November 22, 2004
We all want our children to be stars in their lives and feel good about who they are, but could you be pushing them too far? Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering starting your young child in pageants, acting or any extracurricular activity:
Is there balance?
The concept of pageants can be beneficial to children if they are done in balance with other activities in a child’s life, like soccer or little league. But putting too much focus on just one activity is not healthy for the child. They must experience many different activities when they are young to find out what they truly enjoy being a part of. It is OK for them to be involved in activities, but make sure they are not missing out on being a kid and participating in things other kids do, like sleepover parties and birthday parties.
Is this your child’s passion or your passion?
Is your child doing it because they have a passion for it and love it, or is it your dream and passion? If your child complains about the activity and seems to be unhappy, maybe it is time to consider another outlet for fun, even if you want them to continue with it. Even though your child may want to pursue this dream, you are the parent. You control whether they attend pageants and auditions, not the child. Kids need to be kids and parents need to be parents.
Are you endangering your child?
Are you putting your child in danger in order to make them “beautiful?” One guest had braces put on her 2 1/2-year-old daughter because she had a crooked tooth and begged for braces. Dr. Phil checked with a licensed Orthodontist who said this is not something that should be done and a child could suffer more harm than good. This can lead to worse consequences because a young child cannot take care of braces the way an older child is able to, and it can cause damage to the teeth.
If you have hesitation that this activity could be harmful to your child’s emotional or physical well-being, then don’t put your child in harm’s way. If your child has been threatened or hurt by the activity, maybe you should reconsider the importance of continuing on with it. For example, one young girl participating in beauty pageants was cursed at by another mother and received a dead cat on her porch — acts of hatred and jealousy that could make you think twice before pursuing further.
Are you having financial or marital problems?
If your marriage is in trouble or you are having money problems as a result of pursuing this dream, you should reconsider the investment and make sure that it is positive for the entire family. If you are spending a lot of time away from each other, this leads to a more divided family. It is important to recognize that this dream should not be taking away from the family unit, but rather building it and making it stronger. Work on building the careers of the parents so that the children can enjoy the fruits of what the parents achieve. It is a parent's responsibility to take care of the children and make sure that they have long-term opportunities.
Are you concentrating too much on beauty, makeup, hair and clothes?
This is very superficial, and could make a child vulnerable at a young age. They may learn to define their self-worth based on these standards, which is unrealistic. It's important to think about the consequences of what will happen if the child grows out of the "cute phase" and isn't "pageant cute" anymore.
Are you being realistic about your goals?
If your child has been going on numerous auditions and has not landed a job, maybe it is time to reconsider things. The numbers of children that get acting gigs is very small: about five out of 100,000. Even if your child does become successful, it's not as easy or glamorous as it may seem. Fame is a 24-hour a day job. They will be spending long days at a studio for work, and oftentimes it is around adults and no one from their peer group. They may have problems when they return to school, and the monetary compensation may not be as much as you would have expected.
Are you too critical of your child?
When a child starts an activity at a young age, the activity should be fun for the child. It's about gaining experience and developing skills. If he/she becomes a professional, then it becomes work for him/her and it is more acceptable to be critical because his/her future is at stake. It is important to encourage your child before criticizing them, so he/she can know the feeling of doing something well. Criticism is received better when training for the next event as opposed to right after completing one.
Should you continue?
If your child is currently acting and you are not sure whether to let them continue, think about this. For children, the only time is here and now. If you take them out of this activity and put them into another activity that they really enjoy, they will move forward happy and successfully.
You must do what is best for the child and you can't worry whether they will resent you for stopping the activity. You cannot parent with resentment. You can't worry that your child will be mad at you for saying, 'No' to them continuing. Know that it may be in their best interest, and you are the parent. The chances that young actors will make it to another successful show is very slim.
A lot of child stars from the past have become drug addicts and alcoholics. "It's a lack of adjustment that happens because it's a false world," Dr. Phil says. One day you're a star and the next day it's all over.