What Impression Do Your Kids Make?


I’ve just survived an eight-day trip to Orlando with my 11-year-old son, his friend, and my 14-year-old daughter. We weren’t there for the Disney parks. We were there to endure a week-long volleyball tournament and soccer camp. Just picture our little hotel room at night filled with three pairs of stinky socks, shoes and sweaty jerseys.

During this trip, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of teenage girls and tween boys, and I started comparing my first impressions of these kids. Some of the kids were great when meeting me. They smiled, looked me in the eyes, and said “Hello” and even ventured a bit of a conversation. There was even one girl who immediately shook my hand and said “It’s nice to meet you.” My first thought about her was what a great kid she is and what a wonderful job her parents have done teaching her manners.

I wish I could say that every kid I met had nice manners, but unfortunately, many of the kids I met would just briefly look up from their iPhone, grunt a “Hi”, and then look away. My impression of these kids was that either they have not been taught the proper way to greet someone, or they didn’t care. In either case, these kids did not make a good first impression.

Why do first impressions matter? They matter because once we form an impression about someone, it is much harder for us to change our mind. So, if you want to your children to be able to make friends easier, and have teachers and adults immediately like them, you can teach your children these easy steps on how to make a great first impression.

The four steps to making a great first impression:

1. Happy body language. Stand up straight, smile, and look the person in the eyes. This shows that they are confident, happy, respectful, and looking forward to meeting the person.

2. Firm handshake! Regardless of age or gender, your child should immediately extend their hand to shake hands. The handshake should be strong and be the whole hand not just the fingertips. Practice this at home until they get it right.

3. Proper greeting. Say “Hello, I’m (inset name). It’s nice to meet you (insert their name).” Children should use an adult’s last name until the adult gives them permission to call them something else. For example, “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Jones.”

4. Polite conversation. Kids who can carry on a conversation with other kids or adults will do so well in life. Encourage your children to ask questions about other people and to answer questions in complete sentences. Use the analogy of a volleyball game in that a conversation is like a ball being hit back and forth over the net. You ask a question (throw the ball over), they answer and then ask you a question (throw the ball back), and so forth.

The trick to teaching your children these steps is to have them practice at home with you, and then have them do it every time when they meet someone for the first time. Your children will really stand out from the others and make a great first impression!

Find more information, tips, and videos on manners at FinesseWorldwide.com. Have an etiquette question? Please email me at aimee@finesseworldwide.com and I’ll be happy to answer your question or even feature it in my next blog. Thank you!

Aimee Symington is an etiquette expert who has appeared on The Today Show and is a monthly etiquette guest on Charlotte Today, is the inventor of the nationally-selling boardgame on manners called “Blunders”, and is the CEO of Finesse Worldwide, Inc. with offices in Charlotte and San Francisco.