Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend”
Whenever I am out with my son and we come across a stranger he asks me the same question.
“Daddy…is that your friend?”
I always say yes. Quite often I say something like “She is our village store-owner and she is a very lovely friend of ours”.
Something interesting happens when you introduce people like this. First of course my kid sees how to be friendly and he expects people to be friendly because they are our friends. Second he wants to be friends with as many people as possible.
But, there is something else interesting that occurs with people we see around the village that we barely know know their name. The man that walks the dog has become our friend Nigel and his dog Woody. Nigel always stops and talks to us and lets us pat his dog.
Out of thousands of customers the grumpy old lady at the village store has become our friend the lovely storekeeper.
Several times we have referred to her in this way when she was actually short, slightly hostile or annoyed at being interrupted from watching daytime TV to sell us stuff.
Now we get a warm greeting. She asks my son what he is doing today and often gives him a couple of free lollies. I’m not super stoked with the lollies, but I wager myself that my boy is the only one she treats this kindly.
Even though I was always friendly prior to having two kids I never had the opportunity to use the interaction with my kid to message an intent of friendliness.
No matter how friendly I was she never really warmed up to me. It always felt like I was putting her out.
Now our friend the lovely storekeeper is always a lovely warm person to deal with.
I’m pretty certain once we leave she goes right back to being a grumpy old sausage, but she’s nice when we talk to her and that is what matters to us.
We still haven’t gotten on first name basis yet and not for the love of trying. My little guy has introduced himself and inquired about her name several times. She either ignores his question or grunts and waves her hand when he asks.
What can I say…it’s a work in progress. We’re slowly infecting her with our friendliness
Quite often as we walk away down the street my boy will remark ‘she didn’t have her listening ears on today did she Daddy?”
No my friend she did not, but she’s paying more attention and becoming friendlier every time we see her.
I want my kid to see strangers as potential friends rather than as scary bad people that would steal him in the night.
I feel that you can learn relationship skills and still learn safe community behaviours. Truth is more uncles and family members molest children than strangers. While there is some stranger danger that is not where you should focus your attention as a parent trying to nurture a thriving independent child.