Father Of Successful Child Star Says Her Dreams Are His Own

Christopher Pearman, father of TV star and former Cosby kid Raven-Symone, wants parents to know how they can help their kids make their wildest dreams come true. He offers tips from his new book, “Dream So Big: A Parent’s Guide to Helping your Child Believe and Achieve.”

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

In a few moments we'll hear from the woman who created our latest next big thing. It's a video game and it's a violent one. It blows away guys who harass women on the street. We'll tell you more about it in a few minutes.

But first, they say it takes a village to raise a child, but maybe you just need a few moms in your corner. Every week we visit with a diverse group of parents for their common sense and savvy parenting advice. Today we hope to hear some wisdom from a dad who's helped his daughter become one of the most successful, young African-American stars working today.

Christopher Pearman is the father of Raven Symone. For years he managed her career. In his new book titled "Dream So Big," Mr. Pearman talks about how he and his wife helped moved Raven Symone through childhood to where she is today. The book is titled "A Parent's Guide to Helping Your Child Believe and Achieve." And Christopher Pearman is with us now. Welcome, thanks so much for joining us.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER PEARMAN (Author, "Dream So Big: A Parent's Guide to Helping Your Child Believe and Achieve"): Thank you, Michel. Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: You know, we had Raven Symone on the program last year and she talked about how she had a vision from a very early age of what she wanted for herself. I'm just going to play a short clip from that conversation. I'm sure you've heard this before. But I'm just going to play it.

Ms. RAVEN SYMONE (Actor): It was a plan that I made when I was 15 sitting at a sushi bar with my mom. On a blue napkin I wrote down everything that I wanted to happen up until I turned 34. Like, the companies that I wanted and how the tree of business would trickle down and things of that nature. But that picture is stuck in my head. So every choice that I made, make and have made since I was 15, I'm working as if it's already there.

So, when I see something, I see a role, I'm like, you know what? I can see myself in that. And I pay attention to what I my body and my world is telling me. You know, I pay attention to the signs. And most of the time the signs are correct.

MARTIN: Now, two things I want to point out about this. One is that she's very clear that you and your wife, her mom, have been very central to her success. But, two, she talks about this drive and a vision that she's had. And in your book you talk about the fact that she had a vision for herself when she was very young.

Mr. PEARMAN: Well, you know, I tell this story many times, but when she was two years old, you know, we were watching "The Cosby Show" and she turned around and said: Daddy, I want to be on "The Cosby Show." I can do what Rudy can do. And at that time I saw the seriousness in her eyes and then giving her the understanding what it would take, and she agreed to what it would take.

And then I thought that the next logical step was, well, I'm going to take you to the top agency in Atlanta. If they saw something there, then that would clearly be a sign for us to continue to move forward to help you achieve that dream. So we took her to the Lejohns(ph) Agency and they signed her that day. And I was like, okay, you know, there's no turning back now.

MARTIN: Now, do you think that that is something that can be taught? Or do you think that that is something that just is?

Mr. PEARMAN: I think it is and it can be taught. Over the 20-year journey, you know, everyone has always asked, you know, how did you do it? And during the journey you don't know it at the time. And so as I retired from the business and looked back over the career, I saw that there were eight principles that were common in not only in our situation, but researching famous people and famous people doing things and successful people, I saw that these principles all were a common thread.

And I wanted to put that together in this book so that when people ask not only about show business, because this book is not about how to be a star. It's basically when a child comes your child comes to you and saying, well, this is what I wish to be, there were processes that take place. There are powers that you have within yourself and within themselves that makes that happen.

MARTIN: Now, true, and you certainly do make the point in the book that these principles are not just relevant to the field that you're in. I just I'm curious why you feel that these principles are so broadly applicable to other fields, because you are in a field where people, what's the word I'm looking for, are kind of willing to take a chance, roll the dice in ways that they perhaps are not in other fields.

Mr. PEARMAN: Used to.

MARTIN: Yeah.

