THE SHY CHILD

THE SHY CHILD

A child may be shy and withdrawn in the presence of anyone she does not know well because she has not had much opportunity to mix with others or simply because of innate temperament. As with other fears there is nothing to be gained by pushing her into a stressful situation. Help her to overcome her reticence by getting her to mix with others on her home ground before facing them on alien territory. Like the truly gregarious who cannot alter their nature, the shy child may not be able to change her temperament radically. But by giving her confidence in herself through tact and understanding you can help her overcome the paralysing grip of her shyness.

Clinging. A shy child may cling to her mother when confronted by strangers, but the clinging child hangs on to her all the time. Some mothers are content with this kind of attention, but others swat at their child as though she were a gnat. Both extremes indicate that something has gone wrong in the parent-child relationship and the reasons for the clinging should be looked for.

In some cases the child may never have developed a sense of security about the mother because she has let her down in the past. This makes for a desperate attempt to hold on to her and literally never let her out of her clutches. On the other hand, a child who has not been encouraged to explore her environment may not be able to involve herself successfully in the business of discovery. The clinging child will become more independent if her self-confidence is built up. This cannot be done by rejecting her, insisting on her not being a baby’ or throwing her in at the deep end’. It is a long-term project that needs patience and sincerity. The child whose mother is her only source of interest will have to be introduced enthusiastically to the delights of the world around her. It should be remembered that interest in the mother and desire for her company is natural in the first years. (All too soon you will have to beg or bribe her for her company!) Dependence becomes stultifying only when the child has no other sources of interest.

Getting attention. Once a child becomes fully aware that she is a separate being, some time during the second year, she will start to evolve ways of getting the attention of others and using them to her own ends. How you respond to her will tell her a lot about herself and reflect in her behaviour.

A little child’s need for attention is immediate. She does not have a concept of time or deferment. Her needs are now’ ” anything other than that has no meaning for her. If she has to go to the extremes of crying, whining, or throwing a tantrum to get your attention she will eventually resort to those tactics as a matter of course.

Thinking you should teach her to wait her turn’ or that she will become spoilt’ if you respond immediately is the surest way of turning a perfectly nice child into a demanding, difficult monster- spoilt’, in fact. A young child needs solutions to her problems straight away; she needs to know that you will respond without having to be forced to. It is far simpler to interrupt your conversation with an adult to attend to a toddler than to try to carry on while the child becomes more and more agitated and obstreperous. After all, adults should have the maturity to cope with an interruption. Nothing is more important’ than giving your child your attention when she needs it. You will be surprised how quickly your child will grow up and how much sooner she will become cooperative if you keep your promises and never make it necessary for her to use desperate measures to get your attention.

As she develops a concept of time, and of what happens in the world around her, usually around the end of the second year, she will be able to accept a promise to attend to her as soon as you can. A child has a right to receive your attention fully and freely and without resentment. She will respond by giving you the same consideration as soon as she is able, and you will have a delightful and pleasant companion. It is when our needs are met that we can give in return, not when they are frustrated.

The child who has hurt herself needs your attention and sympathy. Telling her it doesn’t hurt and ordering her to stop behaving like a baby is illogical and insensitive. Showing appropriate sympathy and giving her the necessary attention will keep things in perspective. It is a sad reflection if she has to turn every scrape into a major disaster to get a response.

By the time your child is around three years of age you should expect her to be far more interested in doing things than hanging onto you, even though she still likes you to be close. She should also be able to wait for a reasonable period for her needs to be met except in emergencies, for instance if she is hurt, and should be far more cooperative in doing what you want without the negativism of the year before. On your side you should be there to assist and console, but you should not be doing everything for her. She should in fact be on her way to real independence.

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