Shyness in children is a very common trait. Parents are often concerned about shyness in children. Here, we explore some of the causes of shyness in children and how we can overcome shyness in children.
Is shyness in children inborn?
According to researchers, shyness in children is definitely not inborn because biological behaviours evolve only when babies grow to develop a sense of self, which is around 15 to 18 months. Recent notion, according to scientists is that there are genes linked to behaviours like shyness, fearfulness etc. Babies possess a basic temperament, which is either outgoing and assertive or reserved and bashful. Reserved and bashful temperament termed as inhibited temperament is shown by certain behavioural expressions like vigorous kicking of legs,and loud extended crying on hearing loud noises.These behaviours cannot be found in babies with outgoing and assertive temperament.
Shyness in toddlerhood
As toddlers, shyness in children is exhibited by hiding the head behind a pillow, a toy or behind your legs, feeling restless and crying when faced with unfamiliar people or when taken to an unfamiliar place. The child hesitates to suddenly accept even new games, new toys, new foods and new clothes until she feels comfortable. She may go through shyness due to separation anxiety. Sudden cautiousness of your child around strangers and fear of letting you out of sight means it is separation anxiety. This appears between 9 and 18 months when the child starts moving around and becomes more independent, and may continue upto even 3 years when the parent goes out for a brief period or longer time, or when left in a new childcare situation like day-care centres or preschool or when left alone in dark. This shyness will last through a particular stage, as said above, and can be overcome through exposure to social experiences.
What are the reasons for shyness in children?
Although babies and toddlers show signs of shyness, shyness in children becomes more apparent at the age of about 18 months to two years when they have grown to develop a sense of self, and is due to various reasons.
Reasons for Shyness in Children
Some reasons for shyness in children are:
- Too much of self-consciousness once they develop a sense of self leads to occurrence of shyness. Children sometimes develop a feeling of inferiority, which can show up as shyness.
- Fear for unfamiliar people and situations causes shy nature to appear.
- Shyness in children may arise due to genetic make-up in the initial years. This natural instinct will be overtaken by the influence of experience as the child grows in age.
- Shyness in children may also be due to unkind treatment meted out during the growing years, either by parents, teachers or fellow students.
- If you go down to the root cause of shyness, you will find that it is fear. Generally shy children fear unfamiliar situations like playing in a new environment with other children, meeting new people as when taken to parties, or at family gatherings, and at school to stand in front of the class to say a poem or read a passage.
How to overcome shyness in children?
As a parent what can you do to help to overcome shyness in children? First, you should understand the nature of your child’s shyness so that you can find means to help your child to get out of this inconvenient nature. If you are able to specify the situations in which your child feels shy, you can help her develop skills needed to overcome his or her shyness in those specific social situations. Do not let the shy nature to get set in your child, once you see its rudiments appear in her, try some means to get her out of her shelled nature, if not it will affect her social interactions which are very much necessary for her all-round development.
Tips to Overcome Shyness in Children
- Most children become shy as a result of fear for parents, whose approval or disapproval moulds the child.
- In your rearing practice, try to instill confidence in your child about her self. From birth allow her to do things in her own way, not finding too much of fault in her behaviour If parents do not take the needed care to eradicate this fear and the resulting shyness, when they go to school this kind of fear for authority continues and they feel shy to approach the teacher for any information she needs.
- Some children feel at ease at home, but feel shy in a new environment.Once you find your child is shy, do not openly declare to others, in front of your child that she is shy and thereby offer her a way of excuse to her natural shyness. Once she hears you saying to others that she is shy by nature, she will not come forward to take any remedial action even with your assistance. You can handle her shyness by telling that she takes time to get along with new people, instead of declaring that she is shy.
- Make the child feel that you are there to understand her feelings. Make her feel normal in the midst of a gathering by assuring her that how she feels and behaves in that situation is not odd, thus giving her a sense of confidence in a social situation.
- Talk with her about her experiences at day-care or pre school everyday, so that she would feel she has someone to understand her.
- Whenever your child comes forward to make social contacts, either with other children or adults in your family, praise her efforts, however tentative she may be in her approach. Do not pass a negative comment on her tentativeness, for this will produce a negative effect rather than helping her to overcome her shyness.
- Speak kind words to your child to boost her confidence. When she shows fear for any new thing, tell her kindly that there is nothing to fear about it, do not try to remove her fear by force.
- Arrange social get-togethers at home quite often, giving her a chance to mingle with people of varying age- groups. When exposed to such gatherings more and more, your child will start feeling more comfortable to face people, and learn to be normal in any other unfamiliar situation as well. Encourage your child to come out and greet your guests and to eat with them, for more exposure helps her to open up. If you find your child feels overwhelmed amidst a larger group of invited guests, expose her to only a smaller group to begin with, say just one or two people.
- Involve your child in social activities like sports, playgroups etc.
- Develop communication skill in her ,exposing her to other adults and children apart from your family members, which will help overcome shyness.Let her communicate with other new people, to shed the fear of facing people. You, the parent, be a role-model to your child in social behaviours.
Difference between introversion and shyness in children
Being an introvert does not mean being shy.An introvert may also be shy, but introversion itself is not shyness. While a shy person is nervous, anxious and apprehensive, an introvert does not exhibit these elements.Shy people always think of what others feel about them and are more self-conscious, do not want to be alone, but afraid to interact with others,while an introvert likes to be alone, preoccupied with his own thoughts and feelings, and conserves his energy when alone and loses energy when around people. Shy people avoid social situations due to fear of facing people, while introverts avoid social situations, even though they have good social skills, to prevent their emotional energy from being drained.
What about extroverts?
An extrovert is the opposite of an introvert. While an introvert becomes emotionally energetic on being alone, extroverts are energised when around other people and therefore enjoy social situations.Extroverts like conversations unlike introverts who like to sit alone and think. Introverts think for long before they speak, while in extroverts thought and speech are simultaneous. Extroverts mostly think best while they speak, but at times, their speech without prior thought leads them into trouble.