What else can you do?
Obviously, delaying kindergarten is not the only way to help a child overcome her shyness. So, what are the other ways to help a shy child become more outgoing? There are many things you can do. Here are a few ideas:
- Involve your child in activities. Getting your child involved in activities outside the classroom is a good way to help him build his social skills. If possible, try to involve him in some things that other classmates are doing, such as a scout troop, soccer team or karate class. Obviously, the goal here isn’t to make the child too busy, yet one or two extra activities can help him form friendships in an informal setting.
- Make sure your child has time to play with others. If necessary, make it a point to schedule one play date a week for your child. Invite different children each time so that your child can become comfortable with as many children as possible. But, keep it to one child at a time. If the group grows to three or more, it will be easier for your child to sit back and let the others do the talking.
- Attend activities with your child. Whenever possible, stay and watch her soccer practice or karate class rather than dropping her off and returning later. It may mean the difference between your child participating or sitting on the sidelines. When Jennifer first started karate, I had to sit on the mat behind her while she took class. Eventually, she became secure enough to let me sit on the side with the other parents and now, I can even leave the school altogether to do errands while she’s in class.
- Be patient. Shyness takes time to overcome and it is done very gradually. In our case, it took three years and countless little victories. Don’t expect things to change overnight because they probably won’t. At the same time, set small goals for your child to achieve. When Jennifer first started karate, she wouldn’t recite the school’s student creed in unison with the other students. So, we made that a goal. Her first step was to say it softly, then a little louder, then as loud as the others. One day, her teacher pointed out to her that he was able to hear her voice above the children. Jennifer loved the praise and recognition, and it helped her overcome her fear of speaking to her karate teacher – after almost nine months!
As for our daughter, she has made tremendous progress in the last year. How much of that we can attribute to delaying kindergarten for a year, how much is the result of natural maturity and how much is the result of our other efforts, we’ll never really know. And, that’s fine. Because, while Jennifer is still very cautious around people she doesn’t know, her self-confidence has grown in leaps and bounds since that day two years ago when she admitted she was afraid of being laughed at if she spoke. She started kindergarten in September without a trace of anxiety and spoke to her teacher on the very first day. She tells me (and her teacher has confirmed her story) that she raises her hand in class to answer questions and has even read a book to her class. She has made a number of new friends that she is so eager to see, that she sometimes forgets to kiss me good-bye when I drop her off at school.
But perhaps Jennifer’s biggest accomplishment came last week when she volunteered to lead her karate class in the recitation of the school’s student creed. I couldn’t hide the smile from my face as she yelled out the creed’s final verse: “Winners never quit. Quitters never win. I choose to be a winner!”
Truer words were never spoken.