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Friday, 30 July 2010

Deciphering the shy child

Do you often worry about your child being a chatter box when he is at home among his primary care givers and refusing to interact and open any channel of communication with someone he isn't completely familiar with? Though extroversion is considered as a more desirable trait, not all children possess this attribute. Each child is designed and structured with certain orientations and inclinations. Instead of being pushy and forcefully thrusting your child into various areas they resist, let’s accept them as they are, appreciate them for what they are and ease their transition and exploration into the outside world. Do not label the child into a certain category. Chances are that once he has been classified as shy, the self fulfilling prophecy might play its role and actually result in continuation of the behaviour pattern. Children vary in the amount of time they require before they mix around with strangers or strike a conversation with people they already know well. Don't push your children into activities or interactions; let them take their required warm up time to observe things, people and activities around them before they venture into it. Be the secure base your child can return to. Winnicott the paediatrician turned psychiatrist and psychoanalyst propounded the object relations theory. According to this theory, the 'good enough mother' eases the transition of her child into this world where the child functions as an autonomous being while still being connected to his primary care giver. The child finds it comforting to have a constant secure base he can return to as he goes exploring things around himself in the world. This becomes increasingly important in the initial phases where parents can provide the comfort and the reassurance a child is seeking out before moving into the vastness of the unknown around him. Praising small accomplishments is important , say for a painfully shy child even maintaining eye contact could be a challenge and when he accomplishes it, do try to acknowledge and praise by mentioning ' I was impressed how you maintained eye contact when your aunt was speaking to you'. Do not let your friend or family classify your child as a shy kid, instead rephrase and say 'Wait till he gets to know you and starts chatting '.However it’s important to note that shy children have positive attributes too like they don’t keep getting into trouble at school, don’t normally pick up fights with people etc. Walter Mischel, an American psychologist conducted the marshmallows experiment to study delayed gratification. A Marshmallow was placed in front of each of the four year olds and they were promised that they would get a second marshmallow if they waited for twenty minutes before eating the first one. Some children could wait while others could not. This just reflected their ability to control their impulse and delay gratification in anticipation of bigger rewards in future. Greater ability to delay gratification was found to correlate highly with positive outcomes.When these children grew up, they achieved better scores on Scholastic Aptitude tests, demonstrated better adjustability and social, emotional, cognitive competence as adults. Shy children due to greater sense of inhibition show more self control which according to this study predicts better adaptability when one grows up, good management of stress and frustration, lower vulnerability and better academic performance. The shyness cloud definitely has a silver lining and a bright one on that.

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