Most adults can easily remember the queasy feeling when they think back to their school days: the stomach cramped, just because they had to speak or sing in front of a larger group. For some children, the threshold is much lower. They blush when a teacher addresses them. Even in the playground shy children are often loners: they do not romp with other students, but are offside.
In Germany, shyness is more of a disadvantage - these children are often outsiders, they are considered anxious and inhibited. Different in Chinese society: Restrained children are considered to be particularly intelligent. They are popular everywhere - with peers and teachers. Therefore, Chinese parents promote the shy behavior of their offspring.
Role model parents
Why are some children reluctant, others not? Shyness is a character trait that can be innate, but also learned. Children watch as adults and older siblings do it. They learn by watching how parents deal with strange situations and people. If the parents are rather anxious, this also transfers to the child.
The younger they are, the less they can judge how promising the habits of their direct role models are. Everything Daddy and Mom do is good and recommended for imitation. Behavioral researchers call this strategy "learning by the model". If you feel that your child is shyer than others, think about what pattern it may imitate that it knows from home.
The playmates also play a role. Impressive experiences with friends can reinforce the tentative attitude. And that has consequences: if children are excluded in a playgroup without being able to explain themselves, they start to doubt themselves. They lose their self-confidence and withdraw.
Development in steps
However, shyness is normal at certain ages. At the age of eight to twelve months, children "freak out" massively. Why is that? Children gradually develop the ability to distinguish between the familiar and the stranger. All people - except Mom and Dad - are classified as foreign. The little ones are now afraid of the gaze of people who smiled at them before.
The strangeness is, despite all oddness, a sign of the child's attachment to the parents. So it's part of a normal development. This is followed by a break of about six weeks during which the children open themselves to the unknown. This is not long-lasting, however, because the next timid phase is already at hand. Children between 18 and 24 months are extremely shy or even afraid of strangers. At the same time they say "no" to almost everything and most want to possess and hold on to everything. This also applies to mom and dad who they do not want to give under any circumstances.
In the third year children develop more autonomy. They make contacts with their peers and first friendships arise. Offer your offspring a platform: joint trips to playgrounds, visits to neighboring children and first invitations to playmates. Here, your child needs your organizational talent and your concern. If you think the timid phase has been overcome: wrong!
Even at the age of four to seven years, many children are shy. The transition to kindergarten and later to school is a special challenge. Even though most children look forward to the school, they need parental support and encouragement to get along well in the new environment.
Some children feel extremely insecure in social situations outside the family. This can be exacerbated by further social stress, such as moving to another city. For example, anxious children find it difficult to express their opinions, let alone enforce them. They also tend to retire and excessively deal with their own insecurity. In extreme cases, this inhibition blocks the thoughts and leads to persistent feelings of anxiety, depression and further isolation.
Without appropriate countermeasures, the withdrawal behavior can increase further and increase to sociophobia. This refers to the exaggerated fear of situations in which one is the focus of other people's attention. Some sufferers develop into dehumanized beings and isolate themselves from the outside world. At the same time they suffer from this self-imposed loneliness.
Help from outside
If the inhibition is so great that it interferes with your child's mental receptiveness, or if you notice significant withdrawal tendencies, you should seek the conversation with the educators or teachers. This will give you feedback as to whether your child behaves this way when they are not there. If all the persons involved agree and if various measures have not brought any appreciable improvement, you should not be afraid to visit a child psychologist.
Experts distinguish whether it is only an inhibition or a developmental disorder. Psychological treatment is primarily aimed at highlighting the child's personal strengths, strengthening self-esteem, and learning how to deal with unpleasant situations in behavioral training.