With the recent media expose about wealthy parents who allegedly bribed and lied to purchase college admission for their children, my students and I have had many discussions about fairness, responsibility, and accountability. My students were angry. Kids are refreshingly honest and forthright. They know the difference between earning something and getting it in an underhanded way. They said “I work my butt off to get into a good school. I don’t want someone to get my spot just because their parents have more money than mine do.”
But parents can be tempted to do whatever they can to help their child succeed. This is true especially in acting where it can be hard to find opportunities, particularly if you live outside a big city. Over the years I’ve worked with students from all over the world and some of them are connected to influential people who have used those connections to meet directors, casting directors, and agents. There’s nothing wrong with using your contacts to open a door for your child.
However, if you try to buy your child stardom you’re not doing them any favors. In fact, you may cause lasting damage to their self-confidence and future. Here’s why:
1. You won’t teach them that hard work reaps great rewards.
There is no joy without struggle and no success in acting without preparation, practice, and training. Being an actor may look easy, but it’s hard work. When your child puts in the time and effort to win a role and perform it well, the applause they hear will be sweet and stick with them throughout their life.
2. Your child may lack readiness.
If you get your child an audition or meeting with industry professionals, you must make sure your young actor is ready. If they are not well prepared and trained, you’re doing them a disservice. While you may hear stories about overnight success and instant stardom, those stories are generally misleading.
3. You send a message that you don’t believe in their capabilities.
If you do the work for your child or help them take shortcuts to success, you’re inadvertently sending the message that you don’t believe they have the skill or power to earn their success. Young actors learn life lessons from the process of auditioning like failing, succeeding, and preparation. Acting teaches self-discipline, risk-taking, managing disappointment, organization, and teamwork. Your child can only learn those valuable lessons via direct experience.
4. You will take away their pride.
Just imagine how the students whose parents apparently bought their way into college must feel. Those teens are most likely embarrassed, ashamed, and have lost confidence in their own skills. Shame is devaluing and teaches kids that they’re not worthy or good enough. Acting requires enormous effort and helps students realize their potential for success. They’ll carry that sense of pride with them in the future because they’ve developed confidence in their ability to achieve goals. Success comes from believing in yourself and your abilities. As an acting teacher, I don’t teach my students what to say or how to say it. Instead, I show them how to find answers within themselves, instilling confidence. After all, only confident actors get hired.
Since this topic is currently in the news, I recommend taking the opportunity to talk with your young actor about the value of hard work. Have a talk over dinner or ice cream about what they’re learning while acting, and how those lessons support them now and in the future. Ask questions like: Do you think acting has changed you? Is it easier now to set and accomplish your goals? What do you like most about the process of auditioning? What’s the hardest thing about not getting a part? What tasks in school feel more comfortable now that you’ve been studying acting?
You don’t have to ask these questions all in one sitting or make this discussion uncomfortable. Instead, when an opportunity arises, help your child consider the life lessons they’re reaping from acting.
And, if you’re wondering how you can help them succeed in this business without doing it for them? Support them, love them, and drive them where they’re going. Just let them steer the bus.