All parents want their children to display adequate social skills so they can function and succeed in life. Unfortunately, many children do not possess such skills. Parents are busy and don't always realize there is a deficiency until they're thrust into an embarrassing social situation.
These skills can be taught and mastered. If you've observed some less-than-fabulous behavior from your children, do not despair. You can start today to course-correct and point your kids in the right direction where social skills are concerned. Help your children master social skills in the following three areas.
Kids need to have a thorough understanding of manners like holding the door for others, proper etiquette, saying "please" and "thank you," meal-time manners, and social media etiquette. These manners are developed through practice during face-to-face interactions with others.
Parents who model these skills find it easier to teach these skills. Kids learn by watching what you do, so practice good manners yourself. Your kids will pick up on what you're doing. Take it a step further by talking with your kids specifically about manners. Praise them when they do well, and encourage them to improve when they don't. It's important to keep the conversation about manners going. Learning these skills is a journey that takes time and corrective input from parents.
Everyone should be able to meet someone new and keep the ball rolling during a conversation. Teach your kids to make direct eye contact, shake hands, speak audibly and clearly, and ask questions of the other person to keep the conversation going. Whether your kids are shy or outgoing, everyone needs these skills. Everyone can learn and implement them.
The easiest way to teach these skills is to put kids in situations where they can develop these skills. When you attend a barbecue, a church gathering, or a reunion, encourage and challenge your kids to introduce themselves and have conversations. Praise them for stepping out of their comfort zones, and afterward discuss ways to improve.
It seems counterintuitive in this day and age to think that anyone would lack phone skills. We're on our phones all the time, but mostly through text. For kids, verbal communication occurs less frequently. Phone etiquette like how to answer the phone, take a detailed message, be polite, and how to end the call properly must be taught and learned.
Teach your kids that when they make a call, they should say this:
"Hello. This is ___________. May I please speak to __________?"
Teach your child to always state his/her name before asking for the other person. Teach kids not to mumble while on the phone, and show them your preferred way to take a message. Make sure they know they should write down the caller's phone number along with the message. Even though we use text communication more than verbal communication these days, phone etiquette is still essential and must be taught. They will need these skills when dating and in their careers.
Your children will learn from your example. Be sure that the example you're setting is the one you want them to learn from. None of this is complicated, but much of it is overlooked in modern times. That doesn't mean it's less important, however. Good manners and basic social skills will never go out of style, so take the time to teach your kids. They need you.
Opportunities to model and teach social skills and manners to our kids are everywhere. They happen naturally in everyday life, and parents can be intentional to make some happen, too. One easy place to teach manners is at the family dinner table during meal-time.
Table manners get overlooked these days because so many of us are on the go. We eat in our cars or in front of the television where it's more difficult to teach the manners and social skills that our kids need.
Meal-time manners are an absolutely essential social skill.
Our children need to be able to handle family dinners and gatherings. The manners they learn as kids will extend to their business lunches, networking parties, and other functions involving meals when they are adults. Parents need to intentionally teach kids good table manners and how to make small talk so they are prepared for these situations.
Family dinners are the most obvious opportunity to practice and teach table manners. It's also a great time to help kids practice how to participate in conversations. Families are busy with work and kids' activities, so it's important to purposely set aside at least a couple evenings each week to eat a meal together. If dinners are impossible, maybe a breakfast or weekend brunch would be better. Regardless of which meal it is, gather the family together around the table for a family meal on a regular basis.
Sit down and eat the meal together as a family. Work on basic table manners like asking for and passing food, saying please and thank you, keeping arms off the table and napkins in the lap, chewing with mouths closed, and not talking with food in the mouth. Manners like these are generally not taught in school, so as parents we need to do it. Be intentional. Observe your kids' current manners and help them make adjustments. Make mental notes during the meal and later discuss with your kids how they can improve.
During the meal, have a good conversation. Ask each other questions. Tell stories from your day. Stick to one conversation at a time so no one is talking over other people. Try asking questions that cannot be answered with one word. Eat slowly, and make the discussion the focus of the meal. Tell a silly joke. Whatever works. Don't give up if this does not go well right away. It's a process and may take some time, but kids definitely need to know how to speak to others politely and appropriately. Teach them, help them improve, and continue to work on it.
Make the commitment to yourself and your family to teach your kids these important social skills.
If we want kids to become productive adults, we must teach them basic social skills like meal-time manners. It's absolutely essential. It takes time and some course-correction along the way. Instruct your kids, model the desired behaviors, and be encouraging. You'll be preparing them to be successful in their future adult life.