I think it’s fair to say 99% of parents reading this page think that their child is talented. He or she very well may be and of course you should support your child and let’s face it we all are biased in one way or another when it comes to our kids.
But even the most talented kids are not perfect all the time and parents who constantly tell their child they are great when they are not are doing a them great disservice.
I remember after one performance, I asked my then 15 year-old son how he thought he did and his response was, “Eh.” I replied, with a kind tone, that while he did a good job I had heard him perform that song better. He agreed. A 10 year old girl overheard me and told me I was “mean” because I said that instead of telling him he was great. I explained that it is not “mean” to be honest.
Over the years I have witnessed many of those children whose parents think they are the most talented, most perfect, tell their child they were amazing when they clearly were not. What happens to these kids is they end up with a false sense of self. A false sense of their abilities. They cannot fix what they do not know is broken. They do not work hard to improve on their skills because mom and dad said they are awesome so why should they.
From a very early age I have been honest with my children about their performances. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t come out and say, “Boy that sucked!” Okay, full disclosure, maybe once or twice with my adult son, but that was in a joking manner when he also knew what he was working on was very rough and he agreed with me.
I usually listen to them and watch them perform and then give them an honest appraisal. I try to always find something positive to say about the performance but then hone in on the areas that may be rough where there are pitch problems or they have gotten shouty. I try to do this as much as possible before the actual performance so they have time to make adjustments.
This is beneficial to them for a couple reasons, first they will perform better when the time arrives but they also begin to recognize the areas that need work themselves and tell me what was wrong before I even get a chance to. This has served them well over the years as they have grown up and had to work on new material on their own.
This has not only stayed true at home but also with those they have worked with, instructors, directors, I have always encouraged them to be honest with my children and tell them how to improve their skills and performances. Many have told me they appreciate being able to do their job without worrying that they will upset me or my child.
If my child is not doing what is expected of them they need to be told, period. My children have defiantly benefited from this. Over the years I have often been told by directors how impressed they were with my children being able to take direction and easily make the corrections.
Unfortunately not all parents feel this way and are highly offended when their child is corrected. Often, at a community level and professional level, those children are not cast in shows again simply because the directors do not want to deal with the parent. I’ve seen that happen many times.
That being said, my children only work with those who treat them respectfully. There is a difference in giving a correction and just yelling, outright being mean or degrading. My children have worked with people like that and have refused to work with them again. My, then 13 year-old, daughter once told me, “Mom I respect myself to much as an actress to work with someone who screams at and degrades their cast.” This director had never treated her personally like this but she watched the way she had treated others in the casts she had been in. I credit her stance to her working with real professionals both on stage, as directors and instructors. When you work with professionals you learn how to behave and how you should be treated.
Another big mistake many parents make is exerting influence over directors to give their child a role, a lead or a title. (This in itself is a topic I will write about at a later date so I’m only touching on it now.) This is in my mind even worse than constantly telling your child they are great because they gain a false sense of their abilities, their type, and their expectations for their future.
What happens to the kids who are always told they are great or get roles they do not earn? They go out into the real world and are hit hard by reality in the face. They go to college auditions at only the top schools, most don’t have second tier or safety schools on their list and they don’t get into a program. Or if they do get into a program, often it is not at the level they expect or if it is, they don’t get cast in shows and they can’t understand why. Many simply do not know how to handle it leading to many problems. In their minds and possibly in reality, they have failed and having never “failed” in getting what they have wanted in their lives or careers before, they are ill equipped to deal with the emotions that come with it.
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