19 answers

My 3/Y Is Impolite

My three-year old son doesn’t like saying hello to other people. We all give a cheery greeting when we meet someone I know and we also ask our son to do so. However, he doesn’t follow our example and when he meets someone, he always makes his finger look like a gun and aims at that person. I have tried giving him some punishment like time out and it seems no use. I want my son to be cute, lovely and polite, and I can’t figure out any proper and effective way to correct our son’s this behavior. Please help me.

What can I do next?

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He is doing this as protective mechanism and it is his own internal warning, that he does not know this stranger. This is actually good.

He is leery and does not want them to come any closer. He does not want any interaction with them.. Maybe instead of using his finger like a gun, get him to do a peace sign. Work with him without punishment. He is still very young and this is a reaction rather than an action.

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He just sounds shy. I would give him a chance to grow into this one in his own time. He is still really young and it sounds like he has good role models... so even if he isn't participating... he is watching and observing. Personally, I would make a bigger issues out of please and thank you's than greeting people. Just tell him that you would like him to learn how to be more comfortable saying HI to people, however you are not going to push it right now... however... he is not allowed to pretend to shoot people as a way to greet them. Doing some role playing with toys/puppets etc. should help this out and give him some practice without the anxiety.

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He's three and he's still very much in the "I'll do what I want phase".

I would suggest that you continue modeling the expected behavior, but don't put him on the spot to do the same. His behavior is telling you that he's not comfortable greeting a stranger. Just because you know the person doesn't mean that your child recalls who they are. I have noticed that our son (2.5) takes a good 10 minutes to "warm up" to people he doesn't see on a daily basis. If we come across someone, I don't force him to say hello b/c he won't. If someone comes to visit, he will run to the other room until he figures out who they are... then it's all charm and chat!

For just a minute, think about the fact that we ask our children not to talk to strangers, but expect them to greet someone new with enthusiasm. Kind of a mixed message.

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He is doing this as protective mechanism and it is his own internal warning, that he does not know this stranger. This is actually good.

He is leery and does not want them to come any closer. He does not want any interaction with them.. Maybe instead of using his finger like a gun, get him to do a peace sign. Work with him without punishment. He is still very young and this is a reaction rather than an action.

3 moms found this helpful

Children are all so different. My son used to kick people when they bent down to say hello and how cute he was when in the stroller. Imagine their surprise! I was so embarrassed! I started to think he was possessed!! Turns out he was afraid, since they scared him, he wanted to scare them back and make them go away and leave him alone.Well it worked! When he was old enough to understand we talked about it until then I protected him from certain situations. He is shy but he is no longer rude.He joins in at his own pace when he is comfortable. Hes come a long way and always says hello now and has good manners.

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My 3 1/2 year old daughter and I play "puppet" where I use a stuffed animal and we go through the whole routine, "Hi little girl, what's your name?" Etc etc. She thinks its a riot. I use it to practice things like "How old are you?" "What's your brother's name?" "What is your address?" "What is your Mommy's name?" etc. This will sound kooky, but we do this while she is sitting on the toliet before bed.

I've noticed that they also practice this at school, where they shake hands and say good morning. I try to role play that with the puppets, too. Slowly, slowly, she's getting it down.

I think kids are naturally shy at this age and its a phase that will pass.

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Threes are really young still. I told my son at four a few of the things he did at three and he thought we were crazy and making it up. If this is the worst of your three year old's behavior, you are very very fortunate. Three's often are a HANDFUL.

It's a phase and will pass. If you want, just hold his hand when saying hello. that way he can't do the gun point. Also speak for him as if you are him. Somehow that makes perfect sense to kids and they pick up on it and start doing it as if they had been doing that all the time. (that also worked really well at the 4 yr mark where they start giving threats and ultimatums. Speak what they should be speaking and they come around better than trying to punish - because they now know what TO DO and aren't floundering around without any ideas.)

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Ignore it. He is probably being shy and does't know how to act. Mine used to meow like a cat then purr. It was really annoying.
Keep showing him how to greet and speak to people and he will learn to do the same in his way.
If you punish thus behavior he will continue because he is really getting a lot of attention for it, I'm sure the person says something and then you punish, lots of reinforcement, albeit negative.

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He's still young. He may be doing the gun thing in retaliation for the pressure to be friendly and social when he may be scared or shy. Maybe if you let up on the pressure for him to be Mr. Cute the gun trick will stop on its own. I would not let him continue with the gun thing though--I would find it obnoxious too. At 3 he should be able to understand the expectation that pointing your finger like a gun is rude to other people because real guns hurt people and when you pretend to point a gun it offends people. Make your expectations clear about him not doing that and tell him it is normal to be nervous around new people but that is not acceptable. See if you can come up with a better alternative if he is shy. You can teach him to do that alternative instead (even just turning toward you and gripping your hand).

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He's not impolite, he's 3 (LOL). Don't punish him, just keep modeling the behaviour. It'll get better. Redirect the gun thing - say that's for playtime, not "say hello" time. One thing you have to realize is that you can't determine your son's personality. You can teach him to be polite, but that's it - he may not be the "cute and lovely" type - and that's ok. Just keep modeling. My son has started attending pre-school part time, and I found he learned manners there very quickly because of the greater exposure to others who are ALSO learning. And the "hi" thing may also be a personality thing - my son is VERY outgoing so he does it naturally, but sometimes he doesn't want to.

