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Unhealthy Labels
Photo: Sophia Lemon
Shyness is un-American! Researchers suggest only 15-20% of infants are “shy,” and nearly 50% of us are shy in adulthood. One powerful source is the nature of the emotional bond parents forge with their children in the earliest years. Researchers now suggest biology, relationship history and culture all shape us. Shyness is a culture-bound label. People don’t come with labels. Someone manufactures the label, and we must be careful how it is used.

According to research, infants with touchy temperaments are not necessarily doomed to become shy adults. Much depends on the parenting they receive. Some suggestions for supporting these kids include:

  • Do not overprotect and overindulge. Nudge, don’t push your child to explore new things with sensitivity. Don’t give your child negative labels.

  • Show respect and understanding. Remember that overcoming fears and anxieties is not easy; the feelings may remain even after specific behaviors have been overcome.

  • Ease the tease. Shy children are particularly sensitive to embarrassment.

  • Help your child build friendships. Be involved with your child and his friends. Sometimes shy kids do better when playing with slightly younger children.

  • Talk to teachers. Teacher may overlook a shy child and mistake quietness and passivity for disinterest or lack of intelligence.

  • Provide indirect support. Ask your child to what degree he wants to be involved in his activities. It’s not as important to overcome shyness as to find a comfort zone consistent with your child’s temperament.

  • Consider your own temperament. Think how your own personality or interaction style operates in conjunction with your child’s.
Bottom line. Talk, listen, support, and love your children for who they are, not for how outgoing you would like them to be.

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By Susan E. Murray. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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