School-Aged Children

advice on almost 5 yr old who is 'shy'= rude and not nice to other kids

My almost 5 yr old DD gets reports from preschool teachers about how nice she is, how she plays so nicely w/ all different kids ,etc etc. At home she is completely different and is outright rude to other kids who come to our house or whose houses we go to. When she was younger I'd chalk it up to being a little shy or slow to warm up to new situations but this weekend I am sort of beside myself, we went to the homes of 2 different families whose kids she has played with multiple times, at our house and theirs. She refuses to say hello, won't look at them, glues herself to my side, when I try to take her to where the other kids are she won't go play with them, etc. I will say, DD, say hello to "Jane", and she will outright say- NO, make a face and turn away. I try to talk to her about how this is not nice, they've played and had so much fun before, how her feelings would be hurt if someone came to our house & di dthat to her (except she does it even when they come to our house). She has a twin brother who runs right in & plays with whoever. I get that she is slower to warm up but as she is getting older it isn't getting better and it is not like she has not been around other kids her whole life, she has been in daycare/preschool since 5 months old full time and frequently has playdates and activities on the weekends.  After an hour or so she will finally play with the other kids and always reports back about how much fun she had, etc. I tell her she can either play with the kids or sit and play by herself quietly while I talk to the adults but she continues to glue herself to me and whine and ask me to play with her (I don't), etc.

She is like this in many other ways as well but when she is hurtful & rude to other kids it is so embarrassing and I feel badly for the other kids. I know we can just leave if she acts that way as a consequence but then her brother gets the short end of the stick too, and if the friends have prepared food & all that stuff, I feel like we can't just leave. Today we are going to a neighbor's and I am going to tell her ahead of time that we will go home if she is not nice, and see how it goes, since going home is easy and maybe she'll get the message more.

Any advice or strategies?

Re: advice on almost 5 yr old who is 'shy'= rude and not nice to other kids

  • I would not leave.  I think the best way to handle it is to give her as many opportunities as possible for social interactions. Discuss expectations ahead of time, role play with stuffed animals, and model good social skills for her.

    DS, who will be 5 in August, was like this, too, but he has gotten a lot better over the past year.  Maybe it is maturity, or maybe it is because we have made a huge effort to socialize him more.  Extra curriculars have been really helpful.  I try to sign him up for one activity per season.  He now greets friends without prompting most of the time, runs off to play as soon as we get there, and speaks to adults besides DH and myself (sometimes with prompting, sometimes without).  I am referring to friends/adults outside of school/daycare.  He has no problem with social skills at school.

    DS born 8/8/09 and DD born 6/12/12.
  • groovygrlgroovygrl member
    edited May 2014
    @fredalina, good point- though i dont just say 'be nice", I say- "say hi to Jane" or "smile at Jane", etc or "Jane" will literally come ask DD if she wants to come play on the playset or in the basement or whatever and DD will say NO! and turn her face in to my leg or whatever. So then I suggest she go try out the swingset, I will even walk her down there, etc....  I will try to script more in the future and also probably do some practicing before we go anywhere.  She knows her faces are not nice, it is the same face she makes at me when she is mad at me & I'm pretty clear about not liking that face or finding it unacceptable. It is like a wrinkled nose & a frown.  When I ask her why she acts like that with kids she has played with before and who are trying to invite her to play she says "because I'm shy!", so I don't use that word around her anymore b/c it almost feels like she is using it as an excuse in some way, maybe that sounds weird but I don't want her labeling herself as shy & making it 'ok' to be rude.
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  • Eh -- 5 year olds are funny.  They're still going through a lot of rapid changes in their social and emotional development.  I suspect that time will straighten this out.  I speak with some experience in this issue, as both of my kids were pretty shy and behaved similarly at that age.

    She may be getting glowing reports from school because preschool is a lot more structured than an informal get-together with family friends.  My kids were both shy at that age and had trouble breaking into a group of kids who were already at play.  If we were on the other kids' "home turf" it was even more difficult for my kids to join in. Both of my preschoolers learned how to socialize when they were assigned to small groups for play or work in school where there was a definite task to accomplish and a smaller group of kids to deal with.

    True confession time... with my oldest I was a LOT more uptight about this issue than I was down the line, and I really pushed her/scolded her to be more social because her awkwardness embarrassed me.  I don't think that helped her one bit.  If I could go back in time, I would handle her differently now.  I'd let her gradually warm up and observe what the other kids were doing.  Or, I'd offer to join in with her and hang out with her and the other kids for a while until she felt more comfortable.  I certainly wouldn't shame her which is (cringe) what I probably did when she was little.

    She's not being "rude" because she isn't making a conscious choice to hurt the other kids' feelings.  She's the one who is likely uncomfortable and "hurting" in this situation.
    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
    [Deleted User]
  • Hmmm ok. Good ideas, I will coach her on how to say maybe in a few minutes or not right now.

    My issue with calling her 'shy' is not that it is not ok to be shy but that she started using "i'm shy" as a reason for why she was mean to other kids. Not a reason why she didn't want to play right away, but as her reason for making faces, saying NO in their face, ignoring them, etc. To me, there is a difference. Of course being shy/introverted is ok, but being mean to other kids isn't and blaming mean behaviors on being shy is not ok either, which is why I stopped using it.

    Regardless, all good ideas & points and hopefully she'll start to warm up more over time and I'll prep her before get togethers about how to decline playing and if she wants to stick near me for a bit that's fine. 

    Though, I disagree on being rude- I don't think rudeness is always some sort of conscious act or decision- many people say or do something perceived as rude by others and have no idea what they did or that others consider it rude. So that is what I want her to start to understand- that her actions can be hurtful to other kids even if she isn't intending them that way, and while being shy is not a terrible thing, being mean to kids who try to engage her is not ok.
  • groovygrlgroovygrl member
    edited May 2014
    Appreciate the feedback. I don't think I said I was using the word rude around her particularly, I was using it in this post in a conversation, so I am not too sure how that got turned into an issue of me saying the word rude to my child or her using it? ( and yes I am aware that sounds defensive but I think things are being inferred that a re not necessarily accurate which is of course a common problem in message boards ). I am sure that I have said to her that it is rude to talk that way to other kids or ignore them when they invite her to play and I don't think that is a big a deal to introduce the concept as long as it is not overboard and using it in reference to hurtful behaviors. Anyway, I got good advice on here and don't really want to beat a dead horse on whether it is possible from a developmental standpoint for a child to understand the concept of "rude " vs mean vs polite vs nice. It is certainly not the end of the world and she will get through it as will I and I think it will all be fine over time.
  • Also, I think many children this age could be considered "shy" at least part of the time.  I think the word is a loaded term that can connote all kinds of stuff.    "Rude" is a similarly imprecise word.

    Groovy-- my kids were both very slow to warm up to other kids in new social situations at that age.  I have many times seen them as preschoolers say "No!" or hide their faces in my leg when approached by other children in a playground or at a playdate.  It can be embarrassing and frustrating.

    FWIW, neither of them are what you'd consider "shy" now.  My 13 y/o DD has a large circle of friends at school, and she excels at public speaking.  My DS was chosen as the class ambassador and as a "bully blocker" because of his ability to get along with many kids and stand up for others.  Yet, STILL, both of my kids are a hesitant when put into a group of kids they don't know.  My DS will still say "no thanks" if a random kid approaches him to play at a park or playground.  I just need to respect the fact that my kids are not "work the room" type of kids, and they need more time to size people up and get to know others.

    I think that helping your DD to decline offers more gracefully will help both of you get through this phase until she becomes more experienced with these situations.
    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
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