How to Help a Child Feel at Ease When Greeting People

Shy child hiding behind mother

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Teaching a child how to greet people will help in their development of social skills. The greeting sets the tone of all social interactions. A child who is naturally shy or introverted may benefit from knowing the proper form and being able to use it with confidence. An extroverted child may need structure to be more appropriate rather than abrupt with greetings.

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.

Easy Ways Parents Can Help Children Learn to Greet People

  1. 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 is a way to help them feel less intimated, according to Patricia Rossi, author of "Everyday Etiquette."
  2. Help her 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, and 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. This can also prevent them from giving too much information that might be a safety issue.
  3. Be supportive and encouraging. 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 your child feels discouraged or feels like he didn't do something right or made a mistake, encourage him to learn from this experience and apply it to the next chance he has to greet someone. If things went well, tell him how proud you are of him for greeting someone so nice. Say something like, “You made that person feel so good and brightened their day with your voice,” suggests Rossi.
  4. 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 belly button and toes pointed toward that person when greeting that person.
  5. 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 into the room or approaches him to say hello, teach him to stand up before saying his greetings.
  6. Make it fun for your child. 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 her with compliments.
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