Little girl covering her face
Mom Tips

Let’s stop labeling out kids as “shy”

Were you ever called shy as a kid or had friends that were shy? Well… that was me. It still eats away at me to this day. Labeling kid’s as shy can seem harmless, but it can actually leave a big impact on your child’s life. 


You know what calling a kid shy does to their confidence? They interpret it as there is something wrong with them. How do I know? From personal experience. 


Most people probably don’t mean harm by using this language, but it can be a very triggering word for developing people still observing the world around them. 

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Why is being called “shy” bad?

It seems like a harmless word and something that most people don’t mean in a negative way. It is usually something people say when they don’t know what else to say. BUT most people (maybe not intentionally) say it with a bad connotation, and with a sense of pity in their voice. 


“Oh they will grow out of it” 


“It’s just a phase, it will pass”


They think they are doing the parent a favor by making them feel better that their shyness will go away eventually.


This can also be a defense mechanism parents or caretakers use when they are embarrassed, or are trying to come up with an excuse for why their child won’t interact with others. 


This was me as a child. 


I can’t even count how many times I had heard people say “oh, she’s just shy. Sorry!”


And let me tell you, that phrase has stuck with me my whole life. I have never been a big talker, more of an observer, especially as a child. 


This had a big impact on my self confidence as a kid and now adult. I have always put unnecessary pressure on myself in social situations. When I was in high school I would even “grade” myself on how well my day went on a social standpoint, and how many interactions I had with others. 


I have never been an overachiever when it comes to putting myself out there or being the loudest one in the room. I am quiet. And I have made peace with that.


Why do we put this label on kid’s?

It usually has a lot to do with how we as caretakers are feeling, NOT how our kids are feeling. We are trying to make the situation less uncomfortable by slapping a label on our kids so people know why they are acting the way they are. 


Or it’s the reverse situation. Someone says hello to your child and they cower behind your leg and don’t say anything. As a reaction, that person calls your kid shy to make you feel better about him/her not interacting. 


Neither one of these scenarios has to do with the child’s feelings, it is only to make the adults feel less uncomfortable. 


It’s time to break this cycle. Let’s start putting our kid’s feelings first in these situations. Because they understand a lot more than we give them credit for even at a young age. 


Why do kid’s act “Shy”?

A lot of the time when kids are acting “shy” it is in response to an environment. They are somewhere new, or loud, there could be new people around, or it could be a sensory issue. 


Kids may have a tendency to shut down when in new situations because they are taking in and processing the new environment around them. 


This isn’t always the case, sometimes it’s genetics as well. There is a lot of new research as to the science behind  kids being shy.


Regardless of the reasons, by being aware of your child’s needs and realizing that whether genetics, or environmental factors, we are here to help them process. There are things we can do to help boost their confidence, and let them know that we will be right there with them every step of this learning process.


Instead of pushing them outside their comfort zone, let them observe with you until they are ready to jump in. 


Sometimes kids need to take things slow in order to get comfortable in their new environment, person, or situation in order to show more expression. 


How do we break the “labeling” cycle?

It’s up to you as the caretaker to do it. No, you don’t need to go around letting everyone know they can’t call your kid shy. You can’t control what others are going to do or say. You can only control what you decide to say in response. Especially in the presence of your child. 


If kids are not around, it may be worth having a conversation.  Especially if it is family or someone the child see’s regularly. 


If the child is present, I will do everything I can to help build my son’s confidence if someone makes a comment that he is shy. 


Some of my favorite phrases to use are:

“He’s not shy, he’s just really thoughtful about when he decides to speak”


“He prefers to observe the situation before he jumps right in”


“He takes his time to warm up when he’s in a new environment”


These phrases can sometimes make people feel uncomfortable because they are so unexpected, but you know who they don’t make feel uncomfortable? Your son or daughter. 


By saying these phrases, or like ones instead or reinforcing the “shy label”, you are showing your kid that you have their back and that being called “shy” isn’t something negative.

Let’s build confidence in our kids and not label them as “shy”

We may not realize it, but the things we say in front of our kids can have a big impact on their self confidence and the way they portray themselves. Let stop the cycle of labeling out kids and instead provide the tools they need to navigate this world confidently.


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Why we should stop labeling kids as shy