5 year old DD is way too open with strangers. - Mothering Forums
The Childhood Years > 5 year old DD is way too open with strangers.
tiqa's Avatar tiqa 04:09 PM 10-23-2012

I suppose this is the exact opposite of shyness... My nearly 5 year old DD has absolutely no social boundaries. She's great at home or in a child setting, but she is way too bold. I discuss expectations with her (she's very verbal and intelligent) and she seems to "get it" but whenever we meet someone new, she not only won't stop talking to them but tries to hug and kiss them, and has even started to follow strangers, ignoring my requests (at first gentle, then stronger) to stop. Some people think it's cute that she's "precocious" and likes to talk to them, but it's seriously frustrating. An adult will acknowledge her and from then on she just wants to be the center of attention, talking NONSTOP to them, tries to go sit in their lap, tells them about everything in her life...


The other day I took her to a homebirth circle with a backpack full of toys and stuff to keep her occupied. There were only a few other adults there and no other kids, and at first she tried to follow the staff to the utility closet. I told her to stay with me, and she said no, she was going with them. These are people she met not two minutes before. Then when I finally got firm with her and told her to sit down, and the meeting started, she started sobbing that she didn't get to talk, and that the adults were having conversations other than about her.  This was after everyone let her say hello, introduce herself, and asked her a few questions too to include her.  But going in, she knew it wasn't going to be a meeting FOR her (even though kids were fine).  Usually there are other kids to play with, but even if there wasn't, she is more than able to entertain herself with her books and crayons and such for a few minutes.  It just bothered her that she wasn't the center of attention.  She then gave the leader her favorite stuffed animal to keep and tried to sit in her lap.  She ignored me and said she'd rather sit with this new person and go home with them. They were understanding and said she was cute, but I ended up leaving way early because she was just nutty, loud, and disrupting the meeting.


If it was a once in a while thing it wouldn't bother me, kids are kids, but she's this way with everyone - clerks, the taxi driver, the bus driver, the waitress... she just wants to go on and on about everything with them, give them her stuff, etc.  But the worst is that she will just ignore me and my requests, etc. because I guess having other people say she's OK, and that she's cute, etc. laughing at her antics makes her bolder than normal... I'm normally pretty tolerant and easy going anyway, but sometimes rules are rules and that's that, and she doesn't get to ignore them just because we're among strangers.


It seems so strange to me. She was developing pretty typically up until the last year or so. She had separation anxiety as a baby, had a healthy attachment, etc. She has social outlets with other kids on a regular basis, and also went to daycare at different times where no one had a problem with her behavior whatsoever. She has never been particularly shy after about age 2, and would love talking to other people, but it's only in the last six months or so that her behavior has been so extreme. Is this a phase that will pass? I'm very aware of various AS disorders, as both my son and I are on the spectrum. She, however, seems perfectly typical in every other way... but this is really stumping me. I try to talk to her about strangers, friends, etc. - but everyone that says hello to her she seems to consider her new best friend.


HOW do I get her to cut this out? I don't want her to be UNfriendly, but ignoring what I say, speaking over me, and saying she's now going to go with the janitor to the basement because he said hello to her... that is completely unacceptable. =/

meemee's Avatar meemee 04:59 PM 10-23-2012

is she an only child? this sounds typical of an only child. 


from what you wrote it sounds like - its not something you want to really discourage. you just want boundaries to be set around it. 


first is she getting enough adult time. not just parents but others. 


are you sure you are being a helicopter parent? are you sure you are not putting unreasonable limits on her? 


is she that way no matter what the gender? 


talk, repeat. talk, repeat. one day that might stick. 


with dd i had one rule. she could go as far as she wanted but she could not be out of my sight. 


since she has suddenly started doing this i would keep repeating but not come down too harshly on her. she is still figuring out social norms and she needs guidance as to what is appropriate and what is not. 


remember what she has now is a very sought after adult skill. what she needs to know is you cant disobey mama. 

tiqa's Avatar tiqa 05:47 PM 10-23-2012

No, she has a brother that she's very close to, both in age and in personality (they're 10 months apart) and he's also similar in personality, but not quite as bad as she is, though.  We're also expecting baby #3.  She does get adult time I think.  Not a LOT, but we homeschool so she gets to interact with parents and kids at the same time.  Sometimes it's even something like visiting the nursing home where her friendliness is very welcome.  But we don't have a lot of adult friends to just socialize with.  Even *I* don't have friends right now, since we moved here and haven't really met many people.


