The drugging of our children has reached ridiculous proportions over the past century. We label our kids as having ADHD because they can’t sit still and dose them with Ritalin. We label our kids as depressed because they experience normal human emotions like sadness and grief, and pop them on anti-depressants. And now we’ve even found a new label for shyness — “social anxiety” — and again have turned a normal, and healthy human behaviour into yet another disease that can feed the pharmaceutical greed.
Shyness is not a disease.
It is part of our natural protective drive to keep us safe. We are all naturally somewhat shy as children. If we stop labelling it as shy and look at it objectively we’ll see it for what it is. Children are naturally drawn to staying close to their parents. These are the people that they know and trust. When in a new place or with new people, it is normal for a child to stick closer to their parents and assess the situation. They may even hide behind your legs, or cling to you, or refuse to go with strangers. This is as it should be.
If we lived in a traditional society, young children would not be leaving their parents. They would not be dropped off with total strangers and left to cope. They would be with their parents or grandparents and other very familiar members of the community or family. They would grow up with the same faces around them. They would probably seldom encounter someone from outside the community, and if they did this would be cause for alarm. They would watch their parents to see if the situation was safe or not. They would hang back until they had seen friendly interactions between their caregivers and the new strangers. And they would still not be handed over to these newcomers and told to socialise.
This is how we stay alive. And this is no less relevant today. Do you want your young child trusting every adult that they come across? Probably not. And yet when we enter a new situation and our kids hide behind us, we start to label them: “Don’t be shy.” What we should be saying is “Please, do be shy. Take as long as you need to check out the people and situation. Watch me as I interact with these people and make sure they are safe.”
Once we label our kids they label themselves and then live out those labels.
Children who are allowed to “be shy” and find a safe zone with their parents, will overcome this as they get older. Kids who are forced to go out and interact even when feeling unsafe will not find this natural confidence later on. Dependence becomes independence. Independence is not something that can be forced: It has to grow out of dependence naturally and in its own time. Some kids may find this very early on, for others it may come much, much later. All children have their own rate of development.
If your child is being labelled with shyness or social anxiety, please take a second look. Check if their behaviour is perhaps normal if viewed differently. Check also if you haven’t perhaps pushed them too hard and too early into independence. In either case, take action in terms of helping them to feel more secure slowly and in their own time. Medication is for real mental disorders, not for natural childhood behaviours.
Image – Getty