Plastered as a funny trope time and time again in reality television, the pushy mother often bullies her child into becoming a miniature or ideal version of herself.
Often ignored for the sake of cheap entertainment, this exploitation can only lead to insecurity, long-term damage, and a relationship left fraught with tension.
The Infamous Dance Moms
With eight lengthy seasons, Dance Moms follows goo-goo-eyed mothers, eager to push their daughters into stardom from a young age. In a more normal world, the show would simply present to us the instructor, Abby Lee Miller, who pushes the girls with her firm (sometimes harsh) demand and passion, while the mothers watch in support. But this is reality TV, and it wouldn’t be “good” television without outrageous behavior and boundless drama.
When you really think about it, the show is barely even about dancing (but, in all fairness, it wouldn’t have had eight seasons if it were). The mothers are the most dramatic, pushy, unlikable, and egotistical people on the show. They constantly abuse and argue with the dance instructor, often making an unnecessary scene in front of their children, who are all undeniably uncomfortable by their elders making a scene in front of them.
Even when the young girls go through struggle and are treated harshly, the mothers often allow it for the sake of good television. Many “TV Moms” are happy to exploit their children in the name of fame and fortune, sometimes even convincing themselves that it’s for the child’s benefit – but it’s not.
Film and Television Mothers
A famous example of a child actress forcefully driven by an overly passionate mother is Natalie Wood. The daughter of Russian immigrants, Wood started performing at an incredibly young age. She landed her first acting job at age four in Happy Land (1943), heavily influenced by her mother who emphasized the need to make director, Irving Pichel, “love her.” (You’ve probably seen Natalie Wood as Susan Walker in the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street, or as Maria in West Side Story.)
Children should not be forced into stardom at such a young age. The film and media industries can be such cruel places, and children shouldn’t be exploited for the sake of glamour. It’s almost never what the child wants or wishes for; it’s always the parent’s desires. These parents completely run their child’s life – and never for reasons of nurture or genuine care. Rather, they’re desperate to make something of them that they couldn’t make of themselves, only pushing onto them a lifetime of inevitable misery and struggle.
Another bright and shining example, and one I’d personally say was worse than Dance Moms, is TLC’s very own Toddlers and Tiaras, a show made up of crazy pageant mothers and their children, all outwardly eager to cause more public outrage than the other. This show practically birthed a generation of pageant brats, but was most famous for giving Alana Thompson (more widely known by her pageant name “Honey Boo Boo”) and her family automatic infamy for their uncouth and undeniably grim lifestyles.
While Toddlers and Tiaras continued to progress into more seasons, Alana and her family got their own spinoff show, and one more popular too. The family made no effort to hide their way of life, and even embraced it, often engaging in everyday drama, overeating, and taking very little care of themselves and younger members of the family.
This family had many scandals and public fallouts, and much of it focused on Alana’s mother, June Shannon (“Mama June”). Non-stop news came to the public during the show’s run and long after, much of which surrounded her drug addictions, controversial relationships, and tense relations with her children.
Most recently, Alana Thompson, now 15 years old, confronted her mother’s boyfriend on television stating that he “hurt her a lot” – this all being part of a sneak peek to another spinoff program in which the public can indulge themselves in a family’s continuation of flaws and misery. In this new show, Road to Redemption, June Shannon is a parental figure asking her children for forgiveness – something she, more likely than not, would never have had to do if she hadn’t dragged her young children into the limelight at such an undeveloped and immature age.
These mothers all completely undermine the point of being a parent. It’s grotesque. Their job is to provide, protect, and nurture, yet they throw their children into dangerous and damaging situations so their children can provide for them. It’s no wonder so many develop a disdain for their mothers; they never acted as carers, all their mothers were was someone exploiting them for the sake of a “career.”
Forcing your child into unwanted stardom is not love; it’s selfish, shallow, and exploitative.
Whether it’s sending children off to sports camps where they can be abused and pushed for the sake of “bettering” themselves or slathering on makeup and forced onto a stage to be judged by adults, these parents use their child for entertainment and nothing else. They project the dreams they never achieved onto their child, often ignoring whether their child actually wants it or not. They’re emotionally tone-deaf and will never allow their young ones to live normal, innocent lives.
A mother’s job is to nurture and protect her child; give them the love they deserve so they know what a healthy relationship looks like when they’re adults themselves. Little girls need a woman to look up to and confide in, and pushy mothers will never give their children the love that everyone is entitled to. First and foremost, a mother should be loving. Forcing your child into unwanted stardom is not love; it’s selfish, shallow, and exploitative.
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