And yes, she's the same with both genders.


I don't tend to be helicopter parentish, but at the same time, she's also not very good with boundaries.  We went to a park a while back and she kept running ahead.  At first I was fine with it since it was an open space, but then she kept going further and further off.  DH kept saying that she'll stop... and then even he was like, well, she's not stopping.  DS also ran ahead but he stopped after a while.  She was off to where she was barely visible at that point and we had to send DS to run and get her - and he could barely keep up with her.  She did end up stopping - when she started a conversation with another family who was having a picnic.  She invited herself to basically eat with them.  We caught up soon enough and they were understanding, but that wasn't exactly a stellar parenting moment right there. 


But... in short, no, I don't think I'm too helicopter.  I mean, YMMV, but I think what limits I put on her aren't unreasonable.


ETA:  I think we have a good, healthy relationship overall.  She is very verbal about how she feels and she does come to me for comfort, and she's just a lovely daughter to have.  She needs a lot of attention and that's fine.  I love her at this age, and she's always been pretty easy to live with, even from infancy onwards.  She's also rarely disobedient.  Naughty sometimes, but that's OK.  But I'm just more concerned with her safety.  And you're absolutely right - I don't want to come down harshly on her, because really she's not doing anything *wrong* by trying to be the center of attention... I just am not really sure how to deal with it other than leaving the situation - which obviously is not a realistic situation in most cases.  I can avoid bringing her to homebirth circle next time (although as I said kids are welcome) but for example, if we're sitting next to someone on the bus who smiles at her and says her braids are cute... it's harder to convince her that no, she can't just invite herself to sit in their lap and go home with them - we just met them!  Or if the neighbor is mowing the lawn, she can't go over there and follow her around - that's dangerous, or she can't go hop in the mailman's car because he waved hello to her.  I explain it to her but she just breaks down in tears that I won't let her be with her "friend" (who is everyone at this point).

meemee's Avatar meemee 05:56 PM 10-23-2012

aaah your inviting herself to eat reminded me.


its a phase mama. it was an embarrasing moment for me too. 


instead of telling her dont run so far, could you share your perspective and see if she can understand this better. like when you run away and i cant see you i get scared. what if you fell down and got hurt or needed me, it would take me some time to get there. sometimes they need to see the thing differently and if you tell them why maybe it will have an impact on them.


but keep on setting limits. she will get it soon. i think right now she has just hit her uber social development and so is needing more interaction. and yes girls are different than boys, so your son may not be the same as her. 


your dd is super curious. if you have some friends who'd like to borrow your dd - now is a good time to do it. my friends would borrow dd all the time. for things like going to the grocery store. running errands adn they both had a good time. since dd has been 4 my friends have been taking her on a regular basis. sometimes its to go get shoes, sometimes to watch a movie and eat out.... dd just lapped it all up.

tiqa's Avatar tiqa 05:57 PM 10-23-2012

I was an only child too and I was the extreme opposite... I was shier than anything.  I would dread having to talk to strangers.  So this is TOTALLY new territory for me.


