Being shy is typical for many young children. By the age of 5 they now have all of their feelings and language acquisition, but unfortunately don’t know ’how to’ socially apply these skills. Therefore, they say or don’t say things at inappropriate times. So as parents it means we have to teach them exactly what to do when feelings come.
This emotional education should go something like this;
First, sit them down in a quiet moment and say, “You know buddy when I’ve been telling you to say ‘hi’ to other kids, etc. and sometimes you either look away or hide behind Mommy that is called shy”.
Second, tell your child WHO gets shy. It’s the grocery store check-out lady, it’s a policeman, it’s Daddy, I even get shy, EVERYBODY has shy! This helps your child understand they are not the only one who gets shy. And it’s our job (as parents) to teach you “what to do” when you feel shy. All shy is…is not knowing what to do when someone comes up to you and says something!
Third, kids learn best through play. So play a game with your child, where you put on a ‘funny hat’ or get on your knees like you are a kid and you say, “Hi I’m Kyle from next door, can we play side-walk chalk together?” Then tell him what he is supposed to say back, “Yes, sit down, here’s some chalk”. Or if he is resistant to do this with you, as the parent, you just need to model this scene for them.
Fourth, and most importantly if they continue to hide behind you and not say anything or do anything appropriate like a “high five” for example, do NOT force your child to do it. Instead, you just step up and model for them (saying hi yourself or give a hi five), ultimately do what you want your child to do! Do not ask them ‘why’ they didn’t say hi or bring up the subject at all afterwards.
In the meantime, when he does say hi to ANYONE, you included (even in the morning when you wake up and your child automatically says hi or when you pick them up from grandma’s house, etc.) you tell your child “great saying hi”.
Telling our children to not feel something is second nature, because as parents we want to help them out when they feel stuck in social situations. But, telling them to ‘not be a feeling’, like shy never works because it’s a biological fact that feelings come whether we want them to or not. So next time the urge comes to tell your child to not be shy, mad or sad try helping them instead by figuring out how to deal with the feeling when it comes!
Keep in touch as comments are always welcome, Dr. Ann