Shy children may do less well at school

Shy children may be at a disadvantage when it comes to academic development, new research has suggested. Published in the Journal of School Psychology, the study revealed kids who keep themselves to themselves in nursery may be at a greater academic risk than those who are overly loud and boisterous.

Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) discovered withdrawn youngsters in their pre-school year displayed the lowest academic skills at the beginning of the term and were slowest to improve going forward.

Elizabeth Bell, a doctoral candidate in developmental psychology at the learning institute, explained introverted infants might "disappear" in the classroom environment.

She stated: "While these children are not causing problems in the school, they are also not engaging in classroom activities and interactions, where almost all learning occurs during this age."

Rebecca Bulotsky-Shearer, Assistant Professor of Psychology at UM, said some parents may fail to understand that social-emotional readiness is vital as children approach school age.

Dr Gillian Butler, a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, comments:

"As all interesting new findings, this one raises questions as well as answering them. We need to know more about readiness for school in nursery-age children, and here is a pointer that may prove useful. It is also important to consider other reasons for the findings.

"Young children may keep themselves to themeselves because of delays in linguistic (or physical) development, or they may suffer from greater separation anxiety, or be tired or undernourished. We know that the vast majority of young children go through a stage of being shy, and that 80 per cent of them grow out of this, but maybe not all at the same rate. So we also need to follow this finding up beyond the pre-school year.

"So far as I know there are no differences in IQ between introverts and extroverts, so it is possible that those children who keep themselves to themselves also have different ways of learning - or learn things in a different order, For these reasons I would hesitate before drawing major conclusions about the disadvantages that shy pre-school children may suffer, though this is clearly a possibility that deserves serious consideration - and further research."

<p><span>One way to help children begin to control their fear of certain social situations is to show empathy when they feel afraid to interact with others. So, if a child refuses out of shyness to go out on a field for soccer practice, a parent might say, "I get the sense you feel worried (self-conscious, shy, afraid) about going out there. I feel worried sometimes too - when I'm not sure what to do and other people are watching me." By showing empathy, a parent helps the child feel understood and accepted and also helps the child identify and talk about his or her emotions and start searching for a way to control them.</span></p>

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