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Advice for parents and teachers of shy children from Shyness Expert Laurie Adelman

Grace wakes up every morning with a stomachache, enters the classroom with her head down, and does not interact with the other children. The teacher tries to involve Grace in class discussions, but Grace is not comfortable enough to speak. For the 30-50% of children who are estimated to be shy, many parents, teachers, and children go through different variations of this scenario every day. The good news is that it does not have to be this way. Shyness expert Laurie Adelman shares tips from the Don’t Call Me Shy method that helps parents and teachers bring out a shy child’s social best.

Never label a child shy

The way that a parent or teacher labels a child is the same way that the child will come to label herself. Once a child develops a concept of herself as being shy she will behave in a manner that is consistent with that label. Change your expectations for your child to potentially social. Shy means “I believe I can’t.” Potentially social means “I believe I can.”

Describe behaviour

Shy children need help defining who they are and what they are capable. It is very reassuring for a shy child to have a parent or teacher say “you need time to get used to a new situation, and that’s okay. When you’re ready you will sit with the other children.”

Children need to experience social success

It has been customary for shy children to be instructed to “get out there and act social.” The truth of the matter is that they can’t. The shy child knows what he or she should do but if she believes deep down that she is shy, she will be unable to do so.
When you are beginning to work to improve a shy child’s social skills and confidence, a social success could include smiling at another child, sitting at the party table, or handing crayons to fellow students. A child must begin small in order to build confidence to continue to make more and more social attempts.

Offer quiet reinforcement

Following any social gesture, quietly reinforce your child. Let her know how proud you were of the fact that she entered the classroom by herself and looked at the teacher. Giving positive attention to these seemingly small social gestures go a long way to show the shy child that behaving in a social manner is not only possible – but can be enjoyable and less pressure-filled than she may have previously thought.

Laurie Adelman, B.S.N., M.S., is a nurse, health educator, shyness coach, and author of Don’t Call Me Shy. Adelman was featured on NBC Today Show and has written numerous educational and inspirational articles. Don’t Call Me Shy is the only book that changes the mind-set of the shy child from “I can’t because I’m shy” to “I CAN be social if I try.” Visit for more information. To order Don’t Call Me Shy call: 1-800-864-1648.