What Do You Say to a Kid?
Recently, I invited a friend of mine over to meet my son. This friend voiced their concern that they’re not “good with kids.” They don’t know what to say, it’s always awkward, they told me. Coincidentally, this was the same week that SNL posted its funny Duolingo for kids sketch.
While the sketch is funny, it does identify an interesting problem. As parents, we know what to say to our kids to keep them organized, to hear about their feelings, to communicate with them. And when we meet another adult, we can make small talk about the weather and work. But what about meeting a kid that you don’t know? What is the kid version of small talk? The adult version doesn’t seem to work.
I can’t say for sure, but I do have a go-to method when you need to make “small talk” with a kid… and that is, don’t talk. Instead, simply become curious about what they are curious about. It might take some questioning to figure out what that is, and it’s possible that they may not even want to talk to you at all… but instead of asking the typical questions (how’s school?) you can ask to see their favorite toy, or ask them about the paperclip they’re bending out of shape.
And come to think of it, it’s a great way to engage with anyone. Small talk for adults, after all, is just filler. Instead of asking “what do you do?” Try asking “what are you curious about right now?”
The conversation might go in a completely beautiful and expected direction.