My son is not a show-off (but I am!)

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Are you suuure you don’t want to go up and sing with your friends?”

I desperately whispered to my son, as I tried to convince him to join the rest of the Sunday School crew on stage at church. The kids were performing a Christmas poem and song, and despite my attempts to persuade him to join them, Oliver’s eyes filled with tears at the thought of standing up in front of the congregation and performing.

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As much as I wanted to see him up there with the rest of his peers, my husband and I didn’t force him up there, and watched the other children recite sweet lines and sing their hearts out. I knew in advance that Oliver wouldn’t be one of the kids belting out at the top of his lungs, but even I was surprised and disappointed that we couldn’t even get him up there.

Many times before this, I’d defended or excused his quiet nature and refusal to “perform” in front of groups. “He’s not a performer!” I’d declare, sometimes defensively, trying to respect his refusal to sing a song or spout off requested information on cue. Truthfully, it pained me a bit to admit that he didn’t inherit the “show off” gene from his mom.

As a child, and especially in middle and high school, I LOVED performing, in many senses of the word. Whether it was a piano or dance recital, singing in choir, public speaking, emceeing an event, or simply talking with my parents’ adult friends, I enjoyed performing. In most cases, my ego far surpassed my actual talent.

But, my son doesn’t have this “bug” to perform, or at least, he doesn’t right now. While I wish it didn’t bother me, if I’m being honest, it does. He can actually be a real ham, and is very silly and funny. He’s a very sweet big brother, but is usually too engrossed in a new environment to even notice his baby sister. The funny, sweet kid that I’m so proud of doesn’t really show the full range of his awesome personality to many people. We go on visits to see friends with kids who greet me and carry on lengthy conversations, and my kid, who never stops talking at home, barely gets out a full sentence in two hours.

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I’m not sure if my feelings come from a place of competitiveness, or regret that most people won’t get to see what a great kid I have, but I’m trying not to let my feelings influence my words or actions towards him in an attempt to make him perform. I imagine that the more I push, the more miserable and resistant he’ll become in these situations, and as much as I’d love for him to come out of his shell a bit more, I’d like it to be on his terms.

I think there’s a time when we have to push our kids a bit harder, but forcing a three year old to put on a song and dance show to satisfy my own ego doesn’t seem like the best choice.

I completely realize that he’ll need to give speeches in school, and talk with tons of new people throughout his life, but I’m trying to understand that these are skills that some people are born with, and that may take others a little bit longer to learn (and possibly NEVER enjoy!).

In talking with a friend about the instance I described earlier, she affirmed that not pushing Oliver to perform was probably the right move, saying that she hates situations where she feels on the spot, and forcing her to do it doesn’t magically change her feelings, but instead makes it worse.
If you have a non-performer, and especially if you’re more of a performer yourself, know that you’re in good company! Our kids might not be performers, but that alone doesn’t make them any less awesome than any other kids – just that they keep their awesome as a treasure to share when they feel safe and secure.

Can YOU relate?

Do YOU have a child who is scared or nervous to perform in front of others, and how do you parent in such a situation?

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