I’ve waited on posting this article until after competition season had ended. It is so hard to get a word in edge-wise during any competition season, or event. Besides, I didn’t want any parent to assume I was talking about them. I’m not. The article is more in general, since there are so many types of parents, I wouldn’t lump them all into one group, just because they go to competitions. I’ve met some very fascinating, kind, and gentle parents throughout the years at competitions. This year I’ve worked with some of the best!
For the most part, I can actually say I don’t know to many “stage parents”. What I do know, is some of what they are up too. Stage parenting is easier to explain to someone who has been, or is raising a talented child. You know what it is like to be at competition, and you understand the stress that often comes with it.
To a number of parents and kids, the prospect of winning is everything. I know it shouldn’t be – but it is. I’ve experienced it, and most of my fellow dancers have experienced it as well. It comes with the territory. What you have to do is survive.
Enter little Miss Perfect. Miss Perfect has all the friends, all the dance/singing/event parts, and her parents are social elites! They got it all – at least in their own little minds. Their world revolves around their little Mr. or Miss Perfect children. They are it, at least until Miss Perfect hit’s a sour note, misses a step, and/or goodness forbid, little Mr. Perfect say something to another perfect parent or their perfect child.
It is interesting to watch how some stage parents interact with those around them at events. They tend to be the “get in your face” type of people. You see them hanging around back stage, announcing if given an open microphone (yikes), lining up performers, etc. No, they aren’t the teachers either.
They scrutinize others with a sharp tongue, a frown, and eyes that roll with their displeasure. They have no trouble letting you know publicly their feelings. They can be loud, and hateful, or calm and behind your back. Yeah, those types of parents. I’m sure you know plenty.
Let’s face it, someone has to be the high fashion diva’s of society. They busily push their way to the top of the list of where-ever it is they are going. If you get in their path, they will go out of their way to show you your place. It’s a power thing. The need for control. If they can’t control the competition, or their surroundings, then they are out of control. It’s that simple. They don’t care how big a scene they make – just so long as they feel they are in control. The more public the scene – the better.
It doesn’t mean they have won anything by being publicly obnoxious. But, in their minds they feel powerful.
DON’T react back. Just walk away from them. Let them have their rant. Maybe they will go find their friends now, and bad mouth you in that circle. At least they are gone. At some point it is a director’s call to deal with these parents.
They want others to know that their children have the best! They all own multiples of electronic devices: DX’s, Wii’s, iPods, cell phone, and this is just the kindergartners. These kids wouldn’t know what a party line was if you explained it too them. The sad part is, even some of their parents don’t know, because they too were raised to believe they were society’s darlings.
The tragedy behind this type of parenting is that too many of these children never learn how to behave in confrontational settings. They are left with the idea that someone will bail them out of all their troubles. They don’t learn that there are consequences to their actions. They have been programmed to believe that – mommy or daddy along with their perceived status and/or money will make it all better. When they become adults, they often are not mature enough to handle many real life situations.
Kids who often feel picked on by the Perfect’s, may or may not be seeing them for what they really are. It all depends on how “You” the parent interact with your own children. The culture inside our school systems is a tough one to grow up in as a kid. So training your kids by example at home is important.
Children, who do not believe that an entitlement comes from being born into a family, generally grow up to be well mannered and respectful citizens. These types of children also compete, but with different out come.
Someone has to beat Miss or Mr. Perfect. It might as well be the well educated and polite kid. Fair competition is the right way.
I’d like to say there are easy answers and ways to avoid the Perfect’s, but unfortunately they breed. They are everywhere: in the plays, the dance studios, the football fields, your car washes, bake sales, scouting – EVERYWHERE! If they weren’t everywhere, they wouldn’t be able to live vicariously through every sappy moment of their child’s life.
I do not have any problems with parents who get involved in their kids’ lives to help them. What parent doesn’t want to help their child succeed? Many times, my own parent did things with my siblings and me, and never let my dearest and best buddies know. It was our family time! Higher education was one of those things she instilled in all of us, same with baseball, swimming, cross county, track, and music. Whatever we wanted to do.
