Shy Kids? Here Is How To Break Them Out Of Their Shell
Here’s how to help your kid go from shy and timid to confident, and outgoing.
Every parent wants their kids to make friends and have an excellent social life. But according to a study by the American Psychological Association, 47% of children reported being shy and 62% of parents said that they saw shyness present in their child as well…
So how do you break them out of this box? Well, in this article I’ll be diving into where shyness comes from and what you and your child can do together to become more confident, and outgoing.
First, let’s dive into an important question.
Can A Child Be Born Shy?
One time I was watching my nephew when he was about three years old. I was sitting at the kitchen table and then I heard the door open. I paused, said, “Vinny?” and called out for his name more than five times.
I get up and go to the front door and noticed it was wide open…
“Oh crap! Vinny!!!” I thought as I got scared thinking he ran out the door. So I run to the door and look outside…
Only to see my nephew running all the way through the park…
BUTT NAKED. Yes. He was butt naked. Not even wearing a pair of socks.
Suddenly I become an Olympic-level sprinter and run through the park (full of people) to go grab my naked nephew. Then I threw him over my shoulder and begin walking through a public park with a naked kid on my shoulder as he just laughed and giggled like it was the funniest thing in the world. And I’m there like….
Why did I tell you this story? Because it demonstrates something that every single kid is born with — UNSHAKEABLE CONFIDENCE.
No, Children Are Not Born Shy
In the story I shared above, you can clearly see that my nephew had ZERO trouble expressing himself and courageously doing whatever he wanted to do… even if that meant running through a public park butt naked.
Why? Because he had no hesitation when it came to being himself. And this is true for all children.
If you watch a child (especially before the age of five) you will notice that they have no trouble playing life full-out with no holding back.
They say what is on their minds.
They do what they want to do.
They explore things they are curious about…
And they do all of this without holding themselves back. I call this Unshakeable Confidence.
A state where there is no hesitation in saying, doing, and going after what you want. But with more than 40% of adolescents between the ages of 13-18 report being shy… something must be happening as they grow up that shakes them out of this state of natural confidence.
What is it?
Why Do Children Get Shy?
If children aren’t born shy, but so many of them feel shy and insecure in social situations as they grow up, then something must be happening.
Let’s look into that by going into the psyche of a young adult's mind. One time one of our clients said that she wanted us to help her with her teenage daughter who had a big problem with shyness, timidness, and insecurity.
As a hypnotherapist, my job is to locate the subconscious root cause behind the problem so that my clients can successfully resolve the issue at hand.
Timeline therapy is what I use to do this.
This form of therapy takes the individual back into their “subconscious memory bank” to find the moment where they developed the issue.
In the case of this young girl, she went back to a memory of her at 6 years old sitting in the back of her mom's car with her younger brother.
Her brother was picking on her and when she told her mom that her brother wouldn’t stop making fun of her, her mom said nothing.
So she took matters into her own hands and hit her brother to get him to stop.
He starts to cry and tells their mom that his sister (my client) hit him.
The mom stops the car, reaches back and starts yelling at my client to behave and stop acting up.
She tried to argue for herself by saying her brother kept picking on her, but her mom said nothing about that.
It was at this moment she told herself seven words that changed everything for her…
“What I have to say doesn’t matter.”
This statement was mixed with so much emotion that it was internalized by her to the point where it became a “core belief” for her.
When you are emotional and you make a decision, the decision tends to “stick” -- not just in your mind, but in your body.
This is due to the fact that our brains are shaped by emotional experiences.
At this moment my client told herself this story that what she has to say doesn’t matter and that belief stuck with her.
This is why she was so insecure, timid, and shy in social situations as a young adult.
Not because she was born that way, but because she genuinely felt that her voice didn’t matter, which made her not want to use it.
Do you see just how easy it can be to be shy and timid with this kind of belief?
Getting To The Bottom Of It
And that there is why children get shy. They experience an event, and then they make this event mean something.
