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.
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