Teaching Your Child to Greet People

Grandfather shaking young grandson's hand
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Teaching a child how to greet people helps to develop their social skills and manners. Greetings set the tone for all social interactions, including helping with making friends and navigating the world outside of the home.

A child who is naturally shy or introverted may benefit from knowing and practicing greetings so they can demonstrate them with confidence. An extroverted child may need structure to be more patient and appropriate rather than abrupt with greetings.

Why Greetings Matter

How a child presents themselves to others upon meeting them says a lot about how well-mannered they are. Proper hellos also serve as the beginning to basic conversation skills and inform what other people think and remember about your child.

Greeting people with warmth and confidence is an important skill that kids will carry with them into their adult years. If you’ve ever met an older child who is surly, unsure, or uncomfortable when greeting people, you know how important it is to instill these skills in kids at an early age.

How to Teach Your Child to Greet People

Some kids will pick up on manners and social skills easily, others will need more guidance. Luckily, proper greetings are simple to practice at home with role-playing. Additionally, you can practice through routine, everyday interactions and modeling with your own behavior.

Give Guidance

While some kids will learn how to greet people by mimicking what they see others do, many kids benefit from explicit guidance. So, tell your child exactly what you want them to say and do during these interactions. For example, if you want them to use honorifics and last names (as in Mr. Smith or Ms. Jones) when they greet non-family adults, let them know. If you expect them to wait to be greeted or to speak first, tell them that as well.

Practice Greetings

Give your child a leg up on greetings by role-playing greeting you and other family members. Make it fun by pretending to be various people, such as a firefighter, their favorite superhero, an animal, or the mayor. The more chances they get to practice this skill the easier it will become for them. Soon, it will become second nature.

Be Supportive and Encouraging

Review how things went with your child soon after they greet someone. If they weren’t able to muster a "hello," then reassure your child that you know that they will do better next time. If your child feels discouraged or feels like they did something wrong or made a mistake, encourage them to learn from this experience and apply it to the next chance they have to greet someone.

Aim to make these interactions positive experiences and praise what they do well.

If things went well, tell them how proud you are of them for greeting someone so nicely. Say something like, "You made that person feel so good and brightened their day with your voice," suggests Patricia Rossi, manners expert and the author of "Everyday Etiquette."

Encourage Eye Contact

Teach your child to look for the color of people’s eyes. Making eye contact is an important part of greetings. Young children may feel shy about looking into people’s eyes, and this exercise is a way to help them feel less intimated, according to Rossi.

Give Them Phrases for Small Talk and Niceties

Help them stick to small sound bites, suggests Rossi. Brief your child right before walking into a store, library, or any other place where your child may meet people, and go over some things they can say. Tell them that if anyone asks how they are doing, all they have to do is say, "Fine, thank you."

Giving your child some short and simple sound bites to work with can help them feel less pressured about coming up with things to say. This can also prevent them from giving too much information that might be a safety issue.

Have Them Shake Hands

Even kindergarteners can greet someone by shaking hands. Do some role-playing to help your child practice shaking hands and have them greet you with a confident handshake. Teach your child to face someone with their belly button and toes pointed toward that person when greeting that person.

Have Them Stand Up

If your child is seated—say at a restaurant or on the sofa at home—and a visitor or an acquaintance comes into the room or approaches them to say hello, teach them to stand up before saying their greetings.

Make It Fun

Don’t forget to make learning greetings 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 they greet people politely, they will think highly of them and want to interact with them more often. Plus, you will also be very pleased and proud.

A Word From Verywell

Learning how to greet people is an important social skill for children. Some kids will pick up these skills easily, while others may need more practice until they get it right. Have patience and offer your child many chances to hone their ability to greet and interact successfully with others. Soon, they will be pros at saying "hello."

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4 Sources
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