DH was also an only child and I don't think he was either particularly shy nor too friendly.  I'll have to ask him.  That's an interesting point.

tiqa's Avatar tiqa 05:59 PM 10-23-2012
Originally Posted by meemee View Post

aaah your inviting herself to eat reminded me.


its a phase mama. it was an embarrasing moment for me too. 


instead of telling her dont run so far, could you share your perspective and see if she can understand this better. like when you run away and i cant see you i get scared. what if you fell down and got hurt or needed me, it would take me some time to get there. sometimes they need to see the thing differently and if you tell them why maybe it will have an impact on them.


but keep on setting limits. she will get it soon. i think right now she has just hit her uber social development and so is needing more interaction. and yes girls are different than boys, so your son may not be the same as her. 


your dd is super curious. if you have some friends who'd like to borrow your dd - now is a good time to do it. my friends would borrow dd all the time. for things like going to the grocery store. running errands adn they both had a good time. since dd has been 4 my friends have been taking her on a regular basis. sometimes its to go get shoes, sometimes to watch a movie and eat out.... dd just lapped it all up.



I hope it IS just a phase, but I also hope she doesn't lose the friendliness altogether.  :)  Your reply gives me hope.


I wish I did have friends that could borrow her.  She would LOVE that.  Or if we at least had grandma's or something.  I'm sure she would be a totally fun granddaughter in that case.  :)


And I think I will try to talk to her a bit more about WHY I'm concerned... I do think I've said to her that it's dangerous but maybe I wasn't saying in a way that she could understand WHY it was dangerous...  I'll keep trying.  Good point.


Thanks. :)

pbjmama's Avatar pbjmama 07:48 PM 10-23-2012

I must admit my bias to start. I felt very negative about your first post. Which is why I didn't respond at first. But now I see more that you are really seeking understanding your daughter.


I'm not sure she has no social boundaries. She is 5, she is still learning everything, including social boundaries. I would question why you say she is 'too bold'. Because of her actions with strangers or because of her disobedience when you tell her to stop? Perhaps when she does things opposite of what you have discussed she just doesn't have the ability to practice self control - a very normal thing for a 5 year old. Perhaps she can say the right things but can't always act on what she is saying. I think your expectations are really really high for a 5 year old. I wondered over and over again while I was reading if she is gifted. Or incredibly extroverted which sounds very opposite of you. And I understand that parenting someone with an very opposite personality can be quite challenging as I am doing the same. You can't get her to stop being an extrovert and I don't think you should try to - it is not something that can be changed.



"but sometimes rules are rules and that's that, and she doesn't get to ignore them just because we're among strangers" I think this is excellent and it may take many, many more times with her. But it is good. Even when other people say 'yes' or 'okay' mom and dad are the authority.


If you are concerned about her safety because she may wander off with a stranger or similar now would be a good time to read "Protecting the Gift" but be aware it may have triggers.


Have you seen the mistaken goal chart by Jane Nelsen? I think it would be worth a look. Here is a summary of a child seeking undue attention - child's goal is to keep others busy or get special attention, parent feels annoyed, irritated, worried, parents reacts by reminding and coaxing, child's response is stopping temporarily but resuming later or another disturbing behavior. Belief behind child's behavior- I count/belong only when I'm being noticed or getting special attention. I'm only important when you are busy with me. Now the recommended responses - redirect by involving the child in a useful task to again useful attention, plan special times, set up routines, engage the child in problem solving, set up non verbal signals. Say what you will do - example, I love you and care about you and will spend time with you after 30 mins. I would add my own - give the child work. Sort these papers, help with measuring, fetch this for me, etc to help the child feel they are making a valuable contribution.

tiqa's Avatar tiqa 08:03 PM 10-23-2012

May I ask why you felt so negative about my first post that you didn't want to respond? I'm not trying to be belligerent... just trying to get an understanding of what that was about. ;)


A lot of that are things that we do at home, and I guess I do that in public as well.  For example, if we're in the checkout line, I'll give her a little task to do something for me so she's distracted a little.  She does like helping etc.  But I do think there's a very, very valid point in seeing that she might only feel important when other people are saying how cute she is... maybe even defending her actions.  Like if I try to distract her, they'll keep talking to her and saying "no, it's alright, she's fine" and such.  Often people genuinely DO think that behavior is adorable (she is quite funny, says clever things, etc.) and I can see how she would feel validated by that.  It's one thing to get positive attention from your parents but I think she knows she has OUR approval and attention... and that she's seeking it in wider society.  That does make sense.  She will often compliment people on their clothes or hair or something and I can see she's trying really hard to just get the positive social interaction thing down.  I know it's a learning process.  I'm proud that she's sorting it out in her own way.


