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August 14th, 2008

On a typical afternoon I often find myself pushing my son in his stroller as we buy our groceries, go to the bank, pick up our dry-cleaning and shop at the local stores on our busy street. Sitting in his front row seat, meandering through the crowd, my three year old happily says “hello”, “hi” and occasionally “nice dog” to the many people passing by. Sadly, I have to report that few will reply, or say hello back or acknowledge his attempt at being friendly.

Just last week, as we walked into an elevator, my son joyfully said hello to the two adults already riding and neither one answered him back. He said it again then looked at me, confused, as they got off on the next floor without answering back.

On a trip to the doctor’s office, we had to see the temporary physician on call. She walked into the room, robotically introduced herself and buried her face in his chart. Using the proper etiquette, I introduced my son, and then told him her name again, just so he felt safe and comfortable with a new person. Precociously and like any three year old, he ask how old are you? Her reply, straight-faced and without an ounce of friendliness, was, “None of your business.”

It took a lot of willpower for me not to remark on her rudeness and obviously bizarre insecurities in front of a curious toddler. As a doctor, a professional someone trained to have compassion, her cold personality and mechanical social skills left me having to explain to my son why people don’t always want to say how old they are.

”I’m fourteen,” he falsely boasts to her, making his own attempt at soothing what he interpreted as her shyness. I don’t think she actually looked him straight in the eye the entire examination, and did nothing to reciprocate his gesture of friendliness.

Teaching your child values is a fundamental part of their entry and existence into society. Friendliness, compassion, empathy, and awareness of others rank as the key components to social behavior and social acceptance. Constantly we are teaching and reinforcing the proper behavior to our kids in all situations from the moment they move from babies to toddlers. “Say please, ask nicely, be sure to share, look at a person when you speak to them.” It is an absolute must for most families to instill these behaviors, and yet the adults in this busy world are not setting the example or being what they expect the children to be.

How do you explain to a child that an adult is ignoring them? What words do you use to say that for no real reason a person just doesn`t feel like being nice? It breaks my heart when I see the rejection in his eyes or the disappointment he feels when his bright hello doesn’t elicit a bright hello in return. Of course not all strangers shun his openness; a few do respond and actually take the time to speak with his darling and curious little nature. Unfortunately the ones who don’t answer stick in his mind, and he asks me why is that person mad, or why won`t they say hello?

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Comment by Shannon@Vogue Mum on August 16, 2008 at 2:34pm
We encounter this often too. My hubby and i are friendly and kind to all the strangers we pass. i have always made it a habit to smile and say hello. Those that won't even look at me drive me crazy and i am sad for them cuz they must not be very happy people. It makes me even crazier when my kids help them or say hi and they don't acknowledge them. They are the people who complain about the state of our children. Does it really take that much energy to say thank you or at least smile back?? i will step of my box now:) You are not alone!!
Comment by CreationsByChara on August 16, 2008 at 10:43am
Very beautifully written, though very sad words. There are days when a little one gives me a beautiful smile or a big hello and I'm in such a rush that I usually just give a big smile and/or a wave. But in the future I'll be sure to take a little extra time so I'm not one of those people that sticks in the mind of a baby as "mean" or "rude".

As for the doctor, get a new one. Our pediatrician is wonderful and asks my little ones questions and gives eye contact. Your little one doesn't deserve coldness and indifference from the person who is in charge of his medical care.
Comment by Shelly on August 16, 2008 at 9:10am
I can't believe how rude she was. Acting that way towards a three year old, or anyone for that matter, is inexcusable.

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