One important thing to teach your kids - public speaking

Most parents tend to believe that having an intelligent child is all it takes for him to have a bright future. I had some doubts whether I should include my story as an example here for fear of being perceived as someone who enjoys tooting my own horn. I overcame that fear, so here goes. I was considered to be one of the brightest, if not the brightest, kid in my secondary school but that didn't take me very far. Of course I had the best results in school, had no problems whatsoever with education. My parents were so proud of me and hoped that I would become a doctor or famous engineer or something along those lines. 

image credit: M.R. (12 years old)

Is your child's intelligence enough?

But, like I mentioned earlier, intelligence is not always enough. It might even be a hindrance to success in adult life. Wondering how that is possible? Let me explain. Because of the fact that I didn't have problems with Maths, for example, my teachers rarely asked me to answer questions. You may think that was a good thing, but let me assure you that that is not always the case. Here is good example why I say so. When I went to university for my undergraduate studies I had so-called verbal examinations. I had to explain and defend my solutions to different types of problems. I couldn't do that because I had not mastered that soft skill in earlier stages of my education. Each time I had to say something or answer a question in the lecture theatre full of students, my heart would race as if I was Usain Bolt after the 100 metre sprint.  Actor George Jessel said, “The human brain starts working the moment you’re born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.”  I totally agree with him. Public speaking paralyses most people.


How the fear to speak up can cripple your child's future

The same thing happened when I started working. When there were problems to be solved, I would have all the answers in my head. But that was it. I would sit in meetings and hear people exchanging ideas, which were usually not as good as the ones I had. I was just to shy, or should I say scared, to share my ideas. The only time I felt safe and could put my ideas into practice was when I was alone and able to do whatever I wanted without the need to discuss or present them to other people. My workmates were usually surprised and owed by my ability to solve problems. I am sure they always wondered why I kept good ideas to myself. 


The point I am trying to make here is that public speaking is one ingredient that might come in handy and contribute to your child's success in adult life. By public speaking I don't mean addressing rallies of thousands or even hundreds of people. I am talking about the ability to just stand up in front of people, regardless of their number, and say what you think and be able to defend or support your ideas or opinions. 


I forgot to mention that a lot of my secondary school classmates, who were not considered to be as bright as I was, went on to achieve much more in life than I could ever dream of. It's not that I envy them, but I am a person who enjoys analysing and learning from mistakes. The hope being that I will succeed in helping my children avoid those mistakes, even though I believe that experience is the best teacher. For situations as this one, the experience may come when the situation is already hopeless and beyond repair.


Not all people can handle public speeches 

I do understand that not all people are born to be public speakers, but my hope is that the earlier our children start learning, the better. My belief is that the best place to do this is from the very beginning, in kindergarten if possible. Like one clever person said, "The only time you can change someone, is when they are still wearing diapers." All opportunities should be used to teach children to speak out loud, be it at auntie Mary's birthday part or similar event. We should start by encouraging our children to take part in all school activities such as Christmas shows, drama or any kind of play. Just encouraging our children to raise their hands and answer questions in class can go a long way in instilling that ability to stand up, speak your mind and be heard without fear. 


Could fear possibly be a good thing?

By the way, I believe that fear is usually an indicator that we are doing something right. So let your children know that fear is proof that we are leaving our comfort zone, which is a good thing. As Michael John Bobak said, "All progress takes place outside the comfort zone." Don't let fear limit your children's potential, because if you do, their knowledge, talents or intelligence may end up not being the factors that determine what they achieve in their lives. 


Here is a book, written by Daniel Alexander, that I recommend for further reading on public speaking "Beginner's Success In Public Speaking

I would love to hear your thoughts on whether we should teach our children public speaking or not. Ideas about how to do it are also welcome. Leave a comment below.


Thu, 18 Apr 2013