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I wouldn't punish him for not saying hello to someone. I don't think you should try to force your child to say something he doesn't want to say. Just keep modeling the behavior you want from him. Geeze he is only 3! I don't know any 3 year old's that are polite and know how to behave in every situation.

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Oh I was mortified when my 3 year old would walk past and completely ignore her preschool teachers who gave her a big friendly hello as she entered the classroom for the day. It just felt so obviously rude to me that she would not look at them or say hello back, I felt compelled to chase her down and force her to go and say hello to her teachers, thinking I MUST instill good manners! However, my overreaction made her more and more anxious. I felt I had to apologize for her. Fortunately, the preschool teachers set me straight. They laughed and said when they greet a child, it's about 50-50 that they will get a response back from a 3 year old. That's normal for this age. I think you just keep modeling polite, friendly greetings, but I wouldn't force/punish.

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He just sounds shy. I would give him a chance to grow into this one in his own time. He is still really young and it sounds like he has good role models... so even if he isn't participating... he is watching and observing. Personally, I would make a bigger issues out of please and thank you's than greeting people. Just tell him that you would like him to learn how to be more comfortable saying HI to people, however you are not going to push it right now... however... he is not allowed to pretend to shoot people as a way to greet them. Doing some role playing with toys/puppets etc. should help this out and give him some practice without the anxiety.

1 mom found this helpful

Take your time. Three-year-olds are just learning the very beginnings of courtesy. Your son isn't running away from you, and he isn't saying impolite words to the people you meet, so maybe the finger-gun is a decent greeting from him right now.

Can you break down the motions of polite greeting in your head? When you greet a friend, you look your friend in the face, you smile, you extend your hand, you call the friend by name, you say hello in a friendly voice. (Did I miss anything?) You might commend your boy when he does ANY of these things - "I really liked the way you smiled at Mrs. Jones when she said hello to you. Good job!" This way you'll be giving him input about what he did well, not just about what he did badly.

Keep modeling the right behavior for him and teaching him, but keep your sense of humor as well. He just has to get through this toddler stage. (If it makes you feel any better, he's probably still cute and lovely! Two out of three isn't bad.)

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He's still trying to figure strangers out. He's 3 and is not being impolite, they dont know how to do that yet. He is just being himself and is still leery of people other than close family. As he gets more secure he will become more extroverted. Definitely dont punish him.... just keep doing your greetings and one day he WIll follow suit when he is ready.
Doing role play at home can help him feel more comfortable.... thats the best way to teach him properness. It takes a lot of repetition.

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My granddaughter, who is now 8, was the same way. people would speak to her and she would just look at them and not say anything. Even if they asked her a direct question, no response. I just sat her down and told her that when people speak to her, she needs to speak back. Also, when I introduce her to someone she is to look them in the eye and say hello. We also practiced it and when we go somewhere on the way I remind her that she is to say hello and speak back if someone speaks to her. It's hard for her because she's shy, but she's working on it!

Do you think maybe he keeps doing it because he's getting feedback (even negative) when he does that? Next time when you see someone, say hello and say hello for your son and tell them outloud that he's kinda shy. If he does the gun thing, ignore it and whisper to them (we're ignoring this for now).

You could also tell him before you are going to see someone that you are going to see X and he does not have to say hello if he doesn't want to, but he has to be polite.

If you are trying to banish the finger/gun pointing thing altogether, I'd still ignore it for awhile to see what happens. If he doesn't get any response to it, he may stop doing it. If/when he does something else (says hello, waves, etc) praise him for being such a grown up big boy and knowing how to communicate so effectively!

I think he's just three... lots of young kids don't like the attention they get from people giving big smiles and saying hello. Most people understand and don't consider them rude until they get to be the age where they really should know better.

We taught both of our kids that greeting someone didn't necessarily have to be verbal. They could smile or wave or say hello... ignoring wasn't polite.

He'll get there... does anyone ever make a gun back and give him a wink?

He is a boy and sometimes they do some annoying things. They think it is funny and we do not. I would not punish him for that. I would ignore him. May be if he sees that he does not get a reaction from you he will stop. I have a three year old boy too,so I understand where you are coming from. One day when he is sitting down playing sit next to him and just talk to him. Ask him why he does that and then explain to him it is not nice. Tell him this is not what we do when we meet people. Let him know he is getting to be a big boy and this is not appropriate behavior.

My daughter was like that. Just didn't like to talk to people. The only thing I ever insisted she do was say thank you if she was given something and then she would say it in a funny deep voice that was nothing like her own. She's 13 now, very social and still sweet! Your son will open up in time. : )

3 is so fun :). My guys is normally on point, but he can be stubborn when he wants. Lately refusing to get into pictures with his older brother and sister and he knows how this drives me insane. But i just take it without him. we have (not literally) beaten into our kids that they will not be rude, so I think they are scared to do anthing but be overly polite to most people....but still at times they will get shy, or be tired, or in a bad mood, or just flat out not feel like it. Your guy is little like mine. If they are not yet getting it, it's okay, it will come! Just keep showing him the right way and encouraging the good behavior and explaining to him that the "bad" will not be tolerated.

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