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Understanding and Helping Your Shy Toddler

Katlyn Joy | 9, June 2014


As babies grow into toddlers, their little personalities begin to bloom. One trait that seems to concern many parents is shyness. This is especially difficult for more extroverted, outgoing parents to understand. However, shyness in and of itself is not an indication of a problem anymore than being prone to talkative times is a problem.

What Kind of Shy is Your Child?

Does your child make eye contact?

This is an important clue to the child's self-esteem. If your child is quiet, but looks others in the eye, you probably needn't worry at all. A child that cannot maintain eye contact with adults or peers may need some help to conquer whatever makes him feel inadequate in social settings.

Does your child eventually warm up to people?

Some children will warm up much slower, if at all, if the outsider in a larger group. Many times these same toddlers will become comfortable and friendly if in a smaller group, or one-on-one.

Is your child generally well-behaved?

If your child doesn't have behavior issues, and doesn't seem angry, it's less likely a big issue. If however, your child shows anger and frustration and her shyness seems more of a withdrawal, this warrants more concern.

Does your child show excessive fear over new or social settings?

Almost all children go through a few times in their lives when stranger anxiety plagues them. Babies experience this phenomena a couple times during infancy. However, many parents don't realize it's a common phase during the ages of 2 to 4 years, as well.

Is shyness a major barrier to your child's happiness?

As kids grow, the demand on them to be in public settings also grows. If a child seems overly anxious, uncomfortable and unable to cope with normal situations, it signals a problem.

How Not to Help Your Shy Toddler

Many parents are overly concerned with shyness, and see it as a problem to remedy. In this erroneous thinking, they can do more harm than good.

Don't apologize for your child's shyness in public. First of all, it puts a spotlight on little Suzie, and clearly Suzie doesn't enjoy it. Next, it labels Suzie and that implies Suzie has a fault that needs remedying.

Don't force your child into situations he doesn't appear ready for. Lots of extroverted parents become impatient with their quiet child's lack of ease with social occasions. In frustration, they may push a child into being with others or reacting to others. For instance, if Aunt Jean stops by after a long absence, your child may have no clue who this person is, even if you are vouching for them. Telling your children to "Go give Aunt Jean a hug, and stop acting like that!" puts your child on the spot, forces them to act outside their comfort zone, and tells them they are being a problem in just being themselves.

Don't teasing or point out your child's shyness. Anytime you call attention to your child's shyness, you increase the child's reluctance to come out of her shell. You will do the opposite of what you desire.

Appreciating the Shy Child

Instead of calling your child shy all the time, as if you are disappointed in him, try using other positive words like "quiet," "reserved," or "soft-spoken." Don't equate shyness with poor self-esteem. Many shy children are confident; they are simply more prone to quiet behavior and fewer but often, well chosen words.

Don't push her into situations. Give her the power to move forward or stay behind in social settings. If you give your child time to warm up and survey the room, he may surprise you and mix and mingle at his own pace.

Don't speak for your child all the time. Don't be afraid of pauses or quiet moments in conversations. Not everyone feels the need to fill every moment with conversation, thankfully. Let your child express herself at her own speed.

Instead of seeing shyness as a problem, recognize it is like most traits; it has positives and negatives. Shy children are often good listeners, careful workers, and considerate people. They are not given to impulsive acts, thoughtless words or intrusive or overbearing behavior.

Shy people have become some of the greatest thinkers, humanitarians and leaders of our time. Shyness isn't necessarily a problem to fix. Support your shy child!

Related Articles

How to Keep Your Toddler from Getting Into Everything!

How to Say "No!" to Your Adorable Toddler

When Your Toddler Is a Picky Eater

Transitioning from Crib to Toddler Bed

Tips for Traveling With Your Toddler


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