Not too long ago, my daughter Joan and I were out with friends at a restaurant and we wanted extra water and a few other bits and Joan volunteered to go up and ask the waiter for them. My friend was really surprised at this and said that none of her children would willingly do that.
I forgot about it at the time, but when we got home, I remembered what my friend had said and started to think about Joan being social and confident.
She has always been happy to talk to the parents of her friends and to tell them about her day. She certainly answers them when they ask her anything and doesn’t ever hide behind me or expect me to answer for her. She has been like this for as long as I can remember. Probably so much so that I do take it for granted.
One of my friends in particular is always so full of praise for Joan, saying she loves how chatty she is and it always makes me so proud.
I also love it when kids are like this and so many are. Especially at that age when they want to join grown-ups more for chats and you get to hear their take on events or see their world view. It’s such a wonderful thing and important for us to encourage in kids.
We have all had those experiences with children, when we ask them something and we don’t get a reply or they walk way. And the parent is left asking the child to respond or just answers for them. I have also had many experiences whereby parents don’t notice their child not responding to you or don’t encourage their kids to interact with you. In this instance, I feel that they are kind of letting their kids down as it is such an important social skill for them too have.
If children are confident in interacting with others, it takes away so much stress and social anxiety for them.
I have a good few memories of learning to do this and moments of being stressed out, say when visiting my dad’s office and his colleagues asking me about school and friends, and there were times when I wasn’t sure what to answer or didn’t want to answer.
My twin and I were pretty shy kids, me less so than my sister, but I do remember finding it hard to be social at times or to be a bit anxious about going to parties until I actually got there and settled.
I know all this is natural, but I do think we as parents we should look out for the opportunities to strengthen our kids’ social skills and to help them be more comfortable in different social scenarios.
I’m not talking about forcing them, but more so encouraging them to answer when someone is asking them something and definitely not jumping in and answering for them.
Or like that time with Joan in the restaurant, support your kids to be the ones to go up and ask for what the table needs. Or even ordering their own meals which was something I asked Joan to do from a very young age, is a great way of helping them hone their social skills as well as building independence.
Most of all, I feel praising them after they have those conversations with others or head into the party happy, is so important. All those positive associations will hopefully make the next time that much easier for them. I The other day, Joan passed a level in swimming and instead off me being the one to tell my friend, I asked Joan to, in her own words. You could tell she was so proud and heartened by my friend’s lovely response.
And this is something I am sure will stay with her for the next time and help Joan continue to be the social being I so love seeing her be.