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Saturday’s Kids Choice Awards included a few surprises…Josh Duhamel attended dressed as Justin Bieber...Selena Gomez beat out Miley Cyrus for favorite TV actress (not really a surprise), but Miley Cyrus did snag the award for favorite movie actress! And whether they were really surprised or not, many presenters and winners got slimed.

But as we mentioned in our last blog, Justin Timberlake’s Kid's Choice Awardstake-home of the Big Help Award was not a surprise. Yet his speech was one of our favorite moments of the evening.

Perhaps it’s predictable that the most decorated celeb in Kids Choice Award history would strike just the right tone with this audience…He’s been around the block a few times, but who knew that this former boy-bander and Brittany beau might also be that summer camp counselor you wish you had. Timberlake may have been recognized for his work with Shriner’s Hospital and authentically “green” golf course, his speech also showed that he understands how to talk to today’s youth in a way that makes them stand up and listen. What can we learn from him?

  1. First, get a little silly…Timberlake peppered his more profound statements about giving back and going green with an on-going burp joke. He promised a great big burp to celebrate the occasion, and this oldie but goodie made him both vulnerable and powerful at the same time. Burping might be frowned upon at the average award show, but Justin realized that his audience needed to shake out the sillies before they could focus on the serious stuff (a lesson that many preschool teachers heed).
  2. Second, don’t underestimate kids. While Timberlake’s aforementioned follies signaled to attendees that he did not take himself too seriously, his next words showed them that he did take them seriously. We could debate whether or not bringing up world catastrophes is appropriate content for a mixed age audience who spends their days alternatively pondering wizards, vampires and sponges who live in a pineapple under the sea, but Timberlake went for it. He rhetorically asked them if they knew about things going on in the world, “like in Japan,” then told them “that’s exactly the kind of thing you can help with.” He reminds us that when adults assume that kids can make a difference, kids assume they’re right.
  3. Finally, Timberlake recognized what they already do…Instead of merely encouraging them to go out and make a difference, he first took a moment to recognize what they’ve already done. He asked them to stand up if they’ve ever helped anyone…A parent, a friend, an organization in their community. He made “help” inclusive, not elite or elusive, and he first pointed out how they’ve already gotten some of the good stuff done. Of course, this also served to get the whole crowd on their feet (he is an entertainer, you know).

So when you’re trying to motivate, inspire or just inform kids, look at the way the people they admire treat them. You’re likely to find some of the same patterns. They might be speaking a language that’s more relevant to your own than you think.