How NOT to be: A Stage Mom or Dad

By Jesse Cutler (As seen on

Let’s face it. Stage moms and dads have, over the years, gotten a bad rap. Some deserve the mommy/daddy-dearest moniker and wear it proudly; others are simply trying to do their best to help Tammy or Timmy begin or advance a showbiz career. Either way, mistakes by well-intentioned stage parents can and do, at the very least, alienate industry professionals and, at worst, permanently damage the delicate psyche of their aspiring stars.

Here are 10 ways to avoid the parenting pitfalls.

1. Parents who think their child is perfect must go beyond their own bias if they really want to help, and seek outside evaluations of their kid’s talent from a respected industry professional. Voice training, image refinement or an acting coach may make the difference between success and failure.
2. Beware of the talent agencies that want to charge your child for “lessons” or representation. A bona fide talent agency will charge a standard agency percentage on jobs booked, normally 10 percent for theatrical bookings and as high as 25 percent for modeling jobs.

3. Teach your children humility. Parents tend to want to build self-confidence in their child and that’s great. Just do it in a way that also instills them with a sense of modesty as well. Arrogance is so overrated.

4. Encourage healthy competition. Support your child to exceed his or her personal best as the way to succeed, as opposed to focusing on being “better” than another child. Keep this in mind yourself and avoid talking badly about others. Pretty is as pretty does.

5. Develop your child’s business sense by including them in discussions about bookings and even contract negotiations. And under your watchful eye, also facilitate their direct interaction with casting directors, agents and managers so they become familiar with how business is done. Practice makes perfect in business, too.

6. Birds of a feather flock together. Help your child to make friends with kids who have similar showbiz aspirations – and similar values. That way, they’ll always have peer support.

7. Don’t let your reputation as a know-it-all buttinski stage parent precede you. Your kid will never get her best shot.

8. Everyone has to start somewhere, of course, but carefully evaluate and consciously choose that “somewhere.” Otherwise, it could lead to nowheresville.

9. Keep your composure even in the most difficult situations. This will demonstrate to your child how important it is to be disciplined in all areas of professional life, not just on the creative side of things.

10. Above all, be patient. Sure, we know your kid has star quality, but like all things, talent — particularly emerging talent — needs time and space to flourish. Give your child a leg-up on stardom by allowing him to explore the wonderful world of entertainment at his own pace.

Child-star and Grammy Award-winner Jesse Cutler’s autobiography, Starlust: The Price of Fame (with foreword by Paul Schaffer of Late Show with David Letterman) is due out in the fall.