Parents of Child Actors – It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint – Support Your Young Tortoise

Do you know the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? If for some reason you have not heard it, read it first and then come directly back to this post, as the success of your child’s acting journey actually relates to that classic fable.

Last week, I was talking to an acting/singing coach who works with a huge amount of talented children and their parents. She was reminding me how important it is to make sure to realize that acting, singing and other creative endeavors are long term, drawn out, passionate marathons and not quick sprints – well, if you want to remain in the game.

Truly, the way you decide to pace yourself and your child actor’s career will completely have an impact on their well-being and their desire to even continue with acting or singing. The pace is everything. It affects their balance, their happiness and their success.

If you do too much, too quickly, too fast, too many days of each year, they will absolutely burn out. They will start to hate it. They will just ask to stop and it will probably floor you the day they tell you they want to stop. They will not want to turn back.

child actressThis seasoned coach has seen many a child burn out because the parents were pushing too fast and too hard. They wanted their child’s career to move at the pace of lightning, and the child’s childhood was slipping away. They unfortunately didn’t know about the pacing yourself thing that I’m describing in this article. They were running the sprint towards what they thought would get them and their child to happiness, not realizing that happiness is right here, right now, in their fingertips, at this moment in time if they choose to celebrate the steps along the way.

You need to pace your child’s career with the help of the team around him or her. Your child should be like the tortoise and not like the hare. The tortoise method will bring them out on top, just like the tortoise in the classic story mentioned above. Sure, it may take a little longer to start seeing more rewards in their mind, but it will set them up for future success and long-term achievements.

So, let’s compare a marathon to a sprint and then relate that to your child’s acting career. This is actually really interesting when you think about it. I like to think about things like this, as I’m very philosophical and I like to truly understand why one way is better than another way.

BOTH Marathon and Sprint:

  • Both have a starting line.
  • Both have people lined up behind the line with a ton of energy and a lot of excitement.
  • Both have people that have their adrenaline going at the start.
  • Each runner has a vision of what the finish line looks like.
  • They wait for the okay to start and they push off at same time.

Sprint Only: (NOT RECOMMENDED for Child Actors)

  • In sprint, the runners give everything they’ve got in the first few seconds and minutes.
  • Doesn’t matter if they collapse, so long as they go over the finish line. But, they likely don’t win if they collapse in this type of race.
  • Start is critical as it takes up a huge part of their race.
  • A tiny stumble spells doom.
  • Everything must be done exactly perfect and right or they will not win.
  • Injuries are more common in sprints which hurts them in future races.

Marathon Only: (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for Child Actors)

  • In marathon, the runner must pace him or himself to sustain themselves throughout the race.
  • They don’t give everything all up front. They make steady progress.
  • Even a large stumble disappears in to the noise of the race so long as it doesn’t result in any physical damage.

How does this relate to your child’s acting career?

young child actorIn the acting and singing career journey, those young actors that are running a sprint with their parents pushing hard along the way, will highly likely burn out. They will collapse, just like in a running race. It is possible they may achieve some wins, but for every week they only do acting, they will begin the burn out early. You may not notice the injuries that are starting to form, but they are compounding.

Those that are willing to run the marathon, as a family, pace themselves, enjoy life outside of acting, let their kids be kids and make time for this, and take the time to train, learn and not worry about when their child will be on television, those will be the young actors still standing 3, 5 and 10 years from now. They are unlikely to get burnt out, they are likely to feel good at the pace they are learning at. There is not a lot of pressure in this marathon, as in the journey of acting, there really isn’t a true finish line. If they don’t get some roles, no worries. They can get the next one. This will not affect them long term.

Your child actor has to stay in the race, but, they should not be in the race if they are unhappy, stressed or burning out. Ask yourself today if you are raising a Tortoise or a Hare. And then take action to help your child run the tortoise marathon they are hoping for. As the parent, you need to be a part of this. By the nature of you making decisions for them when they are young, this is really in your hands.

child actorIf you happen to have a child that becomes a very successful actor, at a young age, and they are landing a ton of roles, and that is eating up tons of time for you and your family, here is what those parents do really well: They book their child out for certain week of the year for vacations, family time and other reasons. If they book their child out then their child will not be seen for auditions or be on sets during those weeks. That is one main method they use to keep some sort of normalcy and lean more towards the marathon versus the sprint. This is how they bring time back to their child and their family. They also sometimes decide to book out their child as busy during other weeks too, if they are feeling some sort of imbalance or they feel their child needs time to do other things. They find ways to continue to run the marathon, and not the sprint.

Personally, we are raising a tortoise and are truly blessed that we got the memo early on this. She is happy, successful and balanced. We celebrate the little things along the ride, like when she finishes a certain acting class, learns a new monologue, sings a new song, and gains even more confidence in a new skill. We point out all progress to her. We don’t just put all of the emphasis on her landing a role. Don’t get me wrong, that is of course the goal each time she goes out on an audition. But in the in between times, we find a ton of other things to celebrate. That helps tremendously with her balance as she can visually feel the baby steps along the way, headed to her goals/dreams.

actorOne more thing, never compare your child to any other tortoises or hares. It would be like comparing apples and oranges. You may attend the same acting school as another child actor, and they may be getting auditions left and right, and your child may not yet, that’s totally okay and normal. Each child’s path is completely different. Just keep your faith in your child’s dream and believe in them. Turn your blinders on and do not look at Johnny A, B or C, not worth anyone’s energy.

What I’m certain of is if you go the Hare method, your child will burn out and likely not be acting years from now. But if you give them the time they need and let them run the Marathon as the Tortoise, they will thank you 5, 10 and 20 years from now when they are still doing their passion. Take a deep hard honest look and ask yourself which family you are and which race you are running.

Thoughts or Comments on this post? Please scroll down and add to this discussion. Or, feel free to ask a question.