How to approach a shy toddler

This article was co-authored by Bianca Solorzano, M.Ed. and by wikiHow staff writer, Christopher M. Osborne, PhD. Bianca Solorzano is an Infant Development Specialist, Montessori Consultant, and the Founder of Baby Tour Guide Inc. Through her company, she helps parents, educators, and caregivers optimize baby and toddler development using a Montessori Lens. She does so by providing one-on-one consulting, running her blog, and hosting the Montessori Babies Podcast. With more than 11 years of experience in child development, she specializes in supporting parents in approaches such as purposeful language, environment setup, toys/activities that aid in development, positive redirection and behavior, and directed choice. Bianca holds a BS in Child and Adolescent Development with a focus in Early Childhood Education from California State University, Fullerton, a Masters in Montessori Education from Loyola University Maryland, and the AMI International Montessori Certification from The Montessori Institute of San Diego for children Birth-3 Years. Bianca is also a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

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While some toddlers are eager to meet new people, many youngsters are hesitant or even frightened when they see an unfamiliar face. Whether you’re a relative, family friend, or teacher, approaching a shy toddler is all about being calm, friendly, and patient. Do your best to see things from their perspective—literally!—and communicate in ways that they’ll understand.

How to approach a shy toddler

Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified pediatric psychologist, parent coach, author, speaker, and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC.

How to approach a shy toddler

Graham Monro / gm photographics / Getty Images

Does your child like preschool and learning, but they’re still very quiet and seem to have a hard time making friends? How can you encourage them to come out of their shell a little? These are questions parents of shy preschoolers ask themselves all the time.

Some Kids Are Naturally More Prone to Socialize

Some kids make it look so easy. Gregarious and affable, they can work a room with the best of them, laughing, ​playing, and giving high-fives to every kid they meet. Within minutes, it seems, everyone knows their name and wants to be their friend. They’re born extroverts.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s the shy child. A shy child can often be found hanging onto mom or dad, or in the absence of a trusted loved one, sitting by themselves, head down, not talking to anyone. They won’t engage, hardly ever make eye contact and if they dare say anything at all, it’s usually very difficult to understand them.

“She isn’t like this at home,” the parent will say to the teacher, pediatrician, or other person their child won’t acknowledge. “At home, we can’t get her to stop talking.” And that’s likely true. A shy child isn’t intentionally being unfriendly. But in the presence of someone new, or in a situation that makes them uneasy, it’s easier to disengage.

How Parents Can Help a Child Who Doesn’t Naturally Socialize

The good news is, shyness is actually very common in the preschool years and is often a behavior that your little one will outgrow as they become more comfortable in their own skin.   There are things you can do, however, to build self-esteem and encourage them to let that bubbly personality that you know and love shine through. Here’s how.

Role Play

Put that wonderful preschool imagination to good use by acting out common scenarios that your little one may encounter on a regular basis. You can use dolls or puppets or just be yourselves.

Have your child imagine that they (or their doll) is walking into a classroom. What do they do? What do they say? Then switch. You play the role of the shy child and let your little one be the grownup who helps.

Pay attention to the method they use to comfort. It could give you some clues to your child’s behavior.

Share Your Own Shyness

Chances are you’ve had a time in your life where you were feeling a bit bashful yourself.   Tell your child about it.

Whether you talk about your first-day-of-work jitters or feeling nervous about the first time you played on your softball team, your empathy will show your child that they aren’t alone in their shyness.

Ask Why

There could be a reason why your child acts one way at home and another in front of others. And while they might have trouble expressing it, with some exploratory questions, you may be able to get to the root of the problem.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

You are usually going to know ahead of time if your child is facing a situation where they may feel uncomfortable. Maybe you are going to a large family birthday party or a meeting of your playgroup. That morning, talk to your child about where you are going, who is going to be there and what is going to happen. Having a game plan in place may help your little one to feel more comfortable.  

Help Your Child Make Friends

Making friends doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and for preschoolers, for whom this is a completely new activity, it can be a challenge. So, intervene a little bit.

Start off slowly, introducing your child to someone their age. Perhaps it is someone they know from school or even from the neighborhood. If they seem comfortable together and your child is warming up well, invite the other child over for a playdate.

As your child grows comfortable in the presence of other kids, it’s likely they will carry that over into other places.

Don’t Call Them Shy

While it’s OK if your child acts shy (if the behavior gets worse or if you notice your child doesn’t make eye contact or socialize at all, contact your pediatrician), you don’t want to label it as such. Because the more you talk about it and give it a name, your child may perceive that there is something wrong with them. And, of course, there isn’t. Being shy isn’t bad, it’s just part of your child’s personality.

The preschool years are ones where your child is experiencing growth of all kinds on many different levels—physical, emotional, behavioral and social. As with many developmental issues at this age, time, love and patience work wonders.

As a parent or caregiver, you can gently encourage your child to become more outgoing. Keep in mind that your child isn’t being shy out of stubbornness, so she shouldn’t be punished for shy behavior. Instead, consider dealing with shyness as any other learning process, such as learning to read. The key is to be patient, gentle, and understanding with your child as you boost her confidence.

Here are 10 tips for helping your extremely shy child:

  1. Don’t label your child as “shy.” When you label your child as “shy,” you’re doing two things. First, you’re stripping him of his many other qualities and allowing the label to define his personality. Second, you’re encouraging him to view himself as “shy.” This can cause him to act out the “shy” role without making an effort to change. Instead of labeling, try to describe your child’s behavior in ways that don’t include the word “shy.” For example, you can say, “Sam just needs some time to get used to new situations” or “He likes to observe what is happening around him before joining in.”
  1. Teach her social skills. You can teach your child many social skills that can help her overcome shyness. You can teach her how to:
  • meet new people
  • greet others
  • initiate conversations
  • join in play
  • make eye contact
  • be a good listener
    You can use puppets, action figures, or dolls to role-play different situations. Teach her how to use specific phrases, such as “Hi, my name is Maria,” and “Can I play too?”
  1. Explain the benefits of being more outgoing. Chances are, you were once a very shy child. Or, you may still be shy in certain situations. A predisposition to shyness has been linked to genetics, although this trait can be overcome. If this is the case, give a personal example of a time when you overcame shyness. Explain why that experience was good for you. Discuss the good things that will come from acting more outgoing. These things can include making new friends, having more fun, and enjoying school more.
  1. Help your child meet and make friends. Try to expose your child to new children and settings. But do this gradually. For example, you might visit a park where the same children play on a regular basis. Don’t force him to interact with unfamiliar children right away. Be sure to give him plenty of time to warm up. Arrange play dates for him at home, where he feels comfortable and safe. During first interactions, give your child the words he needs to talk with new friends. You can do this in many different ways, but here are a few options:
  • Prompt him directly, such as, “Tell Mia that you would like to help too,” or “Ask Will what game he would like to play.”
  • Speak to both children to encourage conversation. For example, you might say, “Ella, I know you like to paint. Anna is a great painter, too.”
  • Speak to the other child and then ask your child a question about the conversation. For example, you might say to the other child, “Quaid, I like your dinosaur shoes.” Then to your child, “Do you like his shoes? Don’t you like dinosaurs too? What’s your favorite dinosaur?”
  1. Set goals and reward progress. Work with your child to set behavior goals and track his progress. Start small and gradually build. For example, one manageable goal might be to say hello to a neighbor. When your child reaches the goal, mark it on a progress chart. Offer lots of praise or a small treat as a reward.
  1. Praise outgoing behavior. Reinforce the new social skills your child is learning. When you see her attempting to overcome shyness, praise her with lots of warmth and affection. Be careful not to do this in public if your child is likely to be embarrassed. Instead, tell her how well she has done in private.
  1. Model outgoing behavior. Your child learns how to act in large part by watching you. So, be sure to act friendly toward others in front of your child. This might be difficult if you have struggled to overcome extreme shyness yourself. But keep in mind that your child is likely to imitate your actions. If you act shy in front of him, then he will have a more difficult time overcoming his own shyness.
  1. Build your child’s self esteem. Children who feel good about themselves are less likely to be shy. Identify your child’s strengths and build on them. Is he creative? Is she athletic? Encouraging these skills will allow your child to see himself as a talented and capable individual. This sense of confidence can help him become braver in social situations.
  1. Use books! Read books with your child that feature characters who have overcome extreme shyness. Use the stories as a starting point for discussions about shyness and how it affects her life. Here are some suggestions:
  • Buster the Very Shy Dog by Lisze Bechtold. Three stories feature Buster, a dog who tries to overcome his shyness in the midst of some bossy animals.
  • Maya’s Voice by Wen-Wen Cheng. Maya has just started school, but she cannot find her voice. Children who have selective mutism or just don’t enjoy talking will especially identify with Maya.
  • Too Shy for Show-and-Tell by Beth Bracken. Sam wants to participate in show-and-tell at school, but he is just too scared. Children who hate to be the center of attention will understand Sam’s dilemma.
  • Shy by Deborah Freedman. Shy hides inside the gutter of the book because he is too shy to come out. But then he hears a beautiful bird and can’t wait to meet her. The clever concept of an unseen character will captivate children, along with the beautiful watercolor illustrations.
  • Little Miss Shy by Roger Hargreaves. Little Miss Shy is invited to a party, but she is too scared to go. But she learns that when she overcomes her shyness, she can actually have more fun.
  1. Communicate with teachers. If your child attends preschool or kindergarten, team up with the teachers. Create a plan together for helping your child overcome his shyness. Talk frequently about the strategies you’re using at home. Work together to set goals for your child. With a consistent approach both at home and at school, you can increase the results of your efforts.

Does your child have extreme shyness? How have you helped him or her? Add your suggestions in the Comments section below. We’d love to share them with other parents of extremely shy children!

How to approach a shy toddler

Susan Light

Susan Light is a mom, a grandmother, a journalist, and an educational expert. She is a senior editor at Rainbow Educational Concepts, and she blogs regularly for Dilly’s Tree House. Susan focuses on research-based topics for parents of preschoolers and ways to help young children get ready for kindergarten.

How to approach a shy toddler

How to approach a shy toddler

Some young children bounce through life eager to try new experiences. Others hang back, cling to a parent’s hand, or duck behind Mom or Dad to peer out at the activities going on around them instead of joining in. If you’re the parent of a shy preschooler, you know that balancing the new experiences that your child needs with the safety and security you want to provide can be a tricky task.

