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Kids' Relations with Adults

Kids and adults sometimes think of each other as alien species. This situation is tougher on kids than it is on adults because adults are bigger and know more. Both, however, tend to be a little uncomfortable when they meet for the first time. Adults may deal with this discomfort by saying dumb things like “Last time I saw you, you were wearing diapers.” Children sometimes deal with it by sulking or being silent or trying to be invisible.

This awkwardness is generally called shyness, and almost all children are afflicted with it to some degree. You can help alleviate this painful stage by passing along some of the following tips. However, your child or any young person will be on the way to overcoming the curse of shyness if you can get these two basic ideas across:

  • Everybody, regardless of age, is shy to some degree around new people or in unfamiliar surroundings.
  • Stop worrying about yourself and focus on the other people.

I've included my own helpful tips and tricks for helping young people get along smoothly with adults in the following sections.

Meeting Someone New

When young people meet someone new, they should ...

  • Stand up.
  • Shake hands. In the Western world, shaking is an almost-universal gesture of goodwill.
  • Smile.
  • Look the other person in the eye and say hello. Use Mr., Miss, or Mrs. When in doubt, use Ms. (pronounced “mizz”).
Breaking the Ice

Teach your child to use the following questions to easily open a conversation with someone:

  • Do you live in the neighborhood?
  • Do you have children?
  • How did you meet my parents?
Conversational Tricks
Mind Your P's and Q's

If your child asks what is the worst "bad manners" thing a person can do, the answer is, to hurt someone's feelings

Young people need to know some of the conversational tricks we all use without thinking. Let them know some of the basics:

  • People like to talk about themselves.
  • People don't mind questions, as long as the questions are not too personal (How much money do you make?) or downright rude (Why do you wear that ugly dress?).
  • Many personal questions are okay to ask: Do you have any children? Do you live around here? Did I see you out running in the park the other day?
  • Teach your youngster to become aware of the details that can spark a conversation. Remember that the idea behind all of this is not necessarily just to get your child to talk but to also get the other person talking.
  • If you notice skis or roller blades lying around, for example, ask about these sports. If you just finished reading a book, ask the other person if he, too, has read it. Talk about the latest flick you've seen or one you'd both like to see.
  • Listen carefully to the other person and don't interrupt the speaker unless something important has come up that he or she should know. Then say, “excuse me.”
  • The truth is that when people say so-and-so is a good conversationalist, they really mean the person is a good listener.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Etiquette © 2004 by Mary Mitchell. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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