In a world that increasingly values the traits of extroverted individuals, shy children are often assumed to have something wrong that needs to be fixed. However, shyness is simply a personality trait that is part of their temperament. Children are born with unique personalities, although their environment can play a significant role in how these traits present as the child develops. What is apparent, is that shyness falls on a continuum, where children have varying levels of this trait. The important thing is to remember that different character attributes should be embraced and it’s best to appreciate the unique way a shy child interacts with the world around them.
Children are wired with a variety of traits, and these things affect all areas of their life. Shyness is a trait that most parents are concerned about because they feel their child doesn’t have a good self-image. However, many shy children have a strong self-concept. They are often deep-thinkers and great listeners but also very protective of their inner peace. Shy children with healthy confidence are polite, happy, and make eye contact. They are just simply quiet and slow to warm up to novel situations and people. And yes, more extreme shyness traits can cause concern, such as avoiding eye contact, behavior problems, and excessive fear. This is when adults need to step in and help.
The key to nurturing a child’s shy personality is avoiding labels and attempting to force the shyness out of them. This will make them feel like they don’t fit in and think that something is wrong with them. Instead, be patient and let their personality develop naturally, encouraging them along the way. Appreciating the beautiful qualities of a shy child that is caring and sensitive will make them shine brighter. And when shyness is so extreme, that is genuinely a cause for concern, being patient and helping them role-play positive social scenarios will be a much more positive approach than forcing them into uncomfortable situations unprepared.
Encouraging environments are vital to the individual development of a child’s personality. Adults must understand that children have different temperaments and traits and that given the best settings, they can develop to their maximum potential. The Gentle East Martial Arts programs were designed with a whole-child, individualistic approach in mind. Accepting children where they are in their development and adapting in a nurturing way to their temperament is how our instructors help cultivate happy, successful children. Establishing a supportive setting where role-modeling positive social interactions help even the shyest of children develop their personalities with confidence.
Removing judgment and a “fix it” mentality when interacting with shy children will go a long way in reinforcing a positive self-image and helping confidence develop. Nurturing a child’s innate traits will be a more successful approach than attempting to change them, which can have irreversible, long-term effects. Patience and support will allow a shy child’s inner peace to shine so that everyone around them can see it glow.
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Author: Jennifer Salama of Skillz Worldwide. Edited by Master Eric Rangel-Ribeiro
Jennifer is a 4th-degree black belt and has been training in martial arts since 2001. She has a Master’s Degree in Child Psychology and has embraced the SKILLZ curriculum because of its focus on child development and using martial arts as a vehicle to develop the child as a whole.