Often shy children hang back because they are afraid of doing things wrong. Letting them know it’s all right to make mistakes and giving them an opportunity to move into social situations at their own pace is often the key to helping them become participants rather than observers. Want to help? Here are some ways to help shy preschoolers become a part of the group:

Allow Adjustment Time

“Shy people simply require extra time to adjust to novel or stressful situations, including even everyday conversations and social gatherings,” says Bernardo J. Carducci, founder of the Shyness Research Institute. One way to help shy children adjust is to give them a trial run of a new experience. For instance, go a little early to a party or an outing so your child gets used to the setting before it fills with people. Pave the way for the first day of school or a new activity by touring the building ahead of time. Try these tips for making a preliminary trip:

  • Choose a time when it will be uncrowded to allow her to look around without social anxiety.
  • Point out where different activities will occur. Show her where she’ll hang her coat, where she’ll sit, and where you’ll meet her at the end of the day.
  • Introduce her to the teacher, coach or librarian.
  • If possible, let her play with the toys or read a few books. This will raise her comfort level and make her adjustment easier when the time comes.

Practice Social Skills

They say that practice makes perfect, and getting a shy child comfortable with a new situation is no exception. If you want your preschooler to greet the teacher rather than mumbling or hiding behind you, let him play the teacher’s role. Act shy and have him coach you to speak up and look the teacher in the eye. Then reverse roles and have him show you he can do it correctly. If he’s heading to a birthday party, practice handing over a gift and wishing his friend a happy birthday. Role-play asking another child to play a game, share a toy, or go down a slide together. The more often he practices, the more natural these skills will become. Be sure to model these social skills yourself when you’re in public.

Schedule Play Dates

Make play dates with another shy child, preferably one who shares similar interests. “Whenever possible, allow your child to choose the playmate,” says Lisa Hess, a school counselor from Pennsylvania. “And, if you can host the play date or meet at a familiar place, your child will feel more comfortable as well, which can help relieve nerves.” Talk ahead of time about ways to make the visitor feel comfortable, too. Sometimes helping another child adjust will bring your introvert out of her shell.

Later, schedule play dates with a more boisterous child, who may encourage your child to try new activities. Extroverts may model the social skills your child needs. Avoid setting up play dates with domineering children who bully or criticize, because they can make the situation worse. The more children your child gets to know, the more likely she’ll be to participate in group activities. Plus, seeding a new school year or activity with at least one friend makes adjustment easier.

Encourage Interaction

When your child hangs back in a new situation, allow him to cling a few minutes while you reassure him that you understand how he feels. “Staying calm and relaxed is key,” says Hess. “When everyone else’s child is playing independently, parents may feel pressured to involve a reluctant child before he or she is ready.” Once he’s more comfortable, suggest a way for him to get involved. Point out a child who is alone. If that child has been to your house for a play date, it will be easier for him to approach her. Or find an activity he especially enjoys. You may need to walk him over to get him started. Then try to include another child: “I bet Parker would love to help you build that block tower, wouldn’t you, Parker?” When the other child joins him, gradually back away.

When your child makes progress in a social situation, reinforce the success. “I noticed you shared the trucks with Caitlyn. That made her very happy.” “It was brave of you to ask Liam if you could play too. You two had a lot of fun, didn’t you?” “Reinforcing the positive feelings the interaction created in your child will help your child connect those good feelings to actions he finds difficult, such as sharing or inviting others to play,” Hess says. Positive feelings will make him more likely to repeat the behavior.

Expecting an introvert to be a social butterfly is unrealistic, but helping your child become more comfortable around others and giving him the necessary social skills to make friends and participate in activities will help him live a fuller, happier life.

How to approach a shy toddler

The hot flush of embarrassment is the curse of the shy kid’s parents. What can be said to a friend who has just failed to coax a hello from a leg-clinging tot? Is it possible to cut through the awkwardness of that rejection by acknowledging the faux pas? Maybe. Mostly not. So parents twist around and push their kids, cajoling them into making eye contact. But the results are often less than encouraging. And, according to Dr. Heidi Kasevich, Director of Education with introvert advocacy organization Quiet Revolution, that’s because people are treating a personality trait as a problem.

“At the root of it, parents should tease out if their child is experiencing introversion or shyness,” says Dr. Kasevich. “Shyness is the fear of social judgment and the anxiety that one gets in social situations is not inheritable. Introversion is. You’re genetically programmed to be an introvert or an extrovert.”

How to approach a shy toddler

It is easy to mistake shyness for introversion, and vice versa, which can complicate matters or — worst case scenario — trigger misguided, damaging parental reactions. Kasevich says parents shouldn’t react to social avoidance behaviors until they’re confident they’ve diagnosed a more specific problem. She adds that this is potentially easier than it sounds. Babies as young as 4-days-old can be classified as “highly reactive” to environmental stimulation or not. At age 21, highly reactive babies tend to have become introverted adults. There is a consistency to those behaviors whereas shyness isn’t related to being overwhelmed by environmental stimuli but human judgment.

“Parents can think back,” says Kasevich. “They can start being attuned to how sensitive their child was to stimuli both social and sensory.”

The next step? Adjusting expectations. Kasevich says that when worried parents start asking questions, they often trigger shyness, clouding the issue. Which becomes problematic when layered on top of introversion. “If you ask the wrong questions, the kid thinks, what’s wrong with me? Why aren’t I instantly fitting in, which is what everyone expects?”

Kasevich points out that parents can help ease social anxiety with a bit of understanding and pretty simple preparation techniques. The most important of these techniques is offering children a “long runway” by telling them what will happen at events, arriving early, and embracing the “Irish Exit.” In the best of circumstances, the reticent child greeting a stranger has been prepped for the greeting — and so has the adult.

How to approach a shy toddler

“When someone says, ‘Your kid is so shy,’ that can make it so much worse,” Kasevich explains. She suggests using language like “They take in everything and don’t miss a thing,” or “They care so much about how people feel,” because labels can reinforce the behavior and increase anxiety levels. When being “too quiet” becomes being a “great listener,” kids become more confident and more comfortable. Hellos won’t suddenly be on tap, but they’ll be more plentiful. People — and kids are people too — just have to meet each other halfway.

Kasevich has a simple mantra she suggests for parents of introverted children: “Don’t force. Don’t quit.” For parents of shy kids, it’s could be easier to just wait.

With reserved children, the potty training readiness process is not always clear-cut. Your child conveys their readiness in their behavior and moods, which are sometimes subtle and hard to read. When they pull away, support and reassure them. When they want to jump ahead, help them take slow, measured steps forward, but always expect some setbacks. Slow but steady wins this race!

This sounds counterintuitive, but leave the bathroom out of the picture for a while. Ease your reserved child in, letting him become comfortable with some of the potty training equipment by making it become part of the environment.

  • Put Pull-Ups® Training Pants in with your child’s regular diapers long before you expect to use them. Let them be visible and allow your child to notice and inquire about them.
  • Once in a while, take out some Pull-Ups and show your child the character on them. Play peek-a-boo with the character on the Pull-Ups while you’re at the changing table. They have a tendency to hang onto ideas and choices, and you can use this later to your advantage.
  • Take your toddler to the library or local bookstore and find some books about potty training. Different stories can begin to help your Big Kid work through some of the aspects of the process they may be suspicious of or nervous about.
  • Repetition is key, so leave the potty books around the house and allow your child to peruse them as they wish. Be sure to find their favorite. Having some special favorites for potty time is important to your introverted child and will be increasingly important as you start to move toward the actual potty.
  • Gradually start to phase items into the bathroom, like a potty chair, potty books and wipes. If they start testing any of them out, don’t get too excited or expect this interest to stick. Follow your Big Kid’s lead, and back off immediately if they lose enthusiasm. The last thing you want to do is to kick that toddler’s steel will into gear, which will slow the process down.
  • Casually encourage your child to accompany you to the bathroom while you do your business. Give a low-key description of all the potty goings-on, or just chat about the day’s activities. Children often learn by watching and listening, even when you least expect it. The less pressure, the better.

Gradually, ask your Big Kid to test out sitting on the potty. A lot of reserved children like to do this fully dressed at first. Nervous kids may also be reluctant to use the adult-size toilet, so you may want to ease them into the process by using a potty chair. With a introverted child, repetition helps. New ideas need to be offered many times, just like we have to offer new kinds of foods many times before children will learn to like them (sometimes 10 to 15 times!).

The Bottom Line (Pardon the Pun)

Your Big Kid is on the potty training journey with you; they just want it to be at their pace, not yours. Respect their individuality and the way they assert their needs, even if it sometimes comes across as resistance. Back off, and let your child find his way forward, with your reassurance and guidance along the way. The worst thing you can do is rush your shy toddler. Support their decisions with the comfort of their favorite books, characters and routines.

Preparing introverted children in an extroverted world.

Posted April 24, 2019

How to approach a shy toddler

Introverted children have a lot to offer the world. Often creative, passionate, and deep-thinking, introverted children bring a different type of energy and social dynamic to home and school. Frequently mischaracterized as shy, they interact with the world in a reserved and careful manner 1 . For our introverts, this can sometimes lead to social difficulties in schools that often cater to the more extroverted child. Understanding how to help the introvert begins with a deeper understanding of what introversion means.

Extroverted children differ from their introverted counterparts in everything from their energy patterns to communication styles to learning preferences 4 . Extroverts often rely on active dopamine-based energy patterns 2 , communication that is active and chatty and learning that is action-oriented 4 . Introverts, on the other hand, approach everything from a more reserved energy pattern. They renew through solitude, prefer to think first and speak second and learn best through contemplation and watching 4 . These differences often lead to some struggles for our introverted children as they enter the extrovert-dominate social environments of school and work.

Fortunately, there are specific things parents can do to help quiet children build on the strengths of their temperament. The nine tips focused on preschool and elementary age children provide parents with everything needed to help introverted children embrace their many gifts and thrive:

Preschool (age 3-5): Preschool is typically the time when children begin to develop fundamental social skills by engaging in cooperative play and learning the skills of taking turns, listening to each other, initiating play and expressing emotions in positive ways. Introverts may struggle with many aspects of the above skills. While they typically excel and listening, taking turns and problem-solving skills, they may struggle with expressing emotions, initiating interactions with others and engaging in cooperative play.

The following tips focus on a few specific things parents can do to help introverted children nurture their social skills:

  1. Teach children how to talk about their emotions. Make “emotion” cards with your child and use them to assist your child in describing their feelings at the end of the day.
  2. Encourage your introverted child to develop 1 or 2 close friendships. If your child is struggling with that, allow them to develop social skills through his or her imaginative play. Listen to the stories they create and compliment the appropriate behavior (“I like the way you asked the bear to come and have tea”). Your children will begin to translate these skills to other children as they mature.
  3. Model cooperative play with your children. Sit down and play games like Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, or card games. Review the social “rules” before initiating a game. Verbally praise your children when they demonstrate good social skills, like taking turns or complimenting each other. Redirect kids when they forget one of the “rules.”

