As my daughter was telling me the harsh words of the director, my heart was breaking. I wanted to tell her:
"You’re the best! He’s mean and I’m going to talk to him and make it better."
But the other part of me — the part of me that knew that I was raising an adult — sought first to understand what was actually happening.
Parents are too quick to attack teachers, coaches and other authority figures who criticize their children. We want to protect them. We want only positive life experiences for them.
My children’s former childcare provider is out of business after decades of taking care of kids. One reason? Impossible parents.
One parent told her they don’t use negative words such as "don't" or "no" with their child. EVER.
Anyway, here's what happened
My 11-year-old daughter got cast in the lead in the summer musical. The director pulled her aside a week before opening night.
He told her: Your voice is great. But dancing? You’re not cutting it. You’re the lead. You need to bring it way up. I can’t have a lead who can’t dance. Do better. Starting now.
At home that night I asked her, “How are you doing?”
“My spirit’s crushed,” she said.
"Tell me about practice," I said. "Are you giving 100 percent?"
She answered. “Well...no.”
Meanwhile I'm like:
A rash of explanations (excuses) spilled out that I won’t bore you with.
I could have found exception with the way the director spoke to my child. He was blunt. He was emotionless. He was direct.
I’ve heard other parents get caught up in the way authority figures addressed a child instead of focusing on the issues with the child.
Sure, adults shouldn’t be rude, disrespectful or hurtful. He was honest. Often, all these authority figures are guilty of is telling the truth.
For me to interfere, would have prevented by daughter in this drama from BEING HER OWN HERO.
Here's how I handled it
I wanted to break out charts, graphs and PowerPoint and tell her exactly how to get back on track for this summer production of “At the Bandstand.” Instead, I asked her what she could do in the next week to bring up her performance level.
This was her plan:
- Practice her dancing at home
- Seek out the choreographer for extra help
- Focus more, which meant putting away the smartphone even when it wasn’t her time on stage
- Arrive early to rehearsal
- Ask questions of the director, musical director and choreographer
- Take notes
And guess what? She was ready by opening night and did a great job.
Oddly, it was being sent home with a bag of Sour Patch Kids from a final rehearsal that meant the most to her. At the close of rehearsals, directors give out candy to kids who tried the hardest.
“I did it mom,” she said. “I finally did it. Can you believe it? The director said, ‘You’re doing everything I asked you to do.' "
She ate that wretched candy and she shared something else with me. Something far more important than meeting the expectations of someone else.
“I’m really having fun. Once you know all your lines and your dance moves you start to have fun. And I was proud of myself, even if I didn't get that bag of candy."
Remember: We're raising adults
They are our children, but we are raising them to be adults. And adults are called out in the working world for not putting in 100 percent.
We need to equip our kids with the tools to handle constructive criticism.
If we don't micromanage our kids' lives, they'll have moments like these to look back on and remember how they responded.
Hopefully, they'll remember how they became the heroes of their own story.
Like All the Moms?
- Nonprofit called Gold Hope Project gifts photo sessions to kids with cancer
- Should kids be allowed to play with toy guns? Photos of Prince George spark debate
- Believe it or not, parents can win the power struggle by giving kids control
- This mom's plea to stop saying 'hurry up' to kids is hitting a heart string