Watching a talent show, you wonder what the family are thinking when they allow their son, daughter, or whatever, to subject themselves to such public humiliation.
Most of us sing, from time to time; usually for one of two reasons. Either we feel happy, and burst into song, or we want to distract ourselves or others from what is going on around us. Lullabies are a classic example of the latter; a concerned parent tries to distract their child from pain, or send him to sleep, despite the excitement all around. Or a child will sing in a disruptive manner when she doesn’t get the attention she thinks she deserves.
Yet, how many of us really believe that we could make it as the next big pop star? No. We keep our singing to ourselves.
OK. Let’s put this in perspective. There was an advertisement for a famous chocolate bar, many years ago, that showed a new group auditioning with a record producer. During a break for refreshments, the producer says, “Can’t play. Can’t sing. You look awful. (Pause for advertised product.) You’ll go a long way.” Now, that was meant as sarcasm. But it seems that many of the people entering talent competitions, especially the televised versions, think it works. And I often wonder, “Do their families really hate them so much that they would allow them to go through such public humiliation?”
So why does it happen?
1. Hatred. There are several reasons, and overt family hatred is not among them, most of the time. Only the most perverse parent would want to humiliate their child in such a public fashion. Mind you, that doesn’t stop many parents from shouting derogatory comments at their child in public.
2. Don’t Upset Him. One reason is that people don’t want to upset their child, parent, or sibling. So, rather than cause upset in the family, they say nothing, or even encourage the foolish attempt to make it in show business, art, or the chosen talent. Maybe the would-be artist believes he has a great voice, but he also has a bit of a temper. So no one wants to upset him. They forget that he’s going to be upset, anyway, when the discerning public humiliate him.
3. Hatred Disguised as Love. Yet a far more insidious form of hatred is disguised as love. The current trend in parenting says that we should not provide a child with a negative view of himself; always try to find something good to say about his efforts. As commendable as such sentiments may be, do they really help to prepare the child for life? Self esteem is important. But to be valuable it has to be realistic. I once read a comment by a father who said, “If you present a bad report at the office, your boss isn’t going to say, ‘Hey, I like the color paper you chose.'”
Nurturing a positive view of one’s self without good cause is not loving. It is a form of hateful abuse. By nurturing the view that a child can do no wrong, a parent is setting the child up for failure. Children need to learn to be self-critical, not in the negative, self-harming sense, but in the way of having a realistic view of their own abilities and achievements. They need to identify when they got it wrong so that they can have the pleasure of problem solving without recourse to a parent masking the child’s failure. They need to learn to reason on their own work, find the mistakes, and fix them on their own.
The same is true of talent. When a parent, or other significant family member, presents an unrealistically positive view, they are doing their child a huge disservice. Protecting a child from harm includes protection from self-inflicted abuse caused by an unrealistic view of your own abilities. And that can only be achieved by being tactfully truthful.
Children need to learn that the universe does not revolve around them. They need to learn that they can’t be right, all the time. They need to learn that they will make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that their life is over. The safest place to learn this is in the warm, loving environment of a warm, loving family, with parents who care enough to point out the failings in a gentle, loving way. They need parents who help them to identify and correct mistakes, rather than hiding the child from the consequences of their actions.
While it is important to encourage a child’s self esteem, failing to identify their weaknesses is failing to be a good parent. It produces children who greedily assume that the world owes them a living, and that they don’t have to do anything to deserve it.
Would it not be better to give the child a balanced, realistic view of himself. Maybe, then, they can become better parents, when it’s their turn.