Grade school (age 5-11): Childhood marks a period of significant growth for children. Learning things like building friendships, problem-solving, collaboration, and social rules can be a challenge for some children, especially introverts. Recess and lunch can feel overwhelming for these children.

The following tips can help both parents and teachers support social and emotional learning in introverted children:

  1. Teach introverted children how to ask for help in various situations, including requesting help from a teacher, asking a friend for help, and asking for help in a store.
  2. Encourage creative problem-solving. Model and practice ways to resolve sticky social situations with your children. Practice this often during the beginning of a new school year.
  3. Review the expectations and routines at home regularly. Review school expectations at the start of each new year. Establish consistent home-school communication and speak with the teacher about your child’s temperament early.
  4. Help your introverted children find respite during the day. Teach them about their need for calm moments, and teach them how to get it. Reading (at appropriate times), going to the library or visualizing their favorite place can all be ways for introverted children to carve out a few moments of peace during the day. Help your children figure out which methods work for them and teach them when they can use the skills during the school day.
  5. Work with the teacher to establish “safe” zones at school—places children can go when they are feeling overwhelmed at lunch or recess. These places can include the teacher’s room, the library or media center, or even the nurse’s office. Having a “safe” place can help your child learn to balance their need for solitude and recharge on harder days.
  6. Teach your child about their introversion and what it means. Ask them to describe what it “feels” like at the end of the day. Develop a routine around ways to renew. Have your introverted children write down the list and post it somewhere.

Introverted children have a lot to offer. Deep thinkers and highly creative, they can grow to become the influential innovators needed in today’s workforce 1 . Building a strong foundation in which introverted children can flourish is a great way to help bring out the best in these quiet kids.

1. Fonseca, C. (2013). Quiet Kids: Help Your Introverts Child Succeed in an Extroverted World. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

2. Kagan, J., & Snidman, N. (2004). The Long shadow of temperament. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

3. Laney, M. O. (2002). The introvert advantage: How to thrive in an extrovert world. New York, NY: Workman Publishing.

4. Laney, M. O. (2005). The hidden gifts of the introverted child: Helping your child thrive in an extroverted world. New York, NY: Workman Publishing.

How to approach a shy toddler

How to approach a shy toddler

Cara Lustik is a fact-checker and copywriter. She has more than 15 years of experience crafting stories in the branding, licensing, and entertainment industries.

How to approach a shy toddler

How is your child likely to react to things or approach situations? Is he more likely to be cautious and shy or bold and fearless? Does he dislike loud and stimulating situations, like a child’s birthday party or is he someone who loves to dive right into the action?

Temperament is defined as the components of our personalities, such as being outgoing or being shy, that we are born with.

Children are born with their own individual way of reacting to or handling the world around them that is innate, rather than learned or something that they choose.

And in turn, a child’s temperament influences how they experience situations (for example, a child who is shy and dislikes noise, excitement, and new situations will have a very different experience at a child’s birthday party than a child who jumps right in and starts playing games and engaging with the other kids).

Temperament Traits in Children

Here are nine typical child temperament traits identified by physicians Alexander Thomas, Stella Chess, and Herbert G. Birch.

Activity Level

The level of how physically active a child is–moving, running, jumping, and so on–compared to inactive periods when she’s sitting still doing an activity.

  • High activity level: Kids with high activity level tend to squirm and fidget and don’t like sitting still.
  • Low activity level: Kids with low activity level prefer quiet, calm activities.

Rhythmicity or Regularity

The regularity of activities like eating, sleeping, and wakefulness.

  • High rhythmicity: Kids exhibit regular and predictable eating, sleeping patterns.
  • Low rhythmicity: Kids exhibit irregular eating, sleeping patterns.


The degree to which external stimuli (sounds, sights, etc.) can affect a child’s concentration and behavior.

  • High distractibility: Kids are easily distracted by noises and things they see; have trouble concentrating; very distracted by any small discomfort such as being hungry.
  • Low distractibility: Kids are able to concentrate on an activity without easily being distracted; not bothered by small discomforts.


The response to a new person or object such as new toys, new foods, etc.

  • High approachability: These kids enthusiastically welcome and approach new situations and people.
  • Low approachability: These kids do not like new and unfamiliar people, places, and things.


How a child responds to changes in his environment.

  • High adaptability: Kids handle transitions well and quickly adapt to changes in a situation.
  • Low adaptability: Kids need more time to handle transitions and may cry and cling to mom, dad, or a caregiver when faced with a new situation.

Attention Span and Persistence

The amount a time a child devotes to an activity and how distractions affect his attention to that activity.

  • High attention span and persistence: These kids do not get easily discouraged or frustrated even when there are obstacles; they keep trying.
  • Low attention span and persistence: These kids give up when they face a roadblock and easily become frustrated.

The Intensity of Reaction

The amount of energy a child spends on both a positive and a negative reaction.

  • High reaction intensity: Kids with high-intensity reactions tend to have very strong reactions–both positive and negative–to things.
  • Low reaction intensity: Children with low-intensity reactions tend to have muted, less emotional reactions.

Responsiveness or Sensitivity Threshold

How much stimulation is required for a child to respond; a child’s sensitivity to stimuli such as sound, light, and textures.

  • High responsiveness threshold: These kids tend to be highly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, touch, and so on; they tend to be picky eaters and may be the kind of kids who refuse to wear anything that they think feels “scratchy,” even though most people wouldn’t feel the fabric as scratchy.
  • Low responsiveness threshold: These kids aren’t sensitive to changes in textures, sights, and smells, and will be open to trying new foods; they aren’t sensitive to new surroundings and can fall asleep easily anywhere.

Level of friendly, nice, and happy behavior compared to unfriendly, negative, unpleasant behavior.

  • Positive mood: Kids who have positive mood tend to be generally cheerful, pleasant, and friendly.
  • Negative mood: Kids who have a mood that veers toward negative tend to be cranky, unfriendly, and more prone to crying.

How to Support Your Child

To best support, your child and work with his temperament, try the following.

by Laura Berthiaume July 27, 2021 3 min read

If you’ve ever talked to a Montessori teacher or read any books about Montessori, you’ve undoubtedly come across the phrase “Observe the child”. This is almost always a Montessorian’s first step in solving any parenting challenge.

But what does this mean?

It means we objectively observe our child, removing any preconceptions and judgements, so we can see our child with fresh eyes.

We watch what they do, how they do it, and look for any new changes or struggles, in order to help further their development.

To help develop social skills, we can use this exact same approach.

After close observation, we may notice that our child is struggling to initiate play with their peers, just watching the other kids but not feeling confident or sure exactly how to join in. We’re looking for signs they want to join in but seem reluctant to do so.

If it seems that they’re just not interested in playing with other children, they may not be developmentally ready for co-operative play and that’s totally fine! More on this below.

Once we make note of what they’re struggling with, we can offer some guidance and help build their confidence in social situations.

Although it might seem a little strange to teach your child how to socialize, it really is just like teaching them how to use a fork or put on their shoes.

So what does this look like in practice?

First, let me take a step back to explain the development of play in young children. Skip past this section if you just want the advice, just note that it’s a quick read and worth understanding!

Types of Play

There are 3 types of play phases that children between the ages of 2-4 go through:

    Parallel play (ages 2+) – When a child plays alongside or near others but does not play with them.

Associative play (age 3-4) – engaging in the same activity but not necessarily together. Children may begin to interact but it’s minimal.

  • Cooperative play (ages 4+) – When a child plays together with others and has interest in both the activity and other children involved.
  • A shy or inexperienced child might struggle with transitioning from associative play to cooperative play. They might be lacking the confidence or experience to join in or contribute.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    Teaching A Child How To ‘Join In’

    If your child seems to want to play with other children but gets stuck on how to do that, y ou can help with some gentle facilitation.

    What does this look like?

    In the classroom during a social period, like outdoor playtime, a teacher might notice that one child is pretending to build a house. If there was another child nearby watching and showing interest in this, they might say something like, “Oh look, Eric is building a house. Sarah, you love to use tools too. Why don’t you grab a hammer and work on hammering the roof.”

    The teacher would go back and forth like this, facilitating their interactions for a few minutes, until the children took over. At that point the teacher would fully step back.

    Doing this helps a shy child build confidence in social situations and also teaches them how to take that first step in joining in.

    You can do this at the park, on play dates, or with family.

    Help with the introductions, encourage them to find a common interest in play, and, when they’ve started playing, step back.

    Just try carefully observe (there’s that word again 😉) and ensure both children are interested in playing.

    Some days your child just might want to play alone.

    Sometimes the other child might just want to play alone. If that’s the case, you can simply explain to your child, they just want to play by themselves now, helping them to understand that it’s nothing personal.

    The more you do this, the easier it will become for your child to begin doing this on their own.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    • Shyness in 2-year-olds
    • Why is my child shy?
    • How can I encourage my shy child?
    • What’s wrong with labeling my child as shy?

    Shyness in 2-year-olds

    Does your 2-year-old tuck her head into your shoulder when a relative gets too close, or does she hold back from joining group activities? She’s in good company: Shyness is extremely common among 2-year-olds, and nearly all children this age experience occasional bouts of bashfulness.

    Some interact easily with other children but fall to pieces in the company of adult strangers. Others feel comfortable among adults but crumble around peers. And then there are those who feel anxious in any new situation. Most 2-year-olds will outgrow their shyness.

    Why is my child shy?

    Researchers believe that both genes and environment contribute to a child’s shyness. Some shy children are born with an increased sensitivity to new sounds, sights, and unfamiliar social situations. Being in a stressful or chaotic environment can also play part.

    That doesn’t mean your child is always going to be shy, or that his shyness is your fault. Shyness is not an illness that requires treatment. There are ways you can help your shy child be more comfortable in social situations, but overall, you’ll both fare better if you try not to worry about it too much.

    If you’re concerned your child’s shyness is affecting his daily life, talk to his healthcare provider.

    How can I encourage my shy child?

    • Get in the game. If your 2-year-old recoils in the presence of strangers, don’t bring her to the park with the expectation that she’ll skip off to the slides while you relax on the sidelines. Instead, join her until she feels at ease. If she’s happily involved in an activity, try taking a few steps backward.
    • Be sympathetic. Let your child know that you understand how she feels. You might say, “It’s hard when all the kids are so noisy, isn’t it?”
    • Offer encouragement. Any time your child reaches out to make a friend or join an activity, praise her efforts, no matter how tentative. Keep in mind that many 2-year-olds still feel most comfortable with parallel play, observation, and imitation rather than playing directly with friends.
    • Join social situations. Seek out activities that involve smaller groups and quiet or familiar environments. If the playground is one of your child’s favorite places to visit, head there when it’s likely to be less crowded.

