When I was a child I was very shy, and was uncomfortable greeting and conversing with adults. However, my mother would always make a point of introducing me to people she encountered and would encourage me to look at the adult and say hello. As I got older, while still shy, I became much more comfortable greeting adults without my mom’s prompting.
When I meet children today, I’m always impressed when they look at me and say hello, especially if they are very young. For some kids I can see it’s difficult for them to do, for others they seem much more comfortable saying hello. But I can always tell that those children who acknowledge me were coached and encouraged by their parents to greet adults.
I have an acquaintance that I run into occasionally, often accompanied by her daughter. I’ve known “Jane” since her daughter “Wendy” was very young. Despite always making a point of saying hello to both of them, Wendy has never acknowledged me on her own. When I greet her, she’ll reply with a very quiet “hi” while looking at the ground. Sometimes she doesn’t say anything. When she was very young it was understandable, but now, as a teen her not greeting me is really quite odd and disrespectful.
One might think this behavior is a sign Wendy is on the autism spectrum, but she is not. She is simply shy. Since it was something I struggled with as a child as well I understand it’s uncomfortable for her to speak to adults. The problem is, Jane has never encouraged her daughter to say hello, therefore Wendy never learned that social skill. Now as a teen, she is at a serious disadvantage because she is not comfortable interacting with adults.
Most children are shy with adults. It’s pretty normal, but it’s so important for children to learn to greet adults by looking at them and saying hello. This is something all parents should teach their children.
When you encounter other adults with your child always introduce your child and invite him to say hello to the adult. For example: “Susan, this is my son Mike. Mike, this is my friend Susan Smith. Can you say hello to Ms. Smith?” You will have to prompt your child many times before he finally greets others on his own. Explain to him that it makes people feel special when they are greeted. Always praise him when he does say hello even if it’s not perfect.
As your child gets a little older, teach her to look others in the eyes when she greets them and to shake hands when introduced because that shows respect and conveys confidence. Even if your child is shy or on the autism spectrum continue to encourage her to acknowledge others. It’s a simple courtesy to greet people, and will serve your child well whether age 6 or 66.