How Do You Get a Kid to Like You?

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Photo: Tatyana Soares (Shutterstock)

I love kids. I know how to change a diaper. I know how to sit back and groove to Encanto. But what I need to know is how to get an intimidating 9-year-old to actually respect, enjoy, or (more realistically) simply tolerate me.

When you look up tips for “how to get kids to like you,” a lot of the advice is either vague or geared towards toddlers (who, in terms of conversation, are generally easier to win over compared to an indomitable tween). One piece of advice that crops up often is to simply “be funny.” Okay. How? Do children want to hear my standup about dating apps? Shall we read some New Yorker cartoons and chuckle softly while shaking our heads in snarky appreciation? Do kids still watch Spongebob, or will referencing it make me instantly uncool?

I should clarify that I’m not totally helpless: I have years of babysitting under my belt, and I usually fare pretty well with younger kids. I would never dream of asking a middle schooler what their favorite subject in school is, since I remember struggling to answer that question when I was younger. You might as well ask an adult “how they like being an accountant.” It’s a non-starter.

My go-to hack when meeting someone else’s child is that whatever age a kid says they are, I add “hundred” afterwards. (They usually love it, up to around age six or seven…hundred). My dad’s go-to is asking for a high-five and then acting out over-the-top pain when the kid hits his hand. It’s overly dramatic, but always a crowd-pleaser.

Still, every time someone claims “kids love me,” I want to know why, and perhaps more importantly, how. What tips and tricks make them so lovable to the pint-sized? So I’m turning to you for help: What do you do when you meet a child who is shy or difficult to impress? Do you act like a kid yourself, or do you have better results when you treat them like adults? Do you have a reliable trick in your back pocket you use to win a child’s approval? A metaphorical trick, but maybe also a literal one? Leave your suggestions in the comments, and we may round them up to share with others in a future post. If this works out, none of us need ever feel intimidated by a 9-year-old again.