    What’s wrong with labeling my child as shy?

    There’s nothing wrong with being shy, but it’s rarely helpful to label a child, whether it’s one that places pressure on him (“gifted,” for instance) or one that explains his behavior (“Oh, he’s just shy.”). He might not think of himself as shy, but if he hears it often enough, he’ll come to believe it.

    To your child, being shy might not seem like a big deal – to him, it’s only natural. But if you talk about it as if it is, you’ll send a message that suggests there’s something wrong with him. Consider saying, “It takes him a little while to get comfortable in social situations,” instead of describing him as shy.

    Is it normal for my toddler to be shy?

    Developmental milestone: Self-care at age 2

    Developmental milestone: Separation and independence (age 2)

    How to help a shy child participate in school

    Follow your baby’s amazing development

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    No parent wants to see their child upset, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to react when your child is nervous or afraid. Do you hug them? Do you let them cry it out? There’s so much conflicting advice out there! Next time you’re faced with reacting to your nervous or fearful child, try these tried and true tips.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    Do Be There
    For many children, your presence will help calm them. Hug them or hold them on your lap. Even holding their hand can help give them a sense of security and comfort.

    Don’t Be Too Involved
    By telling your child exactly what to do or even what to say in stressful and challenging situations, they are not able to solve problems on their own or learn ways to cope by themselves. This doesn’t mean they’ll never need help, but you should let them try to problem solve first before offering a helpful hand.

    Do Get Moving
    Physical activity can be calming during times of high stress. Running, doing cartwheels, or playing a game involving gross motor movements can help distract them from their worry or fear. Learn 4 ways kids benefit from exercise that have nothing to do with fitness.

    Don’t Avoid ActivitiesHow to approach a shy toddler
    When children constantly avoid situations that make them afraid or uncomfortable, their fears never go away. Try easing them into activities that make them nervous. You don’t want to expect too much at once because it can take them a while to conquer a fear. For example, if your child has a difficult time playing with other children at school, set up a playdate at home so they can focus on feeling comfortable around one child before being surrounded by all of their peers on the playground. By slowly helping them adapt, you can ease their fear and prepare them to cope on their own when they’re older.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    Do Talk It Out
    Having the opportunity to express what you’re feeling is important, especially for children. Give them some one-on-one time and listen without judging or discounting their anxiety. The best time to talk it out is when they are feeling calm because they are able to listen to you more easily.

    Don’t Overly Reassure
    Telling your child that “everything will be okay,” might actually confirm to your child that there is something to fear. While it’s hard to resist the instinct to reassure your child that everything will be okay, it might be best in the long run.

    Do Allow For Expression, Even If They Can’t Explain Their Worries
    If your child has trouble talking about why they are nervous, there are other ways to start the conversation. Ask them to draw a picture or act out what they are afraid of with a doll, puppet, or stuffed animal.

    Don’t Get Impatient
    Not knowing how to help can be hard and frustrating for parents, but don’t let those emotions show. Your child can sense how you’re feeling. Revealing your emotions could make your child feel like they’ve upset you, increase their nervousness, and make communicating more difficult. Try to set an example of how to react calmly to help your child feel calmer, as well.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    Do Empathize
    Even if what they are afraid of seems silly to you, it’s important to show your child that you understand. Although they may not truly have anything to be fearful of, the emotions they are feeling are very real.

    Don’t Wait Until They Are 100% Anxiety Free to Reward Their Behavior
    Encourage and praise small accomplishments. Being brave while facing things they are afraid of or are feeling nervous about is something to celebrate!

    Learn more about social and emotional skills in children and what you can do to help your child’s social-emotional development.

    When your shy toddler starts to show interest in the potty, now is your moment to introduce Pull-Ups®. Your child is likely to be hesitant and skeptical of the process, so they need you to make Pull-Ups available and comfortable before he will want to use them. Make Pull-Ups a part of the bathroom environment and let your child play with them a bit before expecting your child to wear them. Shy children are concerned with consistency and predictability, so seeing Pull-Ups around all the time will help ease the transition to potty training.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    Shy toddlers may be interested, but they want to do things their way and feel comfortable enough to know that their pace is OK. Present Pull-Ups in a way that gives them time to explore and gain confidence, but be aware that shy child might also want some privacy while exploring.

    Try these Potty Talk scripts with your Shy toddler:

    • “I notice that you’ve been hiding behind the couch (in a corner, etc.) to poop. It’s great that you’re beginning to feel that your body is telling you when you have to go. That lets me know you’re ready for Pull-Ups. I put them in the bathroom next to your potty/the toilet so you can see and play with them. Now you have your own special potty training pants. Let me know when you’re ready for me to show you how they work.
    • Look, your Pull-Ups have [your child’s favorite character name] on them. Would you like to try them on now or maybe we could put some in the drawer together?”
    • “Pull-Ups slide on and off. When you’re ready, you can wear them instead of a diaper, and when you feel like you have to go to the bathroom, you’ll be in charge. You can make the potty your special place to put your pee and poop. Would you like to try them on now”

    If your toddler is not ready to put them on, don’t push it; work together to find a special place for the Pull-Ups. “Your Pull-Ups will be right here. Maybe you will be ready to put one on after we change you next time.” Remember that patience is the key to a coy child’s success. You won’t be able to rush the process; it’s better to work on routines and comfort level with each step of the process.

    Your little one is likely to be sensitive to sensorial change, so they may already be telling you right away when they have pooped or peed in their diaper and needs a change.

    Pull-Ups® training underwear allow your child to check the outside of their training pant if they aren’t sure whether they have already peed. If the design is faded, they know they have gone already. This helps your toddler feel more in touch with his body’s signals, which will reinforce the whole process.

    These experiences, repeated over time, allow your child to connect the inner feelings before elimination to the feeling of elimination, and the feeling after elimination. This awareness is essential to the potty training process, and Pull-Ups help your child connect the dots to potty training success.

    Activity: My Own Potty Book

    Once your Big Kid has adjusted to the Pull-Ups, create a special book with your child about going to the potty. Use your child’s name, favorite colors, plus details from your lives. Kids love to see themselves as the star of the story. Offer this book while your child is sitting on the potty, and later when they are running for President. But seriously, make sure to bring the book when you are traveling or in an unfamiliar place. Here is some text you might use in the book. Feel free to customize it for your toddler:

    • Sometimes, I dance around and my tummy feels funny; that’s when I remember I need to use the potty
    • I go to the potty, pull down my pants and sit on the potty.
    • Sometimes, pee comes out.
    • Sometimes, poop comes out.
    • I feel so much better after I have gone potty! Ahhh.
    • When I sit on the potty, I can sing songs, look at a book or hold my favorite toy.
    • After I’m done, I use the toilet paper to wipe, wipe, wipe.
    • I put the toilet paper in the toilet and flush.
    • The flusher is loud!
    • I pull up my pants.
    • Then wash my hands.
    • Now, I can go play again.
    • Sometimes I use the potty before I get in the bathtub or go to bed.
    • Sometimes I use the potty just to see what will happen.
    • I feel proud and happy that I used the potty!
    • I feel like a Big Kid when I use the potty!

    Potty training is a big moment — it’s when your little one becomes a Big Kid. So it’s important to reinforce this change, and there are a couple easy ways to do so. First, be consistent. When you take your kid out of diapers, keep her out of diapers. Pull-Ups are more than a training pant. They’re also a symbol to your little one that it’s time to potty like a Big Kid. Going back and forth from diapers to pants only confuses her. Next, make the first time she pulls on a pair of Pull-Ups a symbol — a promise that you’re in it together and will work and learn together on your potty training journey.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    Since one of the classic symptoms of autism is a marked deficit in verbal communication abilities, a common problem for applied behavior analysts and others who work with children and even adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder is simply being able to carry on a basic conversation. Something as simple as finding out what they want for lunch or whether or not they are happy or sad or indifferent about their current school assignment can be nearly impossible to find out if you rely on normal conversational methods.

    But don’t let that stop you!

    There are ways to have conversations with autistic kids and you can make them easier by keeping the following tips in mind.

    DO Make the Effort to Talk To Them

    Because talking to kids with autism can be difficult, many adults take the easy way out and just avoid including them in conversations in the first place. But that’s a mistake; both you and those children can benefit from attempts at conversation, even if they are not always successful.

    There’s also a tendency to assume that if an autistic child doesn’t respond or shuts you down that they don’t like you or don’t want to talk. But that’s not always the case; that signal would be clear from a neurotypical individual but for someone with ASD, it’s just a part of the syndrome. Don’t take it personally, and don’t stop trying to gently involve autistic kids in your conversations. They probably want to engage, they just have more difficulty figuring out how.

    Pick Your Moments

    Not just any time is the right time to talk to an autistic child. Many of them have very particular schedules and rhythms to their behavior. If you interrupt them when they are deeply involved in something else, you’re not likely to get through and engage them as you had hoped to.

    Similarly, it’s often not a good time to engage when the child is already wound up about something. Excessive stimuli can cause children with ASD to shut down. Wait for a calm and quiet moment if you want to have a conversation.

    Talk About What They Want To Talk About

    One approach that will never get you far with an autistic kid is to try to force the conversation in a direction you want it to go. At best you’ll get ignored; at worst, they’ll shut down or have an outburst.

    Obsessions are part of the syndrome and an obsession means a lot of discussion about one particular thing. You might find it boring or simple but you’ll find far more engagement by sticking to the topic that the child wants to discuss.

      Keep It To the Point

      Stay away from allusions, metaphors, or any abstract statements. Autistic kids generally will not be able to interpret any kind of communication that relies on reading your internal emotional state or any kind of subtext.

      Keep your sentences short and direct.

      The pace of the conversation needs to be at a level the child can maintain. For most of us, processing sentences as we hear them is second nature and happens almost instantly. Autistic kids have to work to parse out what they hear, however. Give them the time they need to do it.

      If Speaking Doesn’t Work, Try Writing!

      If you get to sticking points in the conversation, try restating what you just said on paper. Draw a picture or write the words down and show them. ASD patients tend to think visually, so even if they don’t immediately understand what they just heard, they might get the same message if you put it on paper so they can see it.

      Pay Attention To Non-Verbal Signals

      Because autistic kids can have a lot of trouble manipulating language as well as understanding it, they often develop various types of behaviors that signal things that you might expect them to verbalize. Certain motions or actions they use while speaking might tell you more than the words they say if you pay attention and learn to interpret them.

