Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Any reasonably intelligent parent will tell you: Children are not born with a fully-functioning set of social skills. As parents, our Prime Directive is to instill those social skills...the necessary tools that allow people to live together happily in a civilized society.

David Bogner understands this, as is evident from this post in which he tells a story of teaching his five-year-old son Yonah a few basic telephone manners. Is five too tender an age for such a lesson? David and I both agree: No.

When I read David’s post, I thought back to a little incident this past Friday morning as Houston Steve and I were taking our leave from breakfast at the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium.

As we headed for the door, we saw an acquaintance sitting at a table with his thirteen-year-old son. Said acquaintance - let’s call him Bubba - proceeded to introduce us to his son - let’s call him Danny - as any father might do.

That’s when I saw the iPod Nano in the young man’s lap...and the earbuds jammed firmly in his ears.

I reached over and gently yanked the earbuds out. “Here’s how this works,” I said. “Your dad is going to say, ‘Say hello to Mr. Elisson.’ You’re going to shake my hand, and I’m going to say, ‘Nice to meet you, Danny.’ Then you’re going to repeat the procedure for Houston Steve, here. And after that, you can stick those earbuds back in. But for right now, you’re going to pay attention to the people around you. It’s a valuable social skill - one day, you’ll thank me.”

And that’s pretty much what happened. Bubba didn’t say a whole lot, but his eyes called out a silent message of appreciation. And Houston Steve and I had a good chuckle as we headed out into the parking lot.

Folks, kids don’t learn by osmosis. They learn by example, and by instruction. Make sure you provide both.

My friend David Bogner surely would agree.

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