One of the toughest parts of this business for any actor, at any age, is the feeling of rejection that can come when they don’t get the part. This feeling can be overwhelming for kids in particular. But there are some ways you can help your child approach rejection that will serve them—not only in the field of auditions, but anywhere they go in life.
Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., has written a book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success that outlines a brilliant distinction in how we approach experiences, and which I believe is an indispensible tool for parents of aspiring actors, as well as parents of all kids. It speaks directly to something I have intuited for years, but not been able to articulate well. Her book not only articulates, but also clearly shows how you can use your mindset to grow and succeed. Don’t be put off by the academic tone of the title– the book is an easy read in part because of her conversational tone, and in part because the subject matter is so compelling.
Dweck suggests that everyone experiences life through either a fixed or a growth mindset. Through studies and stories she shows how each of these two mindsets affects our experience—and what we have it mean when we succeed or fail. Kids who come from a fixed mindset are more likely to say things like, “this is hard—I hate it!” (I must be dumb) vs. “this is hard—it’s fun!” (I love a challenge). People with a fixed mindset are very afraid to fail, as they are concerned with being judged. Those who are able to see a failure as an action (“I failed”) rather than an identity (“I am a failure”) are more resilient and typically look for where they can learn from what happened so they can improve.
Parents can unwittingly feed into creating and reinforcing a fixed mindset for their kids by praising intelligence and talent over effort and learning. Praise that judges or implies that we’re proud of their inherent gifts over the work they did.
The problem with praising kids for something like intelligence or talent is that it ultimately makes them afraid to fail—because in this brittle mindset, failure implies that they are then NOT smart or talented. This can lead to them either quitting when things get too challenging, or refusing to believe that work might improve their results. In a fixed mindset, you are either smart or NOT smart, talented or NOT talented—and since the world is so black and white, truly talented/smart people should not have to work to succeed. Making an effort implies that you must not be naturally gifted.
Telling our kids when they don’t get a role that they are really the best, that they SHOULD have gotten the role, that it’s not important to get that role anyway, or that they can do it and will clearly succeed next time—all feeds a fixed mindset, and doesn’t help them actually grow, learn, improve, and ultimately succeed. It does help them feel more insecure, blame others, devalue something they didn’t do well, and ignore what they might be able to actually do to improve and succeed in the future.
A better approach (better for the kid’s long term real success in acting and in life) would be to ask them what they think they can do next time to improve their chances of success. Could they spend more time on their lines? Practice different approaches to the character so when the casting director asks for a different read they aren’t thrown? Practice in different locations so the new environment of the casting office is less likely to throw them off? Maybe some coaching or classes would be helpful.
Working harder and getting help is not a sign of failure, or lack of inherent talent—it’s a sign of someone who understands that learning is the key to improving.
While casting is an odd, unpredictable playing field—talent and effort are not the only parts of the equation—things completely out of the control of your young actor are equally at play, like their “look” as well as the look etc. of the other actors who might be already cast—it is also a field where work is rewarded. It’s not realistic to expect that a kid coming in with little to no experience will probably win out over kids who have spent possibly years working and learning their craft.
Teaching your kid that it’s OK not to succeed immediately, and that they need to work for what they want, will serve them all of their lives. It will give them courage in adversity, and confidence when presented with new challenges. Once they begin to see that working at something genuinely helped them improve, they can extend that lesson to other parts of their lives—including relationships and school.
Make a habit of asking your kids what they learned each day, and what mistakes they made that helped them grow. This doesn’t have to have anything directly to do with acting or auditioning. One your child internalizes that it’s ok to make mistakes as long as they learn, and that learning is more important than succeeding, they will be able to apply that mindset to everything they do—including the audition process.
Every audition is an opportunity to learn something. And if your child can take that to heart, they will grow as an actor, as a person, and get close than ever to actually getting that role. And then from the learning available through that!
I really recommend this book. I wish I’d read it ten years ago when it was first published, but it’s never too late to apply a great idea when you find it (see what I did there?) Bonus: you might even find some use for these distinctions yourself!
My book, The Hollywood Parents Guide, available on Amazon contains everything I wish I’d known when Dove and I started this journey, and will save you untold amounts of time, money, and stress. Full of information you MUST know, it also features stories from parents of other kids who’ve made it!
Or book an hour consulting with me to come up with an individualized plan that takes your own unique needs into account. For about the cost of an hour with a professional acting coach, you can get your questions answered and a road map to help you move forward toward your dream.
Invest a little in your kid’s future today.
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