6 effective ways to help your child overcome the fear of public speaking

Speaking in front of others is something that your child will encounter throughout their life.  Whether it’s reading a book report to their class, interviewing for their first job, or presenting to an important client during their career, being able to speak to the public or a group of people confidently is a vital asset they will need to succeed throughout their life.  Some children are naturally outgoing, but others are shyer.  Some children find it hard to speak English. Some don’t want to make mistakes. 

As parents, of course we want to help our kids to become more confident giving presentations and participating in debates at school.  Research has shown that adults with greater annual incomes tend to do more public speaking than those who do not. The good news is, by creating a positive and encouraging atmosphere at home, we can totally instill the confidence of speaking in our children.  So here are 6 innovative ways you can help your kid overcome public speaking anxiety.

1. Get Her in The Right State of Mind

Acknowledge your child’s anxiety, and let her know that it’s perfectly normal.  “Providing accurate information about anxiety can reduce confusion or shame,” suggests a tip sheet from Anxiety BC, a non-profit that promotes anxiety awareness.  The organization suggests that it’s important to show your child that her fears are legitimate.  The empathy you demonstrate will increase the chances that your child will express her worries to you later on.

Steven Cohen, a speech instructor at Harvard Extension School, says that one of the main fears underlying public speaking is uncertainty.  People are uncertain about how their ideas will be perceived, how they’ll be judged, and the impression they’ll make.  Your child is no different. Cohen teaches his students instead to “focus on the opportunity that they have to stand in front of an audience and speak about something they care about.”  Try that with your child. Get her excited for the opportunity she has — “How often do you get to have a whole room of people listen to you?” — and help her see the joy of public speaking.  If you can redirect her focus on the opportunity, her enthusiasm will take care of the rest.

2. Do not correct every mistake

Encourage your children to speak English as much as possible by asking open ended questions and allowing them room for discussions on their topics of interests.  Avoid correcting every mistake. If you interrupt the child and current them every time they speak English, they will never learn to speak English confidently and fluently.  The knowledge and experience they get by communicating ideas full in English is what will give them confidence.

If your child asks for help, there is no harm offering them alternative ways to express what they want to say.  However, don’t pressure them or show disappointment if your child is not ready to speak yet. Everyone makes mistakes at times – that’s how we learn.  Let them know that making mistakes is a normal and important part of learning a language. If you want to correct your child, don’t correct every mistake, and never interrupt your child to correct.  Wait until they finish speaking, then say the word or the sentence correctly and encourage them to repeat. Don’t say “Not like that” or “It’s wrong”. Instead choose “Listen …” or “Let’s try again”.

3. Encourage practice speaking English in authentic, stress-free situations

Kids aren’t fearful of what they already know.  Encouraging children to talk and just put it out there, without judgments being made, is very important.  It can be intimidating or embarrassing to try to speak English, so practicing in an informal setting can help.

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Remember how children learn their first language? It is through informal conversation, not studying. If you want to help children speak English confidently, give them more opportunities to have real conversations in English.  Encourage your child to order at a foreign-owned restaurant or have a short conversation with a foreigner on the street. At dinner, ask her to share a story about her day, or help her callGrandma for a weekly phone update that will get her chatting.  These opportunities mirror authentic public speaking situations that will better prepare her for a moment in the spotlight at school or elsewhere.

4. Use fun ways to teach new English words to children

Many children are more motivated to learn English if they like English-speaking music, films, cartoons or books.  Your child might have a toy version of a favourite English-speaking cartoon character. Tell your child that this toy only understands English.  Have a conversation with the toy yourself to encourage your child to do the same in private.

Many young children learn language more easily when the learning is subtly combined with creative activities.  Think about what your child likes doing for fun and try doing these activities in English, such as singing, playing games, reading books aloud, role-playing.

Expanding your child’s vocabulary will have a positive effect on more than just your public speaking and speech writing. For more ideas to easily teach kids new English words, you can check these 7 best word games for families to play anywhere!, which will help you spend quality time with your children while helping kids enlarge their range of vocabulary

5. Let your child watch short movies in English

Let media and technology work in your favor!  Allow your children to pick out a movie they want to watch in English.  Occasionally pause the movie and ask prompting questions such as, “What do you think will happen next?” or “Why did he/she say that?”.  At the end of the movie, have them say their favorite part or least favorite part in English.

Watching movies in English introduces children to a greater variety of vocabulary words, contexts, and phrases.  In addition, they are internalizing correct English pronunciation.  Kieran Donaghy, an English teacher who runs the site Film-English.com, encourages the use of short movies in language classrooms to invite creativity and creative thinking into English learning, without the need to think too much about things like grammar.  When children watch short movies, they’re learning through authentic input, which means they’re learning by using real English materials that weren’t actually intended to teach the language.

Try having English movie night on the same night every week, perhaps the same night you have ‘English only’ day in your home!  If you really want to be proactive, have the winner of ‘English only’ day pick the English movie for the night! This will give your children even greater motivation to speak English.

6. Encourage your child to join drama classes

As well as being good fun, drama classes teach children improved ways of expressing themselves in front of a large audience.  Children who are usually hesitant to speak up will finally have a safe space to claim their voices. Not only do drama classes strengthen self-expression, they also train verbal and nonverbal communication to help kids thrive in social situations.  Kids will have so much fun during the collaborative creative process that they will not even notice all the learning that is going on. Their articulation, tone of speech, expression, and vocal projection will naturally improve as their self-esteem ignites.

Drama classes are not popular in Vietnam, so students do not have many chances to access performing arts, especially if they do not come from international or other top-tier schools.  Understanding this problem, we decided to choose “Drama games” as one of the activities for Climbers Crew – an English Club organized by Everest Education. We provide free and creative spaces for students at all ages to practice conversational English in the form of interesting workshops.  Parents can totally bring your child to our Climbers Crew, to let her explore the dramatic side through learning the fundamentals of drama. If you’re keen, go to our website for the detailed agenda, and register a spot for your child.

Confidence is not something that comes overnight.  It needs to be instilled from a young age and nurtured throughout life.  Teach them when they are young so that they do not hesitate when they grow older.  Also, remember that every child learns at a different pace, so do not worry if your child is taking some time to speak English. Be patient and do not rush.



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