A Kid's Guide to Grown-Ups

Conversing Like a Big Kid

Playing the Name Game

How your kids refer to adults (Mrs. Smith, Ms. Julie, or Julie) is often a matter of preference -- yours as well as the other person's. Some families wouldn't dream of letting the kids call the neighbors Susan and Bob; others think Mr. and Mrs. sound horribly old-fashioned. If you'd rather have your children not use first names regardless of the other adult's preference, teach your kid to respond with a charming "Thank you, but my parents prefer that I call you Ms. Wolfe."

Getting Superpolite

If your child wants to be the kid who's always invited back, she should try to go above and beyond the expected niceties like saying "please" and "thank you." For instance, when your child is staying at a friend's for dinner, remind her to offer to help set and clear the table. She can earn bonus points by putting away toys before leaving, as well as by saying thank you to the parents for having her over. These easily teachable behaviors will greatly enhance your child's likability with adults," says Dr. Borba.

Learning to Converse

To help your child become a better conversationalist, give him some tricks of the trade. For example, encourage him to think in threes. Teach your kid to answer questions by telling the grown-up three things about a subject. For an inquiry like, "Do you play soccer?" your child could say, "Yes. I play defense. My team's name is the Orange Crush. We're going to be in the playoffs." (But, you may want to add, don't answer in a robotic voice.) Another way to keep the chatter going is to have your kid use the word because -- he'll naturally be able to extend the conversation. A child answering the soccer question, for example, might say, "I love soccer because I get to run and kick the ball. It's fun to play because you get dirty." Finally, tell your child it's also a great idea to ask questions. Make sure he knows that grown-ups aren't the only ones allowed to be inquisitive. By turning the tables and asking "Did you play soccer when you were a kid?" your child is actively engaging in the conversation while showing an interest in the other person, a great social skill for anyone to have.

Originally published in the March 2009 issue of Parents magazine.

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