Our eldest son was a bit shy, or so we thought, until we discovered he was more accurately stubborn. When an acquaintance stopped, leaned down, and asked, “What’s your name?” our son stared straight at him with no emotion whatsoever. “Tell Mr. McGibby what your name is,” we coached. Still, our darling little redhead looked straight ahead, mute and in a trance. “Oh, I guess he’s just shy” said our friend, which made our son look relieved. As soon as Mr. McGibby was out of sight, our three year old looked at us with a wry little smile and said, “I say nothing to that man!” It was a statement of triumph and victory, not remorse or shame.
We discovered at that moment our son was on a path of loving extreme control and we were on a path to pulling our hair out. He had skipped the terrible twos, and at three was just starting to exert his baby-control. It was a battle that would last for . . . well, he’s 21 now, so that long. My recent text exchange with him went something like this: “I don’t want to walk in the graduation ceremony.” “Walk, or else we’ll pull you across the stage in a wagon!” “But the cap and gown is going to be so hot!” “We paid extra for a college with air-conditioning. Sign up now.” “Maybe.”
Not ones to be outsmarted by a toddler, my husband and I took charge of the situation by explaining what it meant to have polite conversations. From then on, toddler-boy was expected to look adults in their eyes, smile, and speak kindly. No excuses, no shyness cop-out. We explained it’s okay to be on the quiet side, but not speaking to someone when they address you is rude. Even the shyest of children need to know how to properly greet another person, especially an adult. They may be three years old today, but in the blink of an eye, they’ll be on a job interview.
After we laid down the law, if lil’guy failed to be polite to adults who spoke to him by at least acknowledging them, we had to have a “practice” when we got home. We’d stand in front of him and . . . thank you for clicking HERE to finish the story at AL.com.