Congratulations, mom! You are now the proud owner of a preteen! (Can you sense my hint of sarcasm here?!) Preteen girls competing in pageants are in one of the most challenging age groups. Not only are they experiencing changes in appearance, but they also confront issues to conform with society's standards and deal with so many other things that we didn't have to face. Although being a preteen can be challenging, there are quite a few things you can do as a parent to help her win a pageant (and at life)! Read on for tips from moms who have been there, done that and got the t-shirt.
Actively listen Your preteen will have concerns, doubts and questions leading up to her pageant. Maybe it is her first competition, or perhaps her 30th. Either way, insecurities will abound and have her question and doubt herself along the way. As a parent, we can sense when something is "off" with our kids. Be sure to be actively listening not only to the words coming out of her mouth but also what her body language is telling you. She may not always be verbally saying the things that are concerning or scary to her. Creased brows, frowns and slumped shoulders require an inquiry as to how she's doing. (Read: 5 Body Language Mistakes You Are Making In Interview) Take a few moments each week to connect and ask how practicing is going. What's working for her? What's not working? What concerns does she have? A preteen that is listened to when she has these looming opinions and concerns is one that will open up to you – not only in pageant prep, but life in general! Encourage her Remember to tell your daughter to be "a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else," (Judy Garland). Preteens that can let their inner light shine and show their true personality on and off-stage are kids that tend to score highly. (Read: What You Need To Know To Win A Preteen Title) "The preteen division is a challenge," said Paula Leach, experienced pageant mom to a consistent Preteen division winner, Maggie Leach, who has now recently aged-up. "The difference in maturity means girls look anywhere from seven to 20. My daughter runs on the tiny side, and I truly believe that the pressure to look older will be there until the day she wakes up and feels the pressure to look younger, so why rush it in preteen if you don't have to." Encourage her to look like a preteen but act like a lady, always do her very best, be a friend to other contestants and make each and every opportunity in the pageant a chance to learn and grow. After all, it's not always about winning. Sometimes it's about learning. Either way, be her biggest cheerleader. These are the moments she'll take with her through life.
Miss Preteen Hawai'i United States 2017, Chelsea Masaki, in her beautiful home state. Photo: @masakiphotography Instagram
It is not about you Although you get to help her along the road, your preteen's pageant adventure is not about you. Maybe you were once a pageant girl yourself and you love seeing her up on stage and want her to do all the amazing things you did. That's great, but... please take a step back. It's not about you anymore. This is her unique journey to experience. Don't put a damper on it by making her feel like she has to live up to your super high expectations, or even compete with her own mother. When I work with my own daughter, I tend to leave my specific, dated pageant experiences out of it unless she asks. Times and trends have changed, so what I may have seen back then is likely no longer applicable anyway. (Read: 10 Signs That You Are In The Presence Of A Pageant Mom) Give her some creative control Give your daughter the opportunity to be the author of her own journey by allowing some creative control behind her areas of competition. Don't start shopping or writing introductions without some input. After all, she has to get up there and compete, not you! It's best to have her wearing and speaking about things that make her feel fabulous. (Read: How To Choose The Right Earrings For Pageant Interview) It's true that mom usually does know best in the area of wardrobe with knowing what is or is not appropriate for a girl her age. As you choose a gown with her, have her show you a variety of things she really likes, then start narrowing it down to something agreeable to both of you. Tell her which one you really like of her selections. She'll appreciate the feedback and feel like she picked it on her own, giving her a boost of confidence.
