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How do I get my 4 year old to stop talking to strangers?

My son is either very shy or very talkative. When it comes to meeting new relatives or friends or even the pediatrician, or when it comes to trying to get him to express himself with words, he's very shy and doesn't say much. But if we go to the store, he'll try to start a conversation with complete strangers. Some people will talk back to him, others will either ignore him or make nasty comments (mostly kids or grown-ups who should know better). I keep trying to tell him not to talk to strangers because someone could take him (I have newborn twins and I am fearful that if I take my eyes off him in public to tend to them, he will talk to an adult who will kidnap him) or I tell him that some people just don't want to be bothered with him. I am an extremely shy person and even though I don't want him to be like me, I'd like him to recognize who to talk to and who not to.

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Asked by javagirl328 at 1:00 PM on Jul. 20, 2009 in Preschoolers (3-4)

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  • my 3yo dd is the same way. what we do is i tell her bedtime stories that remind her not to talk to strangers. and at the end of every story-- i tell her what the point of it was. i tell her little red riding hood (but with a twist.. wolf tries to offer her candy & is very nice) now she doesn't talk to strange adults, but she still tries talking to other kids. she thinks anyone under 10 years old is her friend. i don't mind her making friends her age, as long as she doesn't wander farther than 5-10 feet away from me. i've explained her boundaries, but like every 3yo, she will test it to see how far she can run around with her new friends before i call her back. i tried to explain that not everyone is her friend, and there are some bad people out there, which is why she needs to always be near mommy or daddy. extra awareness & observance is key to safety.

    Answer by rAbella at 1:16 PM on Jul. 20, 2009

  • Do NOT teach him to not talk to strangers. Even the Center for Missing and Exploited Children thinks this is the very worst advice ever pushed on parents and forced on children.

    If he were lost in the store, would you rather he hid from all the "strangers" or would you rather he ask for help? Many kids have been lost far longer than necessary because of this stupid, reckless advice. The vast majority of the people he meets are friendly and would help him if needed. You have a better chance of winning the super lotto than he does of being snatched.

    Teach him to ask you first. Teach him to not walk away with a stranger. Role play what to do if someone says "Hey! I've got a great new video game. Want to come to my house and see it?" or "My puppy is lost. Can you help me find it?" Role play gives him something to draw on. Lectures and rules he has never practiced are just hot air rattling around in his head.

    Answer by kaycee14 at 1:44 PM on Jul. 20, 2009

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