parents asks: My 6-year-old daughter is in grade one this year and she is really good in her studies. Now the school is having a spelling competition, and I want her to participate in it because she is a good speller, but she doesn’t want to do it. She told me she’d have to go up the stage alone and everyone would be watching her try to spell a word, and she’s too shy so she doesn’t want to do it. What worries me is why she is labelling herself as ‘shy.’ It is o.k if she doesn’t do it, but I am afraid that later in her life she might see herself as a shy and miss out on chances, whether in her study or her career. Can you tell me how to act in this kind of situation, what I should say and do? Do I have to push her to take the spelling quiz, or tell her it is o.k if you she’s not ready? For now, every time she tells me she’s shy, I tell her she’s not, and that everyone feels shy but they go ahead and do things. Is this right?
Hi Parents –
Thanks for your question about your daughter’s shyness.
If your daughter were older, I’d be giving her all sorts of suggestions, as I have to others here, on how to get comfortable with public speaking. But a child of six really doesn’t need these skills yet. What I want you to do, instead, is to work to build her self-esteem, so she’s able to confront her fears later on.
There’s even a really good chance that your daughter doesn’t really fear getting up in public, but hears other kids at school saying that they’re scared of it, and wants to fit in with them. That’s totally normal for this age, and not a bad thing at all. If so, when she sees other kids get onto that stage, she’ll suddenly crave to do it herself, and your concerns will be all over!
So here’s what I want you to do for now:
1) For now, don’t disagree with her about her shyness. Just point out that she’sfeeling shy, and then, as you are already saying, tell her about very shy people who still manage to get on stages and perform (Woody Allen and Barbra Streisand, for example, have infamous shyness. Elvis Presley was often ill before performances, as his shyness was so strong!). And that she’ll be okay.
2) Absolutely let her skip this competition. You don’t really care about it, so why should she? She’s just beginning school, and so is facing risks every day – in the classroom, on the playground – that take loads of effort and bravery. If she wants to sit this experience out, it can definitely wait!
3) Find ways for your daughter to shine. Do you have a family dinner coming up, when she can show off what a good speller she is for all the relatives? Can she sing a song, or play something on an instrument? If a room full of strangers is too scary for her right now, let her battle any shyness she has by building up with a friendly supportive audience of those who love her.
4) You could even see if she’d like to train in any sort of performance art – take a class in music or dance or acting. Because those would eventually get her onto a stage, but without anyone asking her tough questions she might not be able to answer!
5) And most important of all… Stop Worrying So Much! Your daughter’s doing great. If she ends up being such a shy adult that she is never comfortable performing in front of an audience, that would be okay. I mean, I’ve never performed in front of an audience (I am so not a show-dog)! And I’m doing great! The more nervous you are about your daughter, the more nervous a person she’ll become. The more you can relax and let her be who she is, the more she’ll accept herself.
And the more she accepts herself, the more likely she’ll be to dare getting up on that stage and taking the risk of a competitive spelling bee, which really takes some serious courage!
Thanks and Good Luck my friend!