Q. At family gatherings when relatives offer treats to the nieces and nephews, my child always hangs back. I’m getting concerned. Why would this be?

A. “Why” questions are very difficult, if not impossible, to answer. There is really no way for a specific brain to be objectively accurate when trying to answer “why.” It may provide some perceived reasons, but since the bulk of one’s thinking occurs at a subconscious level, this pretty well guarantees that the reason is never the reason.

Hanging-back behaviors may relate to self-esteem issues. Perhaps the child doesn’t feel “worth” a treat (e.g., has done something he/she thinks is bad or wrong even if others don’t know about it). Perhaps the child has been conditioned to take “others first” very literally, to wait until everyone else has received a treat and then see if anything is left.

Try talking with the child. In a calm, neutral voice, describe the behavior you have observed and ask the child to talk about it so you can better understand him/her. Try to make it equally easy for each child to accept a treat.

You might want to take inventory of your own level of self-worth. Remember, human beings tend to pass on what they know. Stated another way, you can only teach and role-model what you know.