My Child Doesn't Want to Say Hello: What Should I Do?

Many times, children refuse to say hello, which can be due to different factors. However, it's key not to force them to do so.
My Child Doesn't Want to Say Hello: What Should I Do?
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 31 March, 2023

Have you ever been in a situation where your child doesn’t want to say hello to someone? Surely you have! And you probably didn’t quite know what to do. Children hone their skills and manners as they grow older and advance in the socialization process. Social skills are a set of behavioral strategies that help us relate and communicate with others in an efficient way.

Among the most basic communication and social skills, one is greeting people we know. But, what happens when a child doesn’t want to do it? Should we, as parents, take action? If so, how can we do it in a polite way? In this article, we’ll tell you what you can do to teach your child those good manners and resources to interact with others.

The process of acquiring social skills in children

The skills that allow us to relate and live in society are acquired gradually throughout the stages of life.

In infancy, from 0 to 6 years

During this stage is when most changes occur. Children learn to hold their gaze and look others in the eye. They seek the attention of their reference figures, either with sounds, crying, gestures, or small cries. Therefore, they begin to increase their vocabulary and interact in play with other toddlers.

Children 6 to 11 years old

During this stage, children perfect the skills they acquired in the infant stage. These include the act of greeting acquaintances. They become more attentive to everyone around them. Their purpose now is to better understand the behaviors and emotions of others. For their part, parents and educators play an important role in teaching assertiveness and non-violent solutions.

As they grow up, children develop their identity and, when faced with daily difficulties or conflicts, they acquire resources and strategies to deal with them.

The adolescent stage, from 12 to 18 years old

During this age, social relationships play a very important role. Adolescents sometimes give more value to the opinions of others than to their own points of view. Throughout this period, several skills are strengthened, including negotiation, regulation of emotional expression, and listening, among others.

It’s important to emphasize that the development of social skills doesn’t only depend on age, but there are more factors involved. Some of these factors that help people to develop in their relationships with others are the following:

  • The values instilled in the family
  • Temperament and personality
  • The education received at home
  • Whether or not there are developmental difficulties

My child doesn’t want to say hello, what can I do?

Here are some recommendations that will help us to handle these situations that can occur relatively frequently:

Don’t force the situation

When children refuse to say hello, it may be because of their temperament or because they don’t have the necessary strategies to do it safely. The point is that if we force them to say hello, it can backfire, as we enter into a power struggle.

As a result, children may decide not to say hello simply to antagonize us and demonstrate their power. Therefore, to prevent this from happening and to prevent them from using it to get our attention, it’s better not to force them and to do it ourselves.

Don’t use labels

Sometimes, when we find ourselves in a situation where our child doesn’t want to say hello, we make comments such as “they’re very shy” or “they’re embarrassed”, among others. However, when we try to make excuses for our children, we fall into labels. Therefore, the child may end up internalizing that characteristic that we’ve named. The problem is that they’ll end up convincing themself that this is the reason for their attitude, which may cause them difficulties to change in the future.

In these cases, the best thing to do is to talk to them about their behavior, but without using labels. The idea is that they explain why they don’t want to say hello. It may be for fun or because they just don’t feel like it at that moment.

Don’t overprotect them

Parents have the tendency to answer for their children. For example, when they’re greeted or told something and we notice that they don’t answer. However, it’s better that we avoid this and let our children be the ones who answer. And we shouldn’t force them to do so.

If we notice that our child doesn’t bond with his peers or we observe that they have a hard time relating to others, it’s important to seek the help of a professional. This person will be able to help them improve their social skills.

A toddler girl covering her face.
Many times, children don’t want to say hello because they don’t have enough tools to deal with this type of relationship.

Offer alternatives

If your child doesn’t want to say hello, you can tell them that in addition to communicating verbally, they can also do it through gestures. Therefore, if someone greets them and they don’t feel like talking, they can make a gesture with their head or with their hand or simply smile at the person. These alternatives can help them to face other future situations, and we can practice them with them through symbolic play.

Determine whether or not it’s a problem

It’s important to find out if it’s a situation that the child experiences as a problem. When they’re young, they don’t usually see the fact of not greeting someone as something bad, as they don’t pay attention to such things.

Seek professional help

We parents may worry or find it rude when our child doesn’t want to greet someone. Even so, there’s one thing to keep in mind and that is that we don’t always feel like talking. Besides, children don’t know how to hide it. Therefore, it’s important not to force them to say hello. To do this, you can help yourself with the recommendations we’ve given you in this article.

Observe your child and, if you see behaviors in which they avoid relationships and, in addition, they’re a problem for them, seek the help of a professional. Surely, they’ll be able to guide you on how to act in this regard and help your child with this problem.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Lacunza, A. B., & de González, N. C. (2011). Las habilidades sociales en niños y adolescentes. Su importancia en la prevención de trastornos psicopatológicos. Fundamentos en humanidades, 12(23), 159-182.
  • Lacunza, A. B. (2009). Las habilidades sociales como recursos para el desarrollo de fortalezas en la infancia.
  • Valencia, L. I., & López, G. C. H. (2010). El desempeño en habilidades sociales en niños, de dos y tres años de edad, y su relación con los estilos de interacción parental. Electronic Journal of Research in Educational Psychology, 8(3), 1051-1076.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.