Our (almost) 18 month old is a bit shy - not surprising given her parents. I would call her interactions with strangers "tentative". It's not a huge problem, and I chalk it up to personality, but what are some positive things we can do to build her confidence?

asked 24 Feb '10, 03:05

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Scott ♦♦
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My daughter (2.5 yrs) is similar - shy & reserved. Things I have done are:

  • Recognize her personality and not force things. For example, in a group setting, I don't force her to interact with other kids. I let her take her time, and if that means sitting on my lap for the first half hour before going to play, then that's fine.

  • Let her try different things - swimming, gymnastics, art/music classes, etc. Although she was always very quiet during her art/music class, she really came out of her shell for gymnastics and would act like a totally different kid (the word "maniac" comes to mind).

  • Encourage but not push, and support but not carry. What I mean is that I will help her in social situations but not do everything for her. For example, at our local grocery store if you ask the bakery staff, they will give you a cookie. I used to ask for her, but we phased that out so now I don't - if she wants a cookie, she asks herself and then thanks them (also, usually now on the way to the bakery section she says "Mom, I'm not going to be shy today" - cute.)

And finally, appreciate that there are parents that have the opposite problem and probably wish that they had the kid that sat quietly during story-time ;)


answered 24 Feb '10, 03:33

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+1 for gentle encouragment.

(24 Feb '10, 06:50) Emi

My nearly four old was like that for the first three years of his life but now he is a comfortable and happy in most situations and very talkative at times although not in a group setting. So she may change.

I agree with what Kate has said. I think it is good to recognise that your child is like that but not to make a negative thing. It our case it is definitely a personality thing as his dad is like that.

Like Kate we still went to group situations and other daunting places but I knew that for the first half an hour or so I would have him clinging to me. I didn't push him to interact with the other kids but in time he would move away from me once he felt comfortable to leave me.

Talk about it with them and perhaps help them to think (probably suggest with an 18 month old) about ways of handling the situation. My son doesn't like to be crowded by other kids and when he was smaller he would push them away. As pushing kids is not to be encouuraged we use to encourage him to move where there was more space.

Also give the opportunity to play with just one or two kids at time. My son would hide if there were lots of kids there but felt more comfortable and would interact well with one or two. It was good to do at home or somewhere they are really comfortable.

As your child copies what you do it is also important that you show them how to handle the situation. This can be really hard if like me you are shy. Like Kate, I too encourage interacting with people out shopping etc.


answered 25 Feb '10, 02:54

K%20D's gravatar image

accept rate: 13%

+!: Great point about the smaller groups - we definitely do better there too!

(25 Feb '10, 04:26) Kate

+1 Great points about children copying parents and recognizing that is shy and not making it a negative thing.

(25 Feb '10, 10:02) Emi

For my own children, I try to make them aware of opportunities, encourage them to use the opportunity, and let them know that if it didn't work out, there's always another opportunity right around the corner.

At 18 months old it's not too hard to distract them with a toy, and say, "Aunt Jenny is looking at your toy, I bet she would love to have you show it to her!" and branch out from there.

I also teach and play with 18-36 month old kids each Sunday during church, and find that every child has different characteristics, motivations, fears, and interests. Making group activities where the activity is obvious, and obviously enjoyable will bring some kids out of their shells.

Others take a long time - some will sit in my lap for almost the entire period while I read to them. In those cases I'll read loudly enough and show the book around so that several others will join and a group will form around the child I'm holding. After some time (sometimes weeks, sometimes months) they'll venture out and collect a toy to hold onto, then eventually play nearby, and ultimately interact with the other kids on their own.

It appears that some don't need, or want, strong encouragement, but would rather take it all in, learn the rules of the social group, and then test the waters on their own. So far I haven't seen a child that was introverted and clingy the entire time from 18 months to 36 months, and in fact some go through phases.

A few kids will start out at 18 months right in the thick of things, and then start to get shy later on. There may be a reason, or it may merely be a phase. Some of them seem to be going through a bit of self-awareness, "I didn't know the rules before, I just did what felt good, now I've learned there are rules to social interaction, and I see that breaking them won't always end well for me."

By making sure they know that 1) they have options and opportunities and 2) a safe place to return when rejection or failure occurs then they seem to get the hang of life at their own pace.


answered 25 Feb '10, 05:26

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Adam Davis
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Asked: 24 Feb '10, 03:05

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Last updated: 25 Feb '10, 05:26