BY MARIBETH KUZMESKI JUN 2017
HOW TO HELP YOUR KIDS BEHAVE APPROPRIATELY AND ENGAGE MEANINGFULLY WITH EVERYONE FROM PEERS TO STRANGERS
As a parent herself, Maribeth Kuzmeski knows that in the everyday hurry and worry of life, it’s easy to let your kids’ smaller foibles go uncorrected. Kuzmeski, author of The Engaging Child: Raising Children to Speak, Write, and Have Relationship Skills Beyond Technology says, “young people aren’t as disengaged and rude as we assume them to be—they just don’t always know the proper way to act. So start having these discussions now, not when you’re parking at Grandma’s house. And always, always be sure to model appropriate behaviors yourself!”
The more you practice good connecting skills with your children, the more they’ll become ingrained as habits. Here are nine situations that Kuzmeski recommends using to instill productive communicating skills in your kids:
Teach them that sometimes it’s cool to unplug.
Now, technology isn’t bad in and of itself, but we all know that it can lead to disengaged and even rude behavior. It’s important to teach your kids when they need to step away from the phone or keyboard, and why face-to-face interactions are the most rewarding of all. Plus, kids need to understand that not giving others your attention is just plain rude—and that it won’t be allowed in your family.
Arm them with ice breakers.
For youngsters who spend most of their days “LOLing,” “BRBing,” and “TTYLing,” having a good, old-fashioned verbal conversation might be unfamiliar, if not downright intimidating. Especially if your child isn’t a natural chatterbox, it might be helpful to give him a few ideas of how he can strike up a discussion.
Explain the importance of expressing gratitude.
We live in a “me, me, me” society, and even more than adults, kids tend not to think far beyond their own emotions and experiences. In the process of thinking how they can express gratitude to others, they become less self-conscious. Talk about meaningful ways to show gratitude. Perhaps it’s setting aside a few minutes after gift giving to say thanks privately to the gift giver. Or they might stay a moment after class to thank their teacher after receiving special help during class.
Make sure they mind their manners.
During a typical weekday dinner on almost any given day of the year, you might decide to let a muttered, “Eeew, this is gross,” pass without comment. After all, you’re tired from a long day at work, and you really don’t have the desire or the energy to disrupt the meal with a lecture. However, the same under-the-breath comment at someone else’s home is the last thing you want your son to utter.
Empower them while you’re traveling.
“Capitalize on all of the teachable moments that arise as you travel with your family,” she states. “For example, let your teen interact with the hotel receptionist and take care of all check-in aspects except the payment. If you need extra towels in your room, let your child call down to the front desk to request them. You could even let her call the airline’s automated number to double-check a flight time and status. When you accustom your children to these tasks early on, they’ll be much less timid and uncertain as they venture out on their own in the years to come.”
Help them to host an event.
Teach your child the value of being a host and “working” his own party (Note: One doesn’t give oneself a birthday party). Or if you’re throwing a neighborhood gathering, for example, go with your child as he travels from door to door personally inviting each family on your street. Assuming your guests live farther away, sit with him as he phones those to whom he’s closest and asks them to attend your soiree.
“Once the big event is here, have your child greet all of his friends when they arrive,” Kuzmeski instructs. “Then, ask him to keep an eye open to make sure that everyone feels welcome and included—while enjoying himself, of course! You can also help him to direct the flow of the party. (‘Now we’re going to play pin the tail on the donkey!’) Lastly, teach him to thank all of the guests for attending as they leave. The fact is, many people don’t learn these skills until they’re adults, so you’ll be giving your child a major leg up.”
Help them connect at the cash register.
Learning the value of connecting with the people you do business with—from clients and vendors right down to the lady who checks you out at the grocery store—can mean better experiences for you and for them.
“Ultimately, remember that there is no such thing as a perfectly behaved child,” concludes Kuzmeski. “You’ll probably hit some rough patches, but if you’re proactive about teaching your children to connect, they will be the exception rather than the rule.” #