The Balancing Act: ‘My 2‑Year‑Old Is Extremely Friendly’
Every other week, Sonali Gupta draws on more than 10 years of experience as a clinical psychologist to answer readers’ questions about parenting, family dynamics, relationships, mental health, and more.
Stranger Danger: I have a 2-year-old daughter who is extremely friendly with anyone and everyone. Every day, I try to teach her not to talk to strangers, saying, “The strangers are bad.” Am I doing the right thing? Am I subconsciously tearing her social element apart? What is the best way to deal with this?
Sonali: Your response comes from a position of concern for your daughter’s safety. It is very common for parents to talk about ‘Stranger Danger’ with the best intentions, but it can create a sense of insecurity or paranoia in children. Indirectly, we are telling them that they cannot trust others and generalizing that all strangers are bad. (I’m reminded of when I wished “Happy Birthday” to a 6-year-old who studied in the same school where I taught; she said she couldn’t take my wishes, as I was a stranger.) And for a child who is social or friendly in nature, this can mean choosing not to behave as authentically as they feel.
Research does indicate that in most crimes against children, the perpetrator is known to the child. So it is important to teach your daughter about her own safety, good secret/bad secret and trusted adults whom she can ask for help. Teach her to say no, to respect her own and others’ bodies, and to listen to her own feelings; children are very perceptive. You can use books or videos to help explain these behaviours. I suggest: We Can Say No by David Withers and Sarah Greene and The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers.
Remember, trust is the foundation of all our adult relationships. Sometimes, we must work on our personal anxieties so they don’t influence a child’s reality. Let’s engage in a constant dialogue with our children that allows spontaneity, responsibility, self-care and an ability to trust others and theirselves. With your love, understanding and attentive listening she will learn to be remain safe, yet friendly.
Is One Enough? I have a 4-year-old daughter, and my family has been pressurizing me to have another child for my daughter’s sake. However, my husband and I are not sure if financially we can afford a child. Also, we are not keen on having a second child. What do you suggest?
Sonali: This is a common struggle; I hear many parents and young couples talk of delaying pregnancy or having only one child due to financial constraints. Given our economic conditions globally, the huge financial investment of having a child is an important factor while planning a family. Our extended family and peer pressure can also influence our choices. But, I suggest you make the decision as a couple and keeping in mind the practical concerns, like finances and your personal desire to have a child.
New research indicates that single children do just as well as children who have siblings (and some research suggests single children may actually do better). This may help you reduce any anxiety and guilt you may feel. The earlier view that single children are lonely and spoilt is slowly undergoing a change in light of the evidence against it.
In matters like these, there is no right or wrong. It’s a subjective personal call, which allows you to create a life that both of you, as a couple, wish for. Trust your personal judgment together and let your decision not come from pressure or fear.