You asked

What can parents do to help their child overcome shyness?

Identify the cause of your child’s shyness: Children can be shy in lots of different ways, for different reasons and in different social settings. By identifying the nature of your child’s shyness you may be able to develop a strategy that will help him overcome it. Is your child shy in groups, at parties or is he just shy if he has to give a presentation in class?
Be a role model for your child by displaying confident behaviour: Be friendly, be the first person to put themselves forward in social situations. Make a list of things you would like you child to be confident doing (e.g. making a telephone call, talking with other children, asking a shop assistant for help) and let your child see you doing them.  Never embarrass your child in public or criticise your child for failing.
Teach your child social skills early: When it comes to social skills, it’s never too early to start teaching your child.  Shyness increases as children get older so it’s best to try and pre-empt the problem.
  • Arrange play dates for children when they are young.
  • Help children understand what it takes to make and keep a good friend (you can even buy books on the subject, which can be helpful).
  • Practice social skills at home, teach them how to always say hello and how to answer a question with a sentence and not just a word.
  • Don’t answer questions on behalf of your child, always encourage them to speak for themselves.
Emphasise creative problem-solving: Shy people tend to worry about taking risks, worrying about what will happen if they should fail. Help your child to think creatively and realise that there is more than one solution to most problems. Reward your child for trying instead of rewarding them simply for succeeding.
Help your child to identify talents and hobbies that make him or her feel special:
Identify activities that make the best of your child’s strengths. Is your child good at sports, building things, maths, art, music or does she love to read? Find an activity that makes the most of her unique talents.  Find activities that will provide an opportunity for growth and that provide exposure to peers her own age.
Help your child to manage her emotions: Teaching your child to learn to cope with small upsets rather than just providing comfort is better in the long run. Research has shown that by teaching your child to cope, it is more likely that they will outgrow their shyness
Teach your child how to tolerate and respect others: Shy people are often quite judgemental of not only themselves but of others as well.  As a parent you need to make sure that your child doesn’t overhear you judging others about their appearance, lifestyle or personality. Teach your child about what is right with people and let them hear you compliment people often.
Understand when labelling your child as shy is a good thing and when it’s a bad thing:
The key to positively labelling your child as shy is to:
  • Make sure to pair the term shyness with something positive
  • Avoid using shyness as an excuse for your child’s behaviour as this takes them off the hook and gives them a reason not to try.
  • Believe in your child’s self worth, seek out opportunities to develop her strengths and reward your child’s efforts to grow. 
If your child's shyness is incapacitating, despite all efforts to help her, you may need to consult with a counsellor or psychologist to help her find ways of overcoming it. 

More questions

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The following tips should help when your child is back talking:
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