Many young children have a natural fear of meeting new people. In fact, I would say that all people, even adults, feel slightly uncomfortable making new acquaintances. This instinctive tendency stems from a fear of the unknown.
We wonder, who is this stranger shaking my hand? Will he like me? What should we talk about? This fear quickly dissipates as our familiarity grows. Even if the stranger turns out to be a nasty person after all, just knowing where he stands, helps us feel at ease. So, “shyness” is a natural fear that at some level all people face, but one that must be overcome.
Shyness in Children
As parents, we should be careful not to make excuses for our children when they refuse to speak to strangers. “Shyness” is a natural fear of social engagement, but succumbing to that fear is simply rude.
When we excuse our children’s refusal to say, “hi,” we are not shielding them from some genetic disorder that renders out children unable to socially engage new people. We are actually excusing our children’s rude behavior. When someone greets us, it is nice and polite to return the greeting. We should no more accept potty language from our children, than we should allow them to ignore the polite greetings from a new acquaintance.
The best way to overcome this natural aversion in our children, is to practice on friends or family – people that are willing to take the extra time to work with our little ones. An unfamiliar person at church once greeted my daughter and she put her head down and refused to say hi. I fought her then and there, and I realize now that poor stranger felt very uncomfortable.
One great way we help our children overcome their shyness is to have them greet guests and welcome them into your home. Whenever a friend or family member drops by for a visit, stand back and watch as your children open the door, greet and welcome the guest into our home. Or if this is too much too soon, have your children follow you to the front door and copy everything you say and do.
You will be surprised, with just a little practice and encouragement, your children will not only overcome their natural aversion to new social engagements, but will actually look forward to them.
Other posts on Manners:
The Manners Game
Table Manners Free Printable
Values for Children
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Great ideas! I loved watching you and Jodi last night!
It is a nice trick to follow. The best practice is to let them move with the visitors.
Who am I? says
What’s “funny” about my children is that they will say hi to anyone and everyone as long as I don’t tell them to say hi and/or as long as they are complete strangers who do not address them first. So, we live in a fairly populated downtown area so we always see lots of people on the street. My little ones will say hi to nearly every person we walk by…and several times at that.(And Yes I do, every time, instruct them that they shouldn’t.) However, if grandma or grandpa comes over or someone else they know well or if I introduce them to somebody they don’t know AND I ask them to say hi, about 75% of the time, I can’t get them to say a word. I have to discipline up to the point of actually administering a punishment sometimes. It’s crazy.
My little girl is a lot like the previous commenter’s. She loves to say hi to most everyone (and “bye bye” even more so) but not necessarily to visitors or others who first greet her. She’s so cute greeting strangers sometimes, and it almost breaks my heart to see her face drop when they don’t greet her back ;( Thanks for the heads up on how to guide our kids to politely greeting new faces.
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Difficult but I will give it a try