Manners Minute: Back-to-School Conversation Skills

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Notebooks – Check.
No. 2 pencils – Check.
New backpack – Check.
Conversation skills – wait, what?

The end of summer is near and by now you’ve probably made your child’s back-to-school list and checked it twice. Have you made sure your child has courteous conversation skills in her school bag?

As a parent you want your child to stand out in the classroom as kind-hearted, mannerly, and friendly. These traits often result from good conversation skills. Since many children struggle with shyness, use these few days before school starts to teach by example and do some role-play practice to get them comfortable in conversing with others. Below are a few suggestions to help!

Putting it into practice:

1) Teacher Conversations - Before you get to the open house or first day of school tell your child:

a) What to expect when meeting someone new. As children are asked a question by an adult, encourage them to give more than just "yes" or "no" answers. Example: “Did you have a good summer, Emma?” “Yes, I attended summer camp!”
b) How to respond to a teacher when first meeting. Explain to your child that you will say, “Emma, this is your new teacher, Mrs. Hall.” Teach her to reply, “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Hall,” and to extend her hand in greeting and make eye contact.

2) Peer Conversations - When meeting a peer, tell your child to introduce themselves (“Hi, my name is Emma, what’s yours?”) and then ask a “get-to-know-you” question such as:

a) “What is your favorite sport?”
b) “Do you have any siblings?”
c) “Do you know other children here at school?”
d) “What is your favorite hobby?”
e) “Will you be riding the bus?” Maybe we could sit together on the bus?”
f) “What are you most looking forward to this year in school?”

What NOT to say. Many children often blurt out anything that is obvious with little regard to being sensitive. Discuss with your child that sometimes people look different and may have an obvious birth mark, scar, or handicap and that it is not kind to say things like “What is that?” or “Why do you have that mark?” Instead, refer them back to the “get-to-know-you” question list.

By encouraging your children to ask questions of others, you will not only train them to show kindness and interest in others, you will also help them to calm their own back-to-school jitters!

Image Credit

Bethany Miller is the founder and director of Doors of Success School of Etiquette. A graduate of the prestigious American School of Protocol in Atlanta, Georgia and licensed by the renowned Protocol School of Washington, Ms. Miller is a teacher passionately seeking to encourage a revival of kindness and politeness in American society. For more etiquette tips, check out her course offerings and follow Doors of Success on Facebook!