My Blog this month is about “Being shy”, or as some say introverted. I was prompted to write about this topic when I was out grabbing a coffee the other day, when I was visiting my elderly mum. While waiting for my coffee I observed a mum with her two Kiddos. The tween girl was standing at the counter waiting to be served and she looked like a frightened cat on a hot tin roof! The mother was encouraging her daughter to get the attention of the waitress serving behind the counter, by pointing at her saying with her lips, “Look at her with your eyes, and ask her for a paper bag for our muffins”. The young girl looked really out of her comfort zone. Eventually the waitress came over and I heard her say, “May I have a bag?” It sounded more like a question than a request.   

There’s no need to try to force a quiet child to become more extroverted. Being shy isn’t a bad thing as it all depends on someone’s personality style and the needs and emotions that drive their behavior. Sometimes shyness can stem from low confidence as this quality is underdeveloped in some styles. If you force a child to interact, for example, be the life of the party, it can interfere with their ability to communicate effectively, join activities, or meet new people. 

Children who are shy as young children, who grow into teens may be more likely to have unhealthy coping skills as well. Whereas, adults who feel shy may still greet someone or may force themselves to attend functions, even though their stomach is churning and those butterflies are fluttering. Shy teens will more likely want to avoid certain people or steer clear of optional social gatherings. 

Some Styles are Naturally Shy and Introverted 

As human beings we have experiences, then our mindset, beliefs and values shape our personality style. At about the age of 8yrs our primary style is pretty much who we are when others observe us. In the DISC Behavioral Model the C personality style is often seen as introverted: This type believes their environment to be unfavorable and are perfectionists. A teen who has had negative experiences – a parent that is constantly criticising them to get things right or a parent who likes being in control, when trying new things, speaking up, or when approaching people, may become less outgoing over time. Teens who grow up with overprotective parents may also be more likely to be shy.

If your teen’s shyness gets in the way of doing things they want to do, these strategies can help. Remember though that these strategies will depend on the individual child and circumstances.

  1. Share your own stories and coping strategies growing up if you were shy with your kiddo. Encourage them to practice these strategies. Or have a conversation about what they can do that is similar – practicing assertiveness by setting clear boundaries and discussing when and how they can become more assertive. 
  2. Share some of the qualities that make you and your family members more outgoing. Did the child’s grandmother show courage when she needed to and in what situations was she courageous? Does your kiddo have a  cousin or a friend who is also shy that knows how to use coping strategies for overcoming their shyness?
  3. Tell your child about the benefits of overcoming shyness. What was it like for you when you did? How did you feel afterwards – What did you say to yourself and what did you believe about yourself? 
  4. It’s important that your child understands the behavior that someone might observe in them when they are being more outgoing – what others can see and hear. Then encourage these behaviors and conversations.  
  5. Praise your child when they handle an unfamiliar situation or meet a new person without resorting to shyness. For example, saying ‘hello’ to a group of people may be a big first step when they are in a new situation. And when praising, use the quality that you see in them being demonstrated –  “Now that took a lot of courage, when you stood up and said hello to everyone, well done!!”
  6. Be supportive and don’t compare your shy teen with their siblings. Everyone is unique and it takes time to develop behaviors and qualities for becoming more outgoing. 

Things to Remember

Teens who are shy can become anxious or inhibited in unfamiliar situations or when interacting with others. Even adults who are outgoing at home when they are in familiar surroundings might be shy when having to speak in front of a large audience. Most of us can feel shy from time to time but the lives of some teenagers and younger children are curtailed by their shyness. In severe cases, professional help may be advisable. Would you like to find out if your child has a C Personality Style and what your primary style is? Then you might want to take my Kids DISC Birds assessment. It gives an amazing report with lots of info about the four Bird Styles and even has a section just for the child and you as a parent, teacher or coach… The Kids DISC Birds Report