    Remember They Are Just Kids!

    Autistic kids may not act a lot like neurotypical children, but remember you’re still talking to someone whose thoughts and attitudes are being formed in an immature brain.

    With a little practice, you may find that you can talk to autistic kids just as easily as any kid. The results, for both you and the child, can be both positive in terms of their development of communication skills and enjoyable as you make an interpersonal connection.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    Makitalo, Per / Johner Images / Getty Images

    Dogs communicate fear and aggression through their body language, showing signs such as shivering, cowering, tucking their tail between the legs, and averting their eyes. In addition, dogs often show aggression when they are afraid. While you might want to know how to get an aggressive dog to trust you, that’s not always possible—sometimes it’s best to leave the dog alone.

    Be extremely careful as you approach a shy, fearful, or aggressive dog because your own body language and demeanor are important, too. If you see signs that indicate the dog may bite, do not approach. In these cases, it’s best to find the owner or contact local animal authorities. If you think it’s safe, you can use a few tactics to approach the dog.

    Don’t Loom Over the Dog

    A dog who is already anxious might get even more stressed if you stand to face it with your body looming above. It’s easy to imagine why a fearful dog would feel even more threatened when faced with someone at least twice their size. Be aware of your body position when you approach any new dog, especially one that is frightened.

    Get Down on the Dog’s Level

    A better way to approach a fearful dog is to get down on its level. Don’t put yourself directly in the dog’s face, but keep in mind that you’ll be less threatening if you’re not towering above. You can squat or sit down close to the dog. For extremely fearful dogs, you may even want to lie down a little distance away to begin making it more comfortable with your presence.

    Turn Sideways

    Turn slightly so your side faces the dog, perhaps even leaning slightly away from the fearful dog. This isn’t a natural position for most people; good manners usually dictate that we meet others face-to-face and make eye contact. For dogs, however, that sort of behavior is rude, and a fearful dog may perceive someone facing them head-on as a threat.

    Avert Your Gaze

    Humans usually consider it normal to make direct eye contact with other people. However, this is often considered rude, threatening, or even aggressive to dogs. To make yourself less intimidating to a frightened dog, avoid making eye contact. Instead, turn your head slightly to the side and keep your eyes averted.

    Speak in a High-Pitched Voice

    Deep, low voices can be daunting to a fearful dog. Try to talk to the dog in a higher-pitched, happy tone of voice. Men may have a little trouble with this; try just speaking more quietly while remaining upbeat. A quiet, reassuring tone of voice can go a long way in making a nervous dog more comfortable.

    Never Punish a Fearful Dog

    It may seem obvious, but it must be said: never scold or punish a fearful dog. You will only succeed in making it more fearful. You may also put yourself in danger because, as a dog’s anxiety level rises, it becomes more likely to bite. Also, it’s best to avoid using aversives when training a fearful dog. In most cases, these can hinder progress and escalate fear.

    Don’t Force Things

    Give a dog a chance to become comfortable and approach the objects of their fear on their own. Never force the interactions. For instance, if a dog is afraid of men, don’t hold its collar while a man approaches and pets it. This will only serve to increase the dog’s fear, making it more likely someone will get bit if the dog feels the need to defend itself. Most dogs can be slowly introduced to the objects that they fear, but an already frightened dog is typically not ready to face additional challenges.

    Stay Positive

    Training can make a big difference in your shy or fearful dog’s confidence level. Positive reinforcement dog training has the benefit of allowing you to open the lines of communication with your dog without pushing it beyond its comfort level. You can even start training without asking it to do anything. As your dog learns more and becomes more confident, many of its fears will decrease or even fade away.

    Problems and Proofing Behavior

    While the tips above will help you deal with a dog that is anxious and upset, you may also want to help your own pet overcome specific fears. Try gently exposing your dog to an object or person it fears from a safe distance (one that does not provoke fear in your dog). Act like it is no big deal and slowly inch closer. Stop advancing if your dog shows any signs of fear. You may even need to take a step back.

    Offer your dog praise or gently hand it treats anytime it does something you like, such as walking towards an object or person it’s afraid of. With time, your dog will begin to better understand what you expect from it and realize that it will be rewarded for doing those things. The dog will also begin to gain confidence and offer those behaviors more frequently.

    Try this process every day or two for about 10 minutes at a time. Depending on the level of your dog’s fear, you may need several sessions to see a difference. Be patient and don’t give up.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    When meeting new dogs, always use respect, caution, and attentive awareness. Think in terms of learning the dog’s language. Be aware of your speed while approaching any dog you don’t know; slow your pace and use a gentle tone as you approach.

    How to approach a scared dog

    If you know the dog is shy or fearful, change your body language. Approach toward the side of the dog, not toward his head, and avoid direct eye contact. Watch the dog out of the corner of your eye for signs of fear or aggression, such as:

    • Body that is still or frozen
    • Hackles are up
    • Looking away or lowering of the head while still sitting up, or raising the head way up while looking away
    • Staring at you (if a defensive dog stares into your eyes, look away — to show respect and for your own safety)
    • Growling
    • Wrinkling of the lips without teeth showing
    • Snarling with teeth showing

    If the dog is snapping or lunging, proceed with extreme caution or find someone with more experience to help you. When you are close, begin to make your body “smaller.” Lower the shoulder that is closest to the dog. Start turning so that by the time you are beside the dog, you are almost facing away (but don’t have your back turned completely to the dog).

    Next, bend down next to the dog. (Do not bend down if the dog is snapping or lunging.) Keep your hands to yourself and give the dog a few seconds to sniff you or try to avoid you. Glance at the dog, but avoid extended eye contact. If the dog has not moved away, stay where you are and try to think about the message you are giving to the dog. Building a relationship with each dog you meet will require patience and a time commitment. I talk to the dogs when I am meeting them; if they are defensive, I tell them gently that I am not a threat. I tell them about Best Friends, about Dogtown.

    Walking with the fearful dog

    I just keep talking as I try to get them to go for a walk with me. I loop a lead over the dog’s head (even if he is snapping or lunging). I don’t ever try to grab a defensive dog’s collar to clip on a lead. Once the loop is around the dog’s neck, I move away and wait to see if the dog will join me. If he does not walk, I wait; if he does walk, I just walk with him. The simple act of moving helps many dogs to relax, since they feel less like they are being cornered.

    As we walk, I watch his body language and allow him to stop, sniff, eliminate — whatever he wants to do. If he panics, I stop in my tracks and, as soon as he stops flailing about, I bend down and wait for him to realize he is OK. A walk can take 10 minutes or an hour. The goal is for the dog to begin to feel better about being with me (i.e., the relationship begins). I don’t normally use treats during my introductions, but you can if you want to.

    After that first walk, a dog will often greet me with less fear the next time she sees me coming. She’ll be more willing to move toward me and walk away with me. Most dogs I meet who act defensively at first are still willing to have a relationship; as mentioned above, it just takes patience and time. You will find that the rewards of a relationship with a dog are well worth the investment.

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    How to approach a shy toddler

    Moderate antisocial behavior levels are common amongst all children, and intermittent phases of this type of behavior are to be expected throughout childhood. Antisocial behavior doesn’t necessarily mean violence or intent to cause harm to other children.

    It can also be lying, persistently not doing as one’s told, or even just simply withdrawing and displaying a certain level of aloofness to other children and parents or guardians.

    As we’ve said, moderate levels of these examples of antisocial behavior are nothing to worry about. However, if issues such as this persist and do not receive any form of treatment, it can lead to serious concerns later in life. Luckily, antisocial behavior can be easily identified and treated.

    Most Common Signs

    As mentioned, the main signs of antisocial behavior in young children are deceitfulness, aloofness, defiance, violence, and aggression. These examples could extend to violence towards animals, stealing, breaking the rules, and vandalism.

    More common amongst young boys, these examples of antisocial behavior will manifest during childhood and can last until late adolescence. The estimated number of children who exhibit the above signs of antisocial behavior is between 4 and 6 million.

    Antisocial behavior could be inherited, but the fault could also lie in poor parenting, a violent home life , or a bad environment. One child displaying signs of antisocial behavior could disrupt the rest of the class’s ability to learn .

    What Untreated Antisocial Behavior Can Lead To

    Untreated antisocial behavior may continue to cause issues for the individual throughout adolescence. Signs of untreated antisocial behavior include lack of remorse, empathy, and conscience, alongside heightened signs of aggression, arrogance, and manipulative tendencies.

    How To Prevent Antisocial Behavior

    To prevent the individual from suffering problems later in life, it is imperative to curb antisocial behavior as soon as the signs are seen to persist.

    One way to stop antisocial behavior is by introducing activities into the curriculum to teach students how to deal with their problems or aggression towards others. This includes teaching conflict resolution, emotional literacy, and anger management.

    If particular students exhibit well-developed signs of antisocial behavior, it may be a good idea to take them aside for more concentrated and student-specific versions of the suggestions above. It might also be wise to employ one-on-one mentoring .

    If problems persist, it could be necessary to employ tactics including cognitive behavioral therapy , family therapy , adolescence therapy, and potentially even behavioral family intervention.

    You could even encourage the child’s parents to attend parent management training to sort out any parenting issues you feel are hampering the child’s ability to move on from his antisocial habits.

    Concluding Thoughts

    Again, all parents and teachers should expect their child to exhibit some degree of antisocial behavior, which is totally natural. However, when this problem persists, it is necessary to employ some of the ideas and suggestions mentioned in this article to stop it early on.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    We have all faced the challenge of teaching shy, introverted or quiet students in our classroom. They may come across as someone with a lack of energy, soft-spoken, or a passive attitude. You may have trouble getting them involved in classroom discussions or activities.

    I know when I used to deal with shy students in my classroom, I would want to break them out of that shy shell and make them loud and outgoing like me. I really missed the mark on that one.

    When dealing with shy or quiet students, our goal should never be trying to turn them into a loud, boisterous and outgoing student. No, our goal should be to create a learning environment where they feel comfortable and are encouraged.

    Yes, this is an industry that requires a professional to be somewhat outgoing when they talk with their clients, but shy students can learn to do that without becoming over-the-top extroverted individuals.

    Here are a few strategies when dealing with shy students.

