May 31, 2018


A Mum explains why she never expects her children to say “hi” on command.

As a kid, my mum expected my brother and I to avoid embarrassing her at all costs. She’d coach us before leaving the house and before arriving at our whatever destination, saying, “eat while we are home so you don’t go begging for food at Susan’s house,” or “we are going in and out of this store so keep your hands to yourself.”


Always Respect Your Elders

One of her rules, like most parents, was to always respect our elders. When someone older than you asked something of you, you did it — no questions asked. If we ever felt as though an elder had crossed the line, we were to tell her so that she could handle it, not us. This meant that no matter what mood we were in or how crappy our day might have been, when an adult entered a room or spoke to us, we are supposed to respond every single time.

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Looking back, I understand most of my mother’s rules now that I’m a parent but making my kid say hello to strangers is not one of them.

Why Should My Son Say Hello To You?

When my son was a fresh newborn, he looked like an old, grown man who was completely over it. His eyebrows were thick and always furrowed, and the smiles and “goo goo, ga ga” comments from strangers were met with blank stares. My baby was serious. And as he grew up and learned how to speak, he didn’t change much. Even now, he continues to be incredibly selective over the people he speaks to. Outside of close family, he simply never really expresses a desire to entertain conversations with strangers. And honestly? I’ve never seen an issue with it.

When my son was around 2 years old and we were walking down the street or through a store, strangers would kindly say “hi” and wave at us. Instead of responding, he’d look at them, then look at me and say, “I don’t want to speak to them.” Though he’s pretty consistent with not wanting to talk to strangers, this isn’t always the norm. Sometimes he’ll want to speak to every single person he passes — the mailman, the guy walking his dog across the street, it doesn’t matter. On any given day his mood towards strangers and friends varies and I have a difficult time seeing the problem why I should force him to be “more friendly.”

Kids Are Supposed To Be ON Or OFF

Often times, society treats babies and young children as these little humans with only two settings: on and off. When they’re on, they’re expected to be on: happy and smiling and doing something cute. When they’re off, it’s only because they’re asleep. The truth is that my child, and yours too, are human — allowed to have a bad day, irritated emotions, and to be in moods where they don’t want to talk to people.

Kids Still Have Feelings

I understand that kids are undoubtedly significantly less complex than adults when it comes to deep emotions, but let’s not forget that they still have feelings. The purpose of not forcing my son to entertain the pleasantries of strangers when he doesn’t feel like it is because I want to honour and respect his autonomy. He doesn’t always have to do things because I said so. If he doesn’t want to say hi to the neighbour today because the only things on his mind are kicking off his velcro sneakers, sipping on some cold chocolate milk, and watching a Disney channel until he falls asleep, I totally get it. I don’t think it’s rude. I see it as my son beginning to work through the emotions, desires, and thoughts that are only going to get more and more complicated as he gets older.

My Son Can Have The Same Choices As Me

As an adult, I can run through a laundry list of people I see regularly, mostly strangers, who I purposely avoid standing too close to so that I don’t have to speak to them. It’s not that they’re bad people or that I’m a rude person. But sometimes I wake up and want to commute to work without talking about the weather with the barista or chumming it up about our mutual love for dogs with the guy waiting for the train with me. My son, though he’s still young, is allowed to make those same choices. He doesn’t have to say hi to you if he doesn’t feel like it, and that it’s totally OK with me.

This post originally appeared on Romper and has been shared with full permission.

Related story – 7 reasons why your child should never be forced to hug anyone (Yes, including relatives)

Do your encourage your children to speak to everyone they meet?

Share your comments below.

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  • I thinks its rude if the child doesnt say hi. Im not saying they hve to engage in a full conversation but they should at least acknowledge that person. As an adult, if someone says hello to you, you don’t just ignore them. You would say hello to them to be polite and civil so why are children excused. By allowing them not to say hello in return, you are just teaching them its okay to ignore people.


  • Some kids are shy and do not want attention brought to them. I am a grandmoter and would let kids be, saying it is ok they do not have to speak to me, they will do it when ready. I worked for a child care center on cruises for awhile and some kids did not want to be in play center, I used to sit and do some colouring in and they after initial wariness would come over and join in. I am pleased to say on some cruises kids ended up wanting to see me


  • My sons were always told to be polite but they didn’t have to speak to people if they didn’t feel like it. They weren’t being rude as far as I was concerned.


  • I encourage my son to be polite and respectful to all people.


  • I will encourage my daughter to say hello or wave (she’s a little shy) if its someone we know.


  • Are we recycling stories on here as I am sure I have read this story before? AND no not through Romper.

    • Yes, I think I have read this story on here before too, just a few weeks ago!


  • I believe that children should not have to interact with those they do not like or know. A polite hello and answer any questions if they feel safe. Nor do my children have to kiss or hug if they do not want to, plenty of time for that later in life. They need to feel to say no if needed.


  • My daughter’s very shy so I’ve never pushed her to say hi but we do acknowledge in other ways even if it’s a quick wave.


  • I wouldnt say I would make my children engage with strangers, but have always told them if we were going out the the neighbours said hello they were to ge polite say hello and then didnt gave to talk to the person. Cant stand it whe you go to someone’s house you say hi to their kids usually aged 7+ and they ignore you. Parenrt often say oh they are shy no thats crap at that age its plain rudeness not to at leadt say hello


  • nope you could say hi but that’s it. you don’t need to have a conversation with strangers and luckily my kids don’t do this


  • We were taught to acknowledge those who spoke to us, sometimes just a smile was sufficient but not to continuing talking to people unless adults we were with did. If the adults we were with didn’t attempt to continue the conversation we didn’t either.


  • Kids have an innate sense of whom they can trust. If you never force the issue, they will grow up better able to survive in this world.


  • Agree with this!!


  • I have never agreed with children having to respect elders just because of age. Children need to be taught protective behaviours and to trust their own instincts and not do what strangers want them to do. The children do have manners and know how to be respectful, but also know how to trust their own intuition and judgment.


  • So true ! Kids have a mind of their own, as little as they are. It’s good to respect and appreciate that !


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