Ask Mrs Manners: Is Shyness Impolite?

manners and etiquette

Photo by lovesamelia

The toddler years are the perfect age to start teaching your toddlers manners. And MrsManners aka: Angela Pitrie, owner of the CM group Manners for the Modern, is here to help. 

Dear MrsManners,

Is shyness bad manners?

An older woman told me my child was not well behaved because she gets shy around new people. I don't see any problems with it -- I actually like that she won't go to any person who speaks to her. --nattabugsmommy


MrsManners says:

No! Shyness does NOT mean your daughter has bad manners. I can hardly believe someone had the audacity to say this to you! However, teaching your child more in depth manners may in fact help her feel less shy around others.

Try not to think about whether she will go to some random person, but rather, how she feels in those situations. The question to ask is if she is uncomfortable around other people. If she is, then you should try and help her, at some point in her life it could become a hindrance to her. 

There is something that I teach called situational confidence and it is quite important, especially for some children.  After all, if she is confident in any situation, then she'll know not to talk to a stranger, but she will not be afraid either. Instead, she will know how to handle anything that comes her way.

Here's the catch, all of this sounds really great, but how old is she? These are not skills that a toddler will normally possess, nor are they prepared to learn quite yet. It is completely normal for a toddler to just go through a general fear of strangers, period. This may be exactly what your dear daughter is experiencing. 

As parents, all we can do is lay the foundation for good manners and situational confidence. The best way to do that is by showing her through your actions.  Are you comfortable around new people?  Do you extend your hand when greeting someone new? Do you make eye contact when speaking? Do you smile? For some parents, this can be more difficult than it sounds. There may be those of you out there who are not comfortable in social settings because perhaps you weren't given the opportunity to learn how to be. Take THIS opportunity to learn, it will not just help you, but your toddler too.

Here is something that I do with my little ones in class. I have my Manners Monkey, which is a stuffed animal with very distinctive "hands" and very floppy arms. It is scary for a child to even think about approaching an adult and shaking hands or making eye contact. So start with a stuffed animal first. 

  • Teach them how to shake hands, I like to do a count of three up and downs, have them look the stuffed animal in the eyes and smile while they are doing this. It feels like more of a game to them, but it gets them acclimated to the concepts. 
  • If your child is really into it, then go ahead and add the introduction part in.  Hello, my name is Alex, (shake, shake, shake) it's nice to meet you. However, your child may not be ready to use this skill with a new person for quite some time.  
  • Your next step would be to practice with your child, then friends that she may be comfortable with. 
  • Finally she will be ready to meet people in public. This is when you explain that she is NEVER to approach another person to make an introduction but rather, she should only speak to a stranger if you or her father have talked to them first and indicate it is okay. I have worked with three year olds who could do all of this, but still weren't quite ready to do it with someone new. By age four, no problem!

I hope that you know you have done nothing wrong as a mother, your child is young and the woman who spoke to you was just flat out of line!

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