Hi there. I've read various posts in different places about people not wanting to teach their children manners, along the lines of not wanting to force them to do something, but rather to have them take the initiative themselves. (For example, why force a child to say "I'm sorry" if they don't really mean it). I'm not sure if this is exactly the gist of it - please feel free to elaborate if you want!
Anyway, I do think that manners are important, at least in saying "please" and "thank you" and it's never really been that much of an issue. But I'm not sure how to address something with my ODD, who is 3 (almost 4). Whenever we are out and about, people always smile at her, say hello, complement her on something she's wearing, etc... Now, I would never force her to hug someone, or have a whole conversation, etc., but I do think it's appropriate for her to respond with a "hello" or a smile or a "thank you." Especially because it's often elderly people who are talking to her, and you get the sense that they don't have much interaction and they truly delight in seeing a child. I've tried to talk to her about it, and say that if she's with me, it's okay to say hello back, or to respond by saying "I don't feel like talking right now" if that's the case. Often, she frowns at people or says "NO!" and runs away. This isn't an occasional occurrence, it happens all the time. She's a fairly shy kid, and I think this is her defense mechanism. Usually I just smile apologetically at people. I mean, she is 3. But still....does anyone else have a kid like that? What strategies do you use? Anyone else have insights or advice on how to handle this situation?
Oh, yes, I have a child like that. I can relate, especially about the elderly thing. It's hard when you know your child could make some lady's day, ha?
I would say that 3-4 is a good age to start helping your child with this, especially if it's important to you and your family. I would look at it as a very slow process though so you don't get disappointed and/or expect too much of your child.
Get deep into what you want and why. Do you want you child to interact with people because you know that will make them happy? Because friendly interactions with strangers is an important value in your family? Because being polite and friendly when out in public is something you think is important in our culture?
Figure that out and then try to accomplish that. Model that behavior for your child. Do that for about 6 months. Then I would start talking to her and asking her if she is able to participate. If she is maybe ask her to suggest ways that she can participate. Think outside the box.
I don't know if this perspective is something you're interested in. Having been there and being of the mind that being friendly is important...at the same time as honoring your child's comfort level, I just say it's a process.
My daughter is exactly the same. People say, "she's so cute," and she says, "NO! I'm NOT cute!" and runs away. It's terrible.
A few weeks ago my mother (who babysits regularly and how DD ADORES) talked to DD about it. She brought it up at a time when DD was happy and calm and no incident had happened, and she talked about how the proper, "princessy" thing to do (I tried to avoid the princess thing, but wow, it must be instinctive for three year olds! LOL!) is to curtsy and say, "thank you!" They practiced it together and my mom pretended to be a stranger admiring DD, and DD curtsied and said, "thank you!"
And ever since then, DD has done that every time someone has said something like that. It blew my mind the first time it happened. There I was bracing for an angry yell of I'M NOT CUTE, and instead DD curtsied (curtsied?!?!) and said in the sweetest little voice, "thank you!"
I'm pretty sure this is because my mom is just plain magic, because I had had this conversation with DD before and it hadn't helped at all. I hadn't made such a game of roleplaying it, however. So maybe that would help you too! Or maybe you have a magic grandmother who can help? ;)
Wow! I just love this -- can you send Grandma over here?!
OP, my 3.5 yo is also very shy around strangers (a complete personality shift when she turned 3, before she was very outgoing) and I usually answer for her. At this age, I really don't expect her to change her behavior as it's clear that strangers talking to her make her very nervous. My 6yo and I are able to talk about being polite and friendly to strangers (especially nice old ladies) and accepting compliments gracefully. She's still working on it, but at this point I feel like she's developmentally ready to respond politely. The 3 yo gets a pass.
Mama to 4 girls 5/05, 12/07, 9/09, 3/11
Thanks for the advice, ladies. @Identitycrisismama - yes, it's good to keep in mind that this will be a process - probably a long one!
@lisavark - that is GENIUS!! I, too, have avoided the princesses, but DD loves them, and I've used them to my advantage in the past - I even have a blog post about it! (See Got Sleep? if you're interested.) I think that is a great way to talk to her about manners! I do have a magical grandma, too, maybe I'll see if she can help me out! Thanks for the tip!
@donutmolly - yes, it's good to keep things in perspective age-wise. Thanks!