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Shy Kids – Introvert or Real Problem?

Are shy children at risk? What do you think? Were you shy? Is your child shy? Does it make school that much harder?

We’ve been seeing a recent study from the Journal of School Psychology pop up everywhere so we decided it is an important topic to discuss with you, parents.

The article published by the Journal of School Psychology shows their research as to why shy children may have more problems academically than other children.

SOME shy children MAY be at risk to struggle academically according to this study, but this is a very case-to-case situation. A super shy preschooler could be at risk to fall behind in reading and math as they start kindergarten.

The active, outgoing peers – even hyperactive – are obvious for teachers to identify their unique ways of learning/needs.

The withdrawn, shy child shows slower gains in learning and improvement. The beginning of the school year is an important time for your child to keep up or else they could be plagued for future advancement because they are starting behind.

One of the researchers from U of Miami said,

“Engagement is important in learning, especially in early childhood education. If there is a child who needs that extra support and is being missed, it’s easier to fall behind the others.”

Shyness, even as an adult, makes it difficult to get involved in activities (like in a classroom or work environment). Certain degrees of shyness prove unhealthy because of the high level of anxiety a person can feel. It can become debilitating!

As soon as you walk into a preschool classroom you can immediately tell the boisterous child who seems to be the “leader” of sorts. We begin to see our children’s personalities take shape in these early years.

There are other children who prefer to keep to themselves. Maybe it’s a more comfortable roll for them to sit back and observe what is going on. Going to school for the first time can be overwhelming and this is how some children deal with it.

Not to say this is wrong. It’s just how some people react to new situations. This is apparent especially in younger children. The study mentioned how throwing a 2 or 3-year-old into preschool that isn’t ready could give them more anxiety, especially if they are at the younger end of the class.

Explore the class before sending your child to school. Find out the ages of the other students. If your child is younger than the majority, they could become withdrawn. Maybe you should take waiting into consideration — to send your child especially if they’re shy, into a school setting at too young of an age.

Most importantly, check in with your child’s teacher regularly. Ask them to observe your shy child in groups and report back to you. Is their social withdrawl significant?

Although a shy child may not be disruptive or display bad behaviors (which is great), but they may also not engage in the classroom. They may not be interacting at all which could prove to be a bigger problem in the long run. In a large, activity-filled classroom, an introvert could get lost.

Troublemakers, unfortunately, get more attention from teachers because they take more time and effort.

Some reasons a child may not interact and become more withdrawn could be they are developing at a slower rate than another child. Their speech could be delayed or even their physical development. They could also be feeling a stronger sense of separation from mom and dad. Anxiety is a root of shyness.

We can’t say all shy children are at risk of struggling academically. Almost all children have some stage of shyness throughout development and grow out of this with success. If your child doesn’t seem to be conquering their fears and starting to interact at school, this is cause for alarm. This is something that needs to be followed through preschool and beyond to see the improvements or if they’re staying stagnant.

It is a possibility that if a child keeps to themselves they could just have a different way of learning and processing what is going on and that’s totally fine.

Don’t jump to conclusions but shyness is something that may need to be observed further to ensure your child isn’t falling behind.. or that it’s not due to an underlying issue, like a learning disability.

This research definitely has limitations so don’t take it too seriously. It is something to consider if you feel like something is up with your child’s inability to be productive in a school setting. This study didn’t discuss the fact that maybe poor academic standing could also cause shyness and introversion.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Alias M. #

    This is a very helpful article. I was shy as a child. Maybe because of what society or more particularly, what my family dictated then. In our family, children who are quiet or shy are seen as well-behaved. There are still remnants of my shyness during adulthood and it is difficult for me to participate in group discussions or meetings. I hope my 1 year old baby, although it may still be too early to say, won’t be as shy as me when he grows older. Fortunately I didn’t have trouble academically. I loved reading and writing even as a child. I did hate math! 🙂

    October 24, 2012
  2. Thank you so much for your comment, you have some very valuable points. I was a shy child too, and avoid public speaking like the plague. Sometimes kids are just shy, and there is no rhyme nor reason. I’m sure you’re doing your part to to boost your child’s confidence. 🙂

    November 16, 2012

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Speaking of Marriage

Winifred M. Reilly, M.A., MFT

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