They interpret the world around them, and many times they make up interpretations that are not true and do not serve them.
In all cases of shyness, a child experienced an event and “made up” a story in their head about themselves because of what they experienced. The most common interpretations we see children make at young ages are:
“I am unloved.”
“I don’t matter.”
“Nobody wants/likes me.”
“Something is wrong with me.”
“I’m a burden to others.”
“I’m not worthy.”
And if any of these beliefs are present in your child’s mind (and body), it becomes easy to see why they may be timid & shy.
How Do We Get Them Out Of Their Shyness?
Now that you know why children get shy, let’s explore some things you can begin doing to break them out of their shy box.
Each one of these things is designed to help your child release the subconscious beliefs that are causing the emotional experience of shyness…
That is the ultimate goal.
With that said, let’s get into them.
3 Mental & Emotional Exercises To Help Your Child Breakthrough Their Shyness 👇
Exercise #1: Exposure Through Visualization
“Exposure therapy” is the act of exposing one to their fear with the hopes of overcoming the fear due to the experience of proving a belief wrong. It has an astounding 60%-90% success rate because it retrains neural pathways to respond differently during a situation or learn new behavior through experience. And again, it is experiences that shape our brains. The problem is that exposing yourself to what you’re scared of in the real world can cause a lot of pressure in itself, and according to Cal Newport in his book, “Deep Work,” the brain has a better learning capacity when you are not under pressure.
The calmer you are, the better and easier you can learn a new response.
Therefore having your child visualize themselves as being confident and outgoing can be even more effective than actually “doing it” because they won’t feel any pressure that they may experience in the real situation. In fact, it’s actually fun for children to engage in imaginative scenarios like this. It feels like they are directing a movie of their own, and when you approach it like that, they will love this.
Here’s how it's done:
Step 1: Have your child sit in a relaxed position, then have them look up at the center of their forehead while closing their eyelids down -- triggering a rapid sensation in their eyes that calms them down (an important state to be in) Here’s how this step looks btw:
Step 2: Have them visualize a screen in front of them, a large one, but not big enough to take up their entire vision. Like a movie/projector screen.
Step 3: Ask them to recall a past positive experience, one that made them feel accomplished, confident, and really good about themselves.
Tell them to make it as real as they can to stir up the positive emotion from that experience.
This is important because what they’re going to do is “carry over” this feeling of confidence into the act of you them being social and outgoing.
They are “using” confidence from other areas and applying it to where it's needed in the next step.
Step 4: When the confident feeling sets in, tell them to change the image from the past event into a future desired event on the screen.
For example, if they have social anxiety with other kids, direct them to imagine themselves meeting new kids or playing with the kids at school.
Tell them to act as imagine themselves being confident.
Ask questions like, “How would you stand if you were confident? How would you talk? How would you walk? What would you be saying? Do it now!”
Encourage them get fully involved with this picture and immerse their physical senses into the picture.
Have them “Step into” the screen and “become” the visualization.
The goal is to make it as real as possible to create a real experience in their brain.
Let them stay with this visualized scenario for 10 to 15 minutes (or more if they want.)
Step 5: Have them step OUT of the mental screen they were visualizing with and tell them to watch the event from a third-person view for an extra minute or two.
At this point, you can simply count back from 5 to one and say,
“On the count of 5 back down to the one you will be energized and feel better and better.”
And begin counting them back. If you’d like a guided version of this for your kids to follow, click here.
Exercise #2: Dwelling On Moments In Life Where They Felt Courageous, Brave, And Confident
A great practice that retrains neurons in the brain is spending 5 to 10 minutes a day focusing, or dwelling on past memories where you felt great about yourself. What this does is normalizes the feelings from that event, making them more and more prevalent emotions, instead of shyness and insecurity. The more you feel a particular emotion, the more natural it is to feel that emotion.
