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.
By Ryan Sharpe
I was The Mayor.
Not officially, of course.
But during my college hockey career, The Mayor became my nickname because I was known to take forever getting out of the rink after every game because I took my time shaking hands with fans and signing autographs for little kids.
I did it because I love people. I love interacting with them and learning about them. It makes me feel good to make someone else feel special or important.
So I became known as The Mayor.
Our son, Maguire, recently attended a robotics engineering camp at our college where I was once The Mayor.
On the second day, he texted Carrie to tell us how he had befriended the entire hockey team when he saw them in the cafeteria and how they were now asking to see his robot videos at each meal.
It's clear that my love of people has been passed on to Maguire. Of all the traits he could get from me, both good and bad, I'm glad he got this trait. It will serve him well. Befriending others, accepting them, and appreciating them is so very important.
Especially in the world we live in today.
Parents, take the time to teach your kids how to build relationships. Teach them to value others and to be a "good-finder." Teach them to put down their phones and have real-life, face-to-face interactions with other people. Teach them how to make friends and how to be a good friend. Teach them to get out of their comfort zone.
And we need to lead by example.
Mayor to Mayor.
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.
It's no surprise that many parents struggle to control the amount of time their children spend behind screens each day. Kids have access to phones, tablets, computers, and televisions both at school and at home. Setting limits on screen time can be a challenge, but it must be done if we want to promote healthy family relationships.
We all know that online relationships are not the same as face-to-face ones. Social media makes it easy to stay connected with our friends and family, but online connections can never take the place of in-person interactions. When we're face-to-face with someone we can have more meaningful conversations, utilize body language and other nonverbal cues, and experience connection on a deeper level. There is a time and place for online connections, but the importance of face-to-face interactions cannot be overlooked.
In order to have face-to-face interactions, we must teach our kids to put their phones down.
Easier said than done, I know.
If you're struggling to get your kids to put their phones down, it's imperative that you establish family guidelines, or "House Rules," regarding screen-time in your home. The following tips may help you:
1. Set a good example. This means you'll have to put your phone down, too. Your kids need to see you model the behavior you expect of them, so set aside times each day that you will stay off your phone, laptop, and tablet. Completely unplug for a few hours each day. You will probably find that you're less stressed, and you'll show your family that they are your priority.
2. Establish "House Rules" for device usage. Some families have a basket on the table by the door so everyone can deposit their devices in it each evening. Other families have designated times when devices are not allowed. For example, many families don't allow devices during meals. Others don't allow devices to be used after 7pm. Gather your family together and work as a team to set guidelines that are appropriate for your family.
3. Use the device-free time to strengthen your relationships. Don't just sit there in awkward silence. Use your device-free time to discuss important issues, play board games, tell stories, and laugh together. This may take some practice, and that's okay. It doesn't always come naturally, but don't give up. Keep working on it.
Getting kids off their phones may not be easy, but it is important. We all need to get out from behind our screens so we can have real-life conversations with the people we care about. Over time, those face-to-face interactions will make our relationships stronger.