FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT’S DESK
Learning How to Converse With Adults Offers Lasting Benefits for Children of All Ages
During a recent visit with my grandchildren, who range in age from 6 to 15, I had the occasion to watch them interact with adults in several different settings. The adults asked various questions of each of the children.
There are many reasons children may hesitate when asked questions by adults. Some are shy, others may feel ill at ease around adults outside of the family, or they may simply be bored among adult company. Many parents make a point of teaching their children fundamental socialization skills for getting along with peers, but it’s equally important for children to learn appropriate ways of interacting with adults. Children who learn these skills early have a significant advantage in life.
Parents can begin teaching even very young children to engage with adults comfortably and appropriately. Including the child in adult conversations with family and friends is an excellent way to start. For example, if an adult friend asks your young child, “What did you do today?” you might respond by offering a few prompts. Ask, “Can you tell Mrs. Smith that you went to your swimming lesson this morning?” Don’t be surprised if your words are parroted (“I went to my swimming lesson this morning.”); but you can encourage conversation by asking your child to tell Mrs. Smith what went on during the lesson.
Children need to have positive interactions with other adults in order to become comfortable around them. At the same time, they need to learn what is appropriate and what is not. If we want children to grow up to become respectful, considerate, thoughtful and courteous adults, we need give them guidelines for “adult-like” behavior. These include listening to, and looking at, a person who is speaking to them, and responding politely.
Parents can help make children’s social experiences more comfortable by reviewing some appropriate responses to routine questions, such as, “How old are you?” “Where do you live?” “What grade are you in?” Providing a little information ahead of time can help children feel more at ease in all social situations. When you’re having adult company at home or attending an event where adults will be present, discuss in advance what your child can expect. Tell them who will be there, what type of food will be served, and how long you’ll be visiting. In a situation where some or all of the adults may be people you don’t know very well, it’s also important to make younger children aware that they may only answer questions when you or another adult family member is present.
Giving your children the opportunity to practice basic social etiquette in conversations with grownups results in lasting personal benefits. Children who are comfortable around adults will have the confidence to ask their teachers questions when they’re uncertain of what’s expected, and to speak up when they have something to contribute. In addition, engaging in conversation with adults helps children develop greater vocabulary and communication skills — advantages that increase their opportunities for lifelong success and enjoyment. #