BUT.  In answer to your question, I would say that she's "too bold" because, well, like the examples of trying to hop in to the postman's truck.  I would say it was perfectly normal for a child to say hello, wave, maybe say a thing or two, etc.  (We don't know the postman personally, and they're often different ones on different days... so it's not even that we've seen this one person for years now.)  But to actually try to climb into this person's mail truck, uninvited of course, and when I tell her to come back, telling me that no, she won't come back, because she's going with him now... well to me, that's TOO bold.  To the point of "what's going on here?" worrisome.


She gets tons, and I mean tons and tons and tons of positive attention from us.  Both her father and I are at home with the kids all day.  From morning until evening we're together.  We're doing chores together, errands, crafts, field trips.  If she wants to go play alone, she can, and she's alright with that sometimes, and often she and her brother will go off and play together, coming back to show us what they've made etc.  We do an hour of reading a day, snuggle together, garden together, etc.  I have no issues with giving her attention - or private time, for that matter, if she wants it.  She has her own room and is welcome to go there sometimes, or to go take a bath by herself and play for a while, etc if she needs a little down time.  And when we're at home she seems to understand fine that sometimes mama needs a few minutes to herself too, to have a conversation with Daddy, or to do something in the kitchen that little hands might get burned by, etc.  She will be happy to entertain herself for a few minutes that way.  When we were on a plane recently she entertained herself just fine for three hours by coloring, etc.  (She had an aisle seat and no one to talk to.)  It's just that when we're in public and interacting with other adults (she doesn't do this with other kids so much) that she gets so.... I dunno.  Not "needy" but something like it.  I was more than willing to give her attention during the circle; I took her with me so we can spend time together, not so I could ignore her.  I offered her my lap, tried to engage her in drawing with me etc - so it's not like I was just ignoring her.  But she kept trying to run away from me.  When we shop together we're always interacting, talking about what we're buying, talking about brands vs this and that and she laps it up.  So she does get attention... appropriate attention, not just for acting out.


Even at something like storytime for kids ages 3-5.  There will be 20 kids in the room and she will be the only one who is trying to hold a conversation with the librarian DURING the storytime.  It's meant to be interactive so it's not too bad, but she's literally trying to crawl over the other kids to have a one-on-one convo with the librarian.  If the book is about a cat, she will start talking about our pet, then her stuffies, then the other stuff in her room, her other dolls, tea parties... just on and on.  None of the other kids her age do that.

tiqa's Avatar tiqa 08:23 PM 10-23-2012

re: obedience...


I hope no one interpreted my saying "bold" as me saying "disobedient."  I for one DO believe that children should follow parents' rules - although our rules are pretty few and far in between and focus on safety, mostly, and having good manners.  But we're not generally by-the-rules people... We unschool, we go with the flow a lot.  The kids are free to express their opinions on a lot of things, but some things are set in stone.  Like, no running away in parking lots.  Wearing seat belts.  No setting the house on fire with a candle.  No torturing the cat.  That sort of thing.  But that's about it.  My getting agitated at her the other day had to do with a) her trying to do somethng unsafe when I specifically told her NOT to (going into the basement/utility closet with a stranger - even if he was perfectly safe (which I believe he was, I'm not paranoid) she could have fallen on something, bumped a ladder, whatever... it's not set up for customers back there) and b) literally screaming for attention when she wasn't the center of it because the adults were talking about birth choices.  They DID give her attention, no one ignored her, but the meeting wasn't about her, and that's what upset her.  Obviously I won't put her in that situation again until she can developmentally handle it better.... and I wasn't MAD at her in the least.  We had a very nice drive home and it's not like I took her out of the meeting to scold her.  But IMO it's still not a good precedent to set that she has to be the center of attention at every moment.  Sometimes life doesn't work like that.


