parent opinion

Parent opinion: 'Pushy parents are everything wrong with kids' talent shows.'

There’s nothing like watching a primary school talent quest.

Honestly, it’s a beautiful thing to see an array of kids with a multitude of hidden talents such as calisthenics (which I didn’t even know existed beyond 1987!) or aerial gymnastics – or that musical prodigy, or the kid who can solve three Rubik’s cubes in under a minute. All these brave and brilliant kids unleashing their exceptional talents on stage in front of their peers.

It’s wonderful seeing kids prosper in a sport, or showcasing talent in the creative arts or solving mathematical equations, if that’s what they genuinely love to do. 

The kids are always great; it’s the pushy, over-involved parents that are evidently the problem. And being a school mum for eight years, I’ve seen my fair share of them.

On our parenting podcast for big kids, This Glorious Mess, hosts Andrew Daddo and Holly Wainwright chat about the ‘hands-off’ parenting trend. Post continues below.

It makes me wonder who really benefits from kids getting awards and trophies… is it the kids we’re encouraging, or are we awarding the parent for their… awesome parenting?

I absolutely love seeing my girls rewarded for their efforts, but only if I know they’ve done the hard work for it. Truthfully, I’m not the biggest fan of award systems at all.

At the talent quest, most of the parents or grandparents I sat with came out with the same question: ‘How can the teachers possibly decide between all of the awesome kids that performed?’

According to a standard talent quest show format, someone has to win, and someone has to be the runner up. But I can never not feel for the kids who didn’t place at all.

I know some parents would tell me this is a good thing – it encourages kids to do better; to experience disappointment is just part and parcel of life. But in this instance I’m not so sure. Personally I believe we start competition between kids far too young.

Lidija and daughter
"I absolutely love seeing my girls rewarded for their efforts." Image: Supplied.
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When my daughter was six, she performed in a ballet concert. Before her act, I sat through another performance involving a bunch of three year olds. These ever-so-tiny dancers were being coerced to dance on a huge stage in front of hundreds. What saddened me most was the few tots that had their backs turned toward the audience, clearly not wanting to be on that stage, yet their parents were standing at the edge egging them on.

Another time one of my daughters was asked to play in a ‘friendly’ doubles tennis comp. In one match my daughter and her friend played against two boys. After the game, I came to pick up my visibly upset daughter only to be told that one of the boys' mothers had called my daughter and her friend ‘bitches’.

Because they were winning, the mother of one of the boys clearly didn’t like it. It was a game of tennis between 10-year-olds...

There is a HUGE difference between encouraging our kids and pushing them. There is a difference between being supportive and being over-involved in their creative, sporting or academic achievements. There is also a difference between fair and healthy competition and competition for the sake of it. 

Everyone has a right to parent the way they want, but I wish some parents would lighten up. Cheer your kids on from the sidelines and let them do the stuff they love purely for the enjoyment, not for the accolades.

Lidija Zmisa is a mum of three girls, wife and freelance writer. She is currently writing a book for middle grade readers. You can follow her on Instagram @lidijazmisa


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