As a child do you remember being asked by your parents to show off your latest song, poem, dance or any new trick learned? I do. We start out our kids very early in life, “Show Lola your close-open, close-open” then the baby obliges by closing and opening his hand, followed by “beautiful eyes!” then the baby blinks his eyes.
My sons were no exception to this tradition. In fact, I remember my oldest always dancing to Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice when he was one year old. No matter what he was doing, he would drop it, even when crying. It was automatic for him to stop so he could do his moves. My second son’s motivation to dance was caught on video when he was about three. There was a party in my parents’ house and he wasn’t in the mood to dance. But when he saw Lolo giving away money to the dancers, he danced his heart out beating all the other kids with his wild moves. My youngest son’s lullaby was no less than Together Again by Janet Jackson. No soft music could make him sleep any better than this disco tune, which I had to play over and over again until he fell asleep.
So I am not surprised when they all grew up loving the art of dancing. My husband and I both dance but not in the same calibre as our sons.’ Theirs is performance level because they all opted to pursue this in their respective school and outside school organizations. They’ve competed and won local and international contests. We enjoy watching them dance, even if their six-hour competitions at the Araneta Coliseum would render our eardrums out of commission because of the loud thumping they call music.
Dancing is not the only performance we can encourage our kids to do. There’s singing, storytelling, reciting poems, cracking jokes, hosting programs and many more. My youngest even boasts of his trick wherein he sticks out his tongue to reach his nose, and his ability to read words backwards rendering all our names German and Hebrew sounding, “Hi my name in Otsuaf Notna, my parents are Otsuaf Nivram and Esor, and my brothers are Otsuaf Nitram and Euqirne!”
Almost every night during their toddler years, they would have an impromptu program using the bay window seat across our bed as their stage. No one allowed himself to be left behind without a number. It was always, “My turn, my turn!” This was like a ritual before bedtime prayer. Later, they moved on to the bigger stage in their pre-school, then big school, and even outside the school. They have come a long way from our bay window seat.
Sometimes people ask me how come all of them are not shy, especially when they hear them give a presentation. Kanino nagmana? Although it may be true that kids are born with their own temperament, I would like to believe that no child is born shy. Maybe some do not love the limelight as much as others do and prefer to do some stuff on their own, but I guess all kids, during most part of their awake time, would enjoy the company of others. And yet, we see kids who are severely, almost painfully, shy they can’t even answer the question, “Would you like to play with this toy?” without looking for Mama’s approval. During our children’s party days, I observed quite a handful of kids not joining the games despite the fun and the attractive prizes in store for the winner. In fact, most of the time, a mother would volunteer that her child didn’t want to join because he didn’t want to lose. He might get embarrassed if he loses. Now I think that’s where we can work something out.
In the audio video presentation made by our sons as their surprise gift to us during our anniversary, they mentioned some quotes from Papa and Mama that they always heard growing up, and they may be among the reasons why they’re comfortable and actually enjoy performing. These are:
- From Papa – “If you learn how to lose, you will never lose.”
- From Mama – “You should only be shy if you did something wrong.”
Other things you can do are the following:
- Encourage them to narrate their day during mealtime together. Ask the right questions so that they give details or even act out their story. Withhold your judgment until after the narration.
- Give praise generously when it’s due.
- Commend the courage to join contests and take risks.
- Do not allow mocking and insults on wrong moves and inability to win.
- Distinguish insults from constructive criticisms. It’s also important that your children not only get praises, but also learn how to accept other people’s opinion.
- Teach them how to handle frustration by allowing them to express it and by doing no. 3.
- Encourage them to admire, and be happy about other people’s achievements, even their own competitors.’
- Try this. When our sons got too big for our bay window seat stage, we sometimes asked them to “present” – i.e. take the microphone and talk about any topic they wish to talk about.
- Make them host programs.
- Encourage them to converse with your adult guests at home up to the extent you deem appropriate.
Raising your children to be performers will definitely help them in their chosen career, academic performance and even their relationships with others. Remember, severe shyness can be disabling. You don’t want your child to miss out on the fun and learning he could be missing out on just because he’s shy. When he becomes an adult, you don’t want his brilliant idea go unnoticed just because he was unable to present it clearly and confidently to the decision makers. I tell you, there’s a lot more to raising performers than the showbizzy part of it. It’s raising them to be great “interactors,” listeners, sharers and learners because a lot of brilliant ideas and breaks come from interactions with other human beings.
For the meantime, enjoy your children’s performances like this dance presented to us by our sons. It’s a source of pure joy for my husband and me. (Click link to view dance)