How to Un-Shy Your Child

By Barack Levin

iStock_000004633772XSmallImagine the following situation. Your child changes classes and moves from one teacher to the next. The new class has new children, new rules and the whole situation is strange to him. As you enter the new classroom with him he plays it shy. He is attached to you and does not let go of your leg. You try to have him introduce himself to the new teacher or new kids, but he is just hiding there behind your leg terrified at even making the slightest move.

You throw an apologetic smile: “He is not that shy usually”, but deep down in your heart you know the truth. This is exactly the way he behaves every time he is facing a new and unfamiliar situation. He is done it with his relative, with the security guard at the store, every time a new babysitter is introduced to him and each time you ask him to say hi to a new friend. In all of these situations, he is melting away, hiding, playing it shy and does not want to cooperate. You have promised yourself time and time again that you need to “un-shy” him, but it never seemed to work. You tried your best to push him away from you, tell him there is no need to be shy and that he is a big boy, but to no avail. Your leg still functions as a refuge for him.

So how do you “un-shy” your young one?

First and foremost you need to understand that being shy is very normal. Most kids are shy and they are this way because they simply do not know what to do or how to behave in new and uncomfortable situations. They do not have the tools to compare such situations to similar past ones and make a decision on the right course of action. If you understand this simple concept, you have already made a huge progress to changing this behavior. Many experts tend to suggest that you should explain the situation to your kid, go over the details with him and try to reason with him. Unfortunately you tried to do it and it never worked. It does not work because shy kids do not understand reasoning, they are fueled by emotions and until they are able to control their emotions, they will not “un-shy”. Because these methods do not work, I have devised, implemented and successeded in “un-shying” my own son using some different methods.

Your child is afraid of new and uncomfortable situations and so the best way to get him out of this phase is to deliberately create such situations and throw him in there with your guidance. As he is getting more and more exposed to such situations, he will gain the knowledge and experience to tackle new ones with time. With this approach, time and your guidance you will be able to “un-shy” your kid.

How does it work?

Start small. Engage him in everyday tasks which will put him in challenging situations. You go out to the store? Ask him to pay the cashier. Show him how to do it, tell him what to ask her and show him how to sign the receipt. You go to a restaurant? Ask him to make the order, go with him over the menu, choose with him and ask him to give the order to the waiter. You are going to the bank? Take him with you and let him make the transactions for you, let him carry your wallet, talk to the clerk and put the money back in your purse. The more you encourage him to do things on his own, the more you root out his shy behavior. Before too long you will have a child who is self confident, self reliant and independent. After all, this is exactly what you wanted him to be in the first place.

Barack Levin is the author of the book The Diaper Chronicles– A stay at home dad’s quest for raising great kids, based on his experience’s, available through his website at

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