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Parenting a Shy Child



What is shyness? Shyness is a personality trait, not a fault. There is nothing wrong with being shy. Just because a child is shy, it doesn’t mean he or she suffers from low self-esteem. Most of the time, shy children have a solid self-concept. A shy child with a healthy sense of self-worth makes eye-to-eye contact, is polite, and seems happy with himself or herself. Shyness is a handicap when there is no eye-to-eye contact, the child has behavioral problems, and the child feels uncomfortable in the presence of other people.

If you are the parent of a shy child, you may be at a loss for what to do to help him or her become more socially capable. This is particularly true if your son or daughter experiences shyness as a handicapping trait. In your efforts to reduce your child’s shyness, the following are some suggestions regarding what may help and what to avoid.


Don’t force your child out of shyness.

The harder you pull, the more your child will retreat. It’s better to create a comfortable environment that allows her social personality to develop naturally.

Never label your child “shy.”

On hearing this label, your child feels that something is wrong with him. He may feel even more withdrawn and shy as a result of negative labeling.

Don’t put your child on the spot and require her to share talents or perform without warning. Performing in itself is hard, and the surprise places unnecessary pressure on your child.

Don’t override your child.

An extroverted caregiver paired with a more reserved child sometimes makes it difficult for the child to get a word in. Listen to your child, and don’t interrupt! By becoming more reserved around your child, you may watch him become more communicative and open toward you.


Recognize that you are blessed with a sensitive, deeply caring, and cautious child.

Hug your quiet child often, and make her feel at ease. Create a gentle environment where she can let loose or relax. 

Keep direct attention off your shy child.

As he becomes more comfortable in a setting, he will warm up and lose some of his reservations.

Prepare the child for things that you will expect.

For example, if you want your child to play the piano for Grandma, tell her before Grandma arrives so she has time to prepare herself.

Love shy children for who they are!

Unlike popular belief, shyness is not a negative quality. Shyness can be a help or a handicap to a child depending on how it is handled. Look for other positive traits your child has instead of focusing on shyness.


Bounds, M. (1993). “You Can Find the Right Preschool.” Parenting. (9): 90-96.

Gardener, M. (1992). “Family Day Care.” Working Mother. (7): 36-40.

Duma, L. (1993). “Where Toddlers Thrive.” Working Mother. (6): 44-49.

Price, S., and T. Price. (1994). The Working Parents Help Book. Princeton, New Jersey: Peterson's.

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