May 18, 2024
Ask The Experts

My Child Is Shy

This article was first published in New Vision on June 4, 2014

I am a father of three children. The two first children are okay but I have a challenge with the youngest child. She is very shy. If she is not used to a person, she avoids eye contact, or even covers her face and cries. Does she have a problem I should be worried about?


Dear Robert,
You have not mentioned how old your daughter is. Young children especially those being exposed to new situations may become frightened and withdraw. There are several reasons why children become shy.

Sometimes children are born with a temperament that makes them more sensitive and reactive to new
situations. Such children have a challenge warming up to others. Another possible cause of shyness is
low self–esteem. Self–esteem is a value scale of worth.

In her book, Raise Up a Child, Nancy Van Pelt describes it as a mental picture of oneself formed by feedback from others. The main source of this is the feedback the child receives from his/her environment.

Parents, teachers and siblings all act as credible mirrors upon which the child sees his/her strength and
weaknesses. The final picture or image, which the child will carry along, depends on the amount of positive and negative feedback he/she receives.

Shyness is not just a child’s problem; people from all age groups face this problem. Many people have lost job opportunities as a result of shyness or lack of self-confidence. Self–esteem is a solid wall upon which every child learns to become an achiever in life.

Dorothy Briggs, in her book, Your Child’s Self Esteem, states that how your child feels about him/herself will determine his/her success or failure. The good news is that you could still help your daughter to overcome shyness.

Parental love and attention are powerful tools against shyness. All children thrive when they feel loved and cared for by their parents, especially if it is unconditional. Let her know that your love for her is unconditional and that she will always be loved no matter what she does or says.

Do not label her as ‘shy’. When children are labelled as ‘shy’ he/she feels an obligation to live up to that
expectation. Encourage her to participate in group activities both at school and at home. Beneath shyness lies fear; the fear of failure to meet other people’s expectations coupled with consciousness of what other people think.

Group participation would dilute this consciousness. In case she goes to school, work in collaboration with her teachers. The teachers should encourage her to play an active role in group activities, respond to questions in class and make friends.

Always give her opportunities to prove herself at home. Simple tasks like leading the family in prayer before a meal can improve a child’s self-worth. High self-worth reduces shyness. Your daughter cannot overcome this problem overnight.

Jamesa Wagwau is a professional counsellor

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