Calling someone a “stage mom” used to be an insult. These stereotypical characters were often portrayed as overbearing moms waiting in the wings. They yelled at their children who danced, acted, and/or played music. Fiercely competitive, stage moms lived vicariously through their kids. Thanks to more awareness today, especially surrounding mental health issues, these stereotypes can be replaced with something healthier. How about a more evolved “stage parent”? Someone who’s supportive of young performers rather than destructive.
Here are some ways to achieve this:
1. Check yourself and your motives
An effective stage parent allows their children to chart their own path. Introducing kids to the arts, as well as sports, books, and the world of knowledge, is part of a parent’s job. However, a child isn’t here to live or achieve for their parents.
Encourage children to find their own passions. Healthy stage parents serve their kids’ dreams – not the other way around.
2. Be there for your kids
Making sure your children attend rehearsals, lessons and performances isn’t easy. For single parents especially, it requires time and sacrifice.
You don’t have to do this alone. Many local agencies and theatre groups have carpools and babysitting co-ops. If yours doesn’t have one, consider starting it. This allows everyone to better participate so the show can go on.
3. Dial down the competition factor
According to child psychologists, one of the best things parents can do for their kids is foster self-assurance. Encourage kids to focus on themselves and improve from one project to the next.
4. Support their effort
The performing arts is a subjective world. It’s not always about talent and hard work. Sometimes it’s about physical features, ethnicity, gender or “the look” of the performer.
Children bounce back from rejection better when surrounded by wise adults who understand there is celebration in the effort it took to try.
5. Keep it positive
Directors and other show runners might have to provide constructive feedback. That’s their job.
A parent’s job is to love their kids no matter how much they need to work on their performance. This is true for a stage parent, too. Long before the curtain goes up, and after it comes down, kids need unconditional love.
Positive support will also help them grow into more confident adults.
6. Speak less, listen more
Check in with your kids. Ask them open-ended questions that help get them talking. Then be sure to listen.
7. Let go
Some parents have a rule.
When their kids want to try something new – like a musical instrument for example – they must make at least a 6 month or year commitment. If they lose interest, they have to stick with that commitment.
After all, instruments and lessons cost money.
However, when that time commitment is up, parents must let go. The kids should be welcome to try something else. That’s what childhood is about, after all: trying new things.
8. Focus on yourself and your kids
When done in a positive manner, a stage parent’s attention to self is healthier than worrying about what’s happening with other families.
9. Be a stage parent only
Effectively parenting children is hard work. There’s no reason to add to it.
Those working the business side of show business should be left to do so.
True, you are your children’s best advocates. If you believe others are incompetent, by all means, shop around. Talk to other parents. Check out reviews. But ultimately, let the agents, managers, producers and other professionals work without your input.
10. Step back
Narcissistic parents don’t step back and let their children shine. They want the credit. They want that spotlight.
This is harmful to a child’s self-image. It builds resentment and strains the parent-child relationship. Eventually, children must be able to manage their own world. Let them do that incrementally as they grow. Remind them that you are there to help whenever they need it. But let them ask.
11. Be kind
Children are always watching their parents. They do this for clues as to how to behave. Sometimes they are learning how not to behave.
Do you want to be a role model or a cautionary tale?
Use kind words and encourage others. Try not to boast or make everything about you. Remind your children not to compare themselves with others.
12. Seek help
If you feel yourself unraveling or giving in to your own worst instincts, consider professional help. Periodic feelings of insecurity are normal. Family therapists help parents work through feelings of low self-worth before they reach a toxic level. Or get handed down to the kids.
13. Encourage balance
Make sure your children pursue other interests.
This is how children learn to effectively manage their time. As a family, make space in schedules for them to study, do homework and enjoy relaxing moments with friends and family. They also need to stay physically active at least twenty minutes every day.
Or you can find a great KidzToPros holiday camp that allows kids to explore the arts (as well as sports and STEM) during a break from school. Click here to find one near you.
14. Show gratitude
Actors, musicians and dancers are part of a team. A well-run show or act is only possible when everyone works together. That also includes those working in makeup, costumes, lighting and so much more.
Let people know that you appreciate them. The way we want young athletes to show good sportsmanship is similar to how we want young performers to behave as well.
15. Give it a day or two
If you must speak out about something – wait a day.
Maybe craft that email. But let it sit in your draft pile before sending it.
After 24-48 hours, think a second time. Look at that email again. Do you still feel the same way? Are you sure? Read the words you’ve written with a fresh perspective. Do they convey your thoughts in a healthy, constructive manner?
Stage parents are human too. Most want what’s best for their children. They are their children’s best advocates. These tips can help a loving, caring stage parent be the best they can be – rather than a caricature.
Break a leg.