"He's Just Shy"

It doesn't take long to notice that each of our children are different. Some are less outgoing than others and each has their own temperament. For those children of ours that are more reserved and less outgoing than the others, there are skills we can teach so they can feel more comfortable around new people and in social situations.

When we label our children, they are more likely to "become" that label. When your child gets asked a question, and refuses to answer, the last thing you want to say is "he is just shy". The more you say it, the quieter your child will become. Don't let others label your child either. "Are you shy", shouldn't be something your child has to hear from others. When someone does decide to label your child, respond by saying something like, "No he isn't shy, just not very talkative right now". This is a much better approach than labeling.


It can be embarrassing to have our 4 year old hiding behind our legs, refusing to talk to our friends, or co-workers. We think it makes us appear like we don't have control over our children, or that they don't respect us enough to OBEY. Or that we haven't taught them. We have to get over those thoughts. If others judge, it is their problem. We know our children best. We need to do what is best for them. Don't let what others think affect our actions.

Don't shelter your child. Expose them to lots of different situations with different people. Give them opportunities to be social, but don't force them to perform. Give them lots of new experiences and opportunities. Don't shelter them.

Often times, kids just need a few minutes to feel comfortable in situations. Arriving early to social situations, gatherings and parties will allow your kids a few minutes to "take inventory" of the setting, and even meet a few people before the "crowd" arrives. It gives them time to warm up to the people and the environment. They are able to already establish their position in the environment instead of "walking into an environment already in progress".

Explain to your child what will take place in the upcoming situation. Explain that there will be new people who want to say hello and ask them their names and shake their hands. Give them a good idea of what will happen so they are not caught off guard. Don't just explain what will happen, but talk about what you expect them to do also.

We don't have to answer for our child when they won't talk. When we are in the situation, just go on with the conversation and let your child participate when they are ready.

We have talked about role playing before. It is a really important teaching tool. Role playing will help build your child's confidence. Practice making eye contact. Practice what to say when they meet someone new. Practice how to introduce themselves. Practice speaking loud enough so others can hear them.

Pressure will most likely turn into a power struggle where your child will act exactly how you don't want them to act, just to prove that they are in control.

When your family is together and you know your child is comfortable, give them the opportunity to lead and be in charge. Use situations that are already occurring and give them special tasks and assignments. If you are LDS, a great place to do this is Family Home Evening. Give your child the opportunity to conduct the meeting. Teach them public speaking skills, and let them practice.

Remember that kids have their own personalities and inner feelings. Instead of assuming and labeling, work with them a little and you will see huge differences in their actions when it comes to public situations. All kids need to learn the skills, it is just quicker and easier for some than others. Be patient. There is truth to the fact that it can be a phase, or an age, and know that with time, things will get easier for them and you.



  1. It's definitely the case in my family! My middle son completely clams up in social settings. He has never been willing to pray in primary, or give a talk. It takes him a long time to warm up to adults. His 2nd grade teacher told me that he didn't talk to her til a week before Christmas, but then he was a different kid, totally himself.

    I was really shy as a child, and sometimes I still fight the urge, but I overcame it. I think that not judging is a big factor in helping our children to overcome their social anxiety. Thanks for your ideas! Terrific as always!

  2. My son (5) is really shy, and I can tell he's following in my footsteps in that area (which makes me sort of upset with myself. I did not want either of my children to be shy to the degree that I am). But being in preschool has seemed to help. I do notice myself, in situations where he "clams up" defending him and saying, "Oh, he's shy. He just needs to warm up." (and the list goes on and on). I think that's actually doing more harm than good. Thank you for these pointers. I definitley need to work on my approach with him. He starts Kindergarten in August and I want him to more social and friendly.

    My daughter on the other hand (15 months), is SO outgoing and social. It's funny to see how drastically different they are.

    Thanks for the post! :)

  3. I'm a pretty recent follower (LOVE your blog by the way!) and I was wondering what you might do in a situation that is completely opposite...I have a four year old that wants to be friends with EVERYONE. A few days ago we were at a local pizza place and when a lady commented on his little sister, he immediately invited her over to our house. Last week he invited a door to door salesman inside to play. How do I approach the "stranger danger" talk without scaring him? Or do I need to put a little fear in him?

  4. Thanks for the ideas. Anytime we go anywhere I get the comments of how my kids are shy. I need to work on not letting others label them. Never thought of it that way, so thanks.
    Sometimes their "shyness" is handy because when we go out I know they will stay close to me.

  5. Wow I love this post. I've been calling my son shy recently, and now I know to keep my mouth shut. We just moved a few weeks ago from UT to NM and my 6 year old has had a hard time at school. His principle says hi and bye to him every day as he comes and goes and my son doesn't acknowledge him at all. I was embarrassed and apologized and say hi and bye for him every day. Thanks for the tips.

    Also, I forgot about role play! I role played with my first son before he went to the dentist for the first time (even leaning his chair back and having him look into a light !) and it worked so well. I'll have to remember role play in the future. Thanks for the awesome, informative post.

  6. Thank you for this post. I cannot thank you enough for a post that allows mothers to realize and acknowledge that it is okay to have a child that acts different. And that "different" is not necessarily a bad thing.

    Also, thank you for the encouragement and the various ideas to help enhance your interaction with the child. You want to make them confident without pushing them to lose what is their personality and their nature. Thank you, yet again, for this really informative post! :)

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  7. Really good info in this post. Well done!

  8. I wish this had been around for my parents and other adults in my life to see when I was a child! I was very shy. The more I heard that I was shy, the more shy I was. I don't remember anyone actually saying it, but somehow I came to think that being shy was very bad and wrong and equaled stupidity. I came to believe that I was a very bad child and extremely stupid. My siblings and peers constantly teased me about it and my parents and teachers didn't see anything wrong with the teasing and even said it would "bring her out of it". It effected my self worth, my grades, my motivation to work toward any kind of goals, etc. I was even suicidal as a teen. This lasted until I reached young adulthood and was away from everyone I grew up around. I was still very shy, but I was away from everyone who had vocally labeled me as shy. It took a long time and a lot of hard work, but I overcame a lot of the shyness and learned that it had nothing to do with being good or bad or stupidity.

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