To think I need to stop making excuses for my 4yo Ds's rude behaviour in public

(69 Posts)
justkeeponsmiling Tue 17-Dec-13 18:15:06

My 4yo DS has always been shy. He hates meeting new people and can't stand being the centre of attention, which usually manifests in him throwing a tantrum. Since he has started school his behaviour has improved quite a lot, to the point where he was ok going up on stage for his schools christmas concert and sing a few songs without any major incident.
However, his behaviour when out in public with him is still a huge source of embarrassment for me. Whenever he is addressed by anyone (doesn't matter what age they are) he will refuse to look at them or respond in any way. If they continue talking to him he will either continue ignoring them or on occasions look at me and say something like "I don't want that lady to talk to me" or give them a Damien-from-the-Omen-like death stare. He will do this even with people he meets fairly regularly, like casual acquaintances of mine or other mums from school. With my close friends whom he sees regularly he is absolutely fine.
The thing is, I know exactly how he feels as I'm also quite shy and don't feel comfortable in social situations. However, I know by constantly saying things like oh I'm sorry he's having a bad day or he's really tired today I've allowed this behaviour to continue. As a result, I know many of the people who meet him and a lot of our wider circle think he is rude and generally not a very nice child. It makes me so sad as I know he really is a friendly, happy and really affectionate little boy and I know I've failed him by not teaching him to overcome his barriers. Those of my friends who know him well love him to bits but it has taken them a long time to build up a relationship with him and they were usually successful by generally ignoring him for ages until he was ready to approach them, which is what works best for him.
Im really at a loss as to how to teach him to be at least polite in public. Ive recently started to talk to him about it and tried to explain what I would like him to do and why (in basic terms, obviously), but to no real success.
I'm really hoping for some practical advice or tips on strategies I could use to teach him! Anybody who has been there and dealt with this successfully I would be endlessly grateful for your suggestions!

BerryChristmas Tue 17-Dec-13 18:19:13

He's too young to be 'taught to be polite' to strangers, etc. Just say to them that he is very shy. He'll get there in the end.

scurryfunge Tue 17-Dec-13 18:19:42

Do you think he has received a mixed message somewhere about talking to strangers and is confused?

Ifcatshadthumbs Tue 17-Dec-13 18:21:25

I agree stop making excuses like he's tired etc and be very honest with people about what the actual problem is. Tell them for reasons you're not sure of that he is very uncomfortable in social sitautions and struggles to give adults the response they are hoping for.

I don't think he is rude and I would be careful about putting to much pressure on him to talk in these situtions.

You could use social stories to help him understand how he should respond when someone he doesn't know well asks him a question.

Thornita17 Tue 17-Dec-13 18:22:35

Have you considered taking him to be checked out for Autism or other condition which might make him like this? I have an autistic cousin who was like this when he was little.

Ifcatshadthumbs Tue 17-Dec-13 18:22:48

I don't think he's that unusual for his age either, loads of my friends kids give me blank stares when I talk to them and I've known them ages.

owlbegoingmerrily Tue 17-Dec-13 18:23:26

What do you say to him when someone talks to him and he ignores them? Or he says "I don't want that lady to talk to me"?
Surely he's old enough now to know that his behaviour is rude.

HettiePetal Tue 17-Dec-13 18:27:04

Oh my goodness - that sounds exactly like my DS when he was that age.

People were forever saying hello to him in the supermarket queue or wherever and he'd either glare at them or hide behind me.

Whether it was the right thing to do or not, I did apologise to people about it, "He's going through a very shy stage" etc - but I also used to ask him to at least say hello, which he generally ignored.

He is in his teens now - still a bit shy but very polite. So hang in there, it does get better smile

DoYouLikeMyBaubles Tue 17-Dec-13 18:30:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Nanny0gg Tue 17-Dec-13 18:34:13

I think you should just explain the situation honestly, that he is very shy.

He will grow out of it, but not by forcing the situation. You've said yourself that he's improved in familiar surroundings, so give it time.

Might be worth searching out some stories about shy children to see if that will help him learn what to do.

Nanny0gg Tue 17-Dec-13 18:38:36

Can I just point out that you can be very, very shy without being autistic?

One of my DGC, when aged about 2, was 'diagnosed' as 'on the spectrum' by a very stupid HV.

They were very, very wrong, but it put the fear of God into all of us at the time.

One 'symptom' doesn't make a diagnosis and it can be really upsetting to hear.

Ifcatshadthumbs Tue 17-Dec-13 18:38:44

Unless there are other significant issues I would be wary of making the leap towards possible autism. DS has ASD and he has no issues at all talking to people when they talk to him.

