It’s no secret that for many of us, the very thought of speaking in public arouses knee-trembling, irrational fears. Some have suggested that the “nurture factor” may, at least to some degree, lie behind such fears. It does seem sensible that anxieties about public speaking might trace back to the way those close to you treated you in your early years.
If they tended to build your self-confidence, listened when you had something to say, celebrated your efforts at communication, and perhaps even provided opportunities to speak to gathered groups, you might have grown up with few or no fears about speaking. Or perhaps your earlier experiences were not quite so supportive, and you ended up with a serious aversion to audiences. You might want to reflect on your own early life, and think about how it might have affected your own attitudes toward being in the spotlight.
Raising a Confident Speaker
If you’re a parent yourself, you may have wondered how you could help your children develop strong public speaking skills (and a willingness to use them). It’s a worthwhile project, since it’s been proven over and over that effective communication skills have played a crucial role in the success of many prominent professionals. So building your kids’ speaking skills could carry great benefits, no matter what career path they ultimately choose to follow. The good news is, there’s plenty you can do to foster such skills! For starters, have a look at the following four public speaking tips for kids.
Re-assessing the Past
If you grew up in a reassuring environment, it should be relatively easy to transfer your positive experience to your own children. Just follow the model set by those who raised you. If your early experiences weren’t quite so positive – for example, if you were expected to keep quiet, or your opinion wasn’t granted any validity or value – take some time let go of the past, with an eye to breaking the pattern and giving your own kids a new and positive experience. The kind you’d have liked to have yourself! The confidence-squashing behavior of those who raised you may or may not have been intentional, but if you find yourself running any sort of resentful “blame game” in their direction, it can get in the way of your own best intentions as a parent. Let go, live in the present and look to the future!
In his work on the stages of psychosocial development, developmental psychologist Erik Erikson proposes that parents can begin instilling confidence in their kids just by the way they care for them during the first year and a half after birth. The quality of attention infants receive during this period affects their trust of those around them in later life. So comfort your child when he cries. Try to determine why he’s crying and remedy it. Comfort her when she feels frightened. In your voice, your words, your touch and more, make certain your young ones know they’re loved. When a baby’s needs are indifferently regarded or inconsistently met, feelings of distrust and insecurity around others are likely to grow, along with a general lack of confidence.
Children’s Stories and Picture Books
Another tried and tested public speaking tip for kids is to expose them to stories for plenty of reasons. For starters, storytelling is a skill most reputable speakers possess. Assumingly the earlier the kids learn its mechanics, the faster they can put it into practice. You can also try a different approach to using picture books. Instead of reading the story to them, show them the pages and ask them to come up with a plot based on the illustrations. Ask questions to stir their imagination. You’d be surprised at how much they can accomplish.
Language and Speech Developmental Milestones
Children develop their speech and language skills at difference paces, but they follow a natural timetable for mastering them. As parents, you can help them along by monitoring their progress and providing extra help if needed. Between the ages of 3 and 4, kids are typically able to answer basic who, what, where and why questions. In the following year, they are able to listen to a story they’re told, then recount many of its details, and communicate these to other children and adults.
As your children acquire more and more language skills, encourage them to talk in different situations and cultivate opportunities to do so: let them share stories with their grandparents, cousins or friends; encourage them to order a meal at a restaurant, or tell about the day’s events at school. When they’re speaking, be sure you’re all ears. Just your act of listening will inspire them to speak and instill confidence. Being keenly attentive and interested, appreciating what they say, and sincerely thanking them for saying it will accelerate the confidence-building process.
Have you had any personal experience with any of these tips? Do you have any other public speaking tips for kids? Please, share them in the comments below!