Understanding Shyness………….

"Does your child peek between his fingers to look at people he doesn’t know (or even people he does know)? Does she turn away from attention or hide from people? Are you afraid that your child was just “born shy?”

Shyness is a feeling that everyone experiences at one time or another. Some children seem to be naturally shy. Studies about shy children point out that it is part of a child’s “temperament.” Temperament is part of a child’s personality that they are born with and that is special for each child. Studies have shown that when children are more reactive to sights, sounds, smells, and touch, this might be a part of why they feel shyer. They may just take a little longer to feel comfortable.

Shy children might not be fearful. They just might take longer to feel confident in trying new things, meeting new people or going to new places. It is important to respect a child’s feelings. If you discount or deny her feelings, it puts a lot of stress on her. If he isn’t able to control the pace of what is going on, he might become fearful or lack self-confidence. It is important to respect shy children.

Here are some tips from experts who study shyness:

Accept your child’s feelings of shyness.Do not push your child to be outgoing
Let your child have time to adjust to new situations. Ease her into new situations. When meeting new children you may have to help her play for a while before she is comfortable.
Ease your child into social activities slowly. Build friendships slowly with one person at a time.
Your child looks to you for confidence. Your acceptance of your child’s feelings will help her feel more confident.
Help other people who are with your children to understand him. Talk to teachers about what can be done to support your child. Sometimes shy children are overlooked or misunderstood.
Avoid saying that your child is “shy.” Use more positive words like, “It takes a little time to get settled,” or “Becky likes to watch everyone first.”

It is important to support your child’s feelings of being shy while at the same time exposing him to new situations. Try not to overprotect or “save” your child from all situations. Be sensitive to a child’s sense of comfort, but allow the child to be in control and feel comfortable by himself.

According to McClellan & Katz, 2001, “unless shyness is severe enough to prevent a child from enjoying the ‘good things of life,’ such as birthday parties or picnics, it is reasonable to assume that, when handled, sensitively, shyness will be spontaneously outgrown."


Janice McCoy, 

University of Illinois Extension
Source: Assessing Young Children’s Social Competence, McClellan & Katz, 2001, Eric Digest. Champaign, IL, EDO-PS-01-2.

1 Response


    Shyness can be difficult for parents to manage. I think it is really important to keep in mind the comment that it is only when a child doesn’t enjoy the good things in life that you could become more concerned. Remember on the temperament discussion there was a measure on slow to warm children. These children are often shy but do warm up as they get more familiar with their environment.

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