Your child will give you cues on your parenting.

How to Tell if You Are a Stage Mother

by Christine Jax

The term “stage mother” could easily be replaced with that of “controlling parent,” “helicopter parent” or “tiger parent.” They all refer to parents who exert more control over their children and their children’s pursuits than what a regular person might deem necessary or a psychologist might deem appropriate. Often these parents are trying to feel better about their own lost opportunities by living through their children, according to Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University, who researched such parenting.

Actions and Reactions

Check to see that your parenting is balanced. The stage mother is seeking to control her child's involvement and future success in the arts. As a parent you should be supportive of your child and committed to her success, but balance is key. Encourage your child to be disciplined and responsible; she needs to practice and attend her lessons. However, if you have to resort to regularly bribing or punishing her, you are trying to bend her to your will. Similarly, it's essential that your child understand the importance of hard work and sore muscles, but you cannot ignore her fears or injuries. Your warmth, understanding and listening ear can keep you from stage mother status.

Pay attention to how others react to you. The actions of others will let you know whether you are a stage mother. If your child ignores you or responds with tears, you are fighting her need for independence rather than simply grooming her talent. If the parents of other children don't include you, keep information from you or physically walking away from you, it could be in response to your drama. Another sign that you, or someone, has gone too far is if the studio changes its rules to not allow parents to watch classes or go backstage during a performance.

Observe your parenting and your child's reaction to it. Having a stage mother can have lasting effects on your child. According to psychologist and Oberlin College professor of psychology Nancy Darling, the children of highly controlling parents tend to have low self-esteem and suffer from depression and anxiety. In order to grow, children need the opportunity to strive, overcome obstacles and even fail. Lacking those opportunities, children can become narcissistic as young adults.


  • Researcher Eddie Brummelman, a doctorate student at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, points out that the actions of a stage parent could be healing for the parent: “Basking in children’s reflected glory, parents’ feelings of regret and disappointment may gradually resolve and make way for pride and fulfillment.” However, it is your job as the parent to support your child’s emotional growth, not vice versa. Keep your attention on your child’s happiness and be realistic about her ability. This will help mediate your expectations and interference.

About the Author

Christine Jax has been a writer since 1991 in the areas of education, parenting and family relationships. Professor Jax has a Ph.D. in education policy and administration, a Master of Arts in public administration and a Bachelor of Arts in child psychology. She has worked in PK-12 and higher education for more than 20 years.

Photo Credits

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