Winter break is wrapping up, and with that, a whole bunch of parent-guilt about just how much screen time your child(ren) experienced over the last few weeks. If the kids aren’t playing a video game, chances are they are watching a YouTube video that has someone playing said video game. Research has shown that today’s child averages 8-9 hours a day of engagement with media. It is a constant effort to engage kids in simple face-to-face conversations and good old-fashioned manners.
Don’t let technology take over your child’s social skills and manners. These vital life skills are the foundation of kindness and respect and making others feel comfortable. As a busy parent, how do we take a digital break and get our children back to basics without overwhelming our time?
Why not try a more engaging, game-based method to teach your kids relevant life skills? “Gamification” is inspired learning through play and doing. Don’t just tell your kids how to behave, challenge them and encourage them to practice! Benjamin Franklin wasn’t wrong when he said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
These 10 simple social skill lessons will lead you and your child in a collaborative effort to bring back a little civility to a new digitally focused generation:
#1: Make a Great First Impression – Handle yourself with good manners and you will leave a good impression. You only get one chance to make a great first impression so make it BIG! Your appearance, the way you present yourself and the way you communicate will contribute to the first impression.
Game Challenge: Ask your child to think of five great plays to make a good first impression. Here’s your chance to role play different situations – meeting a new teacher, a new friend, first day at camp etc.
#2: Be Tactful – Have tact! See the positive instead of focusing on the negative. Teach your children the ability to be honest but to use words that don’t hurt the other person’s feelings. By emphasizing the positive you can provide tactfully honest answers that don’t upset anyone.
Game Challenge: Play the ‘Do You Have Tact’ game. Challenge your family to draw a self-portrait in five minutes. Then everyone gives one nice compliment about the drawing. Emphasize the importance of making other’s feel good.
#3: Walk the Walk – Stand tall and straight to look confident. How many times do you see your children slouching? Practice good posture daily.
Game Challenge: The Great Balancing Act. Walk across the room balancing a book on your head. Stand up straight with your head held high and shoulders back. Who can walk the farthest and straightest with the book? Emphasize the difference how they look slouching versus standing tall.
#4: Acknowledge the presence of another person – Begin with the basics: hello, eye contact and shaking someone’s hand. Eye contact shows respect, interest and care, and that you appreciate what is being said. Always stand tall and straight and reach out your hand and give a firm shake to adults. And please, put away the technology when someone enters a room!
Game Challenge: Ask your child to shake someone’s hand today. Use great eye contact and a quick but firm hand shake.
#5: Learn how to answer and use phone etiquette – According to AT&T, most kids today write texts instead of using the good old fashioned phone. Simple phone skills are becoming a lost art. Answer the phone with proper greetings and politely hand over the phone. Always take good messages. And identify yourself and call during appropriate times when making a call.
Game Challenge: Create a ‘cheat sheet’ for your child on telephone reminders – how to call, answer, respond, take a message, handle a wrong number and end a call. Then have them practice by calling a friend or a family member.
#6: Be a gracious host or guest. The best way to have fun at playdates and parties is to learn how to be a good host and guest. A host makes people feel welcome and comfortable. A guest should be respectful and follow the rules.
Game Challenge: Make a list with your child on ways to be a gracious host or guest. Have them invite a friend and practice being a gracious host.
#7 – Take the time to write a thoughtful thank you note. A little note can make such a difference. The purpose of a note is to let a person know how much his or her generosity and kindness are appreciated.
Game Challenge: Ask your child to write a thank you note to a coach, a teacher, friend, family member etc. Too often we only write thank you notes for a gift – why not go above and beyond?
#8 – Commitment is a promise that you must follow through. Commitment means doing what needs to be done regardless of your talents or your mood. Even if you are sad, mad, tired or if something better comes along you still need to follow through on a commitment.
Game Challenge: Come up with a family commitment slogan (For example: Finish what your started. Winners never quit. If at first you don’t succeed, try again etc.)
#9 – The meaning of character! Character is made up our values and our decisions. It is who we are when no one is looking.
Game Challenge: Encourage your child to come up with some examples how they can act with great character. Role play with them different scenarios of how character comes into play.
#10 – Practice good sportsmanship – Good sportsmanship is when teammates, opponents, coaches, and officials treat each other with respect.
Game Challenge: Challenge your child to display great sportsmanship at his or her next game. Make a point to discuss what he did or could have done after his game.
Will you still shudder at the thought of how your kids behave when you’re not watching? Probably. But one lesson at a time will help lead them to the path of confidence, life-long happiness and success. Click here to download a complimentary SMART social skills game board to play with your child. Your child completes different social skills challenges. Good luck!
Remember manners and social skills are so much more than about a fork and knife! They are about teaching your kids how to make others feel comfortable and how to be kind. Summer is a perfect time to work on these skills. Buy an activity book and take more challenges from www.thesmartplaybook.com.
Suzanne Wind, Contributor. Suzanne is a mom of three, on a mission to offer families a simple and effective game plan to teach relevant life skills for a modern world. She is an award-winning author of The SMART Playbook and offers ideas for teaching social skills and manners in this fast-paced, tech-focused society. How do we get our kids back to basics without overwhelming our time? To see more, connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.