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10 Reasons Not to Call Your Child Shy

Parenting the socially uneasy child is more complicated than labeling your child as "shy." Your child may be different from you, if you're outgoing. That difference or mismatch with you might make you uncomfortable, but it doesn't mean something is problematic for your child.
10/14/2015 10:56am ET | Updated September 2, 2016
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Parenting the socially uneasy child is more complicated than labeling your child as "shy." It may just be your child's temperament or natural style to avoid overstimulating, gregarious people. Your child may be different from you, if you're outgoing. That difference or mismatch with you might make you uncomfortable, but it doesn't mean something is problematic for your child.

Society tends to praise the outgoing and feel there is something amiss with a child who likes to fly solo or just have a few loyal friends. However, many creative, highly productive people work effectively and persistently on their own with great rewards and high levels of accomplishment.

When parents use Parental Intelligence, they place a premium on understanding their child's mind, stage of development and capacity for problem-solving. Labeling social behavior is contrary to understanding it, an essential property of Parental Intelligence. Here, 10 reasons not to call your child "shy."

1. Labeling a child is reductive. It is a one-dimensional, simplistic view that may prevent you from seeing other aspects of your child's personality.

2. Calling your child shy may shame and embarrass him, furthering a potential problem if there is one.

3. Calling your child shy suggests she has a fixed trait that cannot be modulated. This might prevent her from learning positive strategies that would be helpful, such as giving her a supportive person to bolster her self-image, which in turn would ease her socialization.

4. Calling her shy could make her feel you disapprove of her personality, which could then lower her self-esteem and prevent her from trying strategies such as easing herself into small groups with sensitive people.

5. It's important not to make the error of viewing your child's caution or hesitancy in new situations as an inability to relate well to others. He may just hold back from novel situations or overstimulation, not human connections.

6. Calling your child shy minimizes his potential ability to learn to reason with himself about social experiences that may turn out to be positive and rewarding. With some successes, he may learn self-coaching and self-coaxing skills that improve over time.

7. You may discover if you help your child become selective in her social choices by choosing kids who are calm and non-aggressive, she will learn that her peers are friendly and accept her.

8. It helps to let your child know you are proud of her for taking small steps when she is fearful. Each small step is forward movement that leads to self-confidence in overcoming obstacles bit by bit.

9. It's essential that you show your child her style of relating is the right way for her, even if it's different from your way. Parents should be careful not to impose their belief systems about being highly social as something that is necessary in their culture.

10. Teachers should consider that a high level of participation is not an essential indicator of a good student. The quiet child may be hard working, smart, and successful.

Sometimes parents think their children need to change when it's the environment that needs changing. Everyone doesn't work well in large open spaces with collaborative learning as it used to be thought in corporate and educational worlds. The quiet worker who concentrates well on his own and is highly attentive and open to creating new ideas may not be the most noticed, but he may be the most effective.

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. has a new book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior.

This post first appeared in Moms Magazine.

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