    1. Create a safe environment. One characteristic of shyness is that the student may have some insecurities or low self-esteem. It is important to first create a safe space for the student. A place where, if they choose to participate, they will not face any ridicule or embarrassment if they answer incorrectly. Honestly, this should be our mission for all students, not just shy students.
    2. Small groups. Shy students may not feel comfortable participating in front of the entire group of students but may be more inclined to get involved in smaller groups. Putting students in small groups of five to seven will allow everyone to participate. They will be more likely to get involved in a small group rather than a larger group. You can have the groups brainstorm about questions they have on a topic; this will allow the shy student to get their question asked without having to ask in front of the entire group. Even activities like role-playing can be turned into a group activity. Divide your class into two groups. Explain the role-playing activity and then have the group work together to determine how they will perform the task. This way, the shy student is involved in the discussion of what to role-play but does not have to be the one to get up and perform.
    3. Rotate group leadership. When utilizing small groups, rotate the leadership role on a frequent basis. This ensures that shy, introverted learners can serve in the role of leader. They will more likely be willing to lead a small group at first and might eventually become comfortable with taking on larger roles.
    4. Nonverbal answers. When asking questions, we tend to simply ask a question to the entire group, have them raise their hands and then call on someone to answer. The challenge with this is that shy students are probably never going to raise their hands. In order to get a feel for how all students are grasping the material, find nonverbal ways for students to respond to questions. When reviewing, you can have students hold up index cards with the letters A, B, C, D to indicate their answer. You can get handheld marker boards where each student writes their answer and holds it up for you to see. You can even use body language—clap if they feel it is true, stomp their feet if they feel the answer is false.
    5. Find their strengths. Talk to the student one-on-one. Find out what the student is really interested in and build on that.
    6. Ask for and reward volunteers. Shy, introverted behavior usually means these learners are the last to volunteer for anything within the class because they fear embarrassment or being put on the spot. As the facilitator, you can send the message that it is a good thing to volunteer because rewards accompany the risk. Make sure that the first volunteers you select are asked to do something extremely painless and even fun, if possible. Make sure they are recognized to show that there need be no fear in volunteering in your classroom. Similarly, you can also ask shy learners to help you with nonverbal tasks such as distributing materials, taping flip-chart paper to the walls, or gathering reports from groups. Involving them physically will soon result in better interaction with the whole group.
    7. Participation at will. Occasionally, you will encounter shy learners who are just not comfortable with open participation. Never employ strategies that force learners to do something they really do not want to do. For example, when you are rotating leaders, if a learner is vehement about not assuming the leader role, do not force the issue. Usually, the learner will gain support and encouragement from the small-group partners and will eventually take the chance.
    8. Match with a mentor. When your activities involve pairs, try to match the shy learner with one who is relatively outgoing. Take care to ensure that the other learner is not someone so domineering that the shy learner won’t be able to participate or contribute. This can work well in career education by pairing more advanced, experienced students with newer students.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    Kids seem to have busier schedules than ever before, as we shuffle them off from one activity or sports practice to another. Some can jump right into social situations, while others struggle.

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    What if your child isn’t a social butterfly or prefers to spend time alone at recess or after school? As a parent, there are some ways you can help, says pediatric behavioral health specialist Kristen Eastman, PsyD.

    “If your child doesn’t appear to make friends like other kids the same age, they may just need some coaching and practice time on simple social skills,” she says.

    She offers these tips to help you assess the situation and give your child a much-needed boost of confidence in approaching social situations.

    Take time to observe and understand how your child socializes

    Start with a “fly on the wall” approach, Dr. Eastman suggests. Attend a few activities at school (or sports after school) and pay close attention to how your child interacts with others. Do they behave differently than their “norm” at home? If so, why?

    Your child may have a tough time starting conversations. They may have anxiety in large groups or a fear of public speaking, and that keeps them from engaging meaningfully with other children. Do they prefer to keep to themselves and observe instead of joining in?

    Depending on what behavior you see, you can then decide where to focus your attention, what skills need building and how you can contribute. “Trust your instincts, because you know your kid best,” Dr. Eastman says.

    Model positive social behavior

    Children really do learn by example, so be mindful of how you interact with others.

    Every time you strike up conversations with friends or neighbors, or even the check-out person at the grocery store, your child is aware. Almost every scenario becomes a learning opportunity, allowing your child to see how you join in, negotiate and problem-solve.

    Role play at home

    If your pre-teen or teenager finds it difficult to start conversations at lunch or during free time at school, sit down and practice at home. Discuss what topics interest them that he might talk about with other kids. Test different options until he finds something that comes naturally.

    Give your child a head start

    If your child wants to play baseball, but is reluctant to start, visit the field with them and throw the ball around so they can get acclimated ahead of time. Go early to the first practice so you arrive before others start showing up and the scene gets more chaotic.

    If they want to take swimming lessons, let them take a couple private lessons before joining a full class, so they’ll already have built up some confidence.

    Reinforce and praise

    Make it exciting and rewarding to practice trying new things. Even when your child is only making slow progress, make sure to reinforce their efforts.

    Acknowledge each small success, and tell your child how proud you are that they keep trying.

    Get the ball rolling

    For smaller children, setting up a play date with just one other child is often a good idea. If your child is older, you might open up the house by inviting the baseball team over for pizza and a movie.

    “Especially in the beginning, the goal is to help your child feel comfortable socializing and make it a positive experience,” Dr. Eastman says.

    Don’t avoid the problem

    If social situations are difficult for your child, you might rather avoid or ignore the problem. But your child won’t learn to improve their relationships by always sitting at home with you. Dr. Eastman recommends gradually pushing a shy child slightly beyond their comfort zone into new situations, with gentle coaching and encouragement.

    “Don’t throw them off the diving board, but ease them toward the deep end,” she says.

    Don’t compare your child to yourself or other siblings

    Be realistic about your child’s unique personality and temperament, which guides how much social interaction they seek. Just because you have dozens of friends doesn’t mean your child will, too. It doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem. Some introverted children make a few really good friends instead of having many more casual friendships.

    “It’s tough when a parent’s normal doesn’t line up with a child’s normal,” Dr. Eastman says. “As long as they’re doing things they want to do and are happy and well-adjusted, that’s good.”

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    What’s the best way to motivate children? The intrinsic motivation to learn about the world around us begins in infancy. This type of motivation can either be encouraged or suppressed by the experiences adults provide for children. Psychological research points to a set of promising approaches that parents and practitioners can use to promote positive motivation and learning during development.

    Follow babies’ lead.

    Babies naturally orient toward novel objects and events. They look away from objects that are overly familiar, but also from new ones that are too complex. This is sometimes called the “Goldilocks effect:” things are interesting when they are novel, but not too novel. When interacting with infants, notice what they pay attention to, and engage with them around their interests.

    Elicit curiosity.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    Even infants seek to explore objects—especially those that behave in surprising ways. When they drop something on the floor or throw it, they’re trying to see what will happen next. Provide children with opportunities to interact with new objects—and let them lead and learn!

    Encourage children’s playful exploration.

    When given the opportunity, children of all ages spontaneously engage in play. The ingredients of play are precisely the ones that fuel learning: play is intrinsically motivating, it presents an opportunity for novel experiences and for learning from others, it requires active engagement, and it can strengthen social bonds and reduce stress. When life is busy or chaotic, it can be hard to find the time and space to encourage children’s play, but this is an important aspect of development.

    Prioritize social interaction during learning.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    In the digital age, there are many educational, computer-based applications designed for children, even as young as 6 months. However, even the best-designed and most effective apps cannot replace real-life social interactions with adults and peers. In one study, babies learned elements of language more effectively when face-to-face with a teacher or on video. Recent research shows that young children can learn from digital media, such as touch-screen tablets, but social interaction during this learning experience appears to be essential.

    Challenge children just enough.

    Kids are motivated to work toward achievable goals. From infancy onward, effort is required to sustain motivation, but success must be possible. They lose motivation when a task is too easy, but also when it is so difficult as to be insurmountable. Video games harness this basic principle of learning effectively, constantly increasing the level of challenge based on an individual child’s performance. Try to adapt a challenge according to a child’s current capabilities, and provide prompt feedback on his or her performance.

    Give children agency.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    Children are more motivated when they have some degree of self-determination, and can elect to pursue tasks that are personally meaningful. When they have a choice of projects, or at least a little wiggle room as to how a task gets done, children are more likely to stay engaged.

    Provide incentives only when necessary.

    When children are suddenly rewarded for something they enjoy and do freely, they may begin to do it only when they know they will be compensated afterwards. Wherever possible, harness children’s natural curiosity and inclination to work toward an achievable goal, rather than promising a reward.

    Praise the process rather than the outcome.

    When we praise children for their intellect or skill level—or the grade or gold medal they received—it can lead to a performance orientation. They may be motivated to achieve more rewards, but they may also learn to shy away from challenging activities that they might not excel at, for fear of negative evaluation. Performance pressure increases as children move up in school, and it is associated with depression and anxiety in addition to diminished joy of learning. When we praise children for their effort and help them see falling short as an opportunity to learn and improve (rather than simply focus on the outcome), they will be more motivated to work hard and more likely to believe that they can achieve what they put their mind to.

    Maintain a close connection with adolescents.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    Adolescence is a period when many young people take risks and push boundaries. This trend reflects, in large part, a natural inclination toward novel and exciting experiences that maximize learning opportunities and are important in making the transition to independence. As teens become more motivated by the approval of their peers, it can be socially rewarding to follow risk-taking leaders or stand out by breaking boundaries. However, teens with close family relationships are less prone to risk-taking. High parental support and open dialogue are associated with fewer problem behaviors, including less substance abuse and delinquency. Be empathetic and supportive, knowing that youth are going through changes in their brains, bodies, and social relations that can make risky behavior appealing to them. Keep the lines of communication open—and keep close tabs on teens.

    Some people welcome new experiences and new people. They look forward to any opportunity to socialize. They’re often the first to introduce themselves and they jump into a conversation easily. Other people are quiet and shy, and prefer to warm up slowly to new people or situations.

    What Is Shyness?

    Shyness is an emotion that affects how a person feels and behaves around others. Shyness can mean feeling uncomfortable, self-conscious, nervous, bashful, timid, or insecure. People who feel shy sometimes notice physical sensations like blushing or feeling speechless, shaky, or breathless.

    Shyness is the opposite of being at ease with yourself around others. When people feel shy, they might hesitate to say or do something because they’re feeling unsure of themselves and they’re not ready to be noticed.

    Reacting to New Things

    New and unfamiliar situations can bring out shy feelings — like the first day of school, meeting someone new, or speaking in front of a group for the first time. People are more likely to feel shy when they’re not sure how to act, don’t know how others will react, or when attention is on them. People are less likely to feel shy in situations where they know what to expect, feel sure of what to do or say, or are among familiar people.

    Like other emotions, shy feelings can be mild, medium, or intense — depending on the situation and the person. Someone who usually or often feels shy might think of himself or herself as a shy person. People who are shy may need more time to get used to change. They might prefer to stick with what’s familiar.

