Profile: Shy and dynamic
Karen Hart, education writer, London
Monday, February 22, 2021
Nadia Fine is the host of the Shy and Mighty podcast and the creator of ‘The Mighty Mob’, an online program aimed at helping primary age children who identify as shy. She shares some insights into helping shy pre-schoolers find their voice.
Tell us a bit about The Mighty Mob
The Mighty Mob is an online program aimed at children who feel their shyness is holding them back. Every week, children download a new mighty mission and gain ‘mobster points’ by successfully completing tiny, manageable acts of courage, so it's easy to see week-on-week how much they've progressed. It's not about eradicating shyness – we need shy, sensitive people – it's about finding the courage to speak up and share your ideas and opinions with others, to find the courage to approach other children and not feel sidelined; to be comfortable with who you are.
How did you develop into your current role?
I've always been shy. But, it was age 14 that I became extremely self-conscious. One day, in my French lesson, we were allowed to use the brand new language laboratory. We had to record ourselves speaking French, and then listen back. But when I hit play, I couldn't believe it was me. I thought it was a little kid talking! My voice was so little! That was when I decided I wouldn't be putting myself in a position of being publicly heard. So, no going on stage to receive a prize, or taking part in a school play, and I hated speaking on the phone – even now people ask if my mum's home. Feeling shy and self-conscious has affected me my whole life. And that's why now, I'm on a mission, to help children step out of the shadows and find their voice.
In what ways would you consider shyness can hold a child back?
If a child is shy but happy, that's fine, but if you can see that being shy is holding them back in some way – for example hovering on the edge of games not able to find a way in – then it's time to try some gentle interventions.
Being shy can stop you coming forward to share ideas and opinions; the thought of standing in front of the class can be a nightmare, being in the spotlight can feel overwhelming. It can hold you back from taking part in activities you would really love to try.
Any tips for practitioners?
It's about comfortable courage – little steps forward, so tiny they may seem pointless to a non-shy person; all in a structured, manageable way. Don't just say ‘stop being so shy’. Parents will often say, ‘I don't get it, at home they're fine’, that's because it's comfy at home, the problem usually comes from meeting people in authority and being in unfamiliar situations. Talk to children about their feelings and just be nice and kind about it.
Try using a star chart or the Mighty Mob to reward little steps forward.
If children find socialising at nursery difficult, you could give them a star every time they smile at someone. Something like asking them to approach a group of friends may seem massive to them, so take it down a notch – or five, make the goal to just ask someone a question, or ask for a toy, then gradually work towards the bigger goals. It's all about practise; first week smiles, then maybe waving, then asking a question, moving through the steps as they become easier.
Where to next?
My goal is to write more books about shyness and help as many people as I can. I want to see shyness on the school curriculum, with every school running The Mighty Mob. From a school's point of view, if they're concerned about results they'd do better if they took this on board.
What do you do to relax?
You'd never guess - boxing! I really like being mighty. I wanted to be braver and boxing has taught me to handle my nerves. I realise that if I can do this, I can do anything. I'll always be a shy person – that's who I am. I'm shy, but I do it anyway.