Why are some children shy? 


We use a lot of words to describe shy and withdrawn behavior in children. We label them as socially awkward or introverts. But, what we don’t often realize is that at the heart of such behavior is the fear of rejection.

Little children who’re products of chaotic home environments where they lack consistent parent nurture grow up thinking:

  1. They’re not good enough to be loved.
  2. They struggle to find civility in the chaos of their homes and often find comfort in silence.
  3. Their budding vocabulary is not enough to help them label their feelings and express their emotions.

Teens who’re withdrawn and don’t actively engage with others in the community have never been told:

  1. That they have something of great value to contribute because of how unique they and their abilities are.
  2. That they matter, and they are good the way they are. They are just enough and whole by being themselves.



How to recognize children who’re reserved: 


Children who struggle with self confidence, and teens who suffer with body image issues can easily be spotted in crowds.

They never show their palms, their responses are weak, their shoulders are droopy. They are not ready to get themselves into any situation actively. Their chins are held close to their necks and they make no eye contact. When they’re standing their weight usually goes on one leg.



Children under 10: 


What children fear: 

High and unrealistic expectations create terror and not comfort in children. When they fail to meet our high expectations, they not only feel like they’ve disappointed us, but they’ve let themselves down in the process.

They fear being invisible to their loved ones. They fear being rejected. They fear tears of shame and disappointment from you.

And to compensate, they’ll rebel outrageously or work themselves to massive burn out. Both scenarios are not sustainable and can be dangerous for their self worth.


What children crave:

  • They crave human connection in the form of bodily contact.
  • They crave arms that hug to show care and love.
  • They crave a consistent, predictable and responsive care giver.
  • They crave for our presence just like how we crave for theirs, except they do it without judgment.
  • They want their lives to be seen in the context of a meaningful relationship.



Children over 10: 


Why tweens and teens withdraw: 

Most times, it takes just one event for a child’s confidence to hit rock bottom. Once their confidence has been undermined, mild symptoms of sadness creep into them because of the mixed messages they are getting from home and school.

Children then start to rebel or defend their every action. Then comes social isolation and self withdrawal. They seek isolation because they can’t seem to satisfy their parents and they can’t compete for attention from the “cool” kids at school. Slowly these conditions will manifest into panic attacks, social anxiety, social phobias, self harm, suicides and other trauma related disorders.


What teens are fearful of:

Forget you (parents), teens are constantly anxious of not meeting peer expectations. Other things that worry children are:

  • Parents embarrassing them in front of friends
  • Someone dying
  • Failure at school
  • Not doing well in class
  • Text anxiety
  • Not fitting in
  • Not having enough privacy

Some of the social media induced stress triggers that kids experience are:

  • Feeling replaceable
  • Too much communication
  • FOMO
  • Attachment to devices constantly

Read more on factors influencing emotional development in teenagers.


What teens want:

  • They love it when they’re involved.
  • They like contributing and making a difference.
  • They want to do well.
  • They want to have friends.
  • They crave privacy.


Environmental factors that hinder: 


Effect of expectations: 

Setting expectations positively or negatively can impact your child’s self confidence.

  • Positively: The more you encourage good behavior the more the child is likely to work towards meeting expectations.
  • Negatively: If you expect more and more, the burden of meeting expectations on moving targets falls heavily on the child.

Kids can often internalize frustration towards their parents, “How many times do I have to tell you that its becoming too much for me. How many activities have you signed me up for?” When they realize they can’t meet anyone’s expectations, children rebel.


Unfavorable climate at home:

Difficult mothers and negligent fathers can stunt the emotional growth of a teen severely. Emotional neglect can haunt children all their lives. During their childhood, it can make them feel unsafe, undervalued and under protected. As they grow into adults, it can make them defiantly self reliant to a point that they can’t see anyone care for them like how only they can. This means they don’t see a real value in investing in life sustaining emotions like love and nurture.


Social and Cultural expectations:

Children from strict patriarchal families like from the Asian origin are expected to strive for family goals and not to engage in behaviors that would bring dishonor to the family. Generally, some parents tend to show very little interest in the child’s viewpoint regarding family matters. Similarly, some cultures very often undermine children as decision makers. Parenting styles tend to be authoritarian and directive. “I know what is best for my kid, I don’t need his input.” Is usually how some parents feel.



Continued At: 


Strategies that help shy children and withdrawn teens open up



Further Reading:


Teens are naturally secretive and withdrawn: But, How to get your teenager to talk

How children thrive: When children find themselves the center of attention of their parents or their caregivers, it lifts their sense of self immensely. They want to know they matter. 

We all want to be good parents. Here’s how you can begin.


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