10 Tips for Working with Shy Children, Nervous Children, or Children who Lack Self Confidence
It can be frustrating to work, teach, or parent children who lack confidence who seem shy or nervous. Especially when you are an outgoing, confident person, shy and nervous children can seem like a mystery. That acknowledgment aside, you need to be sensitive and tolerant of children who are shy or nervous, or who lack confidence.
When working with shy or nervous children, remember to…
(1) Tell them never to fear asking questions: Questions lead to knowledge and knowledge leads to confidence.Don’t toss off questions as trivial, silly, rude or annoying. When children question, they learn.
(2) Share Your stories about trials to triumph: When they hear your struggles and how you overcame them, they will learn that they can overcome their struggles as well. You can be a role model in action as well as in discussion.
(3) Highlight that persistence leads to success: We’ve heard it before. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall but rather, how many times you get up. People value persistence! Let them know that perseverance is more important that getting it right the first few times.
(4) Encourage them in the areas in which they excel: Many teachers and parents make the mistake of paying attention only when a child is struggling. Instead, focus on the child when he’s doing something right and when he can be a positive example to others. Nothing breeds confidence like feeling successful.
(5) Let them know it’s safe to make mistakes: You do it, they do it, their heroes do it, and their teachers do it too! Everyone makes mistakes. Many children are afraid to try because they’re afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes often lead to judgment. Make sure that these children know that they will never be judged negatively when they do their best and try their hardest—even if it doesn’t lead to success right away. Encourage them to “try, try again!”
(6) Praise appropriately: If they failed, don’t tell them they did well. You belittle them by doing so. They know what empty praise is by now. Help them to figure out what they can do to fix the problem and praise them for their courage and perseverance. Relay that you believe in them and with persistence, they will be successful.
(7) Help them to balance their goals with realistic expectations: Goals may take a while to achieve. We can’t all be an elite gymnast, swimmer or martial artist the moment we step into training. Goals are great but take time. We need to help these children understand that they move forward in benchmarks not leaps and bounds. By assisting them in mapping out their benchmarks, they will see that they are making progress.
(8) Don’t compare them with your confident children: Each child is an individual. By saying things like, “why aren’t you out there with the other children?” or “Katelyn is showing courage by doing X, why can’t you do the same thing?” you are only making the child feel bad and not honoring her own individual needs.
(9) Celebrate successes before moving on: Often, when a goal is achieved, we’re already onto the next goal before celebrating the success of the current one. It’s important for children to celebrate their success each time it happens. Let him or her take credit for those successes and talk about the qualities in your child that lead to that success. “You were courageous and persistent—you did it! Congratulations for sticking it out!”
(10) Accept your child unconditionally: Some children are shy or nervous while others are outgoing. Your child needs to know that whatever way they are, you accept them and you’re not trying to change them.
While these tips are especially important for shy children or children who lack confidence, they work for all children!