Preschool daughters need help with social skills

Parent Q&A

October 18, 1998|By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. | T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.,NEW YORK TIMES SPECIAL FEATURES

Q.I am the mother of three girls, ages 5, 4 and 2. The older two tend to be very shy and timid. They do fine in groups of two to four other children but get overwhelmed in larger groups.

They both attend preschool, and their teachers say they do not answer in groups. They're extremely shy around adults and do not even talk to those they know well, including grandparents.

When an adult speaks to them, they just look down and try to hide behind me.

I have read that shyness relates to self-esteem and that children can overcome it. What are your thoughts? How can we help?

A. A shy child's self-esteem is at risk when you try to change her or push her to change. Every time you do, you are saying to her, "I don't like you the way you are."

It might help your daughters if you prepare them for a social meeting ahead of time. Then, praise them for any effort to socialize. You should also try to find a child like each of them for them to get to know intimately. Then, they can enter a group with a friend.

I'll bet the second one is modeling on the first one and will open up as No. 1 does. So I'd work to help your older daughter. But encourage her rather than punishing or shaming her.

Q. My 5-year-old granddaughter can throw a nonstop fit for six hours straight. This is no joke!

She undermines her mother and me all the time. We've tried timeouts, spankings and even giving in to her, but nothing works.

When she is in preschool, however, she has no problem following instructions or obeying others.

Can you help?

A. It sounds as if you and her mother are too involved, and you may be prolonging her "fits." As with younger children, ignoring her may be the best solution. Try saying: "Go to your room until you are through, then we can talk it over."

The other suggestion I have is to ask your granddaughter what would help her. Choose a time when you are in good communication, then say to her, "Do you remember how angry you were? I don't know how to help you when you get so upset. Can you tell me what might help you avoid these fits? I'll try what you suggest, and you try to control yourself." Maybe together you can help her learn better self control.

Questions or comments should be addressed to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, care of The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168.

Pub Date: 10/18/98

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