When my daughter, Sara, was little I didn’t think it was important to force her to say hello and goodbye, because she was so shy. I still don’t know if this made any difference in her socialization. From time to time over the years, I’ve found myself wishing I had been more insistent, yet she has been a skilled negotiator and a friend to many since she was very young. She is still shy at 28, but it serves her very well to hang back a bit before jumping into practically any situation in her life.
I was also a shy kid, and in some situations am a shy adult. I know what it feels like to be forced into a position or situation you are not ready for. Of course, there are situations in life that require that you move quickly, like recognizing a teaching moment – or moving out of the way of oncoming traffic! But there are those children who need time to think and react. They need time to mull things over and look at their options.
I remember feeling frustrated with Sara at times. Very early on, it made me uncomfortable when she would not respond to someone who was talking to her, and would hide behind me. I would say, “She’s shy.” quite a lot. Sara finally let me know how she felt about this one day when she tugged my arm and whispered in my ear, “I am not!”. It’s so important to listen to our children!
Whether you’re dropping your kids off or arriving and then leaving, let’s say, visiting with a friend, saying hello and then goodbye when you leave is a socially accepted formality. However, recognizing different temperaments in children is critical.
When the playgroup starts in September, it is far too confronting for some children to say goodbye to their parents or caregivers. In some cases, I’ve had parents or caregivers stay various amounts of time, and then leave. Not always saying goodbye. If the parents are in agreement, I hold the child and let him/her cry. It is difficult to know, in the beginning, how long to let this continue. I guess this is where the art of working with children comes in. Other children seem to enter this brand new situation without a hitch, or may have an adverse reaction three weeks later.
As the year progresses, “hello” and “goodbye” become an important part of the experience. I like to be the person to open the door and greet people as they come in. For some kids, it’s important to ring the door bell or knock on the door before I open it. My “hello” is very welcoming. Some parents like to come in and hang around with their child briefly while they take off their shoes, put them in the shoe box, and take off their coats and hang them on the kid-size coat tree. I learned that these routines are so important to children. Just as important as, eventually, saying hello and goodbye. I encourage them to perform these tasks to the best of their ability, and help them a little if they need it.