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Shyness and Manners

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

My just-turned-three-year-old toddler is shy.  I don't know whether I should be pushing for him to still be polite despite his shyness.  If so, how do I do this effectively?  For example, we were grocery shopping a few weeks ago and a woman gave him stickers.  He didn't take the stickers (despite wanting them) and he didn't say "thank you", he just smiled shyly and hugged me.  I took the stickers, explained that he was shy (I always say this and cringe on the inside that I'm saying it), and said "thank you" for the stickers.  As we walked outside, I explained that I understand he may not want to talk to someone, but we still say "thank you" when someone gives us something.  I should add we also struggled with this during Christmas and saying "thank you" to grandparents for gifts. 

 

I'm not sure if my adult self feels embarrassed that my son isn't polite, as if it's a reflection on me, or if I really feel like it is an issue I need to correct now.  I'd love some insight, as I'm obviously torn between whether this is my problem or something I really should enforce and if so, how.  That said, I do model good manners at home and expect that he use them with us.


Edited by Mulvah - 1/3/13 at 6:10am
post #2 of 12

My 3 year old rarely acts shy, but if she does I just model the behavior I want her to use. I don't mention or apologize for her behavior (I don't want to inadvertently reinforce it by using the word shy or any other related words to define her, because I know she'd just glom onto it). I just smile big, say "Oh, thank you so much for the stickers! You'll really enjoy using these, won't you, dd?" bringing her into the conversation. I usually exaggerate just a little, so I'm sure she sees my response. When we've left the situation and I hand her the stickers, I might say something like "That was kind of her to give you some stickers. It made her feel good when I said 'thank you'. She could tell you would really like using them." I might tell dd that it's polite to always say thank you, but not every time. I think harping on something too hard creates resistance at this age.

 

Good manners are very important to me too -- I know some people here feel differently, so you'll probably get some very thoughtful responses all over the spectrum. But for me, with my older dd and now with my younger, I find that modeling the manners I want her to learn (please and thank you, eye contact, replying when someone is speaking to you), with some quiet gentle reminders, is the best way to eventually get there.

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by grethel View Post

My 3 year old rarely acts shy, but if she does I just model the behavior I want her to use. I don't mention or apologize for her behavior (I don't want to inadvertently reinforce it by using the word shy or any other related words to define her, because I know she'd just glom onto it). I just smile big, say "Oh, thank you so much for the stickers! You'll really enjoy using these, won't you, dd?" bringing her into the conversation. I usually exaggerate just a little, so I'm sure she sees my response. When we've left the situation and I hand her the stickers, I might say something like "That was kind of her to give you some stickers. It made her feel good when I said 'thank you'. She could tell you would really like using them." I might tell dd that it's polite to always say thank you, but not every time. I think harping on something too hard creates resistance at this age.

 

Good manners are very important to me too -- I know some people here feel differently, so you'll probably get some very thoughtful responses all over the spectrum. But for me, with my older dd and now with my younger, I find that modeling the manners I want her to learn (please and thank you, eye contact, replying when someone is speaking to you), with some quiet gentle reminders, is the best way to eventually get there.


Thanks for the thoughtful response.

 

To the bolded, I wonder if I've actually reinforced his behavior by telling the person he is shy.  It is almost as if I feel I need an excuse as to why he is being (seemingly) rude.

post #4 of 12
My 3 year old DD is shy too at times, and I completely understand the need to explain the seemingly rude behaviour. I too wonder if I've been reinforcing it by saying she is shy. I find that when she is around new people she will hide behind my legs and not say hi....then usually the other person will say "oh she must be shy!!" Or if not I will say it. I like the suggestion of emphasizing the response, and including them in the conversation. Must try that next time!
post #5 of 12

Sometimes it takes a while for my daughter to warm up to situations, and while she does that she can be seemingly rude to people.  I've always prompted her to say, "I'm feeling shy today."  I like the modifiers of "feeling" and "today", rather than saying, "I'm shy."  That way it's not a label of who she is, but a transient feeling she's having.  And it seems when adults hear it from her mouth, even when I prompt it, they accept it more readily and don't pressure her for interaction.

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lazurii View Post

Sometimes it takes a while for my daughter to warm up to situations, and while she does that she can be seemingly rude to people.  I've always prompted her to say, "I'm feeling shy today."  I like the modifiers of "feeling" and "today", rather than saying, "I'm shy."  That way it's not a label of who she is, but a transient feeling she's having.  And it seems when adults hear it from her mouth, even when I prompt it, they accept it more readily and don't pressure her for interaction.

 

I definitely love this in combination with the above advice.  Thank you! 

post #7 of 12

I have to wholeheartedly agree on not even mentioning shyness.  My son was like, social butterfly toddler/preschooler with every person he met in public (much like me, and most of my family).  My daughter, quite literally growled at people for some time, and would cross her arms and harumph at people when she was 2 (I can look back on it now and laugh).  I had to learn how to navigate all of that with her.  I never stuck her with the shy label, or grumpy, or whatever other label, not even as a temporary feeling.  Some kids just don't like to talk to strangers, for whatever their reason.  And we should honor that, IMO - under 5 is not really the age for compelling even modest social niceties.  This is where modeling comes in, IMO, and then discussing it after.  

 

So in your situation, I would do (and have done):

 

"Sure, she likes stickers, we'll take one.  Thank you! "  No further explanation to the adult.

