Here's PART 1 and PART 2 of Your Questions Answered.
Now, on to your questions! :)
Do you have any ideas for encouraging children to be kind and respectful to others/strangers?
"My daughter is two years old (almost three) and tends to clam up and not want to talk to anyone when they speak to her. She even turns away from them and won't make eye contact. I want her to be respectful to adults and I know it is important for her to be friendly and make eye contact etc. We do not want her to hide behind her "shyness". I would appreciate any advice you may have!"
Great question, Sarah! We also want our children to be comfortable making eye contact and communicating with adults. For some of our children, this has come very easily, as part of their natural personality. For others, we've had to really, really work on it. ;) Some children are naturally more shy. Here's some ideas you might try with your sweet little munchkin:
- Train at home. Here's how I practice with my littles: "Hi!" (prompt her to answer with "Hi!") "What's your name?" (prompt for "Gabbey" or whatever her name is) "How are you?" (prompt for "Good.") "How old are you?" (prompt for her age) "You have such a pretty dress today!" (prompt for "Thank you!") I do this all the time. Probably almost every day. I've been working with Lyssie on these answers for several months, and she just this week learned how to actually pronounce her name! Up until now, when I asked for her name, she answered with "Mama!" :)
- Role-play with comfortable adults. While you're training your little one to be more outgoing, ask some adults she is comfortable talking with to help you role-play with her. Make it fun, like a game. Have the friend (Grandma, Aunt, etc) come up to her and ask her the same questions you've been practicing with her. Keep her in your lap or in your arms. Guide her little arm forward to practice "shaking" hands. If she turns away, turn her head back with a gentle rebuke, "No, you need to say 'hi' to Auntie. It's rude to turn away. Let's try again!" LAVISH her with praise when she does well. Get excited, clap, tell Daddy, try it again and again.
- Give your expectations before-hand. While you're on your way to church, walking to Sunday School, heading into Wal-mart, ect, remind your little one of your expectations. You can't over teach this one. :) Tell her that you expect her to look at people if they talk to her, shake their hand, and answer politely.
- Be a comfortable presence for your child. I do not expect my littlest children (probably under 4 or so) to answer adults without me present. With a really shy child, being very close to Mommy (or in Mommy's arms where adults become at eye-level) will give them an extra boost of confidence. When an adult says "Hello!", you can gently prompt your little one to answer by whispering in her ear. If the adult asks a question you don't feel she can answer (due to understanding/language capability, etc), just answer for her.
- Offer praise and a tangible reward. Keep a package of gum, life-savers, or skittles in your diaper bag or purse. Remind your little one that she will get a "treat" when she remembers to be polite. A little sweet in a toddler's mouth goes a loooong way! :)
- Be consistent. Once you've trained, role-played, given clear expectations, and provided a comfortable presence, expect what you have taught her to do. If one of mine refuses to cooperate after a gentle, playful reminder, I excuse myself from the conversation, take my child aside and give them a firm rebuke. Something along the lines of, "We are not rude when Mommy says to say 'hi'. You will go back to Mrs. So-and-So and say 'hi' right now or you will have a consequence." (For our family, we would make our child sit with their hands folded until they were "ready to obey"; about 2 or 3 minutes is usually all it takes.)
The only one of my seven children who currently has a really hard time with appropiate social behaviour is Johanna, and we are working on it all the time. :) The rest of mine stick their little hands out at every adult at church who approaches them, lol. But I have had some little ones who have wanted to bury their heads and stay shy, so I certainly understand how hard it can be to train them through their shyness. If it's important to you (and it is to us) then train her accordingly. Remember that with child-training, positive training will always go much farther than negative consequences.
One of the ways we help our older children (5 and up) work on their public manners is to allow them to get "refills" at fast-food restaurants. We script them with what to say and then send them up to the counter alone while we watch from a distance. Noah (5) just got his own refill for the first time last weekend and he thought he was so BIG! :) Once they can get a refill, I send them for ice cream or dipping sauces, etc, until they're comfortable enough to even place an order politely. I've seen teenagers who couldn't treat fast-food workers with respect and it always bothers me, so I'm trying to teach my children to use respect when they're in public. Of course, we all fail at times....perfection is not the goal, just constant improvement. :)
----One word of caution here. I realize I have alot of adoptive moms reading my blog. Please understand that I am not advocating for you to push your newly-adopted child to reach out to total strangers. Quite the contrary----we keep our new little ones very close for months while we're working on bonding, attaching, etc. Stranger/adult manners aren't even on the radar for awhile. We've even had to stop one of our toddlers who came to us way too friendly at first. I am talking more about biological (or home long enough to be working on this) children in this post. :)