    People who are shy often hesitate before trying something new. They often prefer watching others before joining in on a group activity. They usually take longer to warm up to new people and situations.

    Sometimes being quiet and introverted is a sign that someone has a naturally shy personality. But that’s not always the case. Being quiet is not always the same as being shy.

    Why Are Some People Shy?

    Shyness is partly a result of genes a person has inherited. It’s also influenced by behaviors they’ve learned, the ways people have reacted to their shyness, and life experiences they’ve had.

    • Genetics. Our genes determine our physical traits, like height, eye color, skin color, and body type. But genes also influence certain personality traits, including shyness. About 20% of people have a genetic tendency to be naturally shy. But not everyone with a genetic tendency to be shy develops a shy temperament. Life experiences also play a role.
    • Life experiences. When people are faced with a situation that may lead them to feel shy, how they deal with that situation can shape their future reactions to similar situations. For example, if people who are shy approach new things little by little, it can help them become more confident and comfortable. But if they feel pushed into situations they don’t feel prepared for, or if they are teased or bullied, it can make them even more shy.

    The examples other people set can also play a role in whether a person learns to be shy or not. If the parents of a shy child are overly cautious or overprotective, it can teach the child to back away from situations that might be uncomfortable or unfamiliar.

    Shy Strength

    Many people want to reduce their shyness. But people who are naturally shy also have gifts that they might not appreciate in themselves. For example, because shy people may prefer listening to talking, they sometimes become really good listeners (and what friend doesn’t appreciate that?!).

    People who are shy might also become sensitive to other people’s feelings and emotions. Because of their sensitivity and listening skills, many people with a shy personality are especially caring toward others, and interested in how others feel. People often consider them the finest friends.

    Of course, some people want to feel less shy so they can have more fun socializing and being themselves around others. If you’re trying to become less shy, it can help to remember:

    • Overcoming shyness takes practice. People who are shy tend to give themselves fewer chances to practice social behaviors. It’s no wonder that people who shy away from socializing don’t feel as socially confident as those who are outgoing — they have less practice! The more you practice social behaviors, the easier they get, and the more natural they feel for you.
    • Take slow, steady steps forward. Going slow is OK. But be sure to go forward. Stepping back from any situations that might trigger you to feel shy can reinforce shyness and keep it at a level that’s hard to get past. Build confidence by taking one small forward step at a time.
    • It’s OK to feel awkward. Everyone does sometimes. People who are shy are often afraid to feel awkward or uncomfortable. But don’t let that keep you from doing what you want. You might feel awkward asking your crush for a first date. That’s perfectly natural. Whether your crush says yes — or no — is out of your control. But not asking at all means you’ll never get that date. So go for it anyway!
    • Know that you can do it. Plenty of people learn to manage their shyness. Know that you can, too.

    When Shyness Is Extreme

    Most naturally shy people can learn to manage their shyness so that it doesn’t interfere with what they enjoy doing. They learn to warm up to new people and situations. They develop their friendliness and confidence and get past shy feelings.

    But for a few people, shy feelings can be extreme and can seem hard to conquer. When shy feelings are this strong, they prevent a person from interacting, participating in class, and socializing. Instead of warming up after a while, someone with extreme shyness has shy feelings that build into a powerful fear. This can cause a person to avoid social situations and hold back on trying new things or making new friends. Extreme shyness can make it uncomfortable — and seem impossible — to talk to classmates or teachers.

    Because extreme shyness can interfere with socializing, it can also affect a person’s self-confidence and self-esteem. And it can prevent someone from taking advantage of opportunities or trying new things. Extreme feelings of shyness are often a sign of an anxiety condition called social phobia. People with social phobia often need the help of a therapist to overcome extreme shyness.

    Someone with social phobia — or extreme shyness — can overcome it! It takes time, patience, courage, and practice. But it’s worth the hard work. The payoff is enjoying more friends, having more fun, and feeling more confident.

    Be True to Yourself

    We can’t change our true inner nature (and who would want to?). If you have a naturally shy style, or if shyness holds you back, you might have to work at developing a sense of ease around new people.

    Most people find that the more they practice socializing, the easier it gets. Practicing social skills — like assertiveness; conversation; and friendly, confident body language — can help people overcome shyness, build confidence, and get more enjoyment from everyday experiences.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on June 17, 2013.

    One of the traps that we got ourselves caught in was looking to religious leaders for guidance on how to raise our children. It’s ok to seek guidance, but we didn’t always check what we learned with scripture. We read a lot of books and went to parenting seminars/classes over the years: Train Up A Child, Shepherding a Child’s Heart,, Ezzo’s Growing Kids God’s Way, etc.

    We weren’t the only ones. Some of these books/classes were trendy and many churches across the states would jump on the bandwagon. During the mid 1990s, I spent time visiting homeschool forums online and I’d hear of new parenting books/programs popping up all over the country. Next thing I knew, our own church was now promoting the program I had just read about online.

    In general, we tried to adopt ideas that worked for our family and leave the other stuff behind. That seems like a balanced approach, but we still got ourselves in trouble and I have had to apologize to my kids for the way I treated them.

    It’s interesting, but the Bible really doesn’t have a large amount of verses on child training, yet some of these Christian leaders were able to write meaty books on the subject or speak for hours on the subject, showing us how to parent our children the “biblical” way. Yet how much of what they write or speak about really is in the Bible? It’s really more of their interpretation of the Bible and the application of it. I don’t know about you, but none of my kids were born with an instruction manual and coming from a dysfunctional family, I wanted all the help I could get.

    I now get red flags when I see big names being promoted as being the expert on a particular issue. Voddie Baucham is one such pastor whose name is in the celebrity pastor limelight. I don’t quite understand why people elevate certain pastors to the level of celebrity status. It’s high time we start removing people from pedestals and acknowledge that God has given us parents the same ability to discern that He has given them. They were not given a direct line to God any more than we have been given.

    From Mr. Baucham’s “about” page at his church website:

    Voddie Baucham wears many hats. He is a husband, father, pastor, author, professor, conference speaker and church planter. He currently serves as Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, TX. He has served as an adjunct professor at the College of Biblical Studies in Houston, TX, and Union University in Jackson, TN. He has also lectured at Southern Seminary.

    Baucham is a big proponent of homeschooling and his 8 children are educated at home. He and his church also promote family-integrated church model, meaning families worship together and there is no age segregation for Sunday school classes, youth groups, etc.

    In this article, we read about his involvement in the Homeschool Movement. The Homeschool Movement is a subculture within the homeschooling community which subscribes to specific teachings and ideologies: Courtship, Patriarchy, Purity/Modesty teachings, Quiverfull, etc. He believes the Homeschool Movement has the ability to turn the tide in recapturing this current generation for Christ. Here’s one quote:

    ”The one hopeful sign I see is that the home-schooling movement is thriving. If there is an answer, I believe that is it.”

    Along with his support of the Homeschool Movement, Google searches will show that he is a strong supporter of Courtship and Patriarchy. He also does not think adult daughters should leave the home to go to college.

    I’m not going to discuss those specific issues, but only bring them up to give a little background information.

    What I do want to focus on is his parenting ideas, namely, spanking. Listen to his words. Line up his words with what the Bible says on parenting and see for yourself if this man is speaking biblically or his own agenda. Does the Bible say anything about shy children? Does the Bible say anything about how many spanks a child needs each day? Where does that come from?

    The following was transcribed from the above video:

    November 4, 2007

    Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 1-4: I want to take you through three things, I want you to see three things, three phases in the training of our children. Phase number one is the discipline and correction phase. These are the first few years of life incredibly important. This is where we lay the foundation for everything else. The discipline and training phase. In this phase is where we are saying to our children “give me your attention, give me your attention.” “You need to pay more attention to ME than I do to YOU, give me your attention.” “The world doesn’t revolve around YOU, YOUR world revolves around ME.” That’s what we need to teach our children in those first few years of their life. Because they come here and just by nature of things they believe that the world revolves around them. And for the first few weeks that’s okay, but eventually we need to teach them that that’s over, that, “The world no longer revolves around YOU. YOUR world TODDLER, revolves around ME, around me.”

    Folly is bound up in the heart of a child and the ROD of correction will drive it far from them. In other words God says your children desperately, desperately need to be spanked.

    Amen, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord and spank your kids, okay? (laughter from audience)

    And, they desperately need to be spanked and they need to be spanked often, they do. I meet people all the time ya’ know and they say, oh yeah, “There have only been maybe 4 or 5 times I’ve ever had to spank Junior.” “Really?” ‘That’s unfortunate, because unless you raised Jesus II, there were days when Junior needed to be spanked 5 times before breakfast.” If you only spanked your child 5 times, then that means almost every time they disobeyed you, you let it go.

    Why do your toddlers throw fits? Because you’ve taught them that’s the way that they can control you. When instead you just need to have an all-day session where you just wear them out and they finally decide “you know what, things get worse when I do that.”


    Let me give you an example, a prime example. The so-called shy kid, who doesn’t shake hands at church, okay? Usually what happens is you come up, ya’ know and here I am, I’m the guest and I walk up and I’m saying hi to somebody and they say to their kid “Hey, ya’ know, say Good-morning to Dr. Baucham,” and the kid hides and runs behind the leg and here’s what’s supposed to happen. This is what we have agreed upon, silently in our culture. What’s supposed to happen is that, I’m supposed to look at their child and say, “Hey, that’s okay.” But I can’t do that. Because if I do that, then what has happened is that number one, the child has sinned by not doing what they were told to do, it’s in direct disobedience. Secondly, the parent is in sin for not correcting it, and thirdly, I am in sin because I have just told a child it’s okay to disobey and dishonor their parent in direct violation of scripture. I can’t do that, I won’t do that.

    I’m gonna stand there until you make ‘em do what you said.

    I was reflecting on a lovely day in the sun with two darling little girls keen to show off their love of dance.

    It was the first time I’d seen them in a long while and while they were keen to meet me as the source of birthday cards and gifts, they were a bit shy.

    Now I’ve watched relatives and friends reach out eagerly to cuddle and hug a small child they are so excited to see and are so keen to show their love. But if they have not visited for a while or have not met the little child then the reaction they receive may be confusion and resistance – the little one doesn’t know this person so they hold back or push the stranger away.

    I say a gentle hello “I’m Chris” and shake their hand if they’re willing. Then I move on to chat to their parents and allow them time to check me out from a distance.

    It didn’t take long for them to work out I am not a threat, and am trusted by their parents. I saw them settle which was the perfect time to then break the ice with a little gift – a chocolate frog and some stickers – small enough to get their interest and start to chat .

