Friday Focus: Teaching Children to be Productive with their Words
This week, I am spending two evenings at large local college fairs representing my Alma Mater,
the University of Notre Dame. As our community's local Alumni Schools
Coordinator, it is my volunteer responsibility to attend these events
in lieu of our Admissions Representatives who cannot be present at
every local fair. Last night, I met and spoke with over three hundred
students and their parents, answering their questions about Notre Dame.
Many of the students I met were very interested in potentially
applying to Notre Dame. A few were even downright passionate about
it. What shocked me, however, was how few of them took care to make a
great first impression. Granted, I am a volunteer and not the person
who will be making decisions about their admission status. But they
don't know that - for all they know, I could be the one person who is
ultimately responsible for that decision. Most of the students I met
were inappropriately dressed, grabbed materials off my table while
making loud jokes with buddies and didn't take the process too
seriously. The few kids who completely impressed me were the ones who
took the time to wait in line patiently, shake my hand, look me in the
eye, introduce themselves and ask a relevant question.
Last night underscored for me the vital importance of teaching my
own sons, growing young men, the critical nature of making a great
first impression. Regardless of the circumstances, my sons need to
know how to meet and speak with adults. This afternoon, I had a frank
discussion on this topic with my almost-thirteen-year old Adam. I
asked him what tips he would give to parents on how they could help
teach these types of manners to their children. Along with the
expected advice such as "Give a firm handshake" and "Look them in the
eye", Adam shared the following bit of wisdom:
"Tell them to speak with the grown up as they would with one of their friends."
Oh no, I thought to myself, we have some work to do.
I asked Adam to clarify his point for me and he went on to explain that
the problem many kids his age have speaking with grown ups is the fact
that adults can be intimidating to youngsters. So I prompted him a bit:
"Like you speak with your friends, but with respect, right?"
"Mom, I should be speaking with my friends with respect all the time too!"
OK, Mom schooled by the seventh grader! I think Adam has a valid
point - it gave me pause to question how nervous those kids in line at
my Notre Dame table probably felt last night. Adam and I came to the
mutual conclusion that practice makes perfect when teaching kids
manners. Practice at home and take every opportunity to introduce your
son or daughter to those with whom you may be conversing, giving them
the opportunity to rehearse social skills. This can start at the
youngest of ages, but it's also never to late to start. If your Senior
in high school lacks social graces, make it a priority to help him
overcome his anxiety or attitude soon, before he enters the world a
Ultimately, it is also our duty to model for our children the type
of behavior we hope they will master. That's why I continue to work on
this area in my own communication skills on a daily basis. Greeting
each person we interact with in a professional and compassionate manner
can go a long way towards making our world a better place.
Home-work for Today:
- Have a practice "meet and greet" session after dinner one night
this week. Reinforce eye contact, addressing the person by Mr., Ms. or
Mrs., and a firm handshake. Kids and adults will benefit from this