"Crowning" fun with USA National Preteen 2017, Gabriela Norwood, at the 2017 USA National Miss pageant. Photo: @usanationalpreteen Instagram
Deliver a softer approach Preteens are at a delicate age where they feel like they are constantly being judged. Adding a pageant into that, where they actually are judged, is going to make them hyper-aware and critical of themselves. (Read: How To Overcome Insecurity As A Preteen Titleholder) I am certainly not saying sugar coat things or coddle her, simply just ease up and watch how you deliver feedback. Start with giving her praise and congratulations for her hard work, then deliver things she can work on. An abrupt statement like, "you forgot the timing on your poses," may jostle her. Modified to express what she did right will get her attention in a positive way. "You seriously rocked evening gown! It was the best I have ever seen! One small thing, just make sure you pause for a second or two longer in your poses. Other than that, amazing!" Don't hover Although there are some instances at the pageant and during preparations that require your presence and feedback, not everything does. Again, you need to make this her own unique experience and journey. "Helicopter momming" is a hard for a preteen to have to constantly work around while competing in pageants. (Read: 12 Things Every Pageant Mom Does) Allow her to gain some independence and pride in herself by watching some things from afar. Allow her the opportunity to make new friends, introduce herself to directors and dance at rehearsals/pajama parties without feeling like the paparazzi is constantly under her. Sometimes it's fun, but just know when to give her a bit of space.
International Junior Miss Alabama Preteen 2017, Anna Banks, after her crowning moment. Photo: @ijm_alabama_preteen Instagram
Utilize this time to bond One nice thing about pageantry is that it allows moms and daughters a special time to bond. I have two younger kids and one teenage girl, so when my teen competes, it gives her one-on-one time with me while the littles stay with grandma. In just the blink of her junior high and high school years, she'll soon be off to college. Use the time spent together at pageants to make memories, capture photos, share stories and bond over all things that sparkle and shine! (Read: New Film To Be Made About Teen Pageant Struggles) Work with her, not for her As previously mentioned, preteens are at that super fun age where all kinds of things are happening. If you she happens to be a bit demanding, make sure you are not taken advantage of and that you set clear boundaries. You want to be sure you're working with her (as a team), not for her (like a maid). That's not what it should feel like. Enforce regular discipline as normal and don't forget to stress her manners and etiquette throughout her competition. Those manners also need to apply to how she treats you, not just the judges.
International Junior Miss Pennsylvania Preteen 2017, Teagan Rowland, with Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA 2017, Lauren Ann Weaver, at a spring gathering. Photo: @ijm_pennsylvania_preteen Instagram
Lead by example I think this one of the most important things you can do to help your preteen daughter win a pageant and at life. Kid's are so impressionable. Make sure you are leading by setting the very best example for them. Specifically, during pageantry, this includes always being a good sportsman. Never belittle others, create drama or gossip with or about other moms or contestants. Follow the rules the director has set forth. Breaking or even bending rules a little have no place in front of your preteen. The general rule of thumb: keep it fair and friendly. Don't sweat the small stuff. If you freak, she freaks. Keep it under control in front of her, and go have a meltdown in the bathroom while she's at a rehearsal if you need to! (Read: The 8 Pageant Moms You Meet During Competition Week) Celebrate her many successes Success comes in many packages. Perhaps her goal was to make top 10 but she didn't win the title. Maybe she was honored with the coveted title of Miss Congeniality. (Read: How To Have A Memorable Pageant Experience Even If You Don't Win The Crown) Either way, file these wins in the win column, no matter the size! There will be wins and there will be lessons, not losses. There is always a silver lining in what she may think is a rainstorm. Focus on the small wins and celebrate her success across the board. "There are many ways to 'win' a preteen pageant," Leach said. "For Maggie, she had just aged into the division and donated her long hair. We complimented her youthful look and short hair with body and age appropriate attire and focused on making her interview as strong as possible. In 2015, she won the Miss Royalty International Preteen title as the youngest and shortest contestant." I don't need to remind my daughter anymore, but I use to tell her that if she didn't win that it was just someone else's turn and that she'd had hers. She's seen in vivid motion that when one door closes, another one always opens – no matter how cliché it may sound, this has never failed her.
The Preteen contestants having a blast at the 2017 USA National Miss pageant. Photo: @usanationalpreteen Instagram
Going forward There's a fine line to walk when helping your preteen win her pageant. Give her some control over the world around her and let her have a little independence. Her future adult self will thank you! Always set a good example for her while competing. Being a good sport and making friends are two important aspects of pageant competition. Be supportive, encouraging and point out the silver lining if she can't find it herself. Most of all, enjoy this bonding time together. If she needs additional assistance preparing, have her check out all of our preteen coaching articles here! May the odds be ever in her favor!
Her tip is: "Remember you are fearfully and wonderfully made.”Learn More