No matter how little, and I mean really little, children are fascinated with faces. They love to study your face, to really know you and they use this information to help them interpret the world.
As a newborn begins to focus you can observe how they let their eyes travel from your hairline to your eyes and they really start to focus. As they develop and learn the next steps of smiling and making contact with you, help them along. It’s natural to want to smile at them and respond to their giggles with your own.
How about we take that one step further? What if we deliberately engaged them in eye-to-eye contact when giving them instructions? What if we taught them to look directly at others when communication is happening? Before they even learn to be shy, YOU have given them a life skill that will help them socially for many years.
Now, I know that eye-to-eye contact is cultural and for some it is disrespectful. If this advice is not for you, turn the page and find something that is helpful! No offence meant!!
Deliberately teaching your children to respond and react is a good thing. Give them a platform for how to interact with respect and politeness. Rightly or wrongly I believe shyness is learned and can be reinforced unconsciously. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t believe any of us WANT our children to be shy. It is a monstrous hurdle for them to overcome. I do believe that we can give our children tools to interact; that when that first time of shyness happens at around seven at ten months, they can be prepared and have at least ONE good habit to carry them through it. You see, every new experience can be a time of confusion or a time of learning… If a child has somewhere to ‘peg’ this, some experience to fall back on, there is security for them to actually move forward.
Imagine you have been saying to Bubs, “Look at Mummy,” for months and they know that it is a good thing, a safe thing, a joy because Mummy will respond well with a smile or a giggle, or occasionally a reprimand. Then this extends to “Look at Gran when she comes over”, or “Look at the doctor when he is speaking”. Not only will your child be confident and know what to do, it is likely that they will now be receptive to what Granny or the doctor is going to say.
Of course, it is your responsibility to put good people in front of your children, so they can be trusted, but as they grow, and as you help them interpret what to expect and how to react, more and more success will help them discern that which is worth attending to!
And by the time they are two or three, a child who can look an adult in the eye, when they are spoken to, is ready to learn how to shake hands. They probably have been learning High Fives for ages, so the step into how to greet people well, is a doddle! And, imagine if all our tweens and teenagers could greet people well! It can be done.
Of course, as with everything, good role modeling is vital. Put down your phone and look them in the eye when they want to speak. I’m talking to myself here too!