I have such a friendly son and I love it! I love that he rarely plays shy, I love that he gives my friends and other kids big hugs, he even hugs the iPad when saying goodbye to his grandparents. But he doesn’t have a lot of boundaries. This week alone he ran up to a girl in McDonalds and tried to hug her because he liked her jacket. He went over to another girl in nursery wearing a buttoned cardigan, said “buttons” and than proceeded to unbutton her shirt. But he also played nicely and appropriately with a little girl at the library. I love that my son didn’t inherit my shy gene but I also worry how inappropriate it is to start undressing strangers.
I think it’s important to teach your children to be friendly and sociable so I always encourage my son to wave and say hello to people. A few weeks ago we were walking downtown and a homeless man had a stuffed animal and was getting him to wave at my little guy and I made sure we both waved back because I want him to be friendly and respectful to everyone. But how do you teach a toddler boundaries?
I was talking about this with some family friends and we agreed how important it is to encourage children to be friendly and outgoing but just as important to teach them that you only talk to strangers when you’re with an adult that you know. But is this really a concept that my child who isn’t even two can actually understand? There’s got to be something I can do to help him learn this valuable lesson?!
So while I beamed with pride at my son smiling on Santa’s lap while most of the other children at the mall screamed this past Christmas, I couldn’t help but worry how easy Santa had won him over. But I told myself, I’m here, he can see me, he knows this is safe. So now I casually mention, mommy and daddy are here, go say hello, just so he starts associating our presence with speaking to strangers. Now I just need to show him that hugging a man you barely know and trying to give him an open mouth kiss is NOT how we greet people…without discouraging his friendly and loving personality. I always encourage him to wave and say hi instead, but he just can’t resist, my kid is a hugger.
If you can’t fight it embrace it! I’m telling him to ask first, sometimes he starts by touching their arm. I still encourage waving and saying hello when meeting someone. When we are with people we know I tell him to say goodbye to his ‘friends’ or give his ‘friend’ a hug, I try to make it specific. It’s still a work in progress but it’s hard. I love how outgoing he is, hopefully over time and with practice, he will learn how to be more appropriate. A hugger with boundaries and social skills!