Neither me nor most of my friends have children, so I do not really have anyone I can ask about this.

I am new to the childcare industry and some of the toddlers seem scared of me. I am not used to this, because many of the children I meet in public are drawn to me. I have not let it bother me that some of the toddlers are scared of me. I have been very caring, friendly and responsive with them. I assumed that it was most likely normal for some toddlers to be scared of strangers and that it might take time for them to feel safe with a new person.

However, I am scared that there might be something about me that is scaring them. Perhaps something about my appearance? I have noticed that I am one of the only women at the daycare/preschool with short hair. I am the only woman at the center who styles her hair, does her nails, wears makeup and dresses in business casual/professional attire. I do not over-do it. I do not look like a clown, merely, chic and sophisticated.

I am also the only person besides the director who wears glasses. In fact, the only person whose overall appearance is more similar to mine, is the director. Everyone else, puts their hair up in messy buns. They wear faded tank tops, short shorts and sneakers. I am in no way judging their appearance, it is just that my appearance differs from theirs drastically and their appearance is what the toddlers are accustomed to at the center.

So, is it normal for some toddlers to be scared of strangers or is a fear of strangers a stage that most toddlers experience? Am I possibly doing something with my appearance that is scaring them?

  • 1
    It might help if you were to explain moe about your role in the workplace. Are you actively involved in childcare or are you doing administritive work within the building where the children themselves are effectively incidental to you duties? ie is it your job to interact with them or are they just 'around the place'. In what ways do you interact with the children? I think if the question is about your interaction with toddlers rather than the nature of toddlers, it can probably be made on-topic, but you need to give us more to work with.
    – Spagirl
    Oct 17, 2018 at 10:03

3 Answers 3


Toddlers and children tend to go through phases where they're learning about their own space and relationship to others. For the first year, our 2-year-old was fine with strangers. But now that he has matured and realized that he has a mommy and daddy and they're awesome (at least we think so), he is very unsure of strangers and realizes that there are people he knows and people he doesn't know. Our 4-year old was very unsure of new people when he was 2 but now he asks us all the time: "Are these people 'strangers' that I can't talk to them?"

That being said, children have an uncanny ability to recognize, albeit subconsciously, whether there are insecurities and feelings of fear and boundaries imposed upon them. If you're feeling emotionally drained or are putting up your defenses, children can pick up on that, and respond accordingly. This doesn't happen with every child, or at every moment. If you feel that toddlers are scared of you, try to loosen up, don't let it bother you, and work on a relaxed, fun-loving, caring persona. Try to be warm (but not overly so), don't offer treats or touch anyone but smile and relax. (Don't fake it, children will see right through that). If you're still getting the cold shoulder, don't let it phase you. It is probably the child having a bad day, or is tired, or going through a phase. Don't take it personally.


This is absolutely normal, don't let it bother you so much. Children come from all different backgrounds, and have a variety of introverted/extroverted tendencies. Some are quite shy and just want to be next to someone they feel safe with, some children are so outgoing you think they'd easily join a new family and forget you exist if given the chance. The point is, it's not you specifically.

My daughter (at 1 years old) hated her grandpa. He came to visit and play, and she would scream and yell and get away. She also hated people dressed up in costumes like Santa/Easter Bunny/other characters. That was just her personality.

My wife and I foster, so we've been around many children. There was one little boy we were placed with that absolutely hated me, he loved my wife though. If I even came into the room, he would cower in fear behind my wife. As it turns out, this child was abused by a man that likely looked similar to me, so that is where his fear was originating from.

Once you realize this, and don't take rejection so personally, it's really not a big deal. Just do your job to the best of your ability, and eventually these children will warm up to you.


If you consider other times when kids seem to respond well to you vs. at work when some of the kids aren't as responsive, what's the difference? Are you wearing clothes that are more "washable"? Are you more relaxed in general?

Keeping a professional appearance at work is important, but it's hard to relax when you are consciously aware of how close those sticky fingers are to wiping (who knows what) on the brand new skirt you wore today... I know it makes a difference for me, personally, which I think is quite natural. Maybe the kids are just picking up on it.

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