My son is similar. Stares straight down at the ground if someone talks to him. Also 4. He is very confident one-on-one with familiar people. His pre-school SENCO has referred him to a SALT to work with him next term, they have referred specifically for help communicating (although his actual speech is excellent).

I don't make excuses for him, I don't comment on it. I carry on the conversation with the person. Later on I will very mildly comment it is polite to respond when someone talks to you. I say that if someone says hello he could say hello back. That's it. I am waiting for advice from the SALT really but I do know that making a massive deal out of it would be pointless.

It is bloody embarrassing though sometimes.

Ifcatshadthumbs Tue 17-Dec-13 18:39:34

X post with Nannyogg

Enb76 Tue 17-Dec-13 18:41:10

I don't think there's a problem here, he's not being rude. He just hasn't learnt the art of small talk and he's four so plenty of time yet. He's probably a child who observes people before becoming comfortable enough to speak to them. Adults are large, imposing things, especially ones you don't know very well yet. Instead of apologising for him, why not try saying something less negative. Depends on situation but you can use your own experience here. What would you have liked someone to say for you? My daughter went through a bit of this and I used to say hello for her. She soon started to say hello herself.

KatnipEvergreen Tue 17-Dec-13 18:41:37

I don't think he sounds unusual for his age at all. In fact I'd say it's unusual to get more than a "Hello" from children of that age. Probably by the end of reception you will notice a difference.

But I can remember that shy feeling as a kid. In fact, it's only since I was in my 30s probably that people who don't know me very well have stopped describing me as "quiet", as I'm more confident in myself with almost any group of people now.

RandomMess Tue 17-Dec-13 18:42:37

Have you got him to practice his "manners" with people he does know through role play? That may help him by learning he can "act" out being polite to overcome his shyness even whilst still feeling shy? Hope that makes sense!

DoYouLikeMyBaubles Tue 17-Dec-13 18:42:42

nanny0gg I apologise if it upsets anyone, I just know from experience it was one of the 'signs' for us.

KatnipEvergreen Tue 17-Dec-13 18:45:21

BTW, my dad is 76, he still often doesn't make or respond much to conversation when there are people he doesn't know. Even when they are all people he does know well sometimes! My mum still despairs of him but I don't think he is going to change now!

OfficeSupplies Tue 17-Dec-13 18:50:03

This is so normal and no reason to expect it might be a sign of autism at all. Actually shyness is normal, desirable in some cultures though not ours. We expect so much of our young often hoping for social skills that many adults struggle to master.

He will grow out of it, keep modelling the good stuff and it will come. One of mine is exceptionally beautiful and always attracted interaction which was unfortunate as me maintained a death stare at best. He is quite civilised these dayssmile

Killinascullion Tue 17-Dec-13 18:54:56

Sounds entirely normal behaviour to me.

He's only 4 not 14 and he'll gradually become more confident in social situations in good time. However, your obvious embarrassment might not be helping the situation.

You could just start by aiming for a response to the friends he's met before, and then gradually build his confidence from there.

As an example...My DS refused to acknowledge some of the teachers in the playground during 'drop off'. After discussing it with him, I realised he was confused about who they were as he only recognised them as teachers if they'd been teaching in his classroom.

After explaining that they are still real teachers working in other classrooms, he is now happy to say 'Good Morning', smile, or offer another suitable response.

Try not to get too anxious about the attitude of others though. It's not vital to be instantly liked by everyone to get on in life. fwink

CokeFan Tue 17-Dec-13 18:56:55

I remember finding this very difficult when I was little. My DD doesn't - will happily chat away to anyone. I had to "learn" what was expected of me. It might help if you practised with him. Just something simple he can say like "hello" back if someone says it to him or "I'm fine" if someone asks how he is.

SharonCurley Tue 17-Dec-13 18:57:24

Very normal for a child of that age.As another poster said above, adults can be imposing and they don't understand the concept of small talk.I wouldn't make an issue of it.He might enjoy the negative attention.My dd 4 can be very charming when she wants to be but sometimes she doesn't want to chat to every second person in the town.It must get a bit much for them sometimes!If she doesn't say hello I gently remind her that it would have been nice .She is sensitive and shows lots of empathy for her friends and plays nicely.The more you push it the bigger an issue it becomes.He will grow out of it.I think most people with children would understand

clippityclop Tue 17-Dec-13 18:58:36

Make it a game, talk about it before you go into situations, get him to tell you how you're supposed to behave when you meet people, then when he does well praise him to the skies afterwards in private. Let him 'overhear' you telling his dad etc how proud you are as well. Get him to think about the other people and how interesting they are.

DoYouLikeMyBaubles Tue 17-Dec-13 19:02:26

I've asked for my post to be removed, sorry thanks

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