by Stacey Schifferdecker
I know from experience that it is tough to be shy and introverted in today’s world. People seem to place a lot of value on being outgoing and having a large circle of friends. There is nothing wrong with being introverted, and you need to make sure you accept your children’s personalities and don’t make them feel like there is something wrong with them. On the other hand, they do need to interact with other people and you can help them become more self-confident. Here are some parenting tips that may help.
Don’t label your children as shy
Do your children hang back at a birthday party instead of jumping in to join the fun? Some children just like to observe a situation for a while and will usually join the fun later. But if they hear you tell other people that they are shy, they often begin acting even more shy. The child seems to think, “Well, Mom said I’m shy, so that means I must really be shy.”
Be a good role model
Children learn appropriate behavior by watching the adults around them, especially you, their parents. Let your children see you introducing yourself to other people, making conversation, and being friendly. By watching you, your children will learn how to interact with other people.
Almost everyone feels shy in certain situations, and you should be able to tell what kinds of situations make your child feel shy. Maybe it’s meeting new people, starting a new school, or going to birthday parties. Practice with your children, giving them ideas about what to say to people and helping them prepare for the situations that make them uncomfortable.
Give your children a chance to grow
If you always tie your children’s shoes, they’ll never learn to tie their own, right? It’s the same with other parts of life. If your child is shy about making phone calls, you may be tempted to step in and make their phone calls for them. Don’t! Once your children are old enough, let them make their own phone calls to arrange play dates and ask questions about homework. Also let them interact with sales people at stores and talk to their teachers about schoolwork questions. They may not like it, but they will begin to build confidence and develop skills they will need as adults.
Encourage their unique interests
Encourage your children to try lots of different things – music, sports, art, crafts, dancing, etc. The more your kids try things, the more they will learn about themselves and the more they will have to talk about. If your child doesn’t want to attend group activities, try solitary ones first, such as creating origami, knitting, running, swimming, or shooting hoops in the driveway. Then you can gradually encourage him or her to join a group or that shares similar interests.
Remember, accept your children for who they are. It is fine if your child has just one or two good friends instead of being the center of a large group of buddies. Your goal should be to help your child gain self-confidence and develop social skills, not to become the prom king or queen.
Stacey Schifferdecker is the happy but harried mother of three school-aged children—two boys and a girl. She is also a freelance writer, a Children’s Minister, a PTA volunteer, and a Scout leader. Stacey has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and French and a Master’s degree in English. She has written extensively about parenting and education as well as business, technology, travel, and hobbies.