I trust that this IS a phase.  I HOPE it's a phase.  It's just because, to me, it's at the borderline of "is it normal??" that I even posted about it.

meemee's Avatar meemee 01:56 AM 10-24-2012

every thing i read says your dd is in super curious stage. for example the mail man's truck. i dont blame her. i want to get in there and check it out too. 


you guys need to get out more and mix more (or have friends over). i think your dd has just discovered there's a world around her and it is FASCINATING!!! she just wants to grab at it. i dont blame her either. 5 is a HUGE age for this - for transitions. 


once she gets over this phase mama you will suddenly be surprised how mature your dd has gotten. 


give her opportunities to go talk to adults. dd at 5 went to an exhibition and spent an hour and half talking to the nurse on duty. 


for many (not the disrupted ones) just having a child interact with them brings great joy and teaches them a lot. 


i know it brightens up my day. even when dd is away, her friends choose to spend a little time with me chatting. their mom feels a little bad for how long  and how often they come over here, but i love it. really. i love people. 

tiqa's Avatar tiqa 06:08 AM 10-24-2012

Well, we can't really get out more.  DH is disabled and is housebound most of the time and I am his caregiver, so while we get out as much as we can, it's not like we can get out MORE.  If he's having a good day we can all go to the park together etc.  And we don't have friends we can invite over.  Believe me, I've tried to make friends, invite them over, etc., but it's just not happening right now.  And with winter coming up we're going into hibernation mode anyway because of the baby and the climate up here.


We have been out and about in the real world quite a bit in their lives.  We've lived in Colorado, then Seattle, then FL, had season passes to Disney at one point so there was a lot of interaction there.  They've seen a lot of the country - city, rural areas, etc.  They can point out on a map what we did where, so their memories are really good.  As I said, right now we're part of homeschool stuff so we go on little field trips a lot where they do get to interact with others.  Like we go visit the farmer we get our meat from, and he will show them around the place... or the apple farm, or the pumpkin patch, whatever.  But getting out MORE than we do is just not an option.

So yeah.  I'll chalk it up to "it's a phase"....

One_Girl's Avatar One_Girl 07:43 AM 10-24-2012
That sounds a lot like my outgoing dd and all I could do is curb it by putting gentle boundaries up about staying with me and by giving her a lot of social outlets. School, even full day, wasn't enough for her social needs. She is never happier than when talking to others, adult or child and that was hard for me as someone who is the opposite.
Mylie's Avatar Mylie 08:51 AM 10-25-2012

My 5 year old little girl is like this too except she doesnt' try to hop in anyone's vehicle..But she is way open to strangers,talks all the time and  will even hug a stranger..We have been working on this..I am extremly introverted and she is extremly extroverted..I try to find us a happy medium..Isn't always easy either..But when it comes down to it I insist on manners and obedience..Yes we have left a lot of situations because she wasn't listening but she is getting better at it because she doesn't want to leave..And I will give her a warning and a signal..She knows if I look right into her eyes and point at her she had better back into her own space.I do not want her walking up to a complete stranger and hugging them..Too much bad in this world..I don't want her to fear it but I am not into inviting it in either..I let her be as friendly as she wants as long as she in doing it in her own space and she isn't talking to a stranger..ex..If we are walking the walking trail and I see someone coming I will quietly remind her that this person coming is a stranger and we don't talk to strangers unless mom stops and talks to them first..that is a cue for her that she may talk to them..She is getting better...


I understand how you feel PP..I too want my little girl to be friendly but with bounderies..I understand completly..

