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Peer Relationships Require Support

Question

My oldest son is 4.5 and by nature is an introvert most of the time. He is shy to start with and then you can't stop him talking thereafter. I wonder if I've made a mistake by encouraging him to be the initiator with kids his age. I nudge him when we're meeting others to be friendly and say their names - most of the time he does this. Often he is met with rejection or a cold shoulder by other kids which I can see discourages him (and breaks my heart). What should I do? Stand back and let him figure it out or guide him to press on until he meets friendlier children?

Answer

Great question. The answer is rooted in what you are trying to accomplish. You have a good idea of your son’s temperament. I am not certain if his 4 year old peers are giving him the cold shoulder based on the ability of a 4 year old to understand that concept. While it is understandable you want to teach your child family values which extend to greeting others, you may be expecting too much from 4 year old interactions. I suggest we all have gone through the awkwardness of interacting with peers at this young age. If you watch children in this stage, they eventually figure it out, as painful as it is to watch. You are guiding your son as a parent but it will be more helpful for you to play a supportive role instead of a directive role while he develops his peer relationships.

Gretchen Slover

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