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First time you meet a shy toddler, compliment their shoes.
You want to reduce the tension by initiating a friendly conversation about something that you can both see and agree on. The minute you say, “Look at your cool red shoes!” or “Are those pants blue?” the little one will follow your gaze down. The child now has something comfortable to look at besides your scary stranger face while she gets used to your presence and voice.
Don’t compliment the child directly. Go for what they are wearing or holding.
Don’t compliment the child directly. Go for what they are wearing or holding. You’re looking to bring positive focus to something personal but not so personal that you run the risk of making her more self-conscious.
Bonus points if you can integrate a color or cartoon character that the child knows the name of:
You: “Is that Mickey Mouse?”
Child: “Mickey Mouse.”
You: “Yeah, Mickey Mouse. I like Mickey Mouse.”
Child: “Micky Mouse.”
Now that’s meaningful small talk, toddler style.
P.S. This works with grown ups too.
Diane Meriwether is an author, counselor, and workshop facilitator. She has spent 3 decades studying healing techniques including transformational bodywork, holotropic breathing, family constellation work, shamanic journeying, and voice dialog therapy.