My son is the most outgoing person I know. He absolutely loves talking to strangers. When he was two years old, he convinced two teenagers to read him a story at the library. Last week, I lost sight of him for a moment at a local park. When I located him, he was sitting on one of the big swings with some other family, happily chatting with them. My son will gladly chime in with useful or interesting (to him, anyway) information whenever he gets a chance.
I absolutely love his outgoing personality.
Everyone knows the old adage that children shouldn’t talk to strangers. I think that’s a terrible idea. While I certainly agree that children need to follow some general safety rules, such as not getting into a vehicle with someone they don’t know, I would hate to curb my son’s enthusiasm for meeting new people by telling him not to talk to strangers. He has made some great friends by talking to strangers in the park or at the library. Since my son is only five years old, I have the opportunity to monitor his interactions with other people. He is always under the supervision of a trusted adult at this point in his life. I would prefer to offer guidance in how to interact with people instead of issuing a blanket statement that he should never talk to strangers.
Instead, I intend to help him learn how to use his own judgment in interacting with people as he gets older.
My biggest problem with the idea that children shouldn’t talk to strangers is that it creates fear. I don’t want my child to think that the world is an inherently scary place. While I certainly do think that parents need to keep safety in mind, I think that worrying too much about risks that you can’t control will only serve to make everyone overly anxious all the time. I try to teach my son common sense safety lessons as we go about our daily life, but I try not to scare him. I appreciate my son’s happy, buoyant personality and I don’t want to stifle that by teaching him that every stranger is a bad person who is going to hurt him.
I also worry that labeling strangers as so dangerous that we shouldn’t even speak to them sends the message to our children that people who don’t look or act exactly like us are bad. That’s certainly no way to go about promoting tolerance in today’s diverse society. Instead, I appreciate my son’s attitude that everyone he encounters is a potential friend.
I hope that he is never so intimidated by someone’s differences that he won’t get to know that person.
While I will certainly keep a close eye on my son, I will also allow him enough free rein to talk to strangers. No matter where we go, I know that my son will be the child who is happily chatting away with any person who is nice enough to listen to him.