'I Know My Kid's a Star' -- chatting with the parents


Last week, I suggested that I Know My Kid's a Star was televised child abuse. I referred to one incident on the show (an extended encounter between a mother and daughter). Although I'm sure my viewpoint offended the mother involved, she made a polite comment. She wanted me - and you - to understand that the show was edited for impact, exaggerating the negative moments. I think her point is well-made. Arguing and drama sells on reality television. Let's take that as a given.

My point is different and tonight, when I write about this show, again - which I expect to do as long as it is aired - I'll make sure that it comes across. To clarify: my objection is less about the specific incidents depicted on the show than it is about what it does to children to be placed in the position of competing against other children when their mothers (or fathers) are so intimately involved in the competition.

I feel the same way about any child's activity in which the parent is heavily invested. It doesn't matter whether it is straight A's in school, pitching in Little League, or winning an art competition. The idea that a child she strive for early stardom doesn't help a child develop into a whole human being, comfortable about who (s)he is and able to enthusiastically pursue her interests, which may vary enormously from day to day.

There is a saying from Waldorf school literature that goes something like this: "That tree is strongest which grows most slowly at its beginnings."

Childhood isn't a race.

A decade ago, I asked a colleague, a counselor in a grade 5-6 public school,

"Is there anything particular that you've noticed that separates the kids who are doing well from those who aren't?"

"Yes," she said, "their parents have their own lives."