I'm Kind od Irked...

and maybe I shouldn’t be?

I was at the doctor’s office this morning and my very friendly four year old daughter asked me if she could play with another little girl in the waiting room. I told her why not go ahead and ask the little girl if she wanted to. When [name_f]Jade[/name_f] asked, the girl just stared at her like she was from mars for even inquiring! [name_m]Even[/name_m] during trips to the park, other children stare despondently at my little girl who only wants to play. They don’t even answer her question. “[name_f]Do[/name_f] you want to play?” It’s yes, or no. Right?

As a child I remember playing with kids I didn’t know at the playground. It’s like they were my new best friends for two hours or so.

What do you think? Have any of you experienced something similar? Are children today less social, or is my girl unusually chipper?

I’m not really mad, or upset, and I’m certainly not trying to put anyone down. I’m simply curious.

My three-year-old son is pretty outgoing most of the time but he can get shy sometimes mostly if he’s tired or overwhelmed like somewhere very busy. Typically he doesn’t go up and ask another child to play they just suddenly start playing together. Like they start doing some parallel play that slowly transforms into interacting with one another.

I probably would have reacted like the girl at the Dr’s office. I’m shy by nature, plus I had an extremely overbearing (sometimes violent/abusive) parent who tended to go off for any reason or none at all. I was constantly in terror of setting her off or doing anything that might result in punishment when I got home. Talking or playing w/another child without her approval was on the list of things not to do. I hope the little girl was just shy.

My 4 year old is always making new friends on playgrounds. She always calls them her “new friends” even though half the time she doesn’t know their name.

I have definitely seen the kids that are pretty unresponsive too. In my experience, if you look at the parents (if they are even around) you can tell why the kid is anti social. They don’t tend to have the encouraging parents who say things like “say hi, honey” or “introduce yourself”. [name_m]How[/name_m] does the kid learn social graces without a solid example?

Your daughter sounds lovely and I hope she doesn’t get discouraged by the lack of responses from other kids.

This is a bit harsh. I was a naturally shy child. My mum tried all sorts to encourage me to play with other kids but I just ended up clinging onto her. Nothing she did or didn’t do could change the fact that I was shy, that was just the way I was made. Generally, I still prefer sitting by myself than having to talk to other people.

Some kids are just shy. I’m sure it’s not anything personal against your daughter. My daughter is only 14 months old, so it’s not exactly the same thing, but she acts weird/unresponsive/clingy around strangers…she doesn’t usually have a problem with other kids, though, just the scary big people haha! She tends to be more like your daughter around other babies/children, she walks right up to them and smiles and calls them a baby (she doesn’t have that many other words yet). A lot of times, she gets a similar response to what your daughter did. Blank staring or avoidance. Yesterday at the play center, some of the kids were even mean to her! [name_f]One[/name_f] boy hit her in the face with a plastic cupcake when she approached him, which sounds funny as I’m typing it, but it hurt my heart at the time. [name_f]Maura[/name_f] wasn’t phased by it, though, fortunately. They were bigger toddlers, 2-year-olds, so it’s probably just something to do with their age/development, but it still kind of upset me, especially the way their caregivers handled it (which could be part of the problem, too, I suppose). [name_f]One[/name_f] little girl grabbed [name_f]Maura[/name_f] by the collar of her shirt to pull her away from a toy she didn’t want her to touch. The girl’s grandma and I were both right there and stopped it immediately, but then the grandma took the girl aside and offered her a snack instead of disciplining her! Why on earth would you reward a child for bullying a baby?

(Sorry, went off on a bit of a tangent there. I guess what I was trying to say is it’s not your kid. She sounds lovely. Some kids are shy or haven’t developed to that level of social maturity yet. I think you should just keep encouraging her to be her friendly, outgoing self. Someday some kid is going to respond positively and she’ll make a BFF.)

