“Mama, I don’t want to join our ballet recital,” one of my children tells me.
“Why?” I ask her.
“I’m too shy. I don’t want to go on stage in front of so many people,” she explains, with a sad look on her face.
This is one of many conversations that I’ve had with my children related to shyness. And I’m sure I’m not the only parent who’s had to face such “dilemmas”. Indeed, helping our children overcome shyness is an important topic among parenting circles, even among my own groups.
So what are the “secrets” to helping kids gain more confidence, especially when it comes to trying new things?
Nina Era, child, adolescent and family specialist, shares the following tips:
Give them choices.
Never insist on what you want for them. You may explain the advantages and disadvantages of exploring new things like a hobby or skill, but allow the child to make the decisions.
Never say ‘I told you so.’
If they fail at a certain skill, don’t give “I told you so” statements; instead encourage them to try again.
Exposure is key.
Expose them to people who are into the hobbies or skills they’re interested in, and show them the other hobbies or skills they can try.
Show your support by attending their games, plays, etc., no matter how small their roles are. Give them affirmation.
Donna Donor, a freelancer and mom to an 11-year-old boy who has experience in acting, modeling, and singing, adds that “parents must show enthusiasm over the activity.”
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the child’s parents should also take on the hobby. “They should be encouraging and be ready to support the child should the child decide to pursue learning a new skill,” she clarifies.
Donor also emphasizes the importance of choosing a good mentor for your child.
“It really depends on the parent on what kind of mentor because some mentors can be strict or lenient, but as long as the mentor can encourage the child to do better, then go for that mentor,” she says.
She warned parents, however to guard against being overly protective and defensive when the mentor reprimands their child. “During these moments, parents should still be in line with the mentor’s objectives and continue to encourage the child to do better. Trust the mentor,” Donor says.
Drawing from her own experience with her son, she recommends that parents encourage their kids to go for an activity that they “can do and enjoy.”
“Do not force your child to learn something because your friend’s kid is also into that activity or because it’s trending. You know your child better,” she reminds parents. “Other people will have their own opinion about what activity fits your child or what activity would make your child ‘behave’. Listen to your child more than other people.”
Donor also says that parents should always be encouraging. “Never push. Because when you push kids to do things, you will raise children who will always be afraid to try new things, doubt themselves, and their abilities,” she explains.
Children should also be encouraged to “try everything” if they can, according to Donor. “Sometimes kids don’t know their potential and it remains untapped, so parents should help their children discover for themselves what they are capable of,” she adds. “When the parents see the potential, they should be supportive of their child.”
We can see then that the parents’ role in helping their kids overcome shyness is crucial. Let’s do our best then to encourage our children and support them in their endeavors.
Oh, and the child whom I mentioned at the beginning of this article? She eventually decided to join that ballet recital — without any extra push from us, her parents, — and had a fun time performing in front of hundreds of people!