If you are bringing your kids to a gathering, here are some basic rules of “conversation etiquette” you can teach your tween.
Maintain good eye contact
Encourage him to make regular eye contact with the person he talks with. His instinct may be to look down at his feet during a conversation, especially with an unfamiliar adult because he may be a bit nervous, so he may need to make an extra effort to look up. Eye contact should not be a fixed stare, but should be occasional.
He gets fed up if you answer a phone call or play with your iPad when he’s trying to speak to you about something important. So he’ll understand that he should avoid all distractions when he is chatting with someone. That means leaving his smartphone or other gadgets alone while talking to a relative.
Use suitable language
Your kid should avoid swearing and rude words. Although some of his pals talk like that sometimes, make sure he realises most people frown upon that sort of speech. He should use appropriate language that does not make the other person – child or adult – feel uncomfortable, and should choose his words carefully.
Mind his P’s and Q’s
Simple politeness, particularly the suitable use of “please” and “thank you”, has an amazingly positive effect. And it’s instant. Adults love a child who speaks respectfully. Of course, he shouldn’t overdo it, or he’ll sound insincere, but using “please” and “thank you” appropriately helps considerably.
Conversations are a two-way street, so practise listening skills. When he speaks, show that you are paying attention by making eye contact, nodding your head appropriately, and matching his facial expression. Encourage him to do the same when you speak to him.
Junior might not be good at letting you speak without him butting in. The next time he interrupts you, hold your hand up to indicate that he should stop, and continue only when you have finished.
Consider the context
He should be aware that there is a time and place for every conversation – and there is also a time when he should remain quiet (for example, when he is in the cinema with you, or when you chat with a friend you meet while out shopping). Be patient and encourage him to take context into account.
Although you raise your child to be honest and to say what he thinks and feels, he also has to learn to weigh the impact of his comments on the other person. For instance, point out that while you want him to be truthful, negative remarks about people’s appearances are probably best kept to himself.
One of the best ways to show interest in a conversation is by asking questions that are directly related to what was just said. Demonstrate how to do this. For instance, tell him that you just broke your favourite piece of jewellery, and suggest that he asks: “Are you able to fix it?” He’ll soon get into the habit.
Most children his age think it is outrageously funny to fart loudly or make other annoying noises. He may not realise that most adults do not find such behaviour amusing. So encourage him to think about his actions during a conversation, and to behave politely at all times in order to avoid disapproval from the other person.
Dr Richard C. Woolfson, Young Parents, December 2015