While it made a popular Rick Springfield song in the ’80s, “Don’t talk to strangers” is way too broad of a statement. I’ve actually never said this to my children in so many words. It certainly doesn’t fit my detail-driven personality or my parenting style.
Here’s just a few of the problems I have with this statement. How do we define a stranger? Is a fireman we don’t know on a first-name basis a stranger? Is the lady who delivers our mail each day a stranger? We may not know her by name either, but she’s a welcome sight to us each day. Often times, she will hand the mail directly to my 5-year-old son, as I watch the entire exchange to ensure he doesn’t get too close to the curb or drop a pile of unwanted bills in a puddle. The ritual gives him self-confidence, allowing him to help with a chore while also learning to look an adult in the eye.
Interacting with unfamiliar people is something children need to learn or they may eventually become socially awkward adults. There’s really no way to teach children how to make casual, small talk in a grocery store check-out line. Perhaps when a child answers a store clerk’s question that could be a start.
So what do I tell my children?
Find out more from Julia Sherwin, the host of “Perspectives on Parenting with Julia Sherwin.”
Photo from pixabay.com.