Buddy Bench: Saving Kids from Shyness - TENT Blog
Updated: Jun 26
We have all met children who are shy and reserved, especially at the playground. New research is showing the source from which shyness develops and one kid has actually created a solution. Now average kids, who tend to be shy, have a way to communicate their loneliness and seek out new friends.
Children who are feeling fearful can exhibit characteristics of shyness such as looking at the ground, mildly avoiding direct contact with others their age, and resisting activities which draw attention to them such as team sports. There is an important distinction between fear and shyness, however.
Fear as a Source of Shyness
Fear is focused on a source from which it emits, such as an object or thing (ie., the dark). Shyness is an indirect emotion unrelated to fear. This is important because these children aren’t scared of interacting, they are simply exemplifying an emotion of resistance and avoidance. This usually is not a new characteristic that arises once the child enters school, but one that has developed from their youth.
A study was conducted by the National Institute of Health which developed upon previous research which indicated the effect of maternal involvement on children’s social abilities.
It was discovered that children who had mothers who were less emotionally reactive to infants produced children who tended to be shyer. “Rubin et al (1997) found that 2-year-olds’ social fearfulness was positively related to concurrent observed peer-social inhibition only for toddlers whose mother exhibited over solicitous behavior” (Eggum, 2009). They go on to say that insensitive caregiving contributes to insecure attachments which can ultimately affect future social relationships.
Advice from Dr. Sears
Dr. Sears considered the ultimate child expert, doesn’t encourage parents to try to fix their shy children. Instead, he offers these 4 points of advice when encountering reluctant kids.
Hug your child (offer them safety and security)
Try not to force your son or daughter to be more outgoing (Furthermore, don’t label kids as “shy”, instead use the words “reserved” or “private”.
Do not put your child actress on the spot (in other words, in the limelight)
Try not to compensate for your child’s shyness by becoming overbearing or apologetic about their reserved behavior. (Sears)
One child came up with the most ingenious plan which allows children to communicate their shyness or loneliness while maintaining their social inhibition. Christian Bucks of York, Pa created a bench with warm and inviting colors which would be installed on children’s playgrounds.
If a child was lonely, they could go sit on the Buddy Bench to indicate to their classmates that they needed company but were too shy to express their needs. The Buddy Bench has since swept the nation. Hundreds of them have been bought or donated and installed on school playgrounds.
In some aspects it has become the Anti-Bully Bench, offering shy kids a gentle way of seeking affection. You can learn more about the Buddy Bench here.
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Natalie D. Eggum, Nancy Eisenberg and Cynthia L. Smith (2009), Development of Shyness: Relations with Children’s Fearfulness, Sex, and Maternal Behavior. Obtained from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2791465/
Amanda, Scherker (2013). 2nd-Grader’s Cure for Playground Loneliness: A Buddy Bench. Obtained from: https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4378248
Sears, Dr. (No date). 8 Ways to Help a Shy Child. Obtained from: https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/child-rearing-and-development/8-ways-to-help-shy-child