Don’t Call Me Shy
I will never label you as shy or in any other way, and I will not permit others to do so. Labeling is disrespectful and does not allow us to see the real person behind the label.
-Don’t Call Me Shy chapter 12
The author
    Laurie Adelman is a nurse and health educator, a shyness life coach, and a child advocate who is passionately devoted to teaching parents and teachers how to interact with shy children in a way which brings out the child’s social best.
Note: These techniques bring out the social best in shy adults too!
    Because of the unique nature of individual situations that shy people face, this website is not intended to replace medical or professional advice. The author disclaims responsibility for any personal or other liability which may be incurred as a direct or indirect consequence of the application of any of the methods or suggestions discussed.
© Copyright 2007 Don’t Call Me Shy  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Questions of interest
Dear Laurie: I am sure that I speak for others when I say thank you for all you are doing to help those who are shy. This website is amazing! I have learned so much new information about shyness that I know is going to help me with my daughter, but I don’t know how to handle this painful situation that happens so often. My daughter is 7 years old and is shy. It breaks my heart when we have people over to visit and I watch my child sit off to the side looking lonely. When I try to encourage her to get involved in the conversation she withdraws even more. I am desperate to help my child.
Dear Laurie: I am a 4th grade teacher and have 2 students in my class who, because they are so shy, do not participate at all. They stay by themselves and are not accepted by the other children. They are not bullied but it is as though the other children do not even know they exist. Their parents look to me to help because I am an experienced teacher but, frankly, I do not know what to do. Please help!
Laurie answers…
    I chose these two questions because they are closely related. Each is a case of shy children not knowing how to fit in and both letters capture the pain and frustration of being shy - and being a parent and/or teacher wanting to help these children. Shy adults please note that you, too, will benefit from the advice that follows.
    I want to begin by letting each and every parent and teacher know that it is completely normal and understandable that you feel confused and helpless when it comes to offering something tangible to a shy child that will result in a change in behavior that you and the child can see and feel. It has become customary to encourage shy individuals to “push themselves and stop acting shy.” The fact is that shy people cannot behave in a socially comfortable manner until they believe that they have the ability to do so.
    Everyone has a need to belong. Yet it is common for shy children to be excluded from the mainstream and to be overlooked by their peers. The truth is that shy children have not yet learned how to reach out to others and, therefore, are unable to handle themselves successfully in a social situation. Following a few uncomfortable social scenarios, the shy child comes to believe that he/she is unable to succeed in the social environment. Once a child comes to that conclusion, he/she loses the incentive to even try to make an attempt to participate. The shy child has failed before he/she even starts!
    There are a number of things that a parent and/or teacher can do to change this unfortunate cycle of events. The easiest technique is one which helps turn the child’s feelings of failure into experiences of small successes. The important first step is to enable the shy child to see that he/she can, in fact, participate - and succeed - in a social situation. This goal can be accomplished by involving the shy child in any activity that requires him/her to be in control.
    A child gains the respect of others when he/she is put in charge. When a teacher gives a shy child the responsibility of dismissing the class or distributing papers or crayons to fellow classmates, other children begin to look up to him/her. While in a leadership position, the shy child comes to feel important in her own eyes as well as in the eyes of others. And because this technique does not require extended conversation, the shy child finds him/herself participating in a social situation with minimal pressure. In this environment, the shy child is able to experience social success without the chance of failure. The same technique can be used in social situations outside the classroom. Parents can encourage their shy child to hand out napkins, collect guest’s coats, and pass out snacks at gatherings at home.
    When first implemented you may notice that the shy child is merely carrying out the task, but with time, as confidence begins to grow, the child is likely to feel more comfortable and at ease. The shy child will no longer be on the sidelines of a social situation and, with quiet praise and encouragement by the parent or teacher, the child is likely to take even more chances. With each social success, however small, the child will slowly progress and participate more and more.
    When you put a shy child in charge the child proves to herself that he/she has the ability to actively participate in the present situation and in social events in the future. Use of this technique paves the way for ongoing social success.
    This technique is one of nineteen Skill Builders described in chapter 14 of Don’t Call Me Shy. Parents and teachers can find more information about how best to praise and reinforce a shy child in chapter 10 of Don’t Call Me Shy. Teachers, please note that Appendix I of Don’t Call Me Shy contains a lesson plan to bring out the social best of shy students in the classroom.
    Shy adults will benefit from this method by putting themselves in control situations that require minimal pressure such as refilling drinks, offering appetizers, and collecting coats at parties.
Your questions answered
    The Shyness Forum offers a comfortable place for parents, teachers, and shy adults to pose questions and/or discuss issues related to shyness with people who share their concerns. On this page, Laurie responds to two frequently asked questions.
Laurie Adelman
B.S.N., M.S. Family Health/Health Education
Don’t Call Me Shy...
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September 1, 2007
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