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Tips for Coping with a Child's Shyness
By Dr. Linda Pearson

If your child is verbal in familiar settings, but quiet in others, relax. Most preschoolers are shy in new situations or with new people. Your child will look to you for reassurance that this new setting is safe for her to feel comfortable. If your little one tends to be shy, remember to respect her temperament. In THE DISCIPLINE MIRACLE, Dr. Linda Pearson shares these tips for making a child's shyness less uncomfortable for her-and for the whole family:

*Shyness decreases with practice. Take your child to places where she can meet new people and practice the role playing you have taught her at home. ("Pretend Grandma is a new person you have just met. When I introduce you to a new person, I want you to say, 'Nice to meet you.' Let's practice this.") If your child has really tried and is progressing in her ability to handle new situations, reward her with praise and/or goodies.

*Help your shy child warm up slowly to new situations. On the first day of preschool, for example, you may want to arrive early to give your child time to adjust. If you get down on your child's level, kneeling or sitting, near him and talk quietly to someone in this new setting, he will likely feel more comfortable and model your behavior.

*Don't label her. Remember, when parents label their kids, they often get exactly what they describe. Your "bashful baby girl" may well become a painfully self-conscious and timid teen.

*Ignore it. To any child, being ignored is worse than being criticized. Parents therefore get more of the behaviors they notice and fewer of those they don't. Make a habit of recognizing and reinforcing the times your child talks with others and simply overlooking his shyness.

*Accept it. Remind yourself and your child that it's OK to be a shy person. The chances are that one of her parents or close family members is also shy. Your child will never be "the life of the party," but so what?

*Don't let your child use shyness as an excuse for rudeness. Even a shy preschooler should be expected to say "thank you" in the appropriate situation. If you suspect that your child's shy behavior in public is intentional and manipulative, take immediate steps to stop it. Say to him that refusing to be polite to others is not showing you his good behavior and will lead to him not receiving goodies.

Adapted from THE DISCIPLINE MIRACLE: The Clinically Proven System for Raising Happy, Healthy, and Well-Behaved Kids by Dr. Linda Pearson (AMACOM Books; November 2005; $14.95 Paperback; ISBN: 0-8144-7297-4).

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