What to do when you have a shy child
Nurturing Social Growth in Your Child
by Dr. Caron B. Goode
I birthed a social butterfly named Kristin. From the day of her birth, she saw all people as her friend and always said hello. My friend, Karen, birthed a shy daughter named Lisa. Parents don’t often worry about how social butterflies flit through the world; however a shy child usually needs a parent’s help in learning to negotiate relationships in a safe way. Karen understood this. Here is how she helped Lisa.
Karen’s daughter was painfully shy until she entered second grade. When she did interact with other children, it was on a very selective basis and always one-on-one. This was of great concern to her teachers. For a few years, Lisa’s progress reports all read the same: Needs improvement in group interaction and socialization.
Karen was always an optimist and thankful that Lisa wasn’t disruptive in class! Still, it was Karen’s job to usher Lisa into the world of friendships and group dynamics. Karen joined a playgroup and invited classmates over. She and Lisa took part in their local babysitting coop and signed her up for pee wee soccer. Lisa was a good sport about all this socialization. She entered into each situation with her chin up and her eye peeled for the one child she would interact with. So much for group dynamics.
Then one crisp fall afternoon that all changed. As was the routine, Karen stood huddled with the other neighborhood mothers when the school bus pulled onto their street. Lisa bounded off the bus, thrust a piece of paper Karen’s way, and asked, “Can I do it Mom?” It seemed that local Girl Scout troop 602 had paid a visit to school for recruitment. Lisa fell in love with their snazzy uniforms and was willing to sign on the dotted line. With visions of cookie sales dancing in her head, Karen took Lisa to the first meeting that same night.
Karen watched in awe as her formally shy child saddled up to the craft table. Lisa didn’t just merely participate in this group activity, she also joined the discussion regarding the merits of green versus yellow popsicle sticks in birdhouse building. Ah, behold the power of a uniform.
From that point on, something within Lisa clicked. Her childhood years became a whirl of meetings and mayhem. Sleepovers and group play at Karen’s house were common. Gone were the days when Lisa sought out the solitude of home. Those were gradually replaced with skating parties, pool friends, and team sports. Karen’s daughter may not have been born a social butterfly, but when emerged from her cocoon, she wasn’t about to look back!
Tips for Nurturing Social Growth in Your Child
- Encourage Social Growth. At first, it may be difficult for you to accept that your child would rather spend time doing nothing with friends than go to the zoo with you. In fact, it might even hurt just a bit, but encouraging interaction with other children is important. Respect the desire to explore their peer group. Children learn how to be friends through practice. Children also gain independence and find security in groups. Therefore, parents should urge them to partake in team sports and join clubs.
- Praise His Efforts. When you observe your child being a good friend, point it out and praise his efforts. Learning how to be a friend is a skill. It requires a lot of trial and error. Your praise will reinforce the importance of socialization. It might also head off some of the bumps on the road to building friendships.
- Friends and Enemies. The road to friendships is a rocky one. Therefore, it is not uncommon for children of this age to have a best friend and an enemy. Having an enemy does not mean your child is not a good friend. It means he is discovering what he expects of a friend and what is expected of him. These adversarial relationships are typically harmless and fleeting. Today’s enemy could easily turn into tomorrow’s best friend.
- Boys Against Girls. This is also a time when same sex play becomes prominent. Boys will want to play with other boys, and girls will want to play with other girls. For parents this is an ideal time to offset gender bias. Encouraging activities such as cooking and baseball that include both boys and girls is a good way to send this message.
- Respect His Identity. During middle childhood, children identify more with their peers than their family. Therefore, it becomes important to them to fit in. They will want to pack the same lunch and wear the same clothes as their classmates. Don’t fret too much about your child following the crowd. He will forge his own identity soon enough. For now, it is important that parents respect his desire to fit in. Learn how to strike a balance between family values and peer pressure.
Social growth is as important to your child’s well being as physical growth. Parents need to recognize this and encourage their child towards friendships. Friendships are an integral part of what all parents want for their children. A full, rich, and happy life.
Dr. Caron Goode is the founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents International, a global online school for training successful, parenting coaches in home-based businesses. She is the author of fifteen books, including the international best seller, Kids Who See Ghosts, and the national award-winner Raising Intuitive Children. See and review all of Dr. Goode’s books here. Dr. Goode is also the founder of HeartWise Parent, a learning center for parents and Live-Spirit.com, which provides tools for spiritual living.