Parenting the Shy/Slow-to-Warm-Up Temperament

Erin Belanger, LMHC

How well do you know the following scene? Your child thinks they want to do a new activity and they seem genuinely excited; hopeful, you go with it and register them. Fast forward to the first day, where the excitement ends right at the point that the whole idea becomes a reality. Seeing new people interacting with one another and not knowing anyone else, your child has a full on panic attack as they try to get into the mix, if they even try. After trying to coax them out gently and support their involvement at their pace (and hearing “I want to go home” for the 100th time) you retire to the car and head back home… feeling sad for your child and like a failure as a parent.

These are our shy/slow to warm-up children. These children have less intensity in their reactions than the difficult/challenging temperament, but more intensity than the easy temperament. They demonstrate mild negative responses to new situations, are slow to adapt at first but improve with more time and exposure, tend to be more anxious and timid in their approach, and are less flexible in their routines.

There’s a delicacy and a patience required to raise our children with shy temperaments. If your child sounds like the child above, even in part (as children can be a partial fit with this category), pay attention to the following in your parenting style to help support their health and development:


Patience, patience, patience (and maybe some more patience)!

Respect, accept and love the child you have!

How do I know that my child’s behavior and reactions are just temperament and not something else?

If you have any concerns about your child’s development or their behavior, never hesitate to reach out for help, especially if you’ve tried the above suggestions and see no changes. A good family therapist will observe your family and your child and get to know how you work together. They will then be able to provide you with feedback on any potential misattunement and give you strategies for shifting those parenting dynamics. They will, of course, also be able to help you find additional support if the concerns are related to more than just temperament.

Your shy/slow-to-warm temperament children will get to where they need to be even if it takes a little more time and patience. By attuning to your child and organizing your parenting skills around their needs, these children can feel successful, develop healthy self-esteem, and develop healthy relationships.