So encourage your children to create a time each day where they sit down and revisit “happy” memories in their life for 5 to 10 minutes a day. Here’s how to do it: Step 1: Use the eye trick from above to calm their bodies down. Step 2: Revisit old memories where they felt great about themselves. Step 3: Stay in that moment for 5 to 10 minutes. Exercise #3: Holotropic Breathwork
Forget your children for a second and go back to moments in your life where you felt really shy. How were you breathing? Chances are it was rapid, short, and chest-based breathing. Your breathing was shallow and rapid, not deep and slow. And if you think back to your most confident moments, you were breathing a lot slower and calmer -- activating the parasympathetic response in your nervous system, calming you down, and “centering” you. This is why breathwork, specifically the kind that has you breathe through the diaphragm will literally calm the nervous system down. Breathwork also allows one to release buried emotions that are having an impact on their mental state. The best kind of breathwork for this is holotropic breathwork, a form of breathwork that releases emotions and restores the nervous system. Below I linked a few holotropic breathwork cycles that your children (and you) can begin practicing. 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IE9JuRY4ICw
Encourage your child to set up a daily breathing practice and watch their confidence skyrocket in no time.
Tips To Help You Parent A Shy Child Into Being Confident & Outgoing
Aside from those three exercises, I felt it would be important for me to share some tips on how you as the parent can play a part in them breaking through. 1.) Do not label your child as shy I know this is simple, but if you label your child as a shy kid, how can you expect them to act confident? By all means, refrain from actually calling them or referring to them as a “shy” child. This will make them identify with that as well, prolonging the issue entirely. 2.) Model confident behavior As I state in my article, “How Can I Boost My Child’s Self Esteem?” I talk about the importance of modeling confidence yourself. We all have mirror neurons, which cause us to model the behaviors of the people around us. Therefore if you display shyness yourself, they will automatically learn to do that as well. 3.) Allow your child to do what they are good at (Most of the time) One of the best ways to create tons of confidence in your child is to have them focus on things they are good at and allow them to do that. More and more of it. This instills, breakinga sense of worth and purpose in your child, breaking them out of any shy shell. 4.) Remind them like crazy that they’re worthy, loved, and accepted. If your child feels like they are not accepted, breaking out of their shyness becomes nearly impossible when a lot of the time they are shy BECAUSE they don’t feel accepted or as if they belong. So if you, the parent, constantly remind them that they are worthy, loved, and accepted through words and actions. Verbalize your love for them, and remind them that they are accepted just as they are. 5.) Encourage them to experience new things. Remember being super nervous and scared to do something until… you did it? Experiencing new things is one of the best ways for people to build confidence in themselves. The more and more they try new things and explore, the more “extroverted” characteristics they will naturally show over time. (Don’t do everything with them or for them, let them do it alone to REALLY boost their confidence!)
6.) Celebrate their effort. Feeling seen, heard, and recognized for their accomplishments will boost their self-esteem by improving the way that they see themselves. Most parents fall into the trap of only celebrating their child’s wins, which can seem like a good thing, but over time it can lead to your child thinking they are only accepted when they do certain things.
This “conditional celebration” can only belittle one's own self-image. Instead, celebrate their effort on any given thing, regardless of their results. Demonstrate unconditional celebration, this will lead them to feel loved and accepted as they are, no matter what. And for more tips on raising confident children, click here to read my article on how to boost your child’s self-esteem. In Conclusion
Shyness is not something your children are born with.
It is something that is acquired as they go through experiences in life that make them question their worth and value at an identity level, which over time leads to the insecurities we label as “shyness.”
The best thing you can do for your child to help them break out of their shell is to help them release the subconscious beliefs in their minds and bodies causing them to demonstrate shy behaviors.
Breaking through shyness is all about changing the self-image, or core beliefs about oneself.
Click here to see how Zamio partners with parents to take their children from shy, anxious, and timid to confident, brave, and outgoing.