Last week I received an email from a Mom looking for some advice on how to handle some feedback she had received. Her daughter had competed in a pageant but did not win the title. After the pageant, a well-meaning audience member approached her with some advice. Mom politely listened to the advice and gave it some thought.
Although the feedback was supportive of her daughter, mom didn’t think it made sense. It didn’t seem to fit with what she’d observed or what seemed like common sense to her.
She didn’t want to discount the advice, but she was concerned that it didn’t add up.
So she reached out to me and asked what I thought.
I’ve never met this contestant and don’t know her Mom. But it was clear she’d received advice that could derail her daughter’s chance at winning a state title.
I sent my response, explained why, and suggested an alternate approach.
Even though I don’t know this contestant, I think she’ll do well in future competitions. Why? Because I can tell that she’s part of a solid contestant-mom team.
So what’s a winning contestant-mom team? First, let’s talk about what it’s not.
1. Contestant Competing for Mom
Unfortunately, there are some mom’s who encourage their daughter’s to compete to fulfill a dream of their own. This is the stereotypical mom who is living vicariously through her daughter. In this situation, the contestant really doesn’t want to compete, so she’s just going through the motions, resulting in few wins. This type of Mom is actually about 1 in 50, so we’ll go ahead and assume this doesn’t apply to you.
2. Mom is Overly Critical
There’s a difference between encouraging excellence and hounding a contestant to death. Most moms tend to be very careful not to give too much critical advice. But there are a few moms that criticize their daughters at every step of the way. When Mom is overly critical, the contestant can’t enjoy the prep process of the competition. The contestant feels pressured to win and knows that any other placement will disappoint Mom. When a contestant feels pressure to win, you can almost guarantee that she won’t.
3. Mom is Backseat Driving
Parents typically decide to support their daughter’s interest in pageantry because of the life skills and empowerment angle. But the contestant doesn’t learn life skills or feel empowered if mom is making all the decisions. In order to win, contestants need to take responsibility for their ability to compete. But you can’t do that if Mom is making all the decisions and over-riding what her daughter wants to do.
4. Daughter Thinks She Knows Everything
Sometimes you can work around a mom that’s a bit of a challenge, but a contestant who thinks she knows everything is never going to be successful. Why? Because pageant competition is about personal development and challenging yourself to develop new skills. If you think you already possess the skills you need to win, you won’t be open to feedback or motivated to improve. Thinking that you know everything is the kiss of death for any contestant at any level.
Now let’s talk about what makes a winning contestant-mom team.
1. Mom is Supportive
There is no one right way to be supportive. It’s more of an attitude or approach than a behavior. For some contestants that might mean that Mom is actively involved in every area of your pageant prep and competition. For other contestants, it might mean that Mom is actively involved in the logistics of pageant prep, but that’s it. And for other contestants, it might mean that Mom isn’t actively involved but weighs in on important decisions and is available as a safety net. I have many winning contestant-mom teams with different strategies, but it’s clear that Mom’s attitude is support for her daughter. Even if she decides to stop competing.
2. Mom and Contestant Have Partnered Before
Contestant-mom teams who have successfully worked together before are much more likely to experience pageant success. Whether it’s competition dance, a sports team, or acting auditions, if the contestant and Mom have already worked together as a team, they’re able to bring those same skills to pageant competition. They know what’s okay and what’s not. Mom knows when to push and when to back off. The contestant knows when to be in charge and when to follow mom’s advice. Working together is both a skill set and an attitude.
3. Shared Goals
It can be hard when a contestant’s goals for her pageant competition are different from her mom’s. Maybe the contestant wants to win every category and go home with the title. Maybe she just wants to win Talent, get the scholarship, and go home without any titleholder responsibilities. I’ve coached contestants who absolutely wanted to win the title. And I’ve coached contestants who had other primary reasons for competing. If the contestant and mom have a common understanding of the goals, they’re much more likely to achieve those goals.
4. Mom Understands Her Primary Role
No matter how active Mom is in pageant prep and the competition, Mom’s primary role is Head Cheerleader. It takes emotional courage to compete in a pageant. You’re not being scored on how fast you run. The judges are scoring you. It feels personal. It’s important to have encouraging, ‘you can do it’ support. And no one’s better qualified for this role than mom. A word of encouragement or praise from Mom can bring a smile to the face of any contestant. Mom’s who remember that their primary role, no matter what, is to encourage their daughter are the ones who find success.
5. Contestant Understands Her Primary Role
And just like Mom has a primary role, so does the contestant. The contestant’s job is to learn, improve, and remain positive. Yes, you have to go to your workout. No, you can’t eat a whole pizza after your loser boyfriend dumps you. Yes, you need to work on your paperwork and practice your interview. No, you can not complain about your director, the other contestants, and the seriously annoying choreographer. When you focus on learning, improving and staying positive you’re practicing the same skills you’ll use during the competition. Your primary role as a contestant is tap into who you are, what you’re capable of, and bring it to the surface.
With the right attitude and a little teamwork, your beauty will shine through.
You’re going to be FABulous!