14/08/2014 12:47 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

My Daughter Is A Diva

My daughter is a diva

One of the greatest reliefs of my life was being told at the age of six that I was too sick to perform in the school play.

For some, this might have been cause for tears rather than celebration. But for me, coming down with mumps just days before I was due to "star" as Mary in the annual nativity, felt like the ultimate reprieve.

That in fact, is putting it lightly. Lumps and bumps aside, I felt like a writhing, wriggling knot of fear had been surgically removed from my chest.

How I had landed this coveted role in the first place was quite beyond me. Quiet and self-conscious, I positively hated attention, and I endured every rehearsal with an ever deepening fear.

Fast-forward almost 30 years, and on becoming a mother myself, I naturally worried that my baby would grow up to be shy and retiring too.

So it never occurred to me that I might have a child who actually loved being centre stage. Cue Ella, my eldest daughter, who at five, could give Shirley Temple a run for her money, and rather than shunning other peoples' attention, positively rejoices in it.

From the moment she could speak, she has loved to perform, and if there isn't an audience, she actively draws people in. Last year, when she was in reception, Ella was herself chosen to play Mary and her reaction of sheer joy could not have been more different from my own.

Her love of the limelight has been quite a revelation to me and my husband, as neither of us are at all outgoing. We have tried to contain her passion for performing with ballet classes and drama workshops, which she loves.

Of course it is great having a child who is self-assured, but it does sometimes make us just the tiniest bit uncomfortable. After all, there's a thin line between being an exuberant extrovert and a tedious attention seeker, and the last thing we want is for our diva daughter to be branded a show off.

But perhaps I am worrying too much. A couple of weeks ago, I was having lunch with Ella in a café when, unprompted, she began to perform her own rendition of Oliver! to an elderly couple at the table next to us.

Stricken, I told her to be quiet and to let people eat in peace. But then the old lady turned to me and whispered softly: "She has a great spirit. You should encourage it."

Hearing her words, I knew the last thing I wanted to do was to curb my girl's confidence. Yet I am aware that other children and parents don't always react so positively to Ella's performing antics.

Stephanie Davies-Arai, parenting expert and mother of four, has experienced this dilemma herself. "When my eldest son was little, he was forever putting on puppet shows and plays for other kids and sometimes they found it annoying," she says.

"I had to teach him about social boundaries and knowing when he could or couldn't perform certainly helped him to relate to other children better."

Her advice is to encourage a naturally extroverted child by setting aside a time each week when they can perform a show for the entire family. Making sure they have everything they need to nurture a creative talent, such as a full dressing up box and the odd trip to the theatre, is a good idea too, she says.

Amanda Gummer, a psychologist specialising in child development and parenting and mother of two daughters, aged nine and ten, agrees that getting the balance right can be challenging for parents.

She says: "There is certainly a lot of advice out there on how to nurture a shy and inward child but very little on how to manage a naturally extroverted one.

"People tend to assume that being incredibly outgoing is always a good thing but sometimes it is not. Some children actually show off because they lack confidence and want to feel accepted."

She has a point, but surely having the assurance to take centre stage has a positive side too?
"I think it is great," says Claire Dunn, a mother of three primary school children. She loves the fact her eight-year-old daughter Lottie always lands the leading parts with her drama group.

"I am no stage mother but by channelling Lottie's natural confidence into an activity she loves and is good at, I think she will grow up believing she can do anything well."

Kate Browne, a mother of two, does not see her five-year-old son William's exuberant personality as anything to worry about either.

"We love his quirkiness," says Kate of William, who insists on wearing three piece suits with brogues to go to the park, and dreams of becoming a rock star. "He already plays the electric guitar and the piano and we plan to encourage his enthusiasm by getting him formal music lessons."

Hearing this, I realise I am spending too much time worrying about other peoples' reactions, and too little embracing Ella's energy and enthusiasm for life.

Yes she might provoke the odd raised eyebrow along the way, but surely that is better than spending her life blandly sitting on the side lines? And while her outgoing nature might seem foreign to a family of introverts perhaps her confidence could be an inspiration to us all.

So when Ella starts tap dancing through Tesco one afternoon, I resist the urge to tell her to stop showing off.

As I anxiously look around, I see that people are actually smiling. "She looks happy," another shopper says.

Yes, she does, I think, feeling an almighty burst of pride for my uniquely joyful and effortlessly enthusiastic leading lady.