Traditionally, extroversion is valued over introversion in our communities. We tell our children, “Don’t be shy.” We grade our students on class participation and sometimes take off point for not participating enough. We call silences in conversation “awkward pauses.” Perhaps, though, we need to figure out how to strike a balance with our children, teaching them the value of following their natural dispositions while occasionally pushing past their discomfort every now and then.
Some tips include:
Check in with teachers. Introverts are often overlooked in the classroom. But, if you sporadically check in with your child’s teacher, the teacher will know to look out for your child, even if he is quiet. This will ensure that his progress will be monitored.
Encourage moderate risks. What feels like an easy task for you might be a daring adventure for your child. Therefore, discuss with your child what feels comfortable for him or her and what slightly pushes the limits. For instance, if your child refuses all playdates, suggest having a short playdate with only one other child in the comfort of your home. Then, create a signal for your child to let you know when he feels the playdate is over. Taking moderate risks will help your child become more at ease when he is forced into difficult situations.
Respect boundaries. Don’t push far beyond what is comfortable for your child. Listen to him if he says that he cannot do what you are asking of him in social situations.
Perhaps the main idea parents can take away from this article is that shy is not inherently bad. In fact, there are some wonderful things about being shy. However, because shy children often float under the radar, just make sure someone is keeping track of them!