Have you ever experienced the awkward introduction of a timid child? You know, the kind where the kid looks everywhere but at you? She’s burrowing into her mother, burying her head, peaking out on occasion, speaking just barely above a whisper. I don’t know about you, but I see this all the time, and it makes me sad. So early in my parenting I decided that I was going to do my best to train confident kids who would bless the people they meet.
That was a long time ago, and I’m in a new season of life. My oldest is married, and he and his wife are both attorneys in New Hampshire. My youngest has been out of school for a few years already, and now I’m helping to raise my granddaughter. So in this season of life, I feel called to help the parent standing beside the timid child. As far as I can tell, there are two basic types: the embarrassed parent who tries to dismiss the child’s timidity or feels like they have to offer an excuse for the withdrawn behavior, or the unknowing parent who doesn’t recognize that there might be a problem because it’s so commonplace.
My heart aches for the parents, and quite frankly, it grieves for the kids too. The kids don’t understand why their hearts pound and why a sudden, sometimes crippling, insecurity grips them with a simple introduction.
One mom even told me that her son wouldn’t look at the doctor when asked him how he was feeling. Another mom said her daughter would to her room and hide when the doorbell rang. I even had a mom say that her children couldn’t carry on a phone conversation without panic.
This is nothing short of a crisis.
As parents, it’s our job to give our kids effective communication tools. In fact, raising great communicators is one of the hallmarks of the C2C way. So, in my quest to help parents train confident kids, I came up with a weekly assignment that produced great fruit in my own children and is now bearing fruit in many other kids. I am convinced that it can change a child’s life and alter the way they perceive themselves in relationship to other people.
Remember the moms I talked about with painfully shy kids? Well, after implementing this assignment, those same kids now look the doctor in the eye and explain what’s wrong, answer the door with confidence, and talk on the phone comfortably. I’ve even seen teens and pre-teens grow into effective communicators who can contact a place of business without hesitation and gather important information with respect and confidence.
Eager to know what this secret tool is? First, let me prescribe that it be done at least three times a week. Repetition is key. The more they practice, the more confident they will become. (Begin with role-playing and practice as a family before assigning this to them publicly.)
- With you watching, have your child approach someone they do not know (this could be a clerk at a store, a new person at church, a new friend in a club, etc.).
- Explain to them how to make strong eye contact (this means not to look away, look the person in the eye).
- Instruct them to extend their right hand firmly and directly. No wimpy handshakes (this goes for girls too).
- Have them memorize, “Hello, my name is_________________, what is your name? It’s very nice to meet you, have a great day.”
- When they report back, have them repeat the entire conversation, especially the person’s name. Nervousness = mind going blank. If they know they have to come back to you with a name, it will help them focus on remembering. This can take time, but I promise that the anxiety will eventually disappear.
After they master this, you can move on to what I like to call the “interview” — teaching kids to move into a conversation after an introduction by asking open-ended question. But you’ll have to check back for a future post on that one!
Know this, your kids have something to say, and God wants them to say it with confidence.
Be sure to stop back and leave a comment, letting us know how it’s going!