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Bashful Child: How to Help

16 July, 2023
Q As-salamu `alaykum, I have two children, an eight-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy. My children behave normally in the home environment, but in outdoor situations, such as at friend’s houses, or if asked to perform in public in a group song in school, for example, they will literally freeze and refuse to collaborate with the other children. They will keep staring at the floor until the end of whatever they were supposed to be doing. I am extremely worried. What should I do to help my children become extroverts, capable of interacting with society? Thank you in advance.


In this counseling question:

“With their father, create a happy home atmosphere, and organize social activities, such as trips. Give them the opportunity to discuss family matters and to give their opinion without interruption or belittling what they had to say. This will help the children feel important within the family. These are major steps toward regaining self-confidence and self-reliance—tickets to active participation in society later on.”

Wa `alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

May Allah keep you safe. May Allah bless your children, and give you the strength to fulfill the duties required to raise children, and which so many people tend to ignore, or do not know enough about.

Bashful vs. Shy

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Before introducing some of the solutions, let us first explore together the problem of bashfulness: Who is a bashful person? What are the reasons behind bashfulness? Knowing the answers to these questions will put us half way toward resolving the problem, especially as you have failed to mention anything that may help us in discovering the reasons for your children’s shyness.

The question of shyness is a well-known problem among children and adolescents, but first, one has to point out the difference between bashfulness and shyness. There is positive shyness, which was described by the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) as “haya’ (shyness or modesty) is part of iman.”

Bashfulness is defined as the inability to adjust and adapt to surroundings and the inability to interact with others. The child seems quiet, bashful, and soft spoken, and generally not liked.

Unfortunately, bashfulness is reinforced by a not-so-golden rule: “The best child is the quiet child, the one who spends hours in a state of immobility.” When timid children see that they are praised for their quietness, they will wrap themselves further inside a cocoon; they will avert and avoid all the possibly painful experiences they may encounter through interaction. The problem may become more complicated during adolescence if parents do not handle the situation wisely at an early stage.

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Certain traits describe bashful children: they are less out going and do not engage in conversation with others. They like to play alone. They are sensitive and unnerved and feel different, incompetent. They feel that others look and think negatively about them. Their lack of self-confidence make them believe that they will fail and become the subject of laughter and ridicule.

This negative opinion of the self is associated with passive social behavior such as confusion and embarrassment, the inability to change, and the extra pressure felt if asked to perform in front of others or participate in class activities.

Bashful children are perfectly normal youngsters at home; only when they are in the presence of others will they draw back into their own world, fearing what others may think of them.

It is important to mention that intelligence plays no role in the situation; the bashful child could be of high or average IQ. In many cases, bashfulness is an acquired characteristic, passed to the child by the parents or learned from other siblings and then reinforced by the family. If the parents do not take active measures to save their child, this problem could hinder any chance of success in the future.

Now that we have identified the bashful child, we have to address the question of why and the reasons behind it:

  • The feeling of insecurity and lack of self-confidence exhibited towards others makes bashful children keen to protect themselves and avoid potentially embarrassing situations with others. Therefore, escaping from interaction results in them becoming less aware of what is going on around them and so they become socially unskilled—the consequence is that they become even more bashful. Bashful children seek the company of other bashful children because then they feel comfortable, not threatened or embarrassed.
  • Excessive blame and criticism eventfully creates cowardice and indecisiveness. Many parents think this is the only way to teach children right from wrong, on the contrary, it is the only way to eradicate worldliness, courage, and self-reliance.
  • Some parents in wanting to shelter their children from harm overprotect them and end up producing cowardly, bashful human beings unable to make decisions. These children have learned to become dependent, passive, and unadventurous because their parents did not trust them or depend on their help.
  • Excessive carelessness, like over protection, fosters bashful youngsters. Making children feel unwanted or ignoring their needs does not cultivate independent personalities, quite the opposite; such behavior produces frightened, unloved and unappreciated characters.
  • Contradiction and lack of consistency between parents on how to bring children up causes insecurity. Sometimes the father acts leniently or permissively and at other times he acts strictly, this causes children to lose their sense of security and trust in the parents, especially if the parents use threats in their method of discipline; children then deduce that it is safer to become introverted.
  • Bashful parents as role models produce bashful children. In addition, if even one of the parents lacks self–confidence, this will reflect on the children’s behavior toward others.
  • The use of derogatory terms when describing the children to others will make them want to conform to the propagated description, believing this a true reflection of the self. Children, as we have repeatedly said, see themselves as parents see them.

After this short explanation, I would like to propose some solutions:

I would like you to know that you can rectify your children’s behavior; but there is no instant solution, it will take time and patient from both you and their father. Seek the help of Allah and start with the first step.

1. Stop any talk about their bashfulness immediately: Stop blaming or criticizing them directly or indirectly. Do not ask them why they did not open their mouth on stage, or why they acted so stupidly as nothing will be gained by this—on the contrary, this will only make the problem worse.

2. Encourage and reward the slightest effort they make, no matter how small

3. Gradually encourage social activities you feel they may be interested in, without any pressure on your part. Reward all new friendships or phone calls from new friends.

4. Invite friends your children have or call on the phone and try steadily to increase the number of friends.

5. Encourage your children to play in the street, because they will learn how to interact with all kinds—the good and the bad—they will discover the different faces of society. This is only on condition that the street is safe to start with, if not, then use the neighborhood youth club.

6. With their father, create a happy home atmosphere, and organize social activities, such as trips. Give them the opportunity to discuss family matters and to give their opinion without interruption or belittling what they had to say. This will help the children feel important within the family. These are major steps toward regaining self-confidence and self-reliance—tickets to active participation in society later on.

7. Promote frankness and invite them to ask you what they want without hesitation. They should learn to overcome apprehension and fear to express themselves without embarrassment. They should develop a positive image of themselves and they should be proud of what they can offer to others.

8. Sport and art will help develop strong and independent personalities as well as developing intellectual capacity. Every success will enhance self- confidence.

Wishing you all the success with your precious children.

Fi amani-llah


Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, it’s volunteers, writers, scholars, counselors, or employees be held liable for any direct, indirect, exemplary, punitive, consequential or other damages whatsoever that may arise through your decision or action in the use of the services which our website provides. 

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