When it’s time to speak about your child at the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service or party, all parents want a give a speech to remember. Some can’t wait to take the microphone, while others dread the thought of standing up in front of the crowd. Regardless of how comfortable you feel writing and delivering your speech, you want to do right by your child.
Photo credit Josh Strauss
But, how do you make sure your speech makes your child smile? How can you represent your child in the best light without causing embarrassment or over boasting? How can you truly connect with your child? Consider these 5 tips:
Choose your words (and jokes) wisely.
Thirteen years old can be a highly sensitive age, with most kids still figuring out who they are. Seize this opportunity to cast your child in the best light possible. Without using a laundry list of adjectives to describe how great your child is, cherry pick one or two colorful stories that illustrate your child’s unique strengths. Make sure that your child would be 100% comfortable with you sharing these stories so as not to cause unnecessary embarrassment. When it comes to humor, tread carefully. Gentle ribbing can be okay, but you have to know that your child can handle it. If there’s any doubt, it’s best to either poke fun at yourself or skip the jokes about your child altogether.
Make the speech about your child, not yourself.
Focusing on your child and what makes him/her unique seems like a no-brainer, but you may be surprised by how many parents talk more about themselves than their child. While it’s encouraged to talk about your relationship with your child, it’s not the time or place to be sharing your own passions unless your child is equally or more passionate about them. Instead of talking about all the things you’ve imparted to your child, consider flipping it and talking about what your child has taught you.
Make eye contact.
When you’re speaking to your child, don’t forget to make eye contact. If he/she is standing next to you on the bimah or the stage, don’t be afraid to make physical contact as well. A hand on the shoulder or holding your child’s hand will help you connect physically and emotionally during the speech.
Know when to stop.
Make sure your speech is no more than five minutes. No exceptions. Trust me—your child (and your guests) will lose interest if you speak for any longer than that. Leave your child wanting to hear more…not less.
Rehearse well in advance.
One of the best ways to make your child proud of you is to practice beforehand. People often think that the more they practice the more “scripted” they will sound. But it’s quite the opposite. The more you practice, the more confident and natural you’ll sound. The more you practice, the less likely that the “ums” and “uhs” take over. Make sure to practice out loud, ideally in front of your spouse or trusted friend, or at the very least, a mirror. Your child will realize how hard you worked to deliver the best speech possible.
There are too few moments in life when you can honor your child in front of family and friends. Let your child feel your love and pride through the words you select and the memories you share. Put in the time to write, edit and rehearse until you know with certainty that you will deliver a speech that will make your child feel their absolute best. As always, the Word Whisperer is here to help you if you get stuck.