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How Do Children Learn to Distrust Others?

One thing that has been coming up for us lately is the repeated theme of getting our son integrated and comfortable being around other children. Usually, August (our son), will either try to share something with the other child;  a book, his food, or some piece of string he found on the ground. Occasionally he prefers to just watch. More recently, he and his dad were with another father and baby, and that baby came over to August while he was sitting on the floor, and started patting his head—quite gently, at first. But then gently, turned into not so gently (or so I’m gathering), and August didn’t give that child the attention he was hoping for. So, August started to cry. He didn’t walk off, or try to pat not so gently back, and our thought was that eventually, August will have to learn to stick up for himself—to learn that it’s okay to say no to some things or some people. What I don’t understand is why do I have to teach my child this, when it’s someone else’s child that got rough. Why is that child not being taught to be nicer to other children? 

It’s interesting that as humans, we begin life trusting essentially everyone, and then, at some point, we learn that we can’t. I find that incredibly sad. I’ve often wondered, way before I had my own child, just what is it that makes us distrust people. Is it a single act, is it several, or is it just inherent? What I’m learning through August, at least for him, is that it is several acts that will lead him to distrust people. My hope is to put off his distrust of people as long as possible, but I fear in the end it will be other children that teach him this, and not necessarily the adults.

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