It can be scary to talk to adults. After all, they’re several feet taller than kids and use words kids don’t know.
But talking to adults is an important skill for kids to learn.
Learning how to talk to adults guides kids into maturity in their discussions with peers. Talking to adults requires an understanding of how a conversation works: patience, not saying everything you want to, judging the context of the situation, sincerity, and a bit of logical skills. If a child only ever interacts with kids his age, he won’t learn the ins and outs of real conversation, and by the time his peers learn those things, he’ll be behind.
Here’s steps you can take to help your child talk to adults more confidently.
1. Practice speaking among peers.
Start small. If your child isn’t able to comfortably talk among his peers, it’s likely he won’t feel comfortable talking to adults. If your child doesn’t speak much when he’s in a group of his peers, ask him why, and listen. Tell your child that it’s okay to be shy and listen more than he talks. But also let your child know that if he has an idea that he wants to share with a group, he should say it! His ideas are important and he should share them.
2. Practice responding to questions.
When your child is comfortable speaking freely with her peers, have her practice responding to questions that adults ask her. Resist the urge to quickly respond to a question an adult asks about your child; instead, encourage your child to answer the question herself, even if it takes a few seconds. Encouraging children to answer questions builds up their confidence and shows them that adults aren’t as scary as they might think.
3. Practice initiating contact.
Once your child is comfortable answering questions when asked, have him practice starting conversations with adults. It can be as simple as encouraging your child to say hi to his Sunday School teacher at church, ordering his own food at a restaurant, or saying hello to the clerk at the grocery store. Another conversation starter is encouraging your child to ask adults if they’d like to support Hampton Lutheran by purchasing greeting card, candle and small kitchen and gift items through our school’s annual Kleinhenn fundraising sales.
4. Practice sustaining conversations.
The next step to mastering talking to adults is to sustain conversations. Whether your child starts the conversation or not, teach her tips and tricks for keeping a conversation going. Tell your child that she can ask the adult about his day, how his family is, or what’s exciting in his life right now. Teach her to listen to what the other person is saying and ask more about it. Above all, encourage your child to be sincere in her conversations.
5. Practice what you preach.
No matter how much you try to teach your child something, if you don’t walk the walk, he won’t buy the talk. If you want your child to interact well with adults, then demonstrate how to do that. Engage in meaningful, sincere conversations with your friends while your child is watching (and when you think he can’t hear you). Politely chat with people you run into while out and about, like grocery store workers, secretaries, and waiters. Your child picks up many of his social cues from you, so set a good example in how you talk with other adults.