An unfortunate thing happens when kids, especially tweens, get cast in a show. As soon as they get their script, they will count the number of lines they have in the show. Then what happens next is very predictable, they complain to their parents and parent in turn calls director or staff member to complain and wonder if it is worth the child participating if they have limited or no lines. We call this in the business, the line counting syndrome and it is a problem for the kid and the parent.
First the kid probably doesn’t know any better than to count their lines. They are just excited to be in a show, and want to be an important part of that show. They can’t help but compare themselves to the other cast members and base some self esteem on how important they think their role is. What I am going to tell you next is the most valuable thing about being involved in theatre. When doing a show, everyone plays an equal part in putting that story together for the stage. Everyone from the lead actor down to the mom in the backstage keeping the kids quiet and getting them dressed. No one person is more important than the other because they each have an important part to play and if they weren’t there, they would leave a huge hole in the putting that story together. Being in a show teaches kids how to work together as a team towards a unified goal, and a team needs every person to make it the most powerful. They need to know they are going to have a great time no matter what they do, make great friends and memories that will last a lifetime. When they realize they were part of the team that made that show come to fruition, that is an amazing feeling.
If you are a parent and you play into your child’s comparison, you are doing your child a great disservice. You might say you are standing up for your child and being an advocate, because if you don’t, who will? Here is where you can teach your child about humility. Everything isn’t always just about them. It’s about the group as a whole trying to accomplish something for the greater good. Also, by you calling to complain to the director two things are occurring. One, you are teaching your child that whenever life doesn’t seem fair, all they have to do is complain and you will be there to solve their problems for them and they get what they want. Secondly, then the director looks at you as a problem parent and that child might not be cast again in a different show, because they have “that” parent. That’s a shame for the kid. How are you teaching the child the value of teamwork and commitment and to not be selfish?
Then I begin to think, how can this lesson in comparing oneself be translated into grown up life? A lightbulb went off when I realized this happens all the time in corporate America. Take for example a top executive in a company. If they are so concerned with climbing the corporate ladder and only looking out for number one, they may rise to the top for a little while but they are not being an effective leader and sooner or later it is all going to come crumbling down. An effective leader is one, who leads by example and gets in there to get their hands dirty. They are a team player with their coworkers and they should do everything in their power to help their team succeed.
Another example is a mail clerk with that attitude. If they compare themselves to those higher up in the company and think their job isn’t important and they are not a team player, mail doesn’t get delivered which means bills aren’t getting paid and the company will be an epic failure. A mom is another example of how the line counting syndrome can be bad. If a mom is not a team player of the family and is always doing her thing, the gym, girls night out, lunch dates and so on and you shove your kid off on a nanny, you are not being a good mom and your children will be the ones who suffer.
Counting lines is so much more than a child just wanting to be treated fairly. It’s about teaching your kid not to be selfish and to think of others first and to be there for the team as a whole.