Are you one of those parents living out unfulfilled ambitions through your child? It is a common theme in parenting, yet sometimes hard to personally acknowledge. It’s also not a new concept. The idea that we, as parents, may see our children as opportunities to live out our dreams actually dates back to Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. We all want our children to be happy and successful, but by pushing them in a certain direction are we helping or hurting them?

“Some parents see their children as extensions of themselves, rather than as separate people with their own hopes and dreams,” says Brad Bushman, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University. “These parents may be most likely to want their children to achieve the dreams that they themselves have not achieved.” If you had dreams of becoming a professional performer and chose a different path, it is easy to want for your child what you did not have yourself. You know why performing didn’t work out for you, and now with more life experience, and your guiding hand in their career, how could they fail? All of this may be true, but the fundamental aspect of any successful career is passion. You may have enough passion for you and your child, but first and foremost, it needs to come from them.

Sometimes our kids need a little pressure to succeed, but it may also push them further away. Personally, my daughter is a wonderful singer, yet doesn’t audition for the school musicals or a cappella singing groups. My prodding doesn’t seem to work in getting the result I want. As a matter of fact, the more I ask, the more she resists. This has forced me to look at my motives. Is it my unfulfilled dream of pursuing a professional performing career or just wanting her to succeed at something I know she is good at? I know my daughter could thrive in the performing arts, yet that is not where her true interests lie. I’ve learned to stop pushing her in something she isn’t interested in, regardless of her talent, and instead support her in her other endeavors.

If your child is losing interest or not thriving in their pursuit of his or her acting dream, you may want to look at these signs:

Passion. If your child demonstrates their passion by wanting to perform at every opportunity, or gets excited by the prospect of acting classes and auditions, then acting is definitely a mutual love that both of you share. However, if you as a parent are pressing your child to audition for school plays when he or she would rather be on the debate team, then it may be time to reevaluate your child’s activities. This isn’t always permanent, however. Your young performer may just need a break to try something else. He or she may come back to performing with a refreshed attitude and more confidence which could actually lead to greater success.

Your child’s need to please you. As parents, we always want what’s best for our child, and often our child wants the same for us. Your child can misread your support and encouragement for their success as a desire that you still have for your personal dreams. In an effort to please you, your child may still engage in acting even if it’s not what he or she truly want. Make it clear to your child that you want only what’s best for him or her, and if their desires are changing, then they have your full support in their other areas of interest.

Who is doing the work, you or your child? If your child is a grown teenager yet you are the one constantly looking for auditions on Backstage, then maybe they no longer have the desire they once did. Perhaps it is time to let your teen make that next phone call to his or her agent or manger directly to discuss their career. Regardless, it is time to let your young performer take the reigns. If they resist, perhaps you may want to look at whose dream it really is.

Master your craft, empower yourself, enjoy the journey.

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