your kid to social situations, even if he or she isn’t willing to do anything more than observe from the sideline. With time he or she will become more and more comfortable with the idea of socializing with other children.