When we first started having our kids, I felt like it was my job to just teach and train them to be good little children. Raising little dears is so much more than making them into good little robots.
Now that I look back, some of the training techniques I used were actually gifts that we gave them. I was given gifts from my parents that stayed with me for life and benefitted me enormously over the years. Sometime, I should try to think of the top 5 gifts my parents gave to me. One of them, for example, was that my mom paid for piano lessons for years and years. That was a gift in itself, but the real gift, the intangible one was the discipline of practicing that she made me do each week. The second part of the gift was that when I was in high school she told me that I could finally quit my lessons or continue and it was my choice. Guess what, I quit! Silly teenager. I loved the freedom of choice, but then I realized, all on my own, that I was so close to achieving a level of accomplishment, so after a year off, I asked her if I could continue with lessons and take the music exams. Her gift to me was consistent discipline until she felt I was old enough to make my own choices.
The 1st gift of the top 5 gifts, I’ve tried to give my children is the gift of sincere compliment and recognition for something they did that was noteworthy. The 2nd gift that I think is so valuable, is to take time with them to teach them how to interact with adults. This is tough for anyone, but children are just not comfortable interacting, on their own, with adults yet.
I didn’t notice that I actually went out of my way to teach the kids how to interact with adults, until people started noticing how mature our little ones are and how respectful and confident the older ones are with grownups. I’m often asked how I did it. I had to stop and think about what it is that I do.
Here’s the steps that might help.
1.Before meeting with grownups, I’ve stopped for a moment ahead of time, and tried to prep them and I’ve given them a few hints about what to say. Option A, eg. ‘Just say, hello, my name is Caleb.’ That’s it, no worries. Often adults speak first and they usually say How are you. Option B., just say ‘I’m fine, how are you?’ If they can pull this off, and have the guts to speak up, grownups love that from a little wee kid. It’s so adorable when a little one speaks up, and when it works well for them, it can put a real success under their belt and will build their confidence.
2.I‘ve done a mini roll play with the little cuties and demonstrated how to introduce themselves and confidently put out their hand for a handshake. This can be fun with the more outgoing little babes, but a bit stressful for the shy ones. It takes patience and encouragement to teach this to them, but well worth it in the end. When the time comes, to meet the grownup, I nudge them forward and hope they get the hint to put out their hand, but if they don’t, I just quietly remind them, with a smile on my face, and wait for them to go ahead. Depending on how young they are, I have them try again if it doesn’t go well the first time. I might let them cop-out once, and then talk about how great it’s going to be next time when they’ve had a little more practice.
3.The real trick to having a successful interaction between your kids and an adult is your response to the situation. It’s worth it to me to take time with someone I know and have my little cutie try a couple of times to shake hands and say hello in a friendly way. It’s also very important to me to have this be successful so my attitude has to come across like everyone’s having fun and we like to talk to grownups a lot.
We’ve had a lot of success with our kiddos, confidently handling themselves in public, but just in case you think I’m bragging a bit, I do have a cheat card up my sleeve. Their dad is exceptionally and naturally outgoing. When your little’uns grow up having fun times, socially, and a dad being friendly and open in front of them all of their life, well that is training right there. He has also been a great example to me, because I tend to be on the shy side, and I’ve learned a lot from watching him over the years.
Having said that, if they’re still shy, I still practice with them. I tell them that there is no excuse to not take the time to be kind and reach out to people no matter who they are because you never know how they’re feeling and it’s their chance to be unselfish and make someone else’s day.