I'm CAUGHT between two schools of thought regarding my five-year-old daughter's behaviour. She is a very good child in most ways, being very kind to others, especially to her three-year-old brother. However, while she is very assertive at home, she is very shy outside the house, especially on initially meeting people.
She had a case of stage fright last July while partaking in an end-of-holiday kids-club show rehearsal in France. She got very upset and didn't want to hear tell of the kids club or the show again despite having previously loved it.
I understood her anxiety as she was only four and had just joined the kids-club a few days previously.
Despite our encouraging, but not pressuring, her to say 'hello' to people when they say 'hello', she will not. Sometimes she won't even look at them, depending on her mood.
I'm trying not to control her social interactions but I do feel she needs to show basic manners to people at her age now.
This is the school of thought that fights against the thought that I need to just accept my daughter's shyness and that with continual gentle encouragement and persuasion she may outgrow her shyness.
Please advise me David, as I really value your opinion.
Being quiet and reserved may be her natural temperament
I AM a big fan of children acting politely. I think it is great that we do have social expectations of them, from an early age, so that by the time they are bigger they are more likely to act pro-socially rather than anti-socially.
However, we also need to remember that small children are indeed small! Where a child comes in a family can really alter our expectations of them. For example, your five-year-old is your eldest and so it is more likely that you will have higher expectations of her than a family whose five-year-old is the youngest of three or four children.
I think it is perfectly natural for a five-year-old to be shy, even with people that they know. Averting her eyes and staying quiet is not impolite. A rude response, for example, may be to say something dismissive, or to stick her tongue out at the person who is trying to talk to her.
My guess is that your daughter does warm up in company, such that she starts to interact with other children and adults when she feels more confident that she understands the whole social situation.
Being quiet and reserved may be her natural temperament and she may just be a little slow to warm up. However, my guess is that she does act very politely once she gets to know people or after a while in their company.
For example, she had, in only a few days, settled well enough into the kids club that she was even willing to try to take part in the show (at age four!). There are plenty of 40-year-olds that would never join up to a group of strangers, never mind go on stage with them.
It sounds to me like it would be a shame if your social expectations of her are so high that you struggle to let her be her natural self.
I think that other adults, and even children, can accept that she may be shy at first. I doubt any of them feel slighted by her shyness and her unwillingness to say 'hello'. If others can be patient with her, then so can you. It is certainly not something to warrant punishment or harsh words from you.
Do continue to let her know that it is a nice thing to look back at people and to say 'hello' or respond to questions. But also reassure her that it is okay to do so only when she feels comfortable.
Go with that part of your heart that tells you that it is okay to be patient with her and to just accept her fully as she is.