I admire and even envy people who can address a crowd. Don’t you?
I assume even the most consummate orator does feel those ubiquitous butterflies in his stomach. Yet I will doff my hat at his ability to mask it and continue with the performance. Wish someone had taught me that trick! At 35, you’d have thought I’d be over all this. But I still have clammy hands and a hollow pit in my stomach when I speak at client meetings. So I can sense what my seven year old goes through when she climbs on stage.
Or at least I thought I could.
I remember some time ago, my daughter was rehearsing for the school’s annual function. Suddenly, she went stiff. Her hands and fingers became rigid and though she was crying miserably and able to follow instructions, the cramping did not ease. The school authorities in absolute panic called me at home. Never having heard of anything like this or experienced it, I rushed to school with horrific images of the child convulsing and foaming at the mouth. She’d calmed down considerably by the time I saw her and I was assured that none of what I’d imagined had occurred. Some probing later, I discovered that it was a good bit of yelling because she was not ‘performing’ on stage that triggered the ‘episode’!
By nature, my first born is shy to the point of being non controversial. So when it comes to ‘showing off’ talent in public, she prefers to stay in the background. I was no better at her age, I thought and let it go at that.
At about the same time, she expressed a keen interest in learning to play an instrument—particularly the harmonica. The sheer shortage of good Harmonica teachers pushed me toward another woodwind instrument—the Recorder (the precursor to the Flute). Some amount of searching later, we zeroed in on a teacher and classes commenced. The child enjoyed her lessons and took to the instrument with great enthusiasm. And then, one day, she told me that she wanted to play the Recorder at school.
At first I was hesitant and worried about this triggering off yet another ‘episode’. Unsure if I could handle it, I kept procrastinating. Finally, I wrote to the class teacher, and having got the go ahead, had her practice at length the tune she wanted to play. She went, she played, she got applauded. And I felt a load lift off my chest.
Within days, we came across a notice at one of the local clubs inviting members’ children to perform at the annual western music talent night slated earlier this month. Only three months into her Recorder lessons, my daughter proactively chose her Classical and Non Classical pieces and after hours of practice performed voluntarily in front of a select gathering of our friends. Till today, I’m amazed at what a little bit of applause can do! On d-day, she walked up to the stage, smiled into my camera, looked the audience in the eye and played her solo pieces perfectly. No freezing, no going blank and certainly no awkward pauses. She won two prizes that evening but what mattered more to me was that she’d conquered her demons.
Now if only I could get the courage to face my own fears. So here’s what I learnt about how not to let stage fright get the better of your child:
1. Identify the trigger that causes stage fright: It may not be the act of going up on stage alone. It may be the pressure to perform, an unfamiliar ambience, inadequate preparation, or even a tyrant breathing down one’s neck.
2. Look for an activity that your child is interested in. Now try boosting his confidence by showcasing his abilities in this sphere.
3. Have the child practise at home and eventually perform in front of a gathering that he is comfortable with.
4. Use words of encouragement and shower praise for the effort he’s made.
Not everyone is born prepared for the stage. This, hopefully, will make the experience of going up on stage something to cherish for both, you and your child.
Also Read : How to Develop your Child’s Self-Confidence