Elisabeth Röhm’s Blog: Helping Your Child Find a Focus

04/21/2011 at 09:00 AM ET
Robert Evans Studios

Elisabeth Röhm, best known for her role as Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order, has a busy 2011 ahead of her.

The actress, 37, can be seen on the big screen in the upcoming films Chlorine, Transit and Abduction, as spokesmom for Juno Baby, and can be found online on Facebook and @ElisabethRohm on Twitter.

In her latest blog, Röhm discusses her and fiancé Ron Anthony‘s hopes that their 3-year-old daughter Easton August will develop a passion for a discipline — but doesn’t want to push too hard.

I was thinking last night about a particular incident that happened while I was on a job a few years back. It’s come up in my memory several times since the event occurred, and I must say that it left a bad feeling with me.

My character had to witness her brother jumping in front of a subway while she was holding her baby. The production cast triplets as it was a long scene. Throughout the hours of shooting, the parents would swap out the babies so as not to exhaust them.

It was a horrific scene to shoot, but what was even more complicated were my reservations to emote into the bundle of joy in my arms. Not yet a mom, I enjoyed spending the day with that family and cuddling their three adorable baby girls. But to be honest, I’ve often thought of them and the strange impression that was left on them that day.

I know this an extreme example, but it has made me contemplate child acting as a whole and whether or not I will let Easton explore it. Even on a recent film with a 10-year-old, I was a little bothered by the range of emotion he had to witness from me. I remember thinking, “This could give someone nightmares.” But it’s a gift to be able to be creative and express yourself, that is for sure.

One of the things I’m always impressed with when I work with a child is that they have incredible perspective and seem to be able to move in and out of scenes with ease. Child acting has become one of those controversial issues because so many of them crash and burn. But the question should not be whether or not it is appropriate for a child to act but rather, how should one parent a child actor?

Fame, fortune, playing with the fire of emotion is adult stuff in a sense, but I think it’s a gross generalization to say acting is not for kids and that it should be left to the grown-ups. What about the ones who love, grow and mature with it and have a great time along the way?

I’ve known many of them to embrace the adventure and imagination of it. I was working with a boy recently on a film in the Louisiana Bayou and he was just STOKED to be working in the swamps where alligators could be, dying to tell his friends at home of his experience!

Some of them just love it and have a real gift for accessing their emotions unlike any adult. I could give countless examples, but one in particular stands out — I was awestruck by a 5-year-old girl who was simply a doorway into human emotion. I was able to work with her, connect with her, and even learn from her vast skill and fluidity. She flowed and it was a thing of beauty.

I think of movies like On Golden Pond, Paper Moon or The Kreutzer Sonata and the idea of acting with Easton one day excites me. Performances from a young Diane Lane in movies like The Outsiders or Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver are a powerful indication that some kids are born to perform. But each child is different and handles pressure, responsibility and competition differently. So, where does a parent draw the line?

I look forward to discovering the discipline that Easton gravitates to and wants to express herself with. For Ron and I, it wasn’t in the arts that we found our voice, rather it was with sports. Same difference though, really. All require an adult-like focus, structure and delivery. It’s important that it’s about having a good time too though, right?

In my childhood, I competed on a professional level as an equestrian. Four plus days a week at the barn taking lessons, practicing or tending to my horse. I wasn’t hanging out with friends after school. On the weekends we would wake up at 5 a.m. and drive to the latest horse show.

It was my life. I loved horses and they were at the center of my little world. My friends were other riders ranging in age from 6-60. It was an unusually strenuous and competitive childhood, but my heart was truly in it and I was not pushed to perform, only supported to achieve whatever I had a desire for.

I don’t recall feeling overwhelmed at the thought of winning or losing and I do recall my mother impressing upon me the value of my enjoyment. “Just go out there and have a good time,” she’d say. “You can do it until you don’t want to do it. You have the right to change your mind,” she’d always add.

I never felt her pushing me to win her approval. Instead, it left an indelible mark that discipline and a daily purpose was essential and most of all, fun! On top of that riding kept me out of trouble, which was good for all of us!

Ron and I have talked about how important we think it will be for Easton to have a discipline. At a young age, he had a gift for tennis and a daily routine with his pursuit of the sport. It filled his hours with a sense of place and expression. Not to mention it just feels good to exert yourself and to be good at something!

We hope that Easton will have a passion early on, whether in the arts or sports. But then comes the question of pressure, stress or the feeling of inadequacy when the parent is pushing their success and not doing enough listening to their child.

Remember in the The Blind Side, when Sandra Bullock’s character had to check herself and ask Michael if he really wanted to play football and go to Ole Miss at all? She realized that she had been pushing so hard she’d forgotten to ask the simple question, “Do you want this or are you doing it for me?”

PEOPLE.com readers, will you help your child pursue a professional career? There are undeniably great qualities that are acquired when you work hard, achieve and feel the fulfillment of your pursuits. However, on the flip side it is essential to childhood to have fun, be free and easy and have many lost hours.

I believe both are important and do-able. Where do you stand, moms? I rely on you to share your pearls of wisdom!

— Elisabeth Röhm

Robert Evans has photographed parties for Christina Aguilera and Jim Carrey, and is also known for photographing some of the biggest celebrity weddings in the last 10 years, including Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston and most recently, Shania Twain.

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Showing 14 comments

Brooke on

I think you are definitely on the right track in helping Easton find her way, but with your line of work I also think your mommy intuitions were correct. I think Easton may be too little to really understand what goes on at your job. Even with detailed explanation, I think it would just be too much at her age, to see you scream, express hard emotions etc.

blessedwithboys on

Oh, gosh, the professional pictures are back! LOL

Ellen Smith on

Her fiance’s name is Ron Wooster. Why is everyone referring to him as Ron Anthony?