Thanks for the responses so far, berries.

rkrd, I’m sorry for your tough childhood. I too hope your personal experience isn’t the norm.

vitamom3, “My 4 year old is always making new friends on playgrounds. She always calls them her “new friends” even though half the time she doesn’t know their name.” -Exactly this. My girl says/does the same thing! Jade isn’t so much discouraged by it though… actually, she’s sort of oblivious to it all. You know, that reminds me of something else my daughter once said to me. Our neighbors have a girl about 1.5 years older than her. Last year they went to the same preschool. Jade told me: “At home [neighbor girl] is my best friend, but at preschool [someone else] is [neighbor girl’s] best friend.” (obviously I edited out the names to respect privacy). I just thought that was the saddest thing I ever heard, and Jade goes about her merry way. Like I said: completely oblivious. I dunno. Maybe I overreact to this sort of thing, but it makes my heart hurt.

feberin and renrose, thanks for your insight on shyness as well. I too understand sometimes wanting to sit by myself instead of chatting.

I guess, it’s just that some of these children don’t exhibit the classic signs of shyness similar to what renrose described. It’s more like utter disinterest. I don’t know how else to explain it… just blank, emotionless stares… like Jade is going to bite their heads off or something.

thatkathryngirl, thanks for sharing Maura’s story. I went though similar situations the first time I took Jade to a Mommy and Me class in my community. She had just turned two and was one of three girl, the rest were all boys four and five years old. I understand completely about toys and not sharing. You would think parents would teach their children who are old enough to understand to be nicer to babies. One boy threw a stick at us when we were on the swings!

I understand what you’re saying, but I was an incredibly shy child and probably would have ignored another child’s request for play. Yes, it’s rude to ignore someone, but children don’t understand social cues in the same way as adults. If you asked an adult if they wanted a coffee, for example, and they ignored you, that’s definitely rude. But it’s very different for children, especially the shy ones.

[name_f]Elizabeth[/name_f] is shy and can get very anxious in social situations (just like her dad) and most likely would have responded the same was the little girl did. Blank stares and silence is how she deals with her anxiety. Sometimes she will play with other children at the park etc. but it usually happens organically, playing along side each other progressing to playing together.

I find people can be very judgemental of how [name_f]Elizabeth[/name_f] behaves as she is very tall for her age so they think she’s older than she is so think her behaviour isn’t age appropriate when it is. She will be 3 in a few weeks and was 108cn tall last time we measured her ([name_f]July[/name_f]) so people always assume she is atleast a year older than she is. So sometimes you have to take that into account to with children you don’t know.

Kids are sometimes just shy, and we’ve definitely dealt with [name_u]Rowan[/name_u] running up to a kid and trying to play and they just walked away and acted confused. All kids are generally little weirdos in a sense, lol. I’ve actually had parents do that to me before, though. At a park or something, just trying to be social and small talk with the other parents I’ve gotten the “Why the hell are you talking to me?” stare. Which really irks me.

I was very shy when I was young so I would have reacted the same way that little girl did, but if someone talked to me my mom always prompted me to talk to them to, or if I refused to say anything she would have thanked the child for the invitation to play and explained that I wasn’t interested in playing right then but maybe in a few minutes. Different parents deal with children’s shyness in different ways.
To answer your question no I don’t think your daughter is unusually chipper and friendly. I’ve met plenty of children like your daughter, and plenty of overly shy children, every child is different :slight_smile:

I completely understand what you are saying, but I think the fact is that little kids are just very tempermental. My son is also very friendly and many times when we’re at the playground he will go up to a kid and ask them to play and they will turn away like they didn’t even hear. [name_m]Just[/name_m] remember that the other child doesn’t generally mean to be rude even if it seems that way. If playing with someone they don’t know isn’t on their list of things to do then they will just go right about their own agendas and ignore you.

Let me just say that I was very shy as a child, and would start to blush whenever I had to speak to someone new, but not answering a direct question politely would have been horrifying to me! [name_f]Heaven[/name_f] forbid I offend someone and they draw attention from their parents or my own that I was not behaving as expected. Also, if I was interested in something, even being shy wouldn’t have prevented me from at least going to see what the other kid wanted to do. So I understand a few of them may be shy, but I think sometimes it aslo has to do with their parents’ complete lack of assistance in these kinds of social situations. [name_m]How[/name_m] many times have you looked over at the park bench and seen mothers totally involved with their cell phones? They’re not even glancing up until a child cries and they check to see if it’s theirs, much less watching how their child is speaking to others and encouraging or correcting them in any way if necessary. Sigh.

