Love, Always

Overcoming Shyness! Parents: 6 ways to help your child make a shift from shyness to confidence.

It’s one thing to be introverted because we’re naturally a bit reserved, reflective… just, more quiet.

It’s quite another thing for a child to be shy because they’re afraid to speak up (“I might get criticized”) or they lack confidence (“I don’t have anything smart to say!”).

When a child feels shy, that’s a lonely place to be — and as a parent, it’s your job to do what you can to help your child build confidence.

Here are 6 simple ways to start:

1. Let your child finish his or her sentences. Many well-intentioned parents like to jump in while their child is speaking, offering good thoughts and ideas — essentially finishing their child’s sentences for them.

This doesn’t help your child’s confidence (“I guess what I’m saying must not matter or be interesting.”) After your child has finished their sentence, then by all means, share your insights and ideas.

2. Don’t interrupt. It happens. A lot. You may be excited about what your child is saying, and filled with ideas to share. So you butt in, while your child’s in mid-sentence. If you do that enough times, your child is at risk for withdrawing (“I guess mom’s ideas are more important than mine.”)

3. Don’t criticize. It’s almost a guarantee that if your child knows they will be criticized, they will keep a tight lip. Makes sense. (“Why speak if what I say will get shut down.”) And parents often wonder why, when they ask their child a question, the answer is: “I dunno.”

4. Listen. It’s natural for children to want to share, especially with people whom they trust.

If your child feels that sharing with you is “safe” (i.e., they won’t get criticized or interrupted, and they can take their time to finish their sentences), watch them open up. Watch their personality begin to blossom.

5. Praise. I can’t emphasize this enough: validate your child when he or she says something that’s praise-worthy. We all love compliments. And when we get them, it feels so good that we want more. Which means we’re motivated to keep doing whatever earned us the praise in the first place. That’s a great confidence-builder.

6. Do a self-examination. Where are you on the shy scale (10 = confident; 0 = super shy?) Are you role-modeling shy behavior for your child? If yes, take steps to remedy that. For your sake, and for your child.

If it feels right, you could start with self-help or if you want to expedite things, consider consulting a professional (for yourself, and possibly even for your child.) I can help.

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These tips can help you give your child the gift of shifting from shyness to confidence. Of course there are many other scenarios and reasons for why a child might be shy, and many other fixes. But this is a start. The goal? That your child enjoy a happy, healthy childhood which equips him or her for a happy, confident life… as a grown-up.

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PS. This blog was created especially for those KHON2 Television viewers who watched Dr. Gelb being interviewed on this topic on September 5, 2014 — and wanted to learn even more.

PPS. Did you enjoy these tips on parenting? There’s more where that came from in my article on The Huffington Post: Want to raise Awesome Kids? 10 Ways to Become the parent — and Role Model — Your Kids Really Need.