10 Tips for Teaching Kids How to Break the Ice

In this age of technology, kids are conversing with emails and texts regularly. In the April 2015 issue of Metro Parent, we explore whether verbal, face-to-face conversation is a skill that the next generation won’t have due to the changes in our world. When teaching children manners, teaching them how to start and hold conversations with others is important. Here are 10 ways to ensure your kids know how to converse and break the ice with others.

1. Give kids easy assignments. Like paying the dinner bill at a restaurant. If they get nervous, arm them with the right words and back them up if they need it, says public speaker Jill Washburn.

2. Insist on thank you notes – for gifts and other occasions. Too many kids text or email a thank you when a phone call or handwritten note is really more appropriate, says Rebecca Schlussel, etiquette expert and co-owner of Joe Cornell Entertainment. It makes them think about the other person rather than whip it off quickly as an afterthought.

3. Arm your children with phrases they can use to respond to others. Some examples include: “Tell me more about that,” “That’s interesting” and “No kidding!”

4. Make eye contact. It sounds so simple yet it’s hard for most of us – especially if we are used to multi-tasking. Children learn to rely on “fidget toys” when it’s allowed, but they make it hard for both people in the conversation to focus.

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5. Be a good role model. Do you text at the dinner table? Check your phone in bed at night? Walk around the house with one hand on your mobile device? Put it down, make eye contact and set an example of the type of person-to-person connection you’d like your children to emulate.

6. Connect with neighbors. Walk around the neighborhood with your children and greet people as you pass them. Discuss questions you might ask people you know while you’re walking together.

7. Try not to interrupt others or cut into conversation. A huge part of conversation today involves letting the other person finish their thought before taking your turn.

8. Talk to your children. Children model the behaviors they see in the adults around them. Think of how much time you spend in the car. Rather than returning phone calls on your Bluetooth or blaring music, ask kids about their day, discuss the scenery around you, make plans together. The same goes for dinner prep or other household chores – do them together and engage in conversation while you’re chopping vegetables or setting the table.

9. Don’t accept ‘I don’t know’ as an answer. Explain to your children that you expect them to think, wonder aloud, speculate, guess or give the best answer they can. “I don’t know” is an easy cop-out.

10. Encourage your children to ask questions. And teach this by asking them questions, too! If something isn’t clear, ask your child to clarify. Praise questions that are thoughtful, on topic and which use language well. Use complete sentences in your answers.

Photo by Lauren Jeziorski

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