Tips on negotiating my kids boundaries with people - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 03-16-2012, 06:47 PM - Thread Starter
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My DD is 2.75yrs old.

She is quite reserved. She loves socializing and loves people, but needs some time to warm up.

Just some background, but really besides the point for certain particular issues.


How do you go about negotiating boundaries with other people for your kids while laying the foundations for negotiating their own boundaries as they age?


For one example: My DD occasionally comes to visit me at work. My work mates love her, and all kids and want to be friendly with her. They get right up in her face and talk to her and say hi and try to get her to talk back to them. It doesn't go over well with DD and she just hides or refuses to speak to them. The more she refuses the more they push. If they just gave her a few minutes and ignored her, she would probably come out of her shell and be social with them. They then go on to say stuff like "Oh, you're so shy" which makes me cringe. She has already started to call herself shy and I hate it. I do not want her to take on that identity as I think it will hinder her ability to be social even more.


But there is a recent incident that doesn't sit well with me.

The other day she came to my work and was very social with one of my work mates. She was talking up a storm to this woman. At the end she waved bye, and the woman asked for a hug. To my sirprise, my DD ran over to her and gave her a big hug!


Well, the following day, my wife brought DD to my work again in the middle of the afternoon. The same woman said hi to DD, who said hi back. The woman then asked for a hug and outstretched her arms. My DD acted her usual self and kind of hid. The woman went on and on asking for a hug and went as far as to say stuff like "Oh, if you do not give me a hug I will be really sad. You dont want to hurt my feelings do you?" That sort of stuff. I didn't know what to do or say. Finally my wife said "maybe before we leave" and my DD took that up and said it herself. The woman went on to say "do you promise?" and DD says yes. Well she did give her a hug before leaving.


I want to be prepared next time this happens. I want to say something like tell my DD that she doesn't have to hug anyone if she doesn't want to. And that her not hugging a friend or co-worker will not make them sad. And that she is not responsible for making someone else happy. I want to give her the tools to say these sorts of things herself. But I want to be able to do it and have her be able to do it without seeming rude. Even though I think it is super rude to force a child to hug or guilt a child into something.


I also want her to learn how to get herself some space to warm up to places and people without withdrawling and feeling like she is shy.


Any tips on doing this?


As an aside. The co-worker is not a horrible person. And she genuinely loves children. She just comes from a different generation and culture and mindset that she wouldn't even consider what she did to DD to be disrespectful to DD. And she would be devastated if she felt that/knew that she was being disrespectful to my family or child. So I want to do this with grace and respect to her.


Sorry so long.Thanks for reading.

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#2 of 9 Old 03-16-2012, 08:15 PM
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I would do two things - one is next time you see her hesitate in a situation where she is asked for a hug or some kind of contact, I'd give her a voice by talking out what you see happening.  Something like, " You're not sure what to do about this, are you?  You don't know this person very well and aren't sure it's ok to hug them.   It's OK to hug this person if you'd like, they are a good friend of ours and I'm right here.  It's ok if you don't want to, tho, too, or if you'd rather wait until later"  By talking out what you see the child's emotions are, you give the other adult information that they probably don't have - it is hard to read kids if you don't know them, or aren't around kids much.  It also gives you a chance to subtly let on the way you are teaching her to behave, so the other adult is subtly informed and less likely to trip on a boundary.  


The other thing I'd do is teach her 'the hand".  this worked really well for my dd when she was too shy or overwhelmed to talk and people were coming at her.  if people got too close, or especially if they approached her and looked like they were going to touch her, I'd have her put up the stop sign with her hand.  Everyone gets that, and quickly.  I also taught her to follow it up with a statement of her boundaries, ie.  Don't hug me, I'll hug you; Too loud!  Quieter please; Slow down!  or Woah!  Too close!.  How verbal your kid is will change how you phrase these messages, but we had these as stock, practiced messages.  Once she had them down, she used them a bit but just knowing that she could get people to back off was mostly enough and she warmed up faster. 

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#3 of 9 Old 03-16-2012, 08:29 PM
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I direct my comments to ds in these situations but in such a way it's clear to the adult I really mean them.


