Lo sentimos, la página que usted busca no se ha podido encontrar. Puede intentar su búsqueda de nuevo o visitar la lista de temas populares.

My son is seven years old and seems very shy and lacks confidence when interacting with friends or teachers. How do I help him build self-confidence?

Writer: Carey Werley, LCSW

Clinical Expert: Carey Werley, LCSW

Q : My son is seven years old and seems very shy and lacks confidence when interacting with friends or teachers. I am afraid that he is going to lose out on social interactions, get left behind, or get bullied. One example of this happened when he went to an arcade with his friends. He was playing a game when this other boy pushed him and said he wanted to play. Although my son didn’t want to, he just let his friend take his seat. And then, this boy did the same thing to my son again while he was in the middle of another game. This time, however, I tapped on the boy’s shoulder and told him quite firmly, “No, you can’t do that. He’s playing right now.” But my son said, “No, it’s okay. Take it.” I just felt sad and thought my son could easily be taken advantage of. Or maybe I’m just projecting. He loves to make friends. He is extremely happy when I take him out to play areas, but he is unable to show his true self and potential. At home, it’s the opposite. He sings loudly. He dances around and talks back to us. He is an only child and we do not have too many friends where we live either. He does great on one-on-one interactions. Even with teachers he seems to speak very quietly. Please let me know if there is something I need to do at home or do otherwise that could help him break out of his shell.

Thank you for reaching out!  As clinicians, we certainly see many school-age children with marked differences in their confidence when comparing their home environment to school, the playground, etc. As a parent, it makes sense to want to provide support when your child is faced with situations that are difficult to navigate. For many children who are more inhibited around others, engaging in assertive communication can be very challenging.

The first thing that you can do at home is to talk with your child and ask more about how he feels in these situations. This can be both in terms of his thoughts and worries, and any physical reactions such as rapid heartbeat or shakiness.

It may also be helpful to connect with a mental health professional through school or a pediatrician and consider a diagnostic evaluation. The differences in behavior and communication between home and school could be symptoms of an anxiety disorder, such as social anxiety disorder or selective mutism. Children with these disorders often avoid situations that cause them a lot of anxiety but are beneficial to their development. For example, if a child has anxiety about asking questions in class, they might avoid doing so, inhibiting their ability to learn effectively. Therefore, we recommend engaging in evaluation sooner rather than later. Getting an accurate diagnosis early has been shown to have positive effects.

You can also help your child develop his self-confidence by having him engage in brave practice, which is taking steps to approach situations that anxiety tells him to avoid. We usually want to start with small steps and then work our way up. This could include having him order his own meal at a restaurant or initiate conversation with a new child on the playground. You could also help your child identify some preferred friends at school and set up playdates, where he can also practice assertive communication.

Although it’s natural for you as a parent to want to step in when you see your child in distress, it is helpful to talk with your child to identify the places where he can best practice his assertive communication on his own. Encourage him to engage in brave steps when he’s not feeling as confident. You can then reinforce these steps by praising or rewarding his brave behavior.

This article was last reviewed or updated on June 7, 2023.