What do Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Thomas Jefferson, Brad Pitt, Carrie Underwood, David Bowie, David Letterman, Elvis Presley, Jim Carrey, Tom Cruise, and Tom Hanks all have in common? They were all painfully shy as children. There's no question shyness can cause kids to miss out on opportunities. But as the famous folks named above show, It is possible to overcome shyness. Shyness is defined as anxiety and behavioral inhibition in social situations. Almost all children experience shyness at some time, but some experience it to a debilitating degree.
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Tips to Help Children Overcome Shyness
Overcoming shyness: Steps parents can take now.
- Share your shyness - Your will feel better about her own shy behavior if you share examples of when you were shy and what coping strategies you discovered.
- Explain the benefits of being outgoing - Explain how shyness might stand in the way of a career your child has expressed interest in. A more concrete example might be how her shyness may keep her from participating in a fun activity with her classmates or friends.
- Empathize - By mirroring your child's feelings, you help her identify those feelings, letting her know you understand and allowing you to start a dialogue that can help her develop ways to control her shyness.
- No labeling - Never hang a negative label on your child, especially in front of other kids or adults.
- Set goals - Research shows that setting goals can help improve performance. The goal may be as simple as saying at least one word to one new person each day -- saying "hello" for instance. The goal may be speaking in front of the class or other small group. Consider checking with your child's teachers to help set goals.
- Expose your child to new places and people - Practice makes perfect holds true for overcoming shyness as well. Try to incorporate new settings and new people into the world in which your child interacts by going to a playground, library, or church group. Consider inviting new people to your house as well.
- Reward outgoing behavior - Rewards can be powerful motivators. Praise even slight improvements when when your child acts outgoing. Develop small rewards such as a particular snack or more time in a certain activity for a child who meets daily goals.
- Praise others' outgoing behavior - Being positive when recognizing others' outgoing behavior helps your shy child recognize the value of not being shy. Don't be negative with comments such as "Why can't you be like that?"
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How to Overcome Shyness
As you can see, how to overcome shyness in children is similar to other parenting approaches. What works best is to care about your child, focus on the positive, and reward/give positive attention when appropriate. With patience, love, and time-proven strategies, you can help your child overcome shyness in an effective and positive manner.