So your daughter competes in pageants! No doubt, she's the star of the show while you're attending the competition. All eyes are on her most of the time, but it's important to remember that as parents, our actions do not go unnoticed in the pageant arena. Consider yourselves a team package. You are just as much a reflection of your daughter, and therefore the pageant system she represents or is competing in. My own daughter has been competing for six years now. There have been many learning experiences along the way, but one of the most important takeaways I can share with you is the manner in which I've strived to conduct myself over the years.
I've always gone by the saying, "Treat others as you would like to be treated." Many times, that means "taking the harder right over the easier wrong." And that's not always easy. Trust me. Putting the best interest of your daughter should always be the priority while teaching her lessons she can use for the rest of her life. Demonstrating good manners and proper etiquette towards those you compete with and around during pageant weekend is just one of those valuable lessons. Here you will find different situations that pageant parents often find themselves in and how to present yourself with proper etiquette in each one. For pageant tips sent straight to your inbox each day that will help both you and your daughter succeed in pageantry and stay up-to-date on everything happening in the industry, sign up for our Pageant Planet Daily, an email newsletter that will keep you in the loop. Is your daughter old enough to read/follow her own etiquette tips? Here's what every contestant should know about etiquette. (Read: Etiquette Tips That No One Tells You as a Pageant Contestant)
Let's pick apart the different people or groups of people you will meet during pageant weekend and as a reigning titleholder. There are certain guidelines to follow when interacting with each set of individuals. While some go without saying, there are also some unspoken rules. Let's take a look at some popular pageant parent equations.
Pageant parent + director
If you have a daughter under 18 competing, YOU are the point of contact for the director. It's important to always set the proper first impression in an age where good manners have ventured to the wayside. Directors have a hard enough job as it is, and dealing with a crabby parent is last on their list of issues they'd care to deal with over the weekend.
A proper introduction when you first sign your daughter up for the pageant is important. Whether it be via email or phone, retain a cordial yet professional tone and always mind your manners. Never forget that a genuine "thank you" to a director goes a long way (and anyone else, for that matter)!
Miss Arnold Teen Fitness Pageant finalists and National Director Stephi Williams having a great time posing in front of the Arnold Schwarzenegger bronze statue. Photo: Miss Arnold Teen Fitness Pageant Facebook
In other communications, be clear about what you need and try to think of your questions all at once rather than bombarding the director with five emails in a row the day before the pageant. Gather your thoughts, think on them overnight, and when you're sure you've asked every question you're looking for, then send the email. You'll likely be the one preparing your daughter's paperwork. Be sure to literally dot all the "i's" and cross all the "t's." Sloppy paperwork is not only a poor reflection on you but leaves one on your daughter as well, conveying to the director that you don't care enough to take the time to be professionally presentable on paper.
I always tell people, when in doubt, type it out. Even if it says you can print in ink, don't. It's simply not visually appealing even if you have the neatest of handwriting. Plus, you have no idea how the paperwork will be reproduced. If it will be copied in a number of successions for the judges or pageant officials, handwritten work is not going to translate well. There's also a chance an emcee could be reading from the material you submit, or a judge during the interview. Type it out. Type it out. Type. It. Out. (Got it? Okay, good.)
Finally, when you meet the director face-to-face for the first time, you certainly don't need to roll out the red carpet for her (she'll see through that), but do be approachable, flexible and cooperative. Not everything always goes as planned during check-in. Take a deep breath, smile and be gracious. Especially when things don't go your way. This is a true test of character within pageant competition. For more information, check out these etiquette rules that every director should follow. (Read: What Directors Need to Know About Pageant Etiquette)
Pageant parent + child
Make it clear to your child before you enter the hotel the good manners that are expected of her over the weekend and how she is to treat everyone around her (including you). For younger children, practice please and thank you's and remind them what proper manners look like in public settings. If you have younger siblings with, make sure they are clear on this as well and possibly plan to have back up plans/care for them.
Try to remember during pageant competition that your daughter is under pressure and likely pretty nervous! It's natural it could show on her face or even in her actions a time or two over the weekend. I've always tried to show my daughter grace for minor infractions, but she knows anything major during pageant weekend will not be tolerated. Everything else aside, please have fun and enjoy this amazing experience together! (Read: Guidelines For Parents When Practicing For A Pageant)
2017-2018 National All American Miss Princess Landry Piller having a ton of fun (and looking adorable) at Disneyland during pageant week with her mom, Stephanie Piller. Photo: 2017-2018 National All American Miss Princess Landry Piller Facebook
"Give your daughter some room to breathe over the weekend and remember although you are a team, she does the heavy lifting," said pageant etiquette consultant Cindy Shanley. "You are there to support, encourage and guide her on the journey to the crown. Anything outside of that should be saved for another time and place." Emotions sometimes run high during pageants, so it's always a good rule of thumb to practice saying nothing until the hotel room door has closed behind you. Better to be safe than sorry!
