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Wait, are you “awww”-ing? Don’t do that. This is a serious problem.
Yes, I realize that I may have watched way too many episodes of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," but I don’t want my daughter to be so friendly that she is oblivious to the dangers around her.
The reality is this: children are innocent. They don’t see the world as we do. They don’t have the knowledge and wisdom that we’ve developed over the years. Because of that, their fears and worries aren’t so plentiful. I see a stranger and my daughter sees a new and interesting person. Her curiosity gets the best of her and, before we know it, she’s run off to say “hi” and oftentimes will hug a person she’s never met.
Luckily, the adults on the other side of the hug are enamored with this friendly toddler’s actions. I’ve even had a guy who claimed he has never liked kids say, “Wow, this baby is so nice.” His face lit up, and it was pretty cool to see a harsh looking dude get all giddy over a hug.
I don’t doubt that my daughter was born to be a bright light and shine her light among all those who cross her path. She is certainly a memorable little being, and we want to foster her friendliness in many ways. But how can we do this while teaching her boundaries? I have three ideas:
1. Teach her to keep her hands to herself
I find that many toddlers don’t mind bursting into the personal spaces of others. However, we’re starting to teach our daughter that she shouldn’t touch other people. Yes, a hug includes touching. She is slowly starting to understand that if she doesn’t know the person, she can’t just run up to them and hug them.
2. Teach her to ask
Once we’ve established that she shouldn’t hug strangers, we figured that the next thing on the agenda is making sure that she asks before touching those that she does know. She has to learn how to respect other people's spaces. Asking for a hug, we feel, is better than her running in for hugs to unexpecting recipients. We’re teaching her to ask “hug?” or “hug please?” So far, this is worked pretty well.
3. Let her know that everyone isn’t friendly.
I’m not one of those parents who will sugar coat things for my child. The world is not full of nice people who have your best interest in mind. My daughter will learn this.
Part of me hurts from having to teach her this reality, but I don’t want her getting into a habit of thinking everyone will be accepting of her kindness. We will teach her how to be nice and friendly but to also know that others may not be the same way. We’re thinking it’ll be several years before she understands this but letting her know that some things, people and situations are “not nice” will help her understand that this big world isn’t as wonderful as she may think it is.