Anyway, at times like those, whether they are just avoiding confrontation or what have you, it is at least clear that the kid doesn’t want to play. When it happens and [name_m]Dom[/name_m] gives me the questioning look I just tell him “Well I guess they didn’t want to, so why don’t you ask someone else, or you and I can go start a game together?” I definitely have that protective panic moment and try to prevent his feelings from getting hurt, explaining that it’s not because of him but they probably just wanted to play by themselves for a while. You can’t help what other kids/moms do, but you can teach your own the best ways to cope with it. He usually recovers quickly, climbing up something and announcing that he is a knight and I must be the fire-breathing dragon, haha. Sometimes we do find a friendly girl to be our princess. It seems like he and [name_f]Jade[/name_f] could have a lot of fun together! =]

I was really shy, too. I would not have gotten up to see what the other kid wanted to do. There are varying degrees of shyness and it’s extremely likely that this child was more shy than that. Similar to renrose, no matter how much my mother prodded, I would not acknowledge the stranger. Sometimes, it’s not about what the parent does wrong but it’s just how the child is.

Maybe the girl wasn’t feeling well. I mean, you were in a pediatricians office right? Or was it your appt? So, maybe that was the case. The only other thing I can think of (beyond the child in question being unable to speak English, shy, rude or perhaps disabled in some way?) is that your daughter might come off as over-eager or her “let’s play” approach might feel immature to older or more sophisticated children? I can remember freezing kids out on the playground that were younger than me and wanted to talk about dolls once I was over that phase. I think a lot of children like to separate from things & children that they associate as younger than themselves, so maybe your daughter approaches older girls cause she looks up to them, while they would rather find girls their age?

My daughter will approach kids and get rejected or wave to adults or children who notice, but ignore her. I think it’s good to let her know even at the tender age of 1.5 that not everyone wants to play and be friends. I don’t get offended by this stuff. I consider it somewhat character building. I will just tell her, “Not everyone wants to say hello. Some people are busy or don’t like to make new friends.”

There is no simple way to get a shy child to come out of her shell. “If you push too hard, your child will resist even more,” warns Ward K. Swallow, Ph.D., author of The Shy Child: Helping Children Triumph Over Shyness (Warner, 2000).

Helping a Shy Child

A lot of people have mentioned parents making a shy child speak up. Everything I’ve read on the subject says it’s better to let you child warm up then force them to speak up. I put one of the examples above. My son isn’t even that shy but he takes awhile to warm up. And if he’s not feeling 100% or he’s tired then it takes a lot longer.

Also we also really struggle at nearly 3.5 with him sharing with other children and being gentle with younger children/babies. He’s a really rough and impulsive child. We practice sharing all the time since he has a younger sister but he still hasn’t fully grasped the concept. He does get in trouble if he hurts another child but he needs those experiences to try to share beyond just with his sister who tends to care less if he takes toys from her or not making it tricky.

I have a children in the middle of the spectrum. He loves playing with other kids, but won’t necessarily initiate it. He parallel plays and then one thing leads to another and then he has the new bff for the next hour.

He does get upset really easily. He’s really sensitive to his feelings. Our little neighbor boy went to play with the older boys (their parents let them run like rampant all over the neighborhood unsupervised) and [name_m]Weston[/name_m] knew he wasn’t allowed to leave our yard. He came in crying because his bff had new friends. We talked about it, and he understood that he couldn’t play with the naughty kids, but it broke my heart a little.
No one wants to feel like their child is being rejected.

I was the shy kid who loved when other kids initiated “[name_m]Will[/name_m] you play?” because I would never have had the courage to do it myself!

I get why it’s frustrating, but I would bet by the time your daughter is old enough to feel slighted, most other children will have learned to use a “No, thank you” if they’d rather play alone.

Thanks everyone, I’ll take into account that kids can be shy. I’ll keep encouraging [name_f]Jade[/name_f] and explain to her that sometimes people are shy.