Ways to Overcome Your Child’s Shyness


Q: My daughter is in middle school and is beginning to hate school. She is an academic superstar; however, her shyness is stopping her from feeling confident at school. She feels uncomfortable answering questions in class or participating in discussions. She is also reluctant to talk to more than a few other students. What can be done to help her overcome her shyness?

A: Most people have some degree of shyness. According to Philip Zimbardo, professor of psychology at Stanford University, shyness is a mental attitude that predisposes people to be extremely concerned about the social evaluation of them by others. It involves keeping a low profile by holding back from initiating actions that might call attention to one’s self.

We recommend that you read Professor Zimbardo's book “The Shy Child: Overcoming and Preventing Shyness From Infancy to Adulthood.” It has some of the best suggestions that we have seen for helping parents combat shyness in their children. These include:

  • Do not label your child as shy. Never say: “Don’t be shy.”
  • Encourage talking at home.
  • Seek cooperation from teachers in reducing shyness in the classroom.
  • Teach your child how to compliment his or her teachers and peers.
  • Teach and display listening skills.
  • Compliment the shy child and other family members whenever possible.
  • Find a younger playmate for your child to help the him or her practice social skills and to be more assertive.

Frequently, gifted children like your daughter suffer from shyness because they perceive themselves as different from others. Enrolling her in a gifted program this summer could be helpful. Learning new physical skills also could contribute to building her self-esteem.

Parents should send questions and comments to dearteacher@dearteacher.com or visit dearteacher.com.

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