Teaching a child how to greet people properly is one of the most important things we can do as parents. How a child presents himself to others upon meeting them will say a lot about how well-mannered he is, and this important skill will carry him into his adult years. (If you’ve ever met an older child who is surly or uncomfortable when greeting people, you know how important it is to instill these skills in kids at an early age.)
Here are some easy ways parents can help children learn how to greet people properly.
- Teach your child to look for the color of people’s eyes.
Young children may feel shy about looking into people’s eyes, and this is a way to help them feel less intimated, says Patricia Rossi, author of Everyday Etiquette.
- Stick to small sound bites.
Brief your child right before walking into a store, library, or any other place where your child may meet people, go over some things she can say. Tell her that if anyone asks how she is doing, all she has to do is say, “Fine, thank you.” Giving your child some short and simple sound bites to work with can help her feel less pressured about coming up with things to say, says Rossi.
- Be supportive.
Review how things went with your child soon after he greets someone. If he wasn’t able to muster a hello, then reassure your child that you know that he will do better next time. If things went well, tell him how proud you are of him for greeting someone so nicely. Say something like, “You made that person feel so good and brightened their day with your voice,” suggests Rossi.
- Teach your child to shake hands.
Even kindergarteners can greet someone by shaking hands. Do some role playing to help your child practice shaking hands and have him greet you with a confident handshake. Teach your child to face someone with his bellybutton and toes pointed toward that person when greeting that person.
- Tell her to stand.
If your child is seated -- say at a restaurant or on the sofa at home -- and a visitor or an acquaintance comes to say hello, teach him to stand up before saying hello.
- Have fun.
Don’t forget to make this about having fun and connecting with people rather than presenting it as a chore kids have to do. Have a little fun while role-playing, and be sure to give them lots of praise. Explain to your child that when she greets people politely, they will reward them with compliments.