I think every parent wants to raise a polite child. Sometimes how that is defined varies from family to family, but overall, there are some things that we have as a culture generally decided are rude. One of those things is when a child doesn’t answer or mumbles when spoken to by an adult. This can be a tough one for shy kids, but it’s an important lesson, not only in manners, but also in making friends, developing relationships, and if not being comfortable, then at least being able to function in new situations.
The three basics that you can focus on with your kids are making eye contact, smiling, and saying hello. Of those three, eye contact may be the most intimidating, but encourage your kids to at least look at the person they’re speaking to, even if they’re actually looking at their eyebrows instead of their eyes.
The other part of a being a good conversationalist is avoiding yes-or-no responses. If someone asks your child about a hobby or sport he’s involved in, help him to think about things that he can say to keep the conversation going himself. It might be to mention an aspect of the sport that he really loves, or an achievement he and/or his team have recently reached, or an interesting fact about what he’s doing. This helps kids to feel as though they are an equal member of the conversation and that they have something valuable to contribute to the discussion.
Starting out with a few conversation basics is a valuable investment in your child’s social confidence and skill, regardless of how old — or shy — he may be. Letting your kids off the hook because they don’t enjoy or feel uncomfortable with this kind of conversation doesn’t do them any favours, nor does answering for them or making excuses about why they can’t answer appropriately. These are valuable skills we all need to have to succeed socially, as children and as adults, and a little bit of training and coaching now can ease the discomfort kids may be feeling today and avoid feeling increasingly uncomfortable as they age.