Pageant parent + other families
A pageant is a competition, and it's only natural that the competitive nature in all of us comes out. It's easy to feel a sense of friction or tension with the parents of the children your daughter is competing with. I've wrestled with that myself a couple times, but have told myself that they were likely feeling just as uneasy as I was. The best thing you can do is properly introduce yourself, smile and just be friendly. In the times I was most nervous but put those feelings aside, I ended up with a friend for life due to the instant relatability.
We've met every kind of "pageant parent" out there but have been so blessed with more positive experiences than negative. Forming friendships with other parents and their daughters has been one of the greatest pieces to come to me out of this whole experience.
Having a blast with "Namily!" National American Miss titleholders at Disneyland during the 2017 national pageant. Photo: National American Miss Facebook
If you are lucky enough to find a pageant parent friend (or have one along), remember again why you are there. Host hotels usually have a bar, and I personally try to avoid it to not accidentally give someone a negative impression. You may be simply sitting there sipping on a soda, but passersby can make assumptions. Please enjoy yourself over the course of the pageant, but do so responsibly.
Lastly, watch how you interact with and toward other contestants. At a recent pageant I attended, I sat behind a set of parents and when one of the contestants (not their child) made an embarrassing mistake on stage, they very visibly imitated the actions and proceeded to talk about the contestant. They were in the front row, so I'm sure I wasn't the only person who saw this happen. Remember that non-verbal cues are wide open to interpretation and assumption. My assumption was that they were making fun of her. Could it have been an innocent remark? Maybe. But it resonated poorly with me all weekend. The best thing you can do as an audience member during a pageant is keep your mouth closed and your hands to yourself. If you have something to comment on, again, please save it for the hotel room. (Read: A Mom’s Guide To Helping A Preteen Win A Pageant)
Pageant parent + judges This section will be pretty clean and simple. The judges are off limits.
A poised and professional judging panel for the Miss Aynor Blue Jacket Pageant. Photo: American Beauties National Elite Facebook
Do not approach them and ask for clarification on scores or competitions. They will divert you to a staffer anyways. Many judges actually have contracts with the organizing pageant with a clause to NOT interact with parents. If you know one of the judges, recognize that they very likely could be under contract. Choose to make it less awkward for everyone by simply not approaching the judge's table. This is the one instance that you are allowed to show bad manners and not say hello!
Here's what you need to know about etiquette for judges. Even if you aren't judging the pageant yourself, it's good to know how they are expected to behave as well. (Read: Etiquette Rules Every Pageant Judge Must Know)
Pageant parent general tips
Here are a few collective thoughts I have on general pageant parent etiquette and how to handle yourself during the pageant.
DO: Be a director's dream by always being prepared (with typed paperwork!) ahead of schedule and on-task.
DON'T: Be late. Remember, if you're on time, you're late.
DO: Always look presentable and put together (if your daughter gets crowned, do you really want a photo with her new hardware while you're standing there in ripped jeans?).
DON'T: Wear ripped jeans. See above.
DO: Congratulate the contestant who wins the title, even if it is not your daughter.
DON'T: Win and allow your daughter to not congratulate the girls who lost. Not classy.
DO: Take lots of family photos and make memories together.
DON'T: Take the photos or videos in the ballroom if the director says not to. Leave it to the pros!
DO: Be a respectful, responsible "momager" at all times – before, during and after the pageant.
DON'T: Create a negative experience for your daughter.
Good parent behavior is a must if your child will be competing in pageants. Good manners and sportsmanship are lifelong skills that can and will carry over into adulthood for your daughter. Preparing them for the real world is part of your job, so start on the right foot! Pageants are a great way to teach these important life skills and lessons, so I say "bravo" for supporting your daughter in her endeavors! As emotions run high during pageants, make sure to that both you and your daughter can remain calm and flexible with both each other and others. Being a good sport is definitely a requirement of a new titleholder. Always be approachable, friendly and calm – even in moments when you want to scream. Remember, you have a pillow in the hotel room to scream into after finals are over! Are you a pageant coach? Coaching is a great way to share the skills that you have learned throughout your/your daughter's pageant experience. If you have a coaching business, be sure to check out the etiquette rules for pageant coaches. (Read: Etiquette Rules That All Pageant Coaches Should Follow)
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