AD (Paid Collaboration)
Do you struggle with being in crowded places or talking in front of people? If so, you probably worry about your children having the same problem. Anyone who knows me may be surprised to know that I’m terrible at being around people. Social situations make me feel awkward, I get embarrassed easily and find it difficult to talk to people I don’t know, especially in groups. And you thought I was just rude didn’t you?
Why is raising children who are confident public speakers important?
When my eldest daughter was a toddler, she wasn’t great with people she didn’t know. Despite being extremely articulate with family, she could be painfully shy, hiding behind us when strangers spoke to her. Recognising that she was likely to end up like me, I wanted to do something about it. Whilst being an introvert is completely fine, being shy is different. It can impact your whole life, stopping you from doing things you enjoy and holding you back.
If you have ever decided to hire an after dinner speaker, you have probably been fully captivated by their words. They can tell stories, engage the audience and have an influence on everybody they talk to. I have been to see Ranulph Fiennes a couple of times at Malvern Theatres. He is a particularly great example of somebody who captivates everyone from start to finish.
Do shy people have just as much wisdom to impart? Absolutely. I’m not saying I want my children to do public speaking as a career. But if they wanted to, I hope that they would have the confidence to do so. I am not socially gifted enough to empower them to do this myself. So, at two years old, I looked for something my daughter could do to overcome her shyness.
My first step to finding something to help my daughter’s shyness was to ask on Facebook if there was a drama class she could go to. Her ballet teacher got in touch and let me know that they had a class she could fit in with. I’d previously ruled it out as it was aimed at older children, but the teacher understood the issues we were having and was happy to make an exception.
The class was only about 45 minutes long and took place once a week. Yet within a few weeks, not only was the shyness gone but my little girl had become a chatterbox! She would happily converse with anybody, adults and children alike. Her quiet little voice had transformed to be loud and confident and her outgoing personality was beginning to shine through.
Since then, both of my girls have progressed with their drama. They now perform in shows at a local theatre, singing, dancing and acting. The confidence they display genuinely shocks me and I credit it in no small part to those drama classes.
Singing tends to go hand in hand with drama. Whilst both girls initially progressed from drama to dance, as soon as they had the opportunity to do so they wanted to take up singing as well. By that time, my eldest had developed the confidence for public speaking from her drama classes and was ready to go a step further and sing in front of people. Her younger sister was very different.
Whilst drama classes helped my youngest with her confidence, she was still shy. I’m sure that was due in part to the slight issue she had with her language development. Whilst she spoke well in general, she had a speech impediment that was consistently overlooked by school, but she noticed it herself and it did seem to knock her confidence.
When her older sister started singing lessons, my youngest was desperate to do the same. The singing teacher kindly agreed to start teaching her at just five years old. This continued through lockdown, with zoom lessons keeping them going. Eventually, that speech impediment just disappeared. And it turned out, her singing voice was really something special. These days, singing and speaking on stage is something both girls take in their stride. Do they get nervous? A little. But they are mostly excited for the buzz of taking part in a show or competition.
How to raise children who are confident public speakers: FAQs
Drama lessons, singing lessons, joining sports groups and attending public speaking classes can all be helpful for boosting a child’s confidence in public speaking. That said, it is equally important to listen when children are talking to you. Validate what they say, encourage them to express their opinions and let them know you appreciate them taking the time to interact.
Being afraid of public speaking isn’t exclusive to children, it is a skill that many adults haven’t grasped! But if a child doesn’t like to speak in public, there is an opportunity to address it before they reach adulthood.
If you develop a full on phobia of public speaking (not just being a bit nervous), this is called glossophobia.
Helping your children to develop their confidence is one of our key roles as parents. But you don’t have to do it alone! Look for local classes that can help. Drama, debating, public speaking, sports, dance and singing can all help.