Art of war for face painters: keep an eye on my child

Posted by Elizabeth Mackinney on

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Problem: As usual when you’re working a large festival, the line is approximately an hour’s wait. You’re lost in concentration, trying to keep your quality level high while working as quickly as possible, and because of this, all your attention is focused on the child in your chair.

From behind you, you hear an adult voice say, “Keep an eye on my son for a few minutes. I’m going to get us something to eat.” You glance over your shoulder to see the back of a mom disappearing from view, so you assume a boy near the front of the line who seems temporarily parentless might belong to her. You call after her, “You need to stay in line with your child!” but the mom doesn’t seem to hear you.

As this is a pay-per-face event, you don’t paint any children unless the parent has first paid for it, so when the mom doesn’t reappear promptly, you ask the boy to wait at the side, and you take others before him.

When the mom finally returns, she’s upset that you didn’t paint her son while she was gone, and expresses her frustration in heated tones as you’re trying to paint another child who is currently in your chair. You cringe inwardly, because you hate it when parents become angry and vent on you. You ask the mom to wait just a moment so you can explain when you’re finished with the child you’re painting, and that her son will be next, but she grabs his hand and stalks away.

Solution: For large events, it’s not uncommon for parents and children to wait for a long time for face painting, so it’s understandable that the mom may want to leave temporarily for food, but it’s important to make it clear that adults are responsible for the children they are with in line. The challenge is finding a way to communicate this while you are working.

One solution is to use a line manager, who is often worth the investment at high volume events. If you can train someone to control your line effectively, that person can deal with situations as they arise. If your line manager can collect money and give change as well at pay-per-face events, it’s a bonus which will allow you to concentrate on painting and get through the line even more quickly.

A line manager isn’t always available, however, so in lieu of this, create a LARGE sign (and I mean really big, because parents tend to not read signs) which clearly states that children cannot be left unattended in line, and that they will not be painted without an adult present. You are at the event to face paint rather than to watch children. The children in line are 100% the adult’s responsibility, and this needs to be made perfectly clear before they reach your chair.

The stress level at public events can be high, and in some cases you will sacrifice your breaks, go without eating, work at high speed for hours, and stay late to try to finish up the end of the line, even though you’re exhausted. Some parents will be sympathetic, realizing how hard you’re working. Some won’t, and will see only the long wait stretching away in front of them.

When encountering those who are less than understanding, it’s up to you to stay positive and polite, even in the face of their frustration. Don’t allow occasional discord to rattle you inwardly. Face parents with a smile and thank them and their children for waiting patiently. Make children feel special as you paint them and do your best work. In the end, realize that when you’ve done everything you can to make face painting a fun and positive experience, that’s all you can do.

Beth MacKinney is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz in the NW Chicago suburbs. She also writes for Examiner.com as the Chicago Face Painting Examiner.


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