So there we were, my girls and I, strolling through the department store, drooling over cute purses and fancy shoes, when a sweet little old lady, for sure the most unintimidating person on the planet, smiled, said Hello, and then got to talking to my daughter, Mari. The kid had on a t-shirt featuring the logo of a local cooking school for children, which made Mari a walking billboard for the camp she'd attended just a few weeks before, and so it was only natural for someone who had questions about it to, well, ask questions about it. So ask, the old lady did.

Mari replied to all of the old lady's questions with umms and uhhs and one word answers. She had a case of mumble mouths, as our family calls it. I mean, I get that my kid is a tad reserved and can't always summon up the perfect words for every conversation thrown her way; she's still a kid, and talking to grown-ups can be a little intimidating. But I do think it's high time that this extremely smart, well-spoken, thoughtful 11-year-old start to exercise her networking muscles. She needs to figure out how to start and hold a conversation, answer questions thoughtfully and use her communication skills to get comfortable in not-so-comfortable situations.

Knowing how to talk to others, after all whether on the playground, at a birthday party, on a job interview or at the office soiree is a part of etiquette 101 as important, in my book, as using the right fork at a fancy dinner table or saying thank you to the person serving you. It shows not only that you have manners and a firm grasp of the King's English, but that you're confident and in control of your own thoughts and opinions and quite capable of expressing yourself things that serve the most successful among us well as we navigate everything from the workplace to our closest relationships.

That's why right then, right there, as soon as Sweet Little Old Lady got out of earshot, I ran Mari through the paces…

To see how I teach my girls to speak up and be heard, in this post written exclusively for Unilever’s Don’t Fret the Sweat campaign, CLICK HERE. For tips, confidence-building tools and stories about how moms are helping their tweens navigate those sweat-inducing moments, check out
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  1. My daughter is very outspoken, but at times with me she is very reserved. I don't know whether is the intimidation factor of this is my mom and I should not speak or what. But I try and factor an open dialogue in my home whether she should be able to voice her open. This is still a work in progress and she is better at times than others. I am sure that you will pull that networking genius out of her!

  2. The Adventures of Princess Zaria

    Great post. This comes at a time when I told my daughter Zaria that she is going to be more zisible in 2011. Zaria is the inspiration for the fictional charactar in the Adventures of Princess Zaria(shameless plug) . But seriously, people DO want to meet her and she needs to be able to converse with them so we will be doing training over the next couple months. Kis need to be able to express themselves to adults. The uums and uhs and definitely not acceptable. Thanks for bringing this to the forefront. Your daughter will be just fine.

  3. Kendra | The Savvy WAHM

    I really loved this post. One quality I have intentionally nurtured in my daughter is confidence and respect. I want her to feel confident to express what's on her mind & respectful in how she delivers the message.

    Sometimes this can be something as simple as our children learning how to ask for what they want when they are around other adults. Sometimes when we know we are attending an event with lots of opportunities for them to talk and do their own networking, we will practice how to respond. Because they are kids they may be a little timid at first, but the more the practice it the more comfortable they feel.

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