A friend once asked me how to raise children that aren't crippled with shyness or insecurity. It was a good question but one I couldn't answer at the time. No matter how much a child knows or is capable of doing, if she is too shy to interact or feels too helpless to try, then she only serves as a decoration (hopefully that, at least).
I wasn't entirely sure why our children are so outgoing and confident. But the question helped me begin to observe the “nervous” moments in their lives and the way we make it through those times of testing.
When we find a lizard under a rock in the springtime, the focus is on discovering all there is to know about that lizard, not watching to see how two-year-old Rose reacts to a lizard. The emotional response to a lizard is "Wow! Look at the lizard! What's he been doing all winter? What does he eat, how does he sleep, can he see me, he might look scary, but won't bite… so, how does he feel when I touch him?"
Rose's focus is not on herself or her own emotional or physical well-being; it's on the lizard.
When David's friend Stephen came over and the big boys were jumping on the trampoline, Seric got bounced too high and came down too hard. Our comments while rubbing his sore knee are along the lines of, “Well, I guess you just don't weigh as much as the big boys do, but one of these days you will. They're pretty big… you have to think about that when you go into a situation and ask yourself if you are big enough to handle what's going on.”
“Yeah,” Seric woefully rubbed the last tear out of his eyes, “Or at least I need to figure out a better technique.”
We laughed appreciatively at his ability to use words like “technique” and admired his willingness to get out there and try again. He isn't focused on his failure, but on how to succeed next time.
If a child feels that his purpose of existence is to be looked at, made to feel better, act better, talk better, eat better, etc., the prospect of life ahead may be rather intimidating because there is one focus—himself. It's all about whether he fails or succeeds, and how he feels about it.
In contrast, a child who is always looking outward, wondering and questioning what is going on and why, will be bright-eyed, interested, and confident.