Becoming Social Butterflies

This post is all about helping your child be more comfortable talking with adults. If you’ve been blessed with an outgoing child (like my Lily is), then this likely won’t be an idea you’ll need to file away for later. Also, if you’ve been subjected to any awkward and random conversations with my boys in the last few weeks, this will shed some light on that…. 😉

This past winter and early spring Nick and I had noticed something about the boys; not only were they not talking to other adults (or even teenagers), but they often weren’t even acknowledging said adults were talking to them! No bueno. I get shy kids, and I get that it’s hard to talk to people you don’t know, but I don’t get flat out ignoring someone who has said “hi” or is thanking you for coming over.

On Easter Sunday we spent some time at a friend’s house, with her family. As we were leaving, my friend’s mom tried to thank Chase for coming over and said it was nice to see him. Know what Chase did? Hung his head and didn’t say a word. Nick and I encouraged him to say a simple “thank you”, but he refused. Guess who was mortified? Yep, Nick and me.

Nick and I had a chat later that night about this new track the boys were on. We recounted all of the times one or more of them have done this – an adult we know (and often one they know too) will try to talk to them, and get flat out ignored. We agreed that we were not at all ok with this, and while our first instinct was to punish them, we thought better of it. Maybe there was a way to instead foster their ability to have simple conversations with adults….

Then we remembered a parent tip we’d read in Family Fun Magazine several months before, and after Nick located the tip (thanks to the handy iPad version of the magazine we get with our subscription) we knew we had a game plan. Behold  the Social Butterfly Passport!

Nick created the passports, so all art work is credited to him…. haha 😉

The boys started out as caterpillars, and by the time they collect 10 stamps, they’ll be social butterflies! They collect a stamp by having a simple conversation with an adult.

When we handed these out, we told the boys the following ground rules:

  • Conversations had to happen with Nick or me there to hear it (and, if necessary, approve of them talking to the person). 
  • All three of them could not have a conversation simultaneously with the same person. The brothers could be standing there to listen, but only one of them could earn a stamp.
  • Once they earned a stamp by conversing with someone, they could not earn another stamp with the same person.
  • We told them they could start out easy, by talking to people they already know fairly well (but don’t usually talk to), like their Sunday School teacher, or a friend’s mom, or someone they see several times a week in Nick’s office. A conversation with their pre-k teachers, or Aunt Laura (for example) would not count.

We started this over a month ago, and you can see Jackson and Chase are closing in on their Social Butterfly status! This past weekend, Ty earned his 10th and final stamp!


The prize? We’ll take them all out for dinner, where they’ll tell the server what they want to eat and drink!


In addition to teaching the boys to be more friendly, this has been a natural and non-scary way to bring up “tricky people”. We’re choosing to warm them about “tricky people” rather than “strangers”. Not all strangers are bad, it’s the tricky people you have to watch out for! A great explanation has been floating around Pinterest, and is well worth the read (click that sentence for the link)!

I think Nick and I would declare this lesson a success! The boys, while still shy sometimes, are at least not ignoring people anymore. And I have to say, it has been awfully fun to watch them “chat” with people, as they call it. Their opening line is usually “How’s your day been so far?”, and watching the absolute joy and surprise on an adult’s face when asked this has been priceless! Their other go-to line is “What’s your job like?”. Nick and I didn’t factor in that our suggested conversation topics would be used on nearly everybody 😉 I’ve loved hearing moms answer that question!

So there you have it – a fun way to teach your kids to be more polite and outgoing with adults, and also a great chance to bring up tricky people and safety discussions without freaking them out! If you’ve been subjected to a conversation with the boys, thank you! You’ve been helping to teach them, without even realizing it!

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  • Andrea

    One thing we’ve done to help our kids talk to adults and to help learn to fend for themselves in social situations is at the library, having the child go ask the children’s librarian for help in locating whatever book they’re looking for. That has helped them a lot. This weekend they went to the grocery store, just the two of them, for eggs. They were thrilled, and had to interact with not one, but two adults – one who they asked where the eggs were, the other was the cashier. They came home so proud and excited over their adventure. (It helps that our house is half a block from the nearest grocery store!)ReplyCancel

  • Oh, I love the library idea, Andrea! I’ll have to remember that one this summer!ReplyCancel

  • Krista

    Love this idea! My kids are overly gregarious and as they have already achieved social butterfly status I’ve been thinking about how to talk with them about stranger danger and I love the “tricky people” language. I’ll be looking for that pin!ReplyCancel

  • pop pop

    What you are doing is SO important ! If kids never get used to talking to a stranger (not tricky) that will hold them back their whole life. It is how we meet people and in so many ways how we reach others for Christ. Great job once again Helen and Nick !ReplyCancel

  • Brilliant idea! This is definitely tucked away for my kids. I have one who will need it.ReplyCancel

  • […] since doing our conversation passport last spring, you’ve blown us away with your boldness when it comes to talking to adults, or […]ReplyCancel