|Help Your Child Become Confident and
A pilot from Delta Airlines was talking to a group of fearful
flyers. Later, he said, "Boy, I'm glad that's over. Speaking in
public scares me to death." Every parent would be pleased to have
his/her child step out into the world as a responsible, confident,
and courageous adult. The tendency toward timidity and fearfulness
in children is often inherited. Genetics can be unkind to us.
There has been considerable research done on the socially, backward
child. The good news is that with the right care this can be overcome.
Lawrence E. Shapiro, Ph.D., says, "Whether your child is born with
a strong potential for fearfulness or is very social, no child goes
through the stages of childhood without encountering some fears.
How parents handle their child's fears, however, can have a significant
impact on their overall development." An Ounce
of Prevention, p. 115. David, in addressing his son
Solomon said, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged."
1 Chron. 22:13, NIV. This is God's ideal for His children.
It is estimated that 40 per cent of the population suffer from
shyness. I suppose that much of this is fear of being negatively
evaluated. How can we help children to be self-confident, assured,
and courageous? Dr. Shapiro offers some suggestions. He says that
after we get older the thinking part of our brain actually helps
us calm our fears. (Ibid, p. 117.) Alvin,
age four, was very shy. His mother met an old school friend in the
store, so Alvin moved around behind her so he could hide behind
her skirts. "Alvin, now stop trying to hide. Come over and meet
Dorothy, my friend from highschool," she said. At four years old
Alvin can reason. So, that night, as she was tucking Alvin in bed,
she sat down and talked to him about his fears. She asked him to
tell her why he was afraid. This is one thing that parents can do--reason
with children about their fears. Help them sort things out--and
be a good listener.
"Danny, I will leave the light on in your room if you insist,
but you are a big boy now, almost four years old. You don't need
the light. There is nothing to be afraid of. Your Daddy and I are
right across the hall. We turn our light off at night. When you
start to feel afraid, why not ask Jesus to take away your fears.
Think about your memory verse we learned yesterday. 'Lo, I am with
you always,' Jesus will come and be right by your side."
When you see your child making progress in handling irrational
fears, affirm him or her. This will help them develop their own
It is encouraging to know that a fearful child, with help from
parents, can outgrow crippling fears. Dr. Shapiro suggests that
general "anxiety disorders...can best be treated in the elementary
Anxious parents may do life-long damage. So avoid being overprotective.
Don't give in to your child's fears. All children have the ability
to calm themselves. And don't be at your baby's beck and call. Of
course, you will check to make sure that everything is all right.
Talk reassuringly. Don't let your child's timidity dictate the way
you respond. Provide a Teddy bear for him/her to hold. Shapiro suggests
"Four"R's" to help children overcome their developmental fears:
"Reason, reassurance, relaxation, and reenactment." Ibid,
Ellen White says, "Every child should be trained to self-reliance....If
they would stand in a position where they shall influence others
they must be self-reliant." Child Guidance,
pp. 156, 157. For school-age children, help them develop
social skills. Get them involved in school activities. Mary began
talking to her daughter, Lucy, about making friends. "Give me the
names of some children you might like to have as friends." Lucy
named three or four. "Why not invite them over for games next Sunday
afternoon. I'll be glad to help you and to pick them up." The occasion
went well. Remember, shy children are often more comfortable with
friends a bit younger.
When shy children become teenagers, their fears often intensify.
Parents can help. Sam, age 14 had few friends and was socially backward.
His parents tried to model friendliness. They invited acquaintances
over for swimming who had teenage children. This seemed to help.
Then they asked him if he would like to learn to play the saxophone.
"Yes, I sure would," he replied. He learned rapidly and he was soon
playing in the band. This gave Sam skills that increased his confidence.
Then natural relationships developed.
"Because shyness is so common, most shy teens will probably not
get professional help, but when symptoms are severe, you must intervene.
Teens do not outgrow extreme social phobia, and left untreated,
it will develop into a lifelong burden, becoming more entrenched
with each passing year." Shapiro, Ibid,
The Bible says that, "A man that hath friends must shew himself
friendly" Prov. 18:24, KJV. Jesus was a very social person. Friends
enhance our happiness and also provide opportunities for sharing
our faith. "'You are my witnesses' declares the Lord" Isa. 43:10,