Good parents naturally want what’s best for their kids, but the road to success for young performers can be long, winding, and fraught with extraordinary challenges, making it difficult for their parents to help guide the way. Use these strategies to avoid three common pitfalls:
The journey is about them.
Before your child even gets started, it’s important to be sure what the real motivation is and who’s dream you are following. We’ve all heard the horror stories of overbearing stage parents dragging unwilling young performers from audition to audition making outlandish demands of whomever crosses their paths, sometimes even going so far as to berate and pressure the very children they pretend to serve. So check your ego before you even walk out the door and be sure an actor’s life is something your child truly wants and not some unfulfilled dream of your own. Masha Godkin, a former child actor-turned counselor advises, “The desire to act must come from the child. Otherwise, his main goal is pleasing his parents." [Source: Psychology Today]
Instead of rushing to push your children into a life they may or may not want, take the time to understand their goals, desires, and temperament. You will feel better in the long run knowing this is something they truly want to pursue.
Empower them, but don’t spoil them.
The end game for most parents is to raise a child into an independent, responsible grown-up who is equipped to face the challenges of adult life. It should be no different for young performers, but the world in which they travel has challenges and temptations like no other. So while it’s okay to give them the freedom to make some choices (both personal and creative), know when to say no and leave the health and welfare decisions to the adults.
Remember that parents are a child’s first teachers.
Setting a good example of how to act as a human being is perhaps one of the most important jobs on the parenting checklist; so stay positive. Stepping in and taking over during an audition or production is a common temptation for stage parents, but domineering behavior has a negative effect on the child’s job (in the short term) and can do serious damage to family and professional relationships for years to come. Critique, don’t criticize; support, don’t smother. And remember at the end of the day, this child actor is also your baby.
Like most things in life, maintaining healthy, respectful relationships with your child/actor and the people with whom they work is a balancing act. The late Casey Kasem is famous for saying “Keep your feet on the ground, but keep reaching for the stars”; but in child-rearing terms, perhaps actor/comedian Louis C.K. said it best: “I’m not raising kids. I’m raising the adults they’re going to turn into.”