Mr. PEARMAN: Okay. You know, to me it's like one of the first principles about paying attention. Paying attention to what's being said to you from the inside. And you have a dream. Let's say you have a child and they're loving airplanes. They love going to the airport. That's giving you an indication they are feeling flight. You give them everything to help them keep pushing them towards that goal. And, you know, whether or not they want to be a pilot, whether or not they want to own it. But to hear what their inside soul is saying and we have to pay attention to what they say, as opposed to if my daughter had said, I want to be on "The Cosby Show" and we said: Oh, that's sweet, dear, now turn back around and look at "The Cosby Show."

MARTIN: Can you talk a little bit more about this one piece, which I think is something that a lot of people are curious about, particularly with parents who are involved with their children in show business, or other demanding careers like athletics, for example. You say you ask the question, you say, and this is one of the scary questions, are you willing to synthesize your dreams with your children's? Is that necessarily a healthy thing to do? A lot of people are sort of taught that you shouldnt live through your children. How did you work that out for yourself?

Mr. PEARMAN: I think its more so youre living the dream with each other. You know what I'm saying? Using Raven as an example, she wanted to be on the Crosby Show and, you know, at that time we were like where is her future going to be, as we all as young parents, you know, like where is our children going? I know with us it was like well, shes going to go to college. You know, shes going to have her own house.

We all have these worries and so forth. But sometimes its important, you know, if you have a child thats saying well, I want to be this great baseball player or I want to be this doctor, so forth like that, and you and your intention is for them to be that too, you have to get on the field with them. They have to see that youre with them 100 percent. Because its difficult and they need help, so you dont want to take them half way and then youre off into something else.

If youre making a commitment to saying, you know, I'm going to get you through this, you know, this childhood, I'm going to get you through this teenage, I'm going through this adult age and I'm going to help you try to achieve things by being better than me.

MARTIN: I dont know whether this is fair or unfair, because often as we hear stories of parents who manage child stars and the children become estrange and theres all this sort of hatefulness and, you know, Raven Symone is always someone I think that seems very grounded, very happy, very open. Is Raven the exception, not the rule?

Mr. PEARMAN: No. No. And this is brought up so much and I've looked at this scenario and its like this, lets say that there was no show business there was no television or no sports or whatever youre still going to have children thats still going to have problems with their parents. I mean I grew up with people - I hate my mom, you know. Thats always has been and always will be. But I dont think its just because of that business.

I mean there are some people that are very hard on their children when it comes to academics. You know, we want you to achieve and make these good grades so that you can go to this school and then they have resentment for their parents, you know. This is just life. I dont think that this particular business is more so a conduit towards distress for the kids and distress for this. But I dont think so. Its given Raven wonderful opportunities. Travel around the world, meet so many people and be able to give back to so many people. Theres greater opportunity in this situation and I think that we should sometimes show more of the positive side of it as opposed to just the negative and then blowing it up.

MARTIN: So whats next for Raven Symone after having achieved this level of success? My guess is she probably doesnt have to work again for the rest of her life.

Mr. PEARMAN: Youre absolutely right. I mean that was years ago. But, you know what? I dont manage her career anymore. She got to a point, you know, she said Daddy, I can run my own company; I can run my own thing a few years ago. And I'm like, you know, you have the tools.

MARTIN: But was it hurtful to you? Were you sad when she I assume it was mutual. You agree that she was ready to do things on her own. Was that sad for you when youre no longer managing her?

Mr. PEARMAN: No, absolutely not. I've been managing that girls career since she was six months old. Its just like you having a child and saying, you know, I'm ready to go to college and do my own thing and move out the house. You know, its like okay, go ahead. I know my mama said it. Bye boy.

MARTIN: You kind of felt like I've done my job.

Mr. PEARMAN: I've done my job. I think I've done my well, yes. I've done my job. I'm not going to second guess that. And its important for them that you do all of this so that they can be able to take the reins and to be able to, you know, run their own lives - because we have our own. You know, some parents try to hang on, you know, be 70 years old, 80 years old.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PEARMAN: Come on. You know, I'm too old for that. Baby, go do your things.

MARTIN: Christopher Pearman is the author of Dream So Big: A Parents Guide to Helping your Child Believe and Achieve. He joined us from Atlanta.

Thank you so much for speaking with us.

Mr. PEARMAN: Thank you so much for having me.

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