Explain that throughout our lives, we interact with different social groups. Make clear that each group has different rules for how you interact with its members. Be specific about what’s acceptable with, say, siblings and friends but would not fly with adult family members, teachers and job supervisors.
Use personal examples to drive home the importance of using the right tone with the right person. Praise your child for adjusting his behavior to match his audience.
What you can say
“Jacob, let’s make a list of the different groups of people you deal with. Siblings, adult family members, peers, coworkers, teachers and supervisors. Now let’s make a list of which groups you can regard as your equals and which ones have authority over you.”
“What are some of the different ways you should act with members of this group compared to that one? I agree, Jacob. I do speak differently to my boss, Nancy, than I do to Sandy, who is my coworker and friend.”
“If you speak too casually with authority figures, you run the risk of having them focus more on how you’re talking than on what you’re actually saying. Whether you’re young or old, this is something you should always be mindful of.”
Why this will help
Tweens and teens with learning and attention issues often need to be taught explicitly that different folks need different strokes. By discussing which people your child should and shouldn’t address as equals, you’ll set the stage for more successful social interactions. Practicing how to talk to authority figures will help too.