Teaching our Kids Not to be Wimpy in the Art of Conversation!
must be wonderful knowing that your teenage son or daughter is mature
enough to hold an ACTUAL conversation with your adult friends. Seeing
them chat away freely when introduced; radiating confidence galore
when asked if they are enjoying their new high school, all the time
maintaining solid eye contact and without a dot of embarrassment or
you stand alongside, glowing with pride and marvelling at what
clearly must be some pretty bloody fabulous parenting skills.
I discovered that my 13 year old son... did not possess such
even close, in fact.
a mum who thought she'd had it all covered ie: good manners, gracious
conduct, appropriate behaviour and the biggie: Respect for others...
it came as a rude slap in the chops, as I watched Junior's social
skills crumble and turn totally to mush.
ideal location to meet and engage in friendly banter with Seniors,
it's common knowledge in aged-care circles, that a doctor's waiting
room is 'top of the pops' to test even the most experienced of
gasbags! Our visit this morning, thanks to my son's recent sporting
injury (long story, don't ask), was for follow-up x-rays and to be
given the all clear to have the annoying brace on his arm removed.
A sea of Silver-tops!
was as we sat bored waiting to be called, when an older
smartly-dressed gent with a walking stick and twinkly eyes, leaned
over to my son and asked in a fairly loud tone (hearing issues,
obviously), what he'd “done to himself".
continued reading my mag, confident that Chatterbox Charlie (as he is
known at home and at school), would be equally as open and friendly.
The two of them would yak away in 'blokey' fashion and by the time we
left they'd be the bestest of buddies, with hugs goodbye and promises
to meet for tea and biscuits one day soon.
what was this? Instead no, Junior was beside himself! Turning sharply
to look at me, his face strained in terror... he was actually
pleading me with his eyes, as if to say “Oh god, please Mum, SAVE
with the realisation that my own dear son was indeed a complete
social weenie after all, I attempted to verbally prompt him so he
could explain to the nice inquiring man how he had sprained his arm
in a game of football.
you're sposed to use your leg to kick the footy – not you're arm!”,
the old guy joked, encouraging my son to join in.
Junior turned bright red and awkwardly squeaked out some sort of
inaudible response (all the time staring down at the floor wishing
the tiles would open up and pull him down into the deep, dark depths
of the earth where no scary old dudes could ever find him)... it
dawned on me that some people might actually find conversation with
an elderly person intimidating.
I get that.
up as a shy young teen, I remember myself the feeling of horror when
an adult would talk to me – especially one I didn't know well. The
worry of not knowing what to say, or sounding silly if I did say
something, or being judged and thought an idiot. It was cause for
some real anxiety!
lieu of that thought, I decided my son needed a lesson in the art of
conversation, STAT! Time for me to earn that Mother of the Year title
and get him properly prepped and trained up on some good
old-fashioned Communication Skills 101.
I would be doing this for me (and my shattered pride), but more
significantly, I was doing it for my sad, socially inept son. It was
imperative that in today's frantic and fiercely competitive world,
that he be an efficient communicator; to gain the advantage over his
peers by being able to competently talk and earn respect from older
impress the pants off his teachers, his footy coach or even his own
grandparents by engaging them in some light, but thoughtful bit of
at the same time, emphasise to my son that it didn't matter what age
a person was. That all it took was a little friendliness and a smidge
of empathy to show kindness towards another human being and to make
them feel good. That some elderly people spend days, sometimes weeks,
sitting alone in their homes, desperate for company and to feel part
of the community.
he imagine what that must be like?
Only the Lonely...
while the old chap and I laughed and chatted about the weather, his
dreadful arthritis and the price of petrol, I felt Junior watching on
taking it all in. I wasn't completely daft though; I knew in reality my
son's interest would be only fleeting and that soon enough he'd tune
out, switch on his iPod and go back to picking at the tag on his arm
But blow me down,
before you could ask 'Is there a doctor in the house?' my amazing
little man surprised us all as he turned to an older white-haired
lady sitting next to him.
missing a beat and looking her straight in the eye, in a big clear
voice said, “Hello, are you having a nice day today?”
faith restored, I nearly fell out of my chair with the shock of
Unfortunately, I don't think he will ever dare go anywhere in public with
his fanatical mother again. Not sure if it was the cheering out loud or the 'high five-ing' of the receptionist that may have just about sent him over