Teaching your kid to be a “people person”


“Your kids are so polite.” 

“What a little gentleman.  What is your name, little boy?”

Oh, the smiles of proud parents when this happens.  Your child being publicly recognized for good behavior is about as good as it gets for parents.  Bigger deal for kids?  ABSOLUTELY, here is why:

So much of how we behave is maintained by social consequences. 

Making people smile, doing things not to embarrass yourself in front of your spouse’s boss, receiving compliments, “looking good,” the list goes on.  The power of following social rules and social boundaries is huge.   Receiving social acceptance and avoiding social disgrace is makes us tick.  Here is an example I use in many of my trainings:

Picture yourself at a red-light in a town far away from home.  There are cars on both sides of you.  You get an itch on the inside of your left nostril.  CRAP.

Do you scratch it? 

Most people smile and look around nervously, even as I tell the story.  The truth is, in most cases we will NOT scratch the inside of our nose simply because one of those people (who you will NEVER, EVER see again) might, JUST MAYBE, think you are picking your nose.  How embarrassing.

Need anymore evidence of how much social consequences play a part in our behavior?

Back to your kids. 

As they grow up, many of their behaviors will occur outside of your reach.  These behaviors will be reinforced by those around them: friends, teachers, coaches, even strangers on the street.  It is important for you to begin to teach your kids how to best access the best kinds of social consequences: praise, smiles, compliments, etc.  We talked about this a bit before when talking about the Suzuki method and “teaching the bow.”  If you have not read that, please do so…very cool story.

Politeness.  Manners.  Introducing themselves, shaking hands (even at early ages), saying, “excuse me,” “potty” or “restroom” instead of “I gotta poop.”  Go ahead and teach them to raise their hand.  It is amazing how people respond when young kids do these things.  It is a powerful force. 

It also allows you to follow up the public praise with some of your own: “did you see how amazed that guy was when you said, ‘excuse me, sir.’  That was so awesome.”

Try it.  Do something simple.  Prompt it next time a friend comes over.  Teach your son to shake hands, teach your daughter to say, “would you like something to drink.”  I think they (and you) will be surprised and pleased.

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