When someone asks for a hug (my mil does this a LOT) I say "ds you can hug someone if you want to but if you don't want to that is ok too". Short & simple.


He also is very reserved in a new situation & I've struggled with the "shy" label as well. Lately I've found "you need a little bit of time to get comfortable don't you?" but loud enough that others can clearly hear me.


I have found most people get the point pretty quickly & back off plus it is giving ds the words to voice his concerns if he needed to.

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#4 of 9 Old 03-17-2012, 08:41 AM
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My dd, now 8, had the same experience as a toddler. As much as I like my coworkers, I don't understand how a group of adults can surround a toddler, and, when the toddler doesn't want to "perform" for a crowd, jump right to "Oh, you must be shy". Crazy! Grrr!
In response to people labeling her shy, I included shy in our list of "feelings". As in, sometimes we feel happy, sad, shy, etc. I didn't want her to self identify as shy & wanted her to understand what I believe, which is that everyone can feel shy in certain situations & that it is a valid emotion, like any other.
If dd was clearly uncomfortable with something, like the hug situation you described, I modeled what I wanted dd to say, then moved on. As in, "Oh, looks like she doesn't want a hug right now. How's the weather?" While I wanted her to learn how to handle these situations on her own, I also never worried about modeling a response or "rescuing" her. I will also add that with age, maturity, & some guidance, my dd rarely struggles with these issues anymore. smile.gif
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#5 of 9 Old 03-17-2012, 04:29 PM
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I'd keep the discussion about things she can say/do to times when you are alone together, rather than discuss it with her in front of the co-worker, which might come off wrong. The co-worker is probably just trying to be friendly, although I agree it's inappropriate. I think I'd just say something to the co-worker like, "Let's give her some time to warm up. So how are you doing with XYZ?" I think it's to the point, not at all rude, and quickly shifts the focus off your DD. Eventually she might be able to say something like that on her own, without prompting, but right now I'd just set the boundaries for her when you sense she's uncomfortable. This will show her it's OK to say no, OK to have boundaries, etc. and the assertiveness will show up in time, once she has the confidence that it's OK to be assertive, you know?

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#6 of 9 Old 03-17-2012, 08:46 PM
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Two things to add.


The first is that it's expecting a lot of a 2 year old to be able to say to someone "no, I'm not ready to give you a hug." So modeling for her by saying "Looks like she's not ready for a hug right now, how's that project coming?" as others have suggested is a good way to handle it.


The second is that when people began to comment on my son's behavior when he wouldn't talk to them, I'd say "He takes awhile to warm up" or "He's a bit slow to warm up." Hearing those alternate labels was really empowering for my son. He's 10 and he doesn't think of himself as shy. His latest report card had the comment that he gave "a very good speech for someone who's not always comfortable talking in front of people". For a kid who said almost nothing his first year of preschool, and rarely talked to adults outside the family until he was 7, that's a huge step.

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#7 of 9 Old 03-17-2012, 08:59 PM
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I always just said, "You can wave.  Miss Whoever will understand if you just want to wave" and then to the adult, "you know how it is now, you have to teach them it's ok to say no to people.  I'm so glad you understand, some people are SO silly and get their feelings hurt." 

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#8 of 9 Old 03-20-2012, 07:46 PM
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You've gotten some great suggestions already. I just wanted to say that I agree with including shy as a feeling. When people call my dd shy, I say, "Are you feeling shy right now?"

Mom to: Honey (6/04) and Bunny (9/09)
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#9 of 9 Old 03-23-2012, 12:02 PM
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My DS (also 2.75 yo) is very similar to the OP's DD and it was great to read all the suggestions. Usually I say, "you don't have to give hugs/kisses, you can wave or give a high-five (he loves giving high-fives) or wait until you feel ready." I still feel awkward about what to do when he doesn't respond to all the questions people ask, because I don't really want to speak for him. I sometimes say, "it takes him a while to warm up" but that's about it. I do hate people calling him "shy" because my DS has also started saying "I'm shy" sometimes, but I like the idea of saying "feeling shy" because it's not a permanent thing.

Mom to DS born 6/09 and DS2 born 6/12

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