Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Teaching Kids To Talk To And Respect Adults

A number of years ago now I remember going to a wedding where I ran into some of my son's friends from high school who were then in college. While I didn't know them as well as some of his other buddies I was interested to see them nonetheless and they certainly knew who I was.

So I simply greeted them and asked about college and how things were going for them. Their answers were something like, "Uh . . .", "OK," and "Hey, good." There was no response of even, "How are you, Mr. Sinclair," or even any details about college, their life or interest in our son who they had known well.

Now granted, I wouldn't expect any college student to want to engage with an old guy who they didn't know that well and maybe I surprised them. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

But I know this. Our son, Tim, at that same age wouldn't have had any trouble engaging any other adult in at least a little, polite conversation, whether they were 30 or 90. In fact, he talked on and on to adults when he was three! Is it any surprise he's in radio and can talk with ease to tens of thousands of listeners?

Kids are certainly different and have unique personalities. Some are more talkative and others tend towards being shy. However, I think parents can and must help their children to learn to talk readily and politely to adults in their world.

Now of course I'm assuming that parents will also warn their kids about just talking to any adult, particularly strangers. That's a different situation. But let me make a couple of suggestions that can help our kids to speak with adults in appropriate settings.

First of all, give your kids opportunities to speak casually with adults in your home. I've gone to numerous family visits where as soon as the adults walk into the house the kids are shuffled off to their rooms to play. Why not give the children a chance to interact with the adults first for awhile and then split up when it would be more appropriate?

Our children have to learn that the world is filled with people of all ages. And if we never give them a chance to connect with adults and learn to interact with them, when will they learn? How will they address and communicate with their teachers, neighbors, professors, pastors and bosses someday?

Second, don't let them only live in their technological hiding places. Too many kids are allowed to let their cell phones, video games and iPods become their whole world when they're out in public. Now don't get me wrong - I love technology. I use an iPhone, iPod and yes, have even sent text messages.

But challenge your kids (and that may mean saying they can't use their cell phone while you're at a certain event) to make the effort to talk to people, not just stay in the comfort of their virtual or electronic world. And it will help if you model the same behavior. Our messages and emails will wait, too.

And yes, our children should be free to have some fun time with other kids their age at a wedding, picnic or church gathering. However, make sure they get some practice and experience meeting and talking to other adults somewhere during the day or evening. Your kids may balk, but remember you're the parent and trying to teach them an important skill and lesson.

Third, talk to them yourself. And not just about everyday things. Do you spend time conversing about life, their likes/dislikes, about world issues and people in need? Some parents say, "Well, my daughter just never talks about anything." And that's true - the longer we let our kids not talk the less comfortable they'll be.

But if some serious talking between us is the norm early on then they'll be more likely to interact as they get older, especially during the challenging adolescent years. You might even be a bit afraid to talk to your kids about deeper things, but trust me they want to engage you even if they don't like to admit it.

Finally, teach them how to be respectful in their conversations. You may not feel compelled to require they say "yes sir" and "no sir," but you can require respect in other ways. For example, they can learn to stand up and greet people they're meeting, to say "It's nice to meet you," or to shake hands when it's appropriate. They can learn to speak in sentences and not be afraid to talk about their interests and ideas with those older than themselves.

The benefits of working now to help our kids relate to adults will be huge someday. Don't put it off. Start now or keep going if you're already at it. It will be SO worth it. And just maybe one or more of your kids will actually be influencing others through their words in ways that make a difference. You never know.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

No comments:

Post a Comment