How do I get my toddler into acting or modeling?

I want to get my child into acting or modeling. How do I get my toddler into the scene? She is 3 years old

Dear Niki:

Why do you want to get your daughter into acting and modeling? Does she love attention? Is she already a little performer? (My elder son performed monologues of joy and anguish, though lacking in any real words, before his second birthday.) Is she just plain gorgeous? Do you hope to stash away money for her college education? It's important for you to elucidate your reasons for getting her into the industry before you begin the process, so you can weigh objective factors against your desires and expectations.

Here's something else to think about before you don your stage-mom hat: Three-year-olds are quite intuitive. Your daughter will soon pick up on the competition aspect of auditions. Be sure you plan in advance how you'll deal with situations like the following. Your child isn't in the mood to smile and wave; do you pressure her? Bribe her? Ask to return to the audition later in the day? Tell the auditors, "Thanks but no thanks"? How about when the auditors tell you they'd prefer you not to be in the audition room with your child, and they pair her up with an actor-mom: Do you hand her over? Decline their suggestion and go into the room anyway? Try to get her comfortable with the "new mommy"? Stand outside the room with your ear pressed against the door?

There are lots of circumstances to consider, and the more clarity you have before you get into a high-pressure audition situation the better. I have seen moms and dads do all sorts of things to "help" their children book jobs. I heard one mom say, "If you smile and do what the nice man says, I'll take you to McDonald's." Another said, "Here's your new mommy. Go with her!" I've heard pressuring, cajoling, needling, berating, bribing, and withholding of affection, all in the pursuit of getting a child to perform. I assume some of those parents regret their foolishness in calmer moments, but you can avoid such mistakes if you're clear on your family's boundaries and honor them firmly.

I asked Anne Henry, co-founder of BizParentz, a nonprofit organization that helps families make sense of and navigate the entertainment industry, to weigh in on your question. "Being realistic, there just isn't that much work for little ones," she writes in an email. "Here's why: In California, and on most SAG-related projects, kids ages 2-5 can only work three hours [per day]. For this reason, producers prefer to hire twins so that they can get almost a full workday out of them. Healthy, identical multiples are in demand.

"What kind of work is there?" she continues. "Babies do quite a bit of print modeling, since the work hours are not so much of an issue in that world. In film, television, and commercials, babies are most often hired in groups as a backup, and they are hired as extras (since they can't talk), which doesn't pay much. See what I mean about being realistic? Not a lot of jobs are available, and you aren't going to get rich from your child's modeling career as a toddler. If you keep that in mind, and you just look at it as a fun hobby, go for it!"

So you're in it for fun and ready to jump in? Wait. Henry echoes my concern for, first and foremost, your child's comfort. "How do you get started? Double-check your toddler's personality," she suggests. "Do they obey strangers? Are they completely independent from you? Are they generally happy and easygoing? Have they outgrown the terrible 2s? Do they enjoy games and new experiences? Do they memorize things easily? Do they like long car rides? All these things are necessary." source

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