Create Better Days by Starting with Better Greetings

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man sitting on sofa and lifting up his sonFirst impressions count. The greeting of a gentle sunrise and birds chirping in our bedroom window can set the tone for a totally different day than the annoying buzz of an alarm clock. A simple greeting can make all the difference in how we perceive a situation and how we respond.

I recently took my wife out to eat for her birthday. We had a lovely dinner and our waiter was excellent. When he approached our table for the first time he complimented my wife and addressed us with a smile. Throughout our meal he was responsive, but not overbearing. He filled water when it needed to be filled and did not rush our order. He offered answers to our questions about menu items and did not become hurried, even when the restaurant filled to the brim with eager, impatient teenage prom goers. We even had some trouble with our orders, but he was quick to apologize and correct the mistake without blaming others or making excuses.

I contrasted our restaurant experience with an interaction I had at my local Department of Motor Vehicles a few months ago. I went in to renew my driver’s license. As I walked through the door I noticed the DMV worker glance my way then quickly duck behind the corner. I waited for several minutes at the counter listening to the unseen workers chatting before I gently rang the bell that sat on the table with the words etched beneath it, “Ring bell for assistance.” The worker shuffled and peeked around the corner and then about a minute later came to the counter. She said, “Yep?” I was a little confused, but assumed that meant, “Can I help you?” So with a smile, I advanced my cause and told her I needed to renew my driver’s license. Without any further pleasantries she commanded, “Press your forehead against the black button.” I did what I was told, moved through the documentation and gave a counterfeit half smile to prove I was, indeed the person I claimed to be. It seemed as though the DMV worker must have had a bet with a coworker that she could make me frown by the end of our visit.

First impressions matter

You have probably had experiences much like these. You’ve seen various levels of customer service and greetings. Every so often you’ll find a place that has such amazing tacos or cheesecake that it simply doesn’t matter what their service is like. But more often than not, if the first impression and service is bad, you don’t come back. We even leave and tell our friends not to go there. You can guarantee that if I had any other option for renewing my license, I would have taken it.

Our interactions with our children can sometimes closer resemble that of the indifferent DMV worker than the pleasant waiter. Granted, we have history with our kids that can make good “first impressions” harder to come by, but I’m not just talking about our very first interaction with our child. Each morning and even each time we enter our children’s presence becomes a new opportunity to establish a new “first impression.” Each greeting can set the tone for our interaction and future connections.

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It’s worth thinking about how we greet our children when we see them in the morning, as they get home from school or as they enter a room.

3 principles of greetings that lead to better behavior, better days and better relationships.

1. Be inviting:

Lead with something that draws them to you rather than makes them want to run for the hills. Let them know that you are glad to see them. I’ve mentioned many times how much I love walking in my front door after work and seeing one of my kids run toward me, with their arms wide open. My daughter looks my way, smiles a toothy grin and squeals, “Dadia!” The task of being inviting with our parental greetings is to find the adult equivalent of running with arms open and sqealing, “Dadia, Dadia!” Simple compliments like, “you look nice today,” or “it’s so good to see you,” are excellent ways to invite our children to connect with us. Be grateful for their presence and express that to them.

2. Be positive and unassuming:

In a previous post, “Mean What You Say and Say What You Mean” I mention 3 concepts that improve our communication and play a huge role in getting things off to a good start. However, sometimes, even when we have been positive and inviting in our initial greeting, our kids don’t always respond in kind. I’ve found this especially true with older tweens and teens. The trick is to refrain from becoming defensive. If your child walks in the room and you say, “Hey, it’s good to see you!” and he responds with a droning, “yeah right.” Dig deep and instead of reacting with a defensive, “Hey, what’s with all the attitude?” simply acknowledge, reaffirm and move on. That might look something like this…

Mom: Hey, it’s good to see you.

Son: Yeah right.

Mom: Sorry you don’t feel like I’m happy to see you. It really is great to see you. Love you.

3. Be Selfless:

When we greet our children, that’s a great time to make it all about them. Show interest in them first. Ask about how their day went and be specific. Look for signs of where they are emotionally and respond, “It looks like you had a tough day” or “You look excited, what up?” When I worked with families in their home, the first thing out of parent’s mouths when their child entered a room was often, “Did you do what I asked?” The funny thing is that the parent usually already knew the answer to their own question. The child had not completed their chores or some other task, but the second the parent said, “Did you do what I asked” the kid shut down. In contrast, I have watched mother’s and father’s selflessly acknowledge their child before making demands, and then after the connection has been made and the mood is positive they calmly state, “You look like you’ve been busy today. I noticed that your toys weren’t cleaned up yet. You’re free to go play outside as soon as those are cleaned up.”

You may be thinking that just a greeting won’t make a bit of difference in how you child responds to you, but give it a week or two. Apply the 3 principles above when greeting your children and watch what happens. Make a significant special effort to greet your kids in an inviting, positive, unassuming and selfless way each time they enter a room, answer a phone call, or come home from school. I’m confident that if you struggle with “attitude” or with regular negative interactions with your child, that simply improving your greetings will drastically change the tone of those interactions in positive ways. Make a great first impression every time you see your child. Multiple great first impressions makes an amazing lasting impression.

Question: What positive change have you seen in the past or do you see in yourself and your child as you make your greetings more positive?

If you liked this article, and know someone who would benefit from it, please LIKE and SHARE it on Facebook, other social media or just send them an email. You may also like the following articles. “Mean What You Say and Say What You Mean” or any of the articles pictured below.

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