While dance was a big thing in my life, my parent allowed me to have other outlets, and a different circle of friends that was much broader and diverse.
What I do have a problem with are parents who create drama, attempt to demean other parents, and allow their children to behave like little animals, or attempt to control them by fear. Stage parents need to be taught what side of the field they are to sit on. That space should never include the field, dance floor, or stage. Stage parents don’t control other people – unless other people allow them too. Don’t allow it.
I’ve kind of left the dads out of this conversation until now for a reason. The reason being is that it is often the mom that you see first. Not always, but generally it will be the moms. Dads, like moms, come with different temperaments. Most of the dads I have had experience with are doting daddies with nothing but their little princesses in their eyes. That’s a good thing. What isn’t so good is the doting dad who accepts hugs and loves from little Miss Perfect, and then allows them to misbehave in public. You know the ones; kid screaming at the top of their lungs, and running up and down the bleacher. The cure? Dad whips out the old wallet and places wads of cash in little Miss Perfects hand. Little Miss Perfect then shuffles off, with friends in tow, to the vendor section to load up on what ever her heart desires.
Once in a while you get a mouthy dad – but most of them already know where security is located. When you do get an angry dad, it is best to make them aware of security, or security aware of them.
Setting up props doesn’t have to be a super hero sport or take a rocket scientist. The skinny little dad is just as proud as the big dad. Each has something to offer. We should leave it there.
One of the worst parenting experiences that I can recall, happened not inside an event, but outside. Don’t know if this would fall under stage parent, but it was bad enough.
Two parents who were related – sisters, were arguing over the other owing them money. The fight gradually escalated until it became physical. In the physical fight, one of the other sisters decided to bite the other sister. She actually took a chunk out of her sister’s stomach. I won’t go into the gross details – It wasn’t pretty. The police were called, an ambulance, and the hosts of the event had to be notified. It was a humiliating event, not for just these parent’s children, but our whole studio. I’d love to hear your worst experience.
STAGE MOM VS. TEAM PLAYER
Having had a parent who was a team mom – I learned from her how to avoid the rhetoric. She was a professional always – who wasn’t much into the mamma drama. But, if she was the one they called on to shut someone down – you know you were in the wrong. It just isn’t something that she does to often.
It has to be a serious situation for her to take a director position. She would tell you that she loves those moms and dancers – and that you always have to approach them firmly, knowledgeably, and be willing to forgive and forget. And she does!
Took a lot of years for me to understand her style and level of professionalism when dealing with people. She understands that people don’t want to be told “no”, “stop”, or “quit”. She also understands that some will explode in her face, once they are firmly confronted. It is better to get issues aired out, rather than let them sit and brew. Clear the air, and clear it quickly.
I think I couldn’t hear what she was saying because she always said it during competition season. It could of been wax too! 🙂
That is why I am writing this article now – when competition season is over. It’s easier to get the message heard when people aren’t already stressed out about what is happening on the dance floor. It is also not my intent to make anyone feel bad (guilty). Just once in a while we all need a gentle reminder that “WE” aren’t PERFECT! I said “WE”, as in you and me.
I’m not as easily intimidated as I was when I was younger. I’ve learned how to shut the average stage parent down for the most part. I’m realist too, I know that if others are worried about me, they are leaving someone else alone. I’m a big girl, and I can take or leave their rhetoric for the most part.
No one wants negative feedback, so it is important to know how to deal with it when it happens. Number one rule, be honest with yourself and set limits that are reachable.
I truly feel sorry for those little kids who are caught up in the behavior of their own personal stage parent – adult drama. Stage parents want you to be frightened by their gobbledygook and their self perceived prestige. It doesn’t matter if their ideologies are society backed, morally self righteous, or taken from a popular cliché’. How they perceive the world – is in their kids favor, or their own – period. They will make up the rules as they go.
The best thing you can do is understand that actions have consequences. Those stage parents will eventually have to pay the consequences. Teach your kids to be happy with whom they are. Give them options, and let them get involved in things they enjoy.
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