The Keys to Wrangling Children

I got a text from a dear friend of mine that said, “I think that you adopting children via pageantry might be the biggest plot twist of 2020”

Let’s be clear, this is not my first time working with children, and I am really great at working with them, but the past several years have been spent working exclusively with adults. If you are not an experienced child-wrangler, I have some insight into the task of working with the I have learned a couple of really important things in working with the Littles in Pageants and Photography:

1. You always have to offer something better than the thing they won’t want to do simply because you need them to do it.
For example, I acquired mermaid tail makeup brushes from a pageant I attended, and so far, those brushes are the only reason a youngster will let me do her pageant makeup…on multiple occasions. Sometimes I have to let the kid take a whacky photo in order to get a nice one. Sometimes I even let them press the shutter button once or twice to get cooperation.

2. You have to talk nonsense sometimes.
I have found hundreds of silly things to say to keep kids engaged. The best go-tos I’ve found are usually anything that is Silly, Stinky, or Poopy.

3. Be prepared for questions.
There will be interrogations. I have learned to be pretty quick on my feet, and also to be thorough. The last thing I want is for my answer to lead to even more questions. (I have learned that the hard way.)

4. Let them be silly.
Having a kid relax around you and be themselves usually takes time and trust, but when it happens, that kid is going to teach you so much. They also have so much love to give. I have been so blessed to have so many Littles who love and trust me to do what I do! This is how I have gotten some of the best pictures.

5. Learn to balance the wants of the child with the needs of the parents.
Sometimes you have to give in a little or play a quick game in order to get the child to focus on the task at hand. Saying that patience is key is a bit of a cliche here, but I think learning to control the environment has helped me to maintain my patience.

6. Don’t be afraid to say something they may not want to hear.
This goes for both the kids and the parents. Sometimes it is easier to hear it coming from the coach or photographer than it is from the parent/child. It’s easy for the parents to shrug off what the child says as just not wanting to do something; similarly, it’s easy for the child to ignore the parents’ requests like kids do. If Miss Sarah says the same thing, though, usually the child is more responsive.

7. Be prepared for anything.
Seriously. You do not know what the child is going to say or do–on stage or in photos or during a coaching session. You don’t know if there will be a spill on their costumes or a smear on their makeup that day. Or they may decide to create a new stage routine during their event! Be prepared for ANYTHING.

8. Never try to change the child.
Photography is about capturing the child in his/her element and making that impression last. It’s not about molding the child into the Pinterest holiday card you saved online.
Pageants are about accepting the girls the way they are and teaching them how to present themselves to others and answer questions thoughtfully. These skills will help them in future job interviews, public speaking responsibilities, promoting their platform, and so many other valuable opportunities. Not to mention the friends they will make along the way who already have something in common with them.

I am sure I will continue to learn so much more as I continue down this adventure, and I will be sure to keep you guys updated!

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