I noticed as I read about you that you were once terribly shy. I am a mother of two very shy kids, a six-year-old and a four-year-old. I have been looking for ways to help them come out of their shyness. I know that being shy is not a bad thing. I just want to make sure that they can learn to be confident in themselves and also learn to speak up and be able to share their opinions etc.. any advice for me in helping them… also how did your parents help you overcome being shy? Any advice would be great!

My main three answers for your questions would be to 1) give it time, and 2) in that “time” while you’re waiting, build up their confidence, and 3) give them safe opportunities to “look people in the eye” and talk to others that aren’t entirely intimidating.  I remember my Dad doing role plays with my sister growing up.  They would practice ways to greet friends she would see at school.  With our kids Dave and I talk a ton about how important it is just to even smile at others even if they’re feeling shy.  It’s amazing what a difference a smile can make.

My favorite thing my parents did with me when I was young to build up my confidence (that I know I talk about a lot) was the “talents on the fingertips” thing that I talked about back here. I’m telling you, that thing works like magic. My kids get so happy when I grab their hands with a ball-point pen poised to let them know what they’re good at. And I think there’s nothing like a little boost in confidence to crack some kids out of their shell.

I think I’ve grown out of my shyness a lot (mostly thanks to some friends who were boys when I was a sophomore in high school who didn’t let me get away with not talking and staying in the back halls at lunch), but in a lot of ways I’m still pretty shy. I’m ok with that.  I agree with what you said: shyness isn’t a bad thing…some kids are just more quiet than others.

I am wondering if you have ever dealt with negative self talk with any of your kids, and how you deal with it? Parenting babies and toddlers is so intuitive for me, but I feel in over my head often with my oldest who is seven! Tonight she got in trouble (for being mean to her sister) and all of a sudden started sobbing and saying things like “I’m a horrible person” and “I don’t like myself” and I had NO idea how to handle it!! Mostly I just realized how over-tired she was from staying up too late for two nights and put her to bed… but I need a strategy if it comes up again!

I bet you’re exactly right, she was probably over-tired.  But if it continues maybe she just needs some extra genuine praise…not in the midst of the negative talk but just randomly through the day.  One of my new years resolutions is to seek out the best things my kids do each day and be sure to tell them details of why I appreciated that. 

I know I personally feel like doing my own kind of negative self-talk when I’m tired so that’s probably a huge part of it. 

There is a book that was talked about at this retreat back here that I have wanted to buy ever since that I think may help too.  It’s called “Your Child’s Self-Esteem
” and I just ordered it on Amazon for myself for my birthday next week:)  Can’t wait.  Click here
to check it out.

I know there are tons of wise mothers out there who may have much better advice for these mothers asking the questions…if you do, pipe in!

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  1. Hi Shawni,

    I have a question for an upcoming Friday… What degree did you pursue in college and did you find it helped you with a career after school?


    Mary Kate

  2. Just a comment on your shy question…pick up the book "Quiet." It is phenomenal. I truly identified with it as I am an introvert myself but it helped me understand my children's needs…two of them are very shy and two of them are NOT. My husband also read it as well and it has helped him greatly with his teacher 5th graders.

  3. A couple of posts back you had a pic of your bedside table loaded down with books. Do you mind sharing some of the titles you are reading? And as a side note our family LOVES your fish taco recipe you posted. My daughter even requested it for her birthday dinner.

  4. I recently started reading the Five Love Languages for Children and it's helped me show the love I feel for my kids in ways that they can receive it better. It's also helped me understand how to better discipline them. My oldest son is 10 and his main love language is words of affirmation. Thus, when I get frustrated and say mean things to him, he takes it to heart and feels awful. A kid whose main love language is touch would feel extra unloved by a spanking, for example. Someone who needs quality time to feel loved, would feel extra hurt and unloved if isolated in time-out. I don't have all the answers yet (ha, will I ever?) but it's definitely helped me understand & communicate love & appreciation & apology better to my kids, and my hubby!

  5. I'll be the second person to recommend the book "Quiet". It is excellent, definitely a must read for anyone who has ever felt pressured to be the extrovert they're not.

  6. I am not a mother yet, but I am a teacher of first graders. I love your advice for both questions, and I would like to add another suggestion for the negative self-talk question. If I hear my students saying "I'm so stupid" or "I don't like myself," I gently remind them that just as they are not allowed to say mean things about other students, they are also not allowed to say mean things about themselves. Our first class rule is Be Nice and we talk about how that means be nice to everyone, including your own self. I also gently let them know that it truly makes my heart sad to hear them say such mean things about themselves, because I know they just aren't true. I agree with the suggestion to work in praise throughout the day. "You didn't give up even when things got tough, I am so proud of you! What a smart kid." Thanks for letting a non-mom chime in 🙂 Love the blog!

  7. You have such an insightful and uplifting blog and I love your question and answers. Do you have any tips on kids sharing rooms? I’ve noticed Claire and Lucy share a room. My 7 and 4 year old are soon going to have to share a room out of necessity and I am really worried about how to encourage them to share things/space while still giving them independence and allowing them to feel like they can have their own space and their own things. Also when your kids have friends over do you require them to allow siblings to play with them?

  8. This is my first comment on here, but the second person's question caught my attention. I think a great thing to try is to let your daughter overhear you praising them to someone else like your husband or a friend. I read somewhere that kids like to eaves-drop, but especially when they know they're being talked about (who doesn't!?), so it's a great way to let them know you think they are great in kind of a sneaky way that isn't so overt like mom just saying something nice again and again.

  9. I love all your ideas.

    One of my very wise college professors taught a class on self esteem once that I'll never forget. She said that we focus more on self esteem now than in any generation past but we have more and more kids with poor self esteem. She said that's b/c we teach kids that to have a good self image they have to dress in the newest styles, have the perfect body, and the perfect hair. It's all outward. She said that real self worth comes from stepping outside ourselves and serving others. I know for myself that I feel the best about myself after I have served someone else.

    LOVE the idea of having your kids overhear you saying something good about them.

  10. Great questions and great comments!

    For the first question, I'd recommend "The Child Whisperer." It's been a new favorite book of mine to help me understand all my children better and how to truly honor their gifts, shy, friendly, whatever their true nature is. It's amazing!

    For the second question, I'd say decrease or eliminate media time in your home. We all know our kids are strongly influenced by the movies, tv shows, games they view. When my daughter was laying on the negative self talk pretty thick, I realized it sounded familiar. Then it hit me. It was the same phrases Rapunzel says on the scene on Tangled when she's having a major guilt trip about what a terrible, awful, daughter and human she is.

    My little girl started to really believe that about herself, too. Sad! Like Shawni suggested, I gave her extra doses of positive talk. But instead of "You're cute" or "you're smart" I went deeper with it saying, "You're a great thinker" and "Thank you for the kind and gentle way you handled that situation." It pulled her out of that funk, and she's been a happier girl ever since.

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