Young children often think nothing of talking, dancing, or belting out a tune in front of an audience. But by the time they reach four to five years old that natural “performance gene” tends to fade.
Research from Emory University shows that during this stage in development children become more self-aware and sensitive to the perception of others. (Read the full study here.) They begin to feel embarrassment, fear and vulnerability. And just like a majority of adults, public speaking becomes a huge trigger for those uncomfortable feelings.
Parents can help their children overcome the shy factor by encouraging small acts of performance. Here are ten ways to build confidence at home and address children’s fear of public speaking:
- Talk to your child about their anxieties and provide positive reassurance.
- Encourage your child to speak up and provide input during familiar situations, such as a family dinner or conversation with grandparents.
- Set a good example by practicing your own speeches at home, and try to avoid complaining about public speaking — it can instill negative feelings in your child.
- Assign informal presentations and performances for family events, such as reunions, holiday get-togethers, and birthdays.
- Incorporate games that naturally foster confidence in speaking. These improv games from Disney’s Imagicademy are great for kids of many ages.
- Have your child order their meal at restaurants. When you let them do the talking, you foster independence, which is essential for confidence building.
- Swap up your bedtime ritual: Have your kid read you a story before bedtime.
- Teach your child to say “thank you” and “please” when interacting with strangers, such as a grocery store clerk.
- Show your kid it’s okay to be silly, by singing a fun song or dancing around in your living room.
- Find online videos that demonstrate good public speaking skills, and watch them with your child. We like these speaking tips from Wellcast, which come in fun-to-watch cartoon form.