To the Parent of the Shy Girl

She's just quieter—and calling her "shy" doesn't help

“She’s just shy…” It’s an easy label to give her.

In social situations, she hesitates. In public, she’s rarely the first to engage. Even though she’s an amazing girl at home, other people don’t know that because she’s so quiet.

If you’ve ever worried that your daughter won’t put herself out there, I’m here to reassure you.

Some children are naturally more soft-spoken, just like some children are loud and gregarious. In my book, The Child Whisperer, I call the four main ways that children move through life the 4 Types of children.

The Type 2 Sensitive Child is likely to be called “shy.” 

Your sensitive daughter expresses a lower level of movement in her thoughts, behaviors, and body language. She needs time to get familiar with people or places before jumping in. If you try pushing her into new situations too fast, it can backfire.

You know what? You don’t have to pull your sensitive daughter out of her shell.

Use these 4 insights to support her subdued nature, and she’ll thrive, just the way she is.

1. She needs time and space to hesitate.

Your sensitive daughter needs to gather details before she acts. This tendency conflicts with messages that tell her to stop being timid, to just do it already. It’s true that she won’t get anywhere if she never acts. But she will take steps with more confidence if she starts from a steady place.

TIP: Suggest that she sit quietly with a decision before she acts on it. If she does, she will make the better choice. Every time. Not because sitting quietly is the best way for everyone to make decisions—but because it’s the best way for her.

2. She has a quieter voice—and that’s okay.

The Type 2 Sensitive girl usually thinks before speaking. Sometimes she waits so long that the moment passes. Add to that her naturally quiet voice, and she may feel incapable of being heard. If those tendencies get out of balance, she may start to believe that she has to get upset to be heard. She will pick verbal fights or create emotional meltdowns, just to make people hear her.

TIP: Listen to her. Invite her to share. Help her find familiar people and comfortable spaces where she can speak freely. And then remind her to speak in her unique way. (She may find her voice in surprising places. She might not ever like small talk, but she may shine in more organized spaces: in front of a classroom, behind a microphone, or on a stage. Don’t dismiss the possibilities.)

3. She is probably a good listener. But she might not want to be.

Quiet girls can be mistaken for good listeners. Sometimes, she won’t want to be a good listener. She’ll wish that others listen to her as much as she listens to them. It’s valid for her to want to express her own voice.

TIP: Help her recognize that her ability to listen is a gift. Everyone in the world is looking for someone to see them for who they are. When she listens, she connects with others in a meaningful way, deeper than small talk will ever take her. True listening is often the best step to being truly heard.

4. She may worry often. All she needs is a little reassurance.

The Sensitive Type 2 Child has a tendency to worry, more than any other Type of child. She may compare herself to others who seem louder, more outgoing, and more spontaneous. She might worry that something is wrong with her or that she will be left behind.

TIP: Don’t call her “shy.” Shyness is not a label a girl aspires to, and so the word is wounding. By calling her shy, you say that her quieter way is something to fix or change. She needs to know her sensitive nature is a strength. Give her more accurate words that help her be gentle to herself: mindful, thoughtful, detailed. 

Above all, your daughter could use reassurance.

What you say to your daughter and about your daughter will influence how she sees herself for years to come. Pay attention to the labels you give her, even unintentionally.

She’s not shy. She’s just herself.

Let her know there’s nobody you would rather have her be.

Are you parenting a Type 2 daughter? If so, go back and review the Type 2 section in The Child Whisperer book from time to time.

A refresher will be supportive to you! If you don’t know which Type of child you’re parenting, pick up a copy of The Child Whisperer. You’ll learn how to read your child more clearly and create more cooperation and happiness in your home.

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