Last week, we asked you for your best advice to get someone else’s kids to like you instantly, and you provided us with some keen insight into winning them over. Sure, several people graciously pointed out the fact that kids are super into bribery. But when the snacks run out — heaven forbid — many of you had some helpful reminders in order to get kids to actually engage with you.
Maybe your friend needs you to babysit. Or you must to prove to a date that “kids love me!” Or, like me, you simply crave validation from people of all ages. Whatever the reason, if you need children to approve of you, here’s some of the best wisdom Lifehacker readers shared with us.
Fake it ‘til you make it
Here’s a secret: You don’t have to be hip to the latest trends in kids shows. Ask a few questions, get the floodgates open, and sit back while they dish about their favourite game, YouTuber, dinosaur, or whatever they’re passionate about. Sort of like when a friend is venting about the minutiae of their job, your winning strategy is to nod along and let the other person do all the talking.
Lifehacker’s own staff writer Sarah Showfety lends some of her expertise as a “proud owner of an almost nine-year-old:”
I’d say: knock knock jokes, weird animal, nature, or history trivia, talking about (or listening to them talk incessantly about) Minecraft, Super Mario or Roblox, fart humour, puns, letting them send memojis or watch YouTube videos on your phone — all will score you instant points.
Commenter digitalsandwich78 adds that it’s enough to “just let them talk about Roblox and nod your head. No, I have no idea what my kids are talking about.” Show kids that you’re listening, even if you don’t fully understand what the hell they’re saying.
Be an amazing listener
Once you’ve got a kid talking, you need to do more than simply nod your head. After all, we could all use some practice being more engaged, active listeners across the board. As commenter Duke of Kent puts it, “listening is so vitally important when talking with children and adults alike.” To do this, Duke of Kent offered up a great tip: Channel your inner talk show host.
Whenever I have to talk to a child or an adult who I don’t really know very well, I try to act like a talk show host and just guide the other person to topics that they find interesting rather than harping on some preplanned talking points of my own. Start with an initial open-ended question and then go from there. One of my favourites is: “What are you reading right now?” Then: “What’s it about?” As the kid starts to describe the plot, ask some probing questions: “Why do you think that character did that?” or “What would you have done if you were in that situation?” Then branch out with more from there.
Consider trying out this “talk show approach” to listening (whether you’re meeting a kid or a fellow grown-up). If that doesn’t work, When in doubt, ask, “Who got in trouble at school today?” You’ll discover that a little bit of gossip is fun for all ages.
Don’t talk down to them
There’s a time and place for baby voice, and that time and place is exclusively when you’re talking to a baby, e.g. pointing out their incredible chubby legs, or making small talk about their impeccable chubby cheeks, et cetera. Once a kid is verbal, however, they want to feel like you’re taking them seriously.
Many of you pointed out the fact that talking down to kids won’t be received well. Lifehacker commenter Crafty Noodle puts it nicely, saying you should “talk to them like they’re another person you’re meeting.” A kid’s sense for when you’re being patronising starts earlier than you think.
Get down on their level
This tip is about more than physically crawling on the floor (although hiding under the table with a little kid can be a big hit). Kids love when it feels like you’re on their level, especially when that means you’re down to play whatever game is afoot.
Lifehacker commenter Some Dude says this can mean getting down on the ground physically, but also to “let [kids] direct how you play with them” and for you to “go along with whatever (within reason).”
Twitter user @JamieLeeLardner gives the following tips to help kids feel like you’re on their level: “[Use] eye contact and engage with what they’re doing. Don’t hijack the vibe to make it on your terms. If they’re building Legos, join in and ask them questions; don’t wave a ball and demand they change activities to catch because that’s what you like.”
Lifehacker’s Sarah Showfety swooped in again with more key insight into winning kids over: Try any sort of game or activity that lets them feel sneaky or covert. Don’t you remember how great it felt as a little kid when you pulled one over on those pesky grown ups?
Treat them like real people
Ultimately, there’s no one secret trick to get all people to like you. And, apparently, kids are people, too. The most important thing you can do is make kids feel like you’re engaging with them for who they are. This means asking about their passions and being authentic in your reactions. Seriously — don’t underestimate a seven-year-old’s radar for bullshit.