Jillian on

Gorgouse picture!
Anthony is one of his surnames.

Tink on

How exactly is a black and white picture a ‘professional’ photo? It looks like a photo with her kid and dog, made black and white to be a bit different. Get over it…

linda ronson on

Why do negative people comment here? Elisabeth is a kind, loving mother sharing her experience with us. We love you!

Jenna on

Is that all you could find to say? Are you teaching those boys to say negative things to people? What happened to if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all…

Mannnnnn the judgement from people I’ve seen on these blogs!

Anyway, the parents that push their children into doing things are taking something away from them. It is not our job to force something on them, but rather to guide them in their discoveries of who they are and what their place in this world is. I think it is great that you want her to discover her own passion! Beautiful family!

What of it? on

Lovely picture! First, I just wanted to say I really enjoy reading your blog. They are always very thoughtful and open, which is much appreciated.

Regarding this weeks topic, I think that children have an incredible imagination and ability to explore a range of experiences and activities on their own. I don’t think you need to stress yourself out about whether or not your daughter will find her focus or calling if you don’t get things exactly right. Allow her opportunities to succeed and fail, to push herself and try again.

I feel young children in particular should be given as much opportunity as possible to explore their own creativity, and I don’t mean art classes. Kids just don’t “play” as much anymore, too much structure can just as easily stifle creativity as encourage it.

I know you want the best for your child. The bottom line is that she is loved and will be just fine.

Anonymous on

um, the key is to let your kid find their own passion and gently help them pursue it. three is a little young to be worrying about this kind of thing at all. can’t stand pageant pushing moms that get their four year olds agents. most kids do NOT find their life passion early on. Some might find it in middle school, some high school, some not until adulthood. DON’T PUSH your dreams for your child on to them.

fuzibuni on

Thoughtful article!

If you’ve ever asked a kid what they want to be when they grow up you’ll know that the answers are usually pretty limited, and depend on what ideas they’ve been exposed to by grown ups.

Most children don’t really know what they want to do, because they have limited understanding of what exists in the world, and a parent needs to provide most of the direction in the formative years.

Left to their own devices, not many kids are going to decide to play tennis, learn the piano, or take dance class… even if they would be good at it and benefit from the practice. Left alone to find their “passion”, many kids might decide to watch tv or eat fruit loops.

It’s a parent’s job to guide children into activities that are a good fit for their personality and help them develop into well rounded individuals. This doesn’t mean that the parent should project their own dreams onto the child, and personally, I would not have allowed my infant to film an emotional death scene for a tv show… but I think it’s okay to teach kids acting skills because it can help them be emotionally expressive and creative.

It’s a lot to expect your kids to find their own direction and “passion” in life. Parents need to provide the groundwork and expose their kids to different activities. The goal should be to teach them a skill, give them a structure, and require regular commitment. Regardless of the activity, the lessons that come from applying oneself in this way will benefit them as adults, when they can make their own decisions about how to spend their time and energy.

I don’t think 3 years old is too young to start thinking about scheduling regular activities… obviously there is a difference between over regimenting a child and giving them an outlet for their energy and creativity. It’s all about how the parent implements the activity, and listening to the child’s feedback.

mamaoftwo on

While I think some children are naturally gifted in something specific and follow it for their lives, most are just kids.

My girls are pretty little now, but as they get older we’ll do one activity a semester. I’d like for them to have a vocabulary in many different things-soccer, theater, girl scouts, gymnastics, horseback riding, music, whatever. If they show a natural aptitude in something, then great, but otherwise, we’ll just let them try out a few things and get comfortable with working in groups, working alone, reading music, etc. I’d like for them to play an instrument and be able to really read music when they’re adults-just something that helps in life.

However, I think it’s a little of a shame when kids are pushed to choose one thing and follow it daily for years. My parents followed the try-it-out philosophy, and it has served me pretty well. I’m not afraid to try something new for a period of time, and if I end up being good at it, great. If not, well, we move on.

As it turns out, I excel at cooking and sewing, which are not really things that we take lessons for as children. But, you might consider that the freedom to try and fail might be a greater gift than excelling at one thing from an early age.

Denise on

My daughter is seven years old. She has been exposed to ballet, swimming and gymnastics, having participated in these activities since age three. She has also attended numerous swim meets and basketball games,. Her eldest brother is a college freshman and swims for his college. Her other brother is a freshman in high school and will try out for JV basketball next year.

In addition to school and sports, my husband and I exposed our children to religion, faith in God and church going from babyhood. This exposure was the most important, producing ethical, sensitive and very disciplined children.

My children are truly amazing because they are so balanced. My children are passionate about being moral, good and kind to others! This is my idea of successful parenting.

eyeswideshut on

Jenny Finch recently posted this fantastic article on her Twitter:

“Kid’s Just ‘Wanna Have Fun: A Look into the Impact of Children’s Sports”

I did googling on Elena Delle Done and it looks like she did go back to play basketball after some time off, and then switched to volleyball and she discovered she really did enjoy b’ball but needed the break. Either way pushing anyone into anything forces them to rebel.

RJL on

My son is only five weeks old, so it’s a little early to be thinking of things like this, but at the same time, his father and I have already come to the conclusion that we will support him in whatever he wants to do in his life, and not try to pressure him into being something he’s not, or doing things he doesn’t want to do.

However, we do want him to learn how to swim; I think that’s the only thing we’re really going to insist upon…but mainly so he knows how to swim and can handle himself in the water. Beyond that, whatever he wants to do with his life, we will support him 100%.