    I asked about their dancing but for other children I might ask about a game they are playing, an activity I know they enjoy such as cricket or footy or a book they are reading and let them come to me in their own time.

    These little dancers started out shy, one hiding behind her mother, but a few minutes chat with their parents and a page of stickers won them over and I was then treated to a whole series of imaginative dances and songs!

    Kids love to show off and before you know it, they are treating you like the family friend you are and chatting nineteen to the dozen!

    How to approach a shy toddlerTwo Darling Dancing Girls
    Photo by IIONA VIRGIN on Unsplash

    How to approach a shy toddler

    During last summer’s Matthew H. Ornstein Washington Summer Debate Institute, David Trigaux remembers a girl who sat in the back of the room for much of the two-week camp session.

    “She didn’t say much,” says Trigaux, program director for the Washington Urban Debate League, which hosts the camp. “But when she did say things, they were right. Over the course of the two weeks she started speaking out more and more, and now she’s going to national [debate competitions] this year.”

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    If you’re the parent of a shy child, that’s the kind of coming-out-of-their-shell scenario you might hope for when signing up for summer camp. To increase that likelihood, there are several factors to consider and questions to ask when choosing a camp.

    Sometimes a general camp experience — the kind that includes a variety of activities, like crafts, swimming, drama, cooking and other programs — can be the way to go. At Green Acres Camp in North Bethesda, Md., camps are offered in six-week sessions for younger kids ($2,750) and three-week sessions for older campers ($1,640). Camps of those lengths provide continuity, which can make shy kids feel more comfortable forging friendships or exploring a new activity.

    “Over the years, we’ve seen the evolution of camps from what we offer to all of these one-week options where kids are shuffled back and forth among programs,” says Judy Shniderman, pre-camp administrator at Green Acres. “For a shy kid, that can be a nightmare scenario in terms of having to get used to new kids, new staff and a new place every time. Our camp is modeled on the premise that children have to feel safe and secure in order to try something new.”

    Debate and drama camps can be a great option for some shy kids. In 2019, the Ornstein Summer Debate Institute takes place July 22-Aug. 2. The camp is free for sixth- through 12th-graders at public schools in D.C. and Prince George’s County, and parents can apply for one of the 150 spots through WUDL’s website.

    “Shyness will usually come from a lack of confidence or a lack of comfort, and those are two things we work on building,” says Trigaux. “Debate as an activity helps build the social comfort of engaging with one another.”

    But those put-yourself-out-there camps aren’t always the best fit for every shy kid out there. Arts and craft camps can be a good option, because they give children something to focus on. “It’s something they can work on independently,” says Brian Washington, deputy director of the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, which offers an Arts Adventures camp over the summer ($380-$475 per week). “There’s no right or wrong way to do art; it’s all about feeling good about what you’re making. Some kids come and they’re really shy on Monday, but by Friday afternoon they’re having a good time and asking their parents to come back for a second week.”

    How to approach a shy toddlerAre You A Social Butterfly?

    My husband teases me that I could start up a conversation with a shoe. My son complains that he can’t get me to leave any group activities because I am being social. He sees this as a negative.

    For some, starting conversations come naturally. For others, starting a conversation can be very challenging. When meeting someone for the first time do you feel shy and uncomfortable? Are you worried that you won’t know what to say?

    How Rude!

    For children with social skills deficits, starting a conversation can be a difficult part of daily life.
    Often they are expected to start a conversation or respond to a greeting. When no words are forthcoming the child is perceived as being rude.

    Here are four steps you can take to help your child engage in conversation:

    1. The Approach

    One of the most important parts of conversation is eye contact. Work on making eye contact with your child.

    • When your child is talking encourage them to make eye contact while talking.
    • Have your child practice greeting family members while looking them in the eye.

    2. Appropriate Greetings

    Work on appropriate words for greeting a person. Discuss which greetings are appropriate for whom. For example:

    • It is fine to say “What’s up?” to a friend but it would be disrespectful to do so to your grandmother’s friend
    • It is ok to ask your friend about the new release of the latest video game, but probably not your teacher.

    3. Continuing the Conversation

    Conversations, of course, cannot be limited to “Hi”. You have to have follow-up dialogue and that requires a topic of interest.

    I recall many conversations with my grandparents in Australia about the weather. I just didn’t know what to talk to them about. It would have been helpful to have a list of topics prepared ahead of time.

    Using that same idea:

    • Create a set of cards with topics for conversation.
    • Divide the topics based on the person they are appropriate for (conversation ideas for your friends would be in one section, teachers in another and so on).
    • Create a visual: For the people your child will interact with most have a picture of them and discuss with your child in advance what you would like to talk to them about.

    4. Practice! Practice! Practice!

    Take every opportunity to practice! Modelling and practice are critical components.

    • Enlist the help of family members, friends, teachers and peers to help model and practice greeting and conversing.
    • Encourage your child to greet anyone that comes to your house, even the mail carrier can be greeted politely. If you go to a store, have your child greet the clerk behind the counter.

    Being the social butterfly that I am I would love to continue the conversation in the comments below.

    No parent wants to hear their child say, “I’m dumb” or “I’m stupid,” or even worse, “No one loves me.” Rather than panicking or minimizing their experience, use these tips to respond to your child’s negative self-talk.

    How to approach a shy toddler

    “I’m so dumb,” your child mumbles at the kitchen table. He bangs his fist on the table and growls.

    He’s working on a writing assignment. Writing does not come easy. Eraser smudges fill his page showing that he was not happy with his previous attempts.

    “You’re not dumb, honey,” you say soothingly.

    He crumples the paper and yells back, “Yes I am! I’m so stupid! I’m the worst!”

    You hang your head in your hands.

    Is he just being dramatic? Does he really think he’s dumb?

    How to respond to negative self-talk.

    When negative self-talk spews from your child’s mouth, your knee-jerk reaction is to stop it. To give your child some reassurance or to convince them that their thinking is flawed.

    Unfortunately, their words may match their feelings. They do not feel “loveable” or “wonderful” (as you may suggest), they feel “dumb,” “stupid,” and “like the worst kid in the world.”

    Instead of moving in to fix it, try these ideas to address the underlying feeling and their internal struggle.

    • Empathize:Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what they may be feeling. “That writing assignment’s pretty challenging, eh?” or “Wow, sounds like you’re feeling frustrated!” If you can’t think of what to say, try a simple response like, “That’s tough” or “Need a hug?”
    • Get curious: Some kids have a hard time verbalizing the problem. When you start to explore the situation together, they may be able to understand what’s really bugging them. “I wonder why this assignment is tripping you up today.” or “Is it all writing assignments or this one in particular?”
    • Rewrite the script: Once you’ve explored, you can work together to create some new phrases to try. Instead of “Writing is hard. I’m stupid,” your child could say, “I’m working hard on writing” or “Making mistakes is part of learning.” Or even, “Mom, I’m so frustrated with this assignment.”
    • Problem-solve together: Resist the urge to suggest a solution to the problem or lead them to an answer that seems right to you. Work as a team. Sometimes, there is no easy solution or quick fix because the answer is, “I have to keep practicing” or “I am working toward the goal.”
    • Challenge thoughts and feelings:Feelings come and go, they do not define you. Your child may FEEL unloveable, but feeling something doesn’t mean it’s true. Someone can struggle and not be stupid. Talk about times when your child has overcome something difficult and felt confident or excited.

    Keep your conversations brief, don’t tackle all of this at once.

    You’re eager to help your child, but it’s not always easy to accept positive, reassuring comments if you’ve been in a negative-thinking frame of mind. Expect some resistance at first. Especially if your child is not used to seeing things in a different light.

    What else can you do?

    Create an environment of support, encouragement and teach frustration tolerance using these tips.

    • Give Choices: Let your child have the option to make choices throughout the day, picking their outfit, afternoon snack, or where to do their homework. Give positive feedback for good choices and watch your criticism! If you give them a choice, keep your negative opinions to yourself.
    • Embrace Imperfection: Everyone makes mistakes – even you! Practice using light-hearted responses to mistakes, “Oops! The milk spilled! Let’s wipe it up!” Model healthy ways to handle frustration, apologize after yelling, or acknowledge your part in a misunderstanding.
    • Focus on the Good: Instead of nit-picking or constantly focusing on things that need to be changed, fixed or cleaned, learn to let go. Building or repairing relationship may be more important than a tidy bedroom. Try to give 5 positive statements to every 1 negative statement.
    • Encourage Independence: Kids need parents to help them make good decisions or stay focused, but sometimes constant direction sends the message: “You can’t do it on your own.” Brainstorm or problem-solve together, ask your child’s opinion or have him offer a solution.
    • Value Perseverance: Focus on the little steps that lead to success, overcoming an obstacle, or moving closer to a goal. Phrases such as, “You’re working really hard on that…” or “That took a lot of effort!” help your child see the benefit in the process rather than the prize at the end.
    • Teach Coping Skills: Expose your child to a variety of coping and calming skills, work on deep breathing and create positive, helpful mantras. Practice these skills often so your child is prepared and knows how to handle frustrating situations and discouraging thoughts.
    • Seek support: If you have been working with your child for a while and still hear them struggling with negative self-talk, or if they threaten to harm themselves or others, it may be time to seek help from a local mental health provider. (If your child is suicidal, please get help immediately)

    Looking up from your hands, you meet your child’s eyes.

    “This is a frustrating assignment.”

    “Yeah.” He replies.

    “How can I help?” you ask.

    Shrugging, he replies, “you could do it for me.”

    It doesn’t change the assignment, but at least you can talk about it without hearing the word “dumb.”

    For more suggestions, Check out Katie Hurley’s post, “How to Help Your Negative Thinker.”

    Need More Support?

    These conversations are not always easy. If you are struggling to know what to say (or what not to say!) Parent Coaching can help! We’ll meet “face-to-face” to talk through these challenges and you’ll receive personalized solutions that work for your unique family. Schedule an appointment today!


    About Nicole Schwarz

    Welcome! I am an imperfect mom to 3 girls and a Parent Coach with a License in Family Therapy. My goal is to help you feel less angry, manage anxiety, talk to your kids with empathy, and learn to discipline without punishment. If you are frustrated, stuck or unsure how to make changes in your parenting, I provide online Parent Coaching sessions in the US and internationally.

    Comments have been turned off to retain the privacy of all families. If you have a question or comment on the topic, you’re always welcome to contact me or send me an email.

    Imperfect Families Mission

    To authentically connect parents to themselves and their families for a healthier home.

    Meet Nicole Schwarz

    How to approach a shy toddler

    Founder of Imperfect Families, Imperfect mom to 3 girls and a Parent Coach with a License in Family Therapy.
    Author of “It Starts With You.”