“Mom, can you ask the baby to play with me?” Of course I could. But should I? The situation happens exactly like this, thousands of times, every day in the playgrounds of this world: the child hides behind mom or dad’s leg and looks longingly at the sandbox. It would like to, but dare not. And we? Shall we take the first step? “Show him he doesn’t have to be afraid,” says the little angel on my shoulder. “It will never be independent like this,” scolds the little devil.
Inke Hummel knows how to do it right and what shy children and their parents need. In her new book “My Wonderfully Shy Child” she shows how parents can accept their child as they are and how to boost their child’s self-confidence. So it becomes independent and calmly meets the pressure from outside. “Kindness is not a fault,” says the teacher. “Being shy is a trait like many others. And it’s good that it exists. We don’t just need leaders, self-promoters and stage pigs. Colorful is good, diversity is an asset.”
These two terms are very often connected and confused. However, they are absolutely not the same. “Gentleness can lie in the temperament and basically just means that you are more hesitant and cautious in new situations with many stimuli. That you prefer to take many small steps,” says the expert. “Gang behavior can also be provoked by a situation, such as the typical ‘don’t dare’ on the playground, but also a difficult life situation, separation of parents, a move or the like.”
Introversion, on the other hand, is more about the question “Where do I get strength from?”. “Introverts tend to find it in themselves, in peace, relaxation or in a book. Extroverts look for strength in interaction with others or in excitement, such as in sports.” Introversion and shyness are not mutually exclusive.
“I find it difficult to find a term for the opposite of shyness,” says Inke Hummel. “Often ‘confident’ stands in contrast. There are many shy and at the same time self-confident people. This is also what I want to achieve with my book: That the children become adults who are aware of themselves. For them to know for themselves, “I am shy, I need my lead time and planning. I take small steps to achieve my goals. It’s me.” If I’m aware of that and it’s giving me trouble, I can find someone to train with me, for example if I want a job that involves speaking in front of a lot of people for example. “
Being shy is not a bad thing, it is a trait like many others.
Above all, we must help our children to sort themselves out, to strengthen this self-confidence. This also means that we must make them strong for outside comments. “Many parents are not at all dissatisfied with the situation, and neither are most children. The pressure and doubts come from the environment,” says Inke Hummel. “Don’t be so shy” is often said. In my book, I would like to tell parents how they can strengthen their children and keep negative eyes away from them.” Of course, this does not always work. Above all, it is important
- that the child learns from the parents that it is ok the way it is. Being shy is not a bad thing, it is a trait like many others.
- that you are aware of what your child wants. In our playground example, that would be “playing with another child.” Then you can think together about how the child can get there and how you can help him. Maybe you can start a conversation together. Or it helps if you take his hand and stay with him.
- that the focus is on the child. Maybe set your expectations a little lower as a parent. Don’t argue with “everyone else can/could do it too”.
- that you are an example that failure is not bad and that you do not condemn the child’s failure either.
“He obviously got that from me” – our children seem to inherit many behaviors and character traits from us, and they learn a lot through imitation. So how can you, as a shy person, set a good example for your child? “Even parents don’t have to bend over backwards,” says Inke Hummel. Here self-confidence is again important, i.e. being aware of oneself and one’s being. “Very bold parents may be good role models, but they may not be able to live with their child’s shyness. Parents who are also shy can do better. On the other hand, they have a harder time showing their children how they have to behave. behave in certain situations.” The expert advises you to look into your own history. What shaped me? Did my parents take too much from me? Or pushed too much? Shouldn’t I be shy? Then they can adjust their own behavior.
The teacher sees another possibility in tackling the common subject together. “You can choose small exercises: make several phone calls, start consultations in the store and sometimes not buy anything. Show the child that it is also a challenge for you – it gives courage and it is good for the children to see that they are not alone.”
Although shyness is not a big problem in kindergarten, many parents worry as soon as they start school. Here, too, Inke Hummel wants to take the pressure off: “Many people get the school information from the municipality when the child is just four years old. However, school enrollment is only two to two and a half years from now. That is an awful lot of time! I have many shy children, which two weeks before school starts would be thought to be difficult. And they are often picked up by the teachers and classmates so wonderfully. Plus, kids go through a wobbly puberty around the time they start school. It’s such a time when so much changes again.” So she advises parents to keep calm and observe. In addition, most teachers are much more relaxed than you might think. “If you are very afraid of starting school, you can actively address the problem in advance and talk to the teacher about it in the preliminary interview. Perhaps the child can take a look at the school beforehand and get a feel for it. But it is often helps to let it run now.”
The expert advises that the pressure parents may feel due to poor grades should not be taken out on their children. “It is better to contact the teacher, preferably together with the child, and explain. Teachers often see the behavior as disinterest. It must be explained and a new teacher-student relationship created. Perhaps there are ways to make it easier for the child to participate. Book presentations, for example, could not be presented in front of the class. Instead, the child could record their presentation at home, give it on the phone, or give it with their back to the class. All of this is also a notion of inclusion. Many shy children are the last in digital classes. Fully blossomed for months. This should be seen as an opportunity!”
Constantly going against your own temperament is stressful!
The situation is sometimes more difficult for parents than for the shy child himself. “Many parents want to respond to the child and be needs-oriented,” says Inke Hummel. “It’s great, but some people find it difficult to expect anything from the children. But they need that in order to develop. And for that they have to be pushed, always go a little beyond the limit that you think is good. For that Situations often arise in everyday life, but you can also consciously create just such situations.
- Let your child pay in the supermarket. You only have to interact a little with the cashier, but at least it’s a little contact with a stranger.
- Let your child choose and order the rolls from the baker. It requires more interaction and therefore courage than “just” paying at the till.
- Let your child walk short distances alone. “When he was in kindergarten, my son wanted to go to day care alone,” says Inke Hummel. “A short way, not on the road. We tried it. The first time he came back because it didn’t work. The road seemed too far and then a dog came. Together we thought about what to do and then got radios, so we could keep in touch the whole time and at one point he went out of range without it bothering him.
It is also important that you strengthen your children’s self-esteem. Especially from pre-school age, children have more and more contacts outside the family. From this age, children should learn to take responsibility and duties. But also making decisions, influencing rules, planning small projects. This is how it learns that it is important. It also helps your child if you encourage their talents and praise them. Create speaking times and quiet spaces. “Constantly going against one’s own temperament is stressful,” says Inke Hummel. “And above all: never give up, never say, ‘You can’t.’ Make connections by sharing how you failed once but succeeded the next time you tried.”
Inke Hummel is a teacher, leader of parent-child courses, blogger and owner of the family support “sAchtsam Hummel”. She supports families from the first year of baby to puberty. She often accompanies parents with emotionally strong children and helps them develop a good parent-child bond. In the association “Binding
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