Should Children Be Forced to Perform?

Cai came to the front of the stage, his skin pale, his eyes void of their usual joy. He looked up and blinked excessively. The blinking became more rapid and his eyes stayed shut for longer periods and suddenly it looked as if his eyes were rolled back. For a few horrible moments, my husband, Matt, and I believed our son was having a seizure. Then the song ended and a new group of first graders came to the front. Cai receded to the back row, disappearing from view.

This was the Winter Show – where the elementary school students perform in front of all the parents. Some children love to perform while others seem neutral. A sizable number, like Cai, are clearly unhappy.

But this year was far worse than previous ones. Matt and I believed that Cai had been put through an unnecessary ordeal just because of an unexamined convention that requires all children to perform onstage. He needs to learn how to read, but he doesn’t need to sing Do-Re-Mi in front of 200 people with flashing cameras.

After the show a friend, who had seen what happened to Cai, said that the experience was good for him and that we were being overprotective. When you see your child suffering, it’s hard to think straight. Was my anger justified, or was my reaction just a form of helicopter parenting? If I take steps so that Cai doesn’t have to do this again (like by suggesting to the school that children have the option to work on scenery for the Spring Show) am I raising a coddled child who can’t handle adversity?

Should all children be onstage? Continue Reading

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