Mummy Corner: Socialising your toddler
Unlike buying a new car or an appliance, motherhood does not come with a manual. It is a journey travelled by trial and error and words of the wise - those who have been there before. So let's take the journey together in the Flair Magazine's new feature - Mommy Corner. Each week, mothers share the 'tricks' of the trade - what works for them and what doesn't. Let us know what works for you.
Before I had my daughter, I always noticed children who were terribly shy or awkward when interacting with people they didn't know. As a child, this was a no-no with my mother, and so when I had my daughter, I decided that I wanted her to be sociable and polite from as early as possible.
From my perspective, helping children to overcome shyness and social anxiety early can be one of the most valuable lessons that parents can teach a child. A self-assured child who can communicate effectively, regardless of their age, offers a great sense of peace of mind to any parent. I can tell you from experience.
Here are some of the strategies that I use:
Lead by example: I allow her to see me interacting and be cordial with others as I go about doing errands. This encourages her to do the same.
Declare expectations: I allow her to accompany me to different types of social gatherings when possible, e.g. to a concert, church or even sporting events, and tell her how I want her to behave. Somehow, at 18 months old, she is able to interpret my requests and tries to cooperate. She is also learning 'the look of disapproval' which my mom always used.
Encourage interaction: There is an old adage that says 'Children should be seen and not heard'. But our changing world demands that our children are able to communicate their feelings and/or requests in a clear manner. I always encourage my daughter to wave or say things like 'Good Morning' to a 'safe' stranger - like the cashier at the supermarket, or to a police man. On the flip side, I also do not force her to hug, kiss, smile with or touch anyone she isn't naturally drawn to, which I hope will teach her that she is in control of her body.
Teach boundaries: As she gets older, I will teach her to moderate her interactions to fit different situations. I also plan to explain that some strangers can be dangerous and teach her what to do if she feels uncomfortable with certain individuals.