Shyness in Children: 5 Tips to Build Social Confidence in Children

Most of us have delighted in the story of The Wizard of Oz. Parents have passed this tale down to their children for ages, but have you ever taken the time to consider its true meaning? If you give some serious thought to the underlying theme, you will find that there is quite a connection between the lion and your shy child – and there is a very important lesson to be learned about how to parent a child who is shy or reserved.

Think about the beloved lion. Throughout the story the lion is searching for courage, something he is sure he does not possess. This supposedly cowardly creature is off to see the wizard, an ordinary man who turns out to be quite brilliant. The wizard informs the beast that he has had the courage all along but needed to believe in himself. With encouragement, the lion comes to see that he was courageous after all.

Shyness coach and health educator Laurie Adelman offers these tips to teach you how to act with the wisdom of the wizard to help put your shy child on the yellow brick road to social success.

Drop The Shy Word. The way that a parent or teacher labels a child is the same way that the child will come to label herself. Once children develop a concept of themselves as being shy they will behave in a manner that is consistent with that label. As with the lion, each shy child has the potential for social behavior.
Think About The Times That Your Child Behaves In A Social Manner. Just as the cowardly lion was fearful when he saw himself that way, so your shy child remains shy when he/she comes to expect that of him/herself. Try to be on the lookout for social behavior. Stop expecting only shy behavior from your child and begin to see him/her as having the potential to become social. Notice the times that your child behaves in a social way. Keep in mind that when a child is labeled as shy, the shy word comes to mean “I believe I can’t.” Potentially social means “I believe I can!”
Let Your Child Know That They Are Okay. Shy children need help defining who they are and what they are capable. It is very reassuring for a shy child to have a parent or teacher say “you need time to get used to this new playground. When you feel ready you will play with the other children.”
Small Social Successes Build Confidence. It has become customary for shy children to be instructed to “get out there and act social.” The truth of the matter is that they can’t. Shy children often know what they should do but if they believe deep down that they are shy, they will be unable to do so.

When you are beginning to work to improve a shy child’s social skills and confidence, a social success could include smiling at another child, sitting at the party table, or handing crayons to fellow students.
Be Proud Of Your Child. Following any social gesture, quietly reinforce your child. Let her know how proud you were of the fact that she entered the classroom by herself and looked at the teacher. Giving positive attention to these seemingly small social gestures go a long way to show the shy child that behaving in a social manner is not only possible – but can be enjoyable and less pressure-filled than he/she may have previously thought.
Laurie Adelman, B.S.N., M.S Family Health/Health Education., is a nurse, health educator, shyness coach, and author of Don’t Call Me Shy . Adelman was featured on NBC Today Show and has written numerous educational and inspirational articles. Don’t Call Me Shy is the only book that changes the mind-set of the shy child from “I can’t because I’m shy” to “I CAN be social if I try.”  Visit for more information. To order Don’t Call Me Shy call: 1-800-864-1648.