LynnS6's Avatar LynnS6 04:18 PM 10-27-2012

My sister called age 5 the "verbal diarrhea stage" and my mom used to say that the purpose of kindergarten was to teach kids that they are not the center of the universe. In other words, both the talking on and on about herself/her interests and thinking that the world must revolve around them are pretty normal at this age. I wouldn't be worried about those traits until she hits about 8 and still doesn't seem to get that.


I would be concerned, however, about wanting to hug everyone, sit in people's laps and go off with them. Not respecting other people's spaces is considered very rude in our culture and she's going to start having social difficulties with other kids (and adults) very soon because of it. The going off with anyone and every one is just plain dangerous, as we all know.


To me it sounds like you're raising a major extrovert and that she needs a lot more social interaction than she's getting. I could be wrong about that, but it seems to me that she gets energy from interacting with people, and while she can entertain herself, it's difficult if she hasn't gotten her fill of interacting with other people. Can you find ways to increase social interaction for her? It may be more than you, as an introvert, want to do, so something like play dates with other families where you drop her off for an hour or two (or vice versa) and the parents don't stay might meet both of your needs. What about something like piano lessons or Suzuki violin? What about classes daily?


I'd also introduce some new vocabulary for her: Friends vs. Acquaintances. I'm not quite sure how to define the difference, but she needs to know the difference between people you casually meet (the mailman) vs. people your parents would/have invited over or visited their house. Acquaintances are people you meet on the bus, in shops, where they work, etc.


I'd also confess that I'd be pretty strict about the social behavior stuff:

1. You must ask before you hug anyone. If you don't ask, you get a 3 minute time out with me. If you do it again, we leave. She's old enough to learn this consequence. If you're on the bus, then you get to sit next to me, and I will hold your hand to help you remember. I'm worried that some kid is going to whack her because they don't want to be touched.

2. You may not sit on anyone's lap unless you ask the first AND mommy/daddy says it's OK. Period. Again, 3 minute time out and leave. I would NEVER tell her it's OK to do that on the bus or places where she's just acquainted with someone.

3. You may never go with someone unless mommy or daddy comes with you. For a 5 year old, I think that is a perfectly reasonable rule. "It is not OK to ask people for rides or to ask people to go home with them." I'd personally explain it to her in terms of "it's my job to make sure it's a safe place for you" and for my kids I could have added: "You know how we usually have to clean up the house before someone comes? Well, that's why you wait for an invitation." If she asks anyway, I'd look at the person she's talking to and say "I'm sorry, we're working on establishing some boundaries" and I'd tell her "That's not appropriate," and walk away with her.


Even if others think her behavior is "cute," as you noted, this is going to stop being cute soon. She will take her cue from your response more than others. If you're calm, firm and consistent, she'll get it. The logical consequence of violating other people's boundaries is that you're not allowed to be around them. If she's an extrovert, she will not like this. But I'd prefer to teach my child this through the logical consequence of leaving with her than the natural consequence of her being shunned by peers and other adults because she has no boundaries.


Finally, I'd make sure that she got 30 minutes a day of one-on-one time with either you or daddy. If you could do both, that would be ideal. That way you will be filling her cup of attention. I really like the approach in Playful Parenting. It's one of my all time favorite parenting books.

VisionaryMom's Avatar VisionaryMom 07:44 AM 10-31-2012

I would pick what bothered me the most. As an adult, I HATE it when children try to get in my lap, and the parents are really nonchalant about it. It's rude...even if you're 5. You don't touch and sit on people without their express permission to do so, and that's where I would start personally. My DD has some trouble with personal space, though not to the extent you mean here, and we've said to her that it's important that we're respectful of others' preferences for their own space and time. Our dd is a talker, and we've had really explicit discussions on how to know when someone would like to talk to someone else or end a conversation. She loves chatting, so it's been a challenge for her to recognize those subtle cues in other people. I would do the same with befriending everyone because safety aside, it can make it difficult for your daughter to make real friends and form good relationships. We've had a lot of success with my dd talking to her about thinking about other people and their feelings and desires. Five isn't too young to be able to consider other people before we take action.