 

To the kiddo, as we left the store (in a bright, explaining voice, not a shaming one):  "When someone gives you something like this out in a store, it's usually polite to say thank you.  It was nice of her to do that, you really do like stickers!" 

 

And that's it. 

 

My former scowly, growly preschooler, now 6-1/2,  will talk a cashier's (or anyone else in range) ear off, and says please and thank you most of the time (in public, at least winky.gif )...and I think (or hope) that in part it's because I let her mature at her rate (MUCH slower than my preference!  lol ), while modeling what is polite, without worrying too much about what other people might think about her or me (this was the hardest part!).  As she got closer to 4/5, I gave her options sometimes if she was feeling introverted, like, just smile and nod, or wave, etc. But I still would do the talking for her whenever she needed it (and still do if and when she's in a particular hard place, at 6-1/2), without being apologetic to the person wherever we were. 

 

Believe me, it's a process to get to that place, and while I tried to stay calm and cool on the outside, internally I was a mess about it and spent many an IM chat with friends saying, "I cannot believe how surly my daughter is!  It's the opposite of everything I am and stand for!"  and they just kept reminding me to model, and not take it personally, and not worry about other people, and remember how little she really was, and that she would grow out of it with firm, gentle guidance but not forcing....and they were right!  

 

FWIW, I was raised that manners, and especially social niceties, are of the utmost importance....so this was a big issue for me to get my mind around, and to trust that it would all come together for her with maturity and modeling was a big leap for me.  Thank goodness it has worked!!  lol. 

post #8 of 12

I can't stress enough avoiding the shy label! Take is from a former 'shy' kid, the more people labled me the worse I got.  I was 12 attending an orientation day for high school, and I was put with a group of people I didn't know and I literally broke down sobbing and was embarassed at my lack of control, told everyone I had allergies just to make it through the day.  It wasn't until some time late in high school maybe even in college that I made a concious decision to change things.  Now mind you I'm not cured, I can easily break down if an authority figure yells at me (thank god I have a wonderful boss!), but I look back at my childhood and all those labels and it just wasn't fun shake.gif.

 

Thanfully our DD takes after DH, and it helps that my FIL watches her for us and he will talk to anyone so when they go out she gets to be very social and meet lots of people.  If she's just gotten up from a nap and someone tries to talk to her and she's not reeptive, I do like grethel and include DD in the conversation, model what I'd like her to do and leave it at that.  She's only 14 mos old so she's got time to figure things out.  She does know

how to say thank you' but it's when she hands me things ;-)  In your case, 3 is still super young from a social standpoint, so take it easy and he'll catch on!

post #9 of 12

No sensible adult would view a toddler "smiling shyly and hugging" his mom to be rude behaviour! Kids are kids, and it's pretty cute! I think you are feeling overly sensitive about him being rude when he is being sweet. It's not like he took the stickers, spit on her shoes, kicked her, then ran away. He's just not sure of himself socially yet.

 

I agree with the PPs who say to just hug him back, and take the stickers, hand them to him, and then smile warmly at the lady and say, "Thank you so much! We love stickers, don't we, honey? You're just so very kind! etc etc."

 

Say the right words. When he's ready to say them, he'll have good examples for what to say.

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the suggestions; I appreciate them all.
 

post #11 of 12

I was extremely shy as a child, an old-enough child that it was perceived as rude.  I would whisper in school, and barely communicate with the extended relatives that I saw twice a year.  Adults don't like that.  I got in trouble in grade school for being too quiet.  Even in college, I realized that teachers perceived me differently.  I was fairly comfortable with myself by then, but I was happy just to listen.  Turns out they were surprised when I turned in good work. 

 

Anyway, as an adult I realized that I would rather people think I was rude then shy.  I got such a message that "shy is bad".  Of course, I'm sure they meant, "please be polite".  But that's not what I heard.

 

So I really avoid that label. 

 

My 3yo DD2 is also quite shy and a bit surly about it.  When she's with adults, I just model.  It really bothers me when the adult says, "Oh, she's shy!"  I haven't found a response that I'm comfortable with to that.  I've never felt like making an issue of her shyness makes her more comfortable; I feel like it makes that other person more comfortable, and an adult should be able to be understanding about a toddler.  I try not to push, because she will keep it up more if I do.  If an adult goes slow and lets her hide behind me for a bit, she'll usually warm up to them.  But she needs to do it on her time.  Sometimes she'll tell me that she felt shy, and I tell her it's ok to be shy.  When she does talk to people, I remind her how happy they were to talk to her. 

 

She's also sometimes this way with children, and can get especially scowly with them.  My approach is to try to teach her how to say things like "no thank you" or "I'd like to play alone".  I'll say them for her if she needs me too.  I remind her that the kids are just trying to be kind.

post #12 of 12
I agree that you should avoid the shy label, and give a new one to undo the damage. Just model good behavior "We love stickers! Thank you!" and move on. No need to explain.

Yes, I think you're embarrassed because you feel it is a negative reflection on your parenting. Totally false, and yet totally natural. Treat both yourself and your child with kindness.

My son didn't like to talk to adult stangers when he was young. And that's good! Strangers are just that, strangers. You want him to be wary of strangers so that he's less likely to accept candy from a stranger, true?

One way to explain the behavior without the 'shy' label is to say, "He won't take gifts from strangers because not all strangers are nice. I'm sure you understand. Thanks for the stickers. I can give them to him for you." That way, his behavior goes from 'rude' to 'reasonable'. And if it's not reasonable, tough! It should be!
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