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Q: My four-year-old daughter is in preschool. I'm concerned that she is too shy. She doesn't participate in circle time; but, when she comes home, she teaches me what she's learned. She listens well and takes directions, but doesn't talk much and is a follower, not a leader. Is there anything I can do to help her get over her shyness?
A: Fortunately, both parents and teachers can have a strong impact in turning shyness around. You need to realize, however, that it is not unusual for preschoolers to be shy. In fact, about one-third of all young children can be considered shy. Much of this is normal in new situations, and preschool certainly presents children with many new experiences.
One reason that young children are shy in preschool is that they may not have had much opportunity to interact with peers. Why don't you invite some of your daughter's classmates to your home so she can play with them in a familiar and comfortable environment? Also, arrange for your daughter to play with a younger child - she'll easily assume the role of leader.
Your daughter also needs to have you model appropriate social behavior. Let her see how you greet friends and meet new people. Try playing school with her, and role-play such activities as "Show and Tell."
While the teacher is helping your child overcome her shyness at school, here are some additional parenting practices that you can use to discourage shyness:
- Encourage your child to talk to you. Then keep the lines of communication open by really listening to her.
- Limit isolating activities such as watching TV. Instead, watch with your child, and turn the volume down during commercials to discuss what you are seeing together.
- Praise her positive handling of social situations.
- Give your child some undivided attention each day.
- Help your child become independent by teaching her such skills as dressing herself and brushing her teeth. The more independent children feel, the more confident they become.
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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.