Shy Parents Survival Guide

Overcoming Shyness: 6 Tips

  1. Bait the Fish
    (Useful in playgroups or playgrounds)

    If you and your child tend to sit by yourselves, bring two similar, fun toys. Another child will probably notice them and approach you, and you can offer him one of the toys. When his mother comes over, you can concentrate on "toy management," which will give you something to say and do during any awkward pauses in conversation.
  2. Flattery
    (Perfect for playdates with other parents or playgroups)

    Everyone loves her own child best and can talk endlessly about his unique qualities. If you can't think of much to say to another mother, compliment her child. It's amazing how simple this technique is and how well it works. One client of mine, Natalie, noticed that her child's friend, Joey, was having a great time wheeling himself on a roller car around their basement. "He's going to be a race-car driver," Natalie commented. Joey's mom spent the next half hour discussing the number of play cars she has at home, her son's love for his car seat, and the way he calls out the colors of all the cars that drive by.
  3. Self-Talk
    (Useful when your child is misbehaving in public--in playgroups, on playdates, or at the supermarket, for example)

    If your child acts inappropriately in public, you may be too self-conscious to take the necessary steps to correct his behavior. But when you're lax about discipline, your child will be more likely to act up in the future. The next time this happens and you're worried that everyone is staring at you, repeat this mantra: "This week my child, next week theirs." When you step in to stop a behavior, tell yourself, "No parent likes this. No parent can do it better." The truth is that any parent watching is probably thinking, "Boy, I'm glad it's not me this time."
  4. Visualize Mother Bear
    (Useful anytime you're having trouble being assertive)

    Jane, one group member, had an 8-year-old daughter, Caroline, who repeatedly came home from school worried that her teacher didn't like her. "She tells me to pay attention, but I am!" Caroline repeatedly protested. Jane tried to reassure her. Finally, when Caroline arrived home in tears because the teacher had accused her of whispering when it had actually been someone else, Jane realized she had to step in. Another mother in our group suggested, "When things like this happen, I picture myself as a mother bear." The key to this technique is to imagine a large, protective mama bear who's ready to do anything to save her young, and then to use the feelings that picture conjures up to do whatever is necessary. The image worked for Jane, and she also prepared so that the talk with the teacher wouldn't deteriorate into an angry exchange. She wrote down a few possible scripts, rehearsed and memorized them. The discussion went well, and Caroline was much happier at school afterward.
  5. Slip on Cement Shoes
    (Useful anytime you'd rather run than stay and work out a problem)

    If you're confronted with a social situation that makes you want to flee--you arrive late for a group or your child is acting up--imagine you're wearing cement shoes and can't go anywhere. Take one action to try to resolve the problem. If it doesn't work, and you feel you must go, then go. Next time, try two things before you bolt. Eventually, you'll realize that sticking around to solve the problem is empowering for everyone.
  6. Play Adult Show-and-Tell
    (Good for playgroups, informal playground get-togethers, and playdates)

    Select an interesting article or book about kids, and rehearse ahead of time what you'll say about it. Pass it around, and enjoy the fact that you've sparked conversation without having to be the center of attention.

Copyright © 2003 Bonnie Jacobson, Ph.D. Reprinted with permission from the May 2003 issue of Parents magazine.

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