Rethinking Shy


My four-year-old daughter is so shy. Whenever we go anywhere, it takes her a long time to join in and sometimes, she joins the other kids shortly before we leave and then has a meltdown because she doesn’t want to leave. What can I do to help her not be so shy?


When a four-year-old is shy and hesitant to join a group of kids, what does it mean? It means that they have normal development of their social skills. As parents, we want our kids to be social, to join in, to have friends, and participate in sports. When we see our kids hesitating, we get worried that they will be forever hesitant. We see not joining and project that they will be socially awkward adults.

Let’s look below the surface at what’s happening. Your child is noticing she isn’t comfortable joining. If you don’t push her to join the group, you are building her confidence in noticing when something is uncomfortable in her body. You are building her internal confidence and helping her be a good feeler of her feelings.

We want our kids to join things when they are ready. Kids feel that they can separate and explore when they feel safe. The best way to help them feel safe, confident, and secure is to meet them where they are at and allow that experience.

What can we say to our children that is confidence building when they are hesitant about joining in.

“There is something about this that doesn’t feel great. If you want to stay close to me. No problem. You will know when you are ready.”

“I believe you; you can stay right here with me. I’m here, and you can stay as long as you want. You’ll know when you are ready.”

“Only you live in your body, so only you can know when you are ready to join.”

When our child is a teenager, and her friends are pressuring her to join in and do something that makes her uncomfortable, she will have the self-confidence to make the decision that is right for her.

If we don’t push our kids to join the group, we are building their confidence in noticing when something is uncomfortable in their bodies. We are building their internal confidence and helping them be a good noticer of their feelings.