My children have two public faces. One is charming endearing behavior and one is loud anger and defiance. The first appears much more often. It is easy to read it as manipulation of the adults around them but I choose to believe it is because that is the time they are most comfortable and least threatened. When they are talking with strangers they do not feel the pressure of closeness or attachment. It sometimes relieves the stress of closeness they may be feeling at being out and about at a family event. It is unhealthy.
We went to play LaseQuest a couple of years ago. We went into the chamber where they give directions. Bear and Taz went and stood with another family and chatted with them before and after the directions. After we were finished playing our family stood huddled discussing our scores. I looked up to see Bear huddled with a family of complete strangers discussing scores.
I went to a furniture store and was looking at ottomans. It was difficult to talk with the sales clerk because the boys were so busy asking her questions.
At Oceans of Fun last summer the boys tended to get behind us in line and talk with whomever was behind us rather than to us. This was to the point of the people behind us looking very uncomfortable and looking at each other as though very annoyed.
What to do:
Give complete instructions before we go out. "When we go out sometimes I notice you talk with strangers. This is not safe as we don't know who it is OK to talk with and who it is not. To keep you safe dad and I will form a net. Dad will be at the front, kids in the middle and mom at the end whenever we are in line. This is a family time so we would like to talk with you.
Before we check out at any store I try to remember to say "When I am talking with the check out person it is not the time to ask me questions. I also would like it if you did not talk with her as I am trying to take care of business and it is difficult to do this when you talk with her/him." If they cannot do this I have them go stand in a spot about 10 feet away and wait.
Going out can be frustrating because they treat us with anger and wrath so much of the time and then are perfectly sweet to strangers. Remember it is all about feelings of fear and danger. Mom's represent danger. Don't take it personally. Turn on the therapist inside yourself and stay calm. Quietly remove them from the situation by saying "I'd like for you to come stand over here. Under your breath you can say "We don't talk to strangers." or something of the sort.
Have a healing day!