Walk into any kindergarten class during recess and you’ll find one common phenomenon – chaos. Most children tend to be so loud and spirited that they catch your eye. They yell, zoom around the room and grab every opportunity to make their naughty presence felt.
Ironically, it may take you a while to realise that there are a few others that are not so outgoing. They are the picture of gentleness, confined to their quiet corners, turning away when you attempt to talk to them and/or self-conscious with half-a-smile or a nervous glance.
Welcome to the secluded world of the withdrawn child – it’s not that they don’t know the right answers, but they tend to find it difficult to voice them. Strangers alarm and frighten them and they hate change and separation. Also, anxiety causes intense grief and stress in them than it does to others.
Years ago, it was considered a sign of good parenting if children were shy, retiring and reserved. They were regarded as more obedient and well-behaved. Studies have proved, however, that shy children tend to suffer more setbacks than their extrovert peers.
Understand their psyche
First things first; try to understand your shy child better.
“Initially, shyness stems from lack of self-confidence, but if not addressed properly, it can grow into a serious emotional problem such as inferiority complex,” says Dr Emma Watson, a clinical psychologist. This is good news, because the earlier, you, as a parent, can feed praise and encouragement in healthy doses, the better it is to build up self-esteem in your kid – not when it is too late.
Psychologists believe that children can be shy for different reasons. To understand the basic cause of your child’s timidity, you need to analyse what exactly is bothering him/her and explore the situations in which s/he clams up. Sometimes, children struggle to cope with some serious problems under the veil of shyness. Learning disabilities like dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], stammering and even short-sightedness can erode their self-confidence, making them appear less sociable.
It is crucial that you keep the channels of communication open. Don’t pry, but encourage your child to volunteer information.
- Engage children in creative activities. The best way to rid children of their inhibitions is to engage them in exciting, creative activities that will help them discover their own individuality. It could be a sport such as swimming or playing on the beach, strumming the guitar, painting or singing. Make this event something you do together – a priority on your schedule. You may be surprised at the transformation you’ll see in your child!
- Show patience and positive reinforcement. Shy children thrive on admiration. Even a simple gesture such as allowing your child to win at board games can help build their confidence. Take every opportunity to compliment your kids. Express the fact that you will always love them and be there for them, regardless of whether they win or lose. This understanding will give them a new lease of life, allowing them to relax and improve upon their performance. And, don’t forget to reward even minimal success.
- Keep anger at bay. Erase negativisms – such as “you’ll never amount to anything!” – and, other angry words from your vocabulary. Remember – emotionally, shy children are very fragile. Never raise your voice, especially in public, no matter how annoying the situation, lest it causes them to cringe inwardly with shame and embarrassment. Incidents such as these can leave an indelible negative mark on their minds, further aggravating their inhibitions.
- Instil responsibility at an early age. Trusting your child with responsibility will give that much needed confidence. Give them little chores such as carrying groceries inside, fetching your purse or helping you with the laundry. Always be lavish with the praise when they do something productive, so that they feel proud of their achievements. Another way of instilling responsibility is to help them care for a pet or a garden plant. As their control grows and thrives, so will their self-esteem.
- Teach them to cope. Facing problems head-on can become the biggest nemesis for any shy child. You will find that they prefer to avoid confrontations and tend to dwell excessively on minor setbacks and disappointments. Teach your child to manage in a rough world by encouraging them to take failures in their stride. Even the most brilliant brains had to fail many times before they could taste the fruits of success. Relate inspirational and true-life tales of people who surmounted great difficulty to reach their goals. This will help your children battle their own demons with good effects.
- Encourage friendship and emotional bonding. The desire to make friends is always on the surface, but if your son or daughter is timid, this may prove difficult. Invite school chums home for a play-date on weekends to further bonding. Set the right example by striking a light conversation with kids at the park, beach or while shopping. You’ll soon find that your little one too will follow suit, and making friends becomes a second nature. Start projects where they can involve their friends as well. For instance, decorating their room or selecting a new bike – these activities could prove to be excellent ice-breakers. Good friendship is truly a powerful gift that can slice through any inhibition; so, always open your home and heart to your child’s friends.
- Be attentive. Your child may be craving for your attention, but just because s/he is less demanding, you may not be aware of it. Make sure you spend a good deal of quality time with them.
- Ensure a stable home environment. Kids are like radars. They tend to pick up every scrap of ill-feeling, as if they were emotional magnets. If you happen to have a bad day, frustrated over problems at work, or having a tiff with your spouse, be sure not to display any animosity in front of your child. Also, weed out the company of negative people from your life.
With a little love and care, you can effectively eliminate your children’s inhibitions and fill their world with wholesome happiness. Result? You will, sooner than later, also have the pleasure of watching their personalities bloom and grow as they truly begin to discover themselves.