Hollywood's toughest role: Parent of a young celebrity

Justin Bieber and his mother, Patti Mallette.

Story highlights

  • Predators, parasites and parents who don't act like parents are culprits
  • Michael Lohan: "You can't socialize with your kids"
  • Managers, agents try to separate 18-year-old stars from their parents, mother says
  • "There is no one to say 'no' if your parent can't say 'no' to you," rehab doctor says
Justin Bieber's recent arrests and alleged pot-smoking antics on an airplane raise the question: Who's in charge?
Can parents stand a chance of keeping their kid in line if he's a highly paid teen celebrity?
CNN interviewed two celebrity parents and two professionals who help young stars after they crash about why parenthood is perhaps the toughest role in Hollywood. They point to predators, parasites and parents who don't act like parents as culprits.
Parents can't be pals
Justin Bieber and his dad seem to be best buddies. They even have matching tattoos. Jeremy Bieber, 38, was with his son during several of the incidents that have brought him legal trouble in the past weeks.
Mom: Bieber 'not just a story to me'
Mom: Bieber 'not just a story to me'


    Mom: Bieber 'not just a story to me'


Mom: Bieber 'not just a story to me' 02:13
Father and son were partying together in Miami Beach, Florida, before the younger Bieber, 19, was arrested on a drunken driving charge. The elder Bieber was with his son the night he allegedly assaulted a Toronto limousine driver. A U.S. Customs report said Jeremy and Justin Bieber were both flying on a chartered jet when the pilots had to put on oxygen masks after marijuana smoke filled the cabin.
"You have the parents acting as a child with them," said Dr. Damon Raskin, a former child actor who helps celebrities detox in rehab. "This enables their addictions and contributes to their spiral downward, as with Justin Bieber and Lindsay Lohan."
Lindsay Lohan's father, who runs an addiction treatment facility in Florida, said he would never party with his daughter. Michael Lohan has been publicly critical of his ex-wife for doing that. "You can't socialize with your kids," Michael Lohan said. "You can't attend events and party with them."
Lohan missed out on some of his daughter's childhood when he served prison time in connection with a Wall Street insider trading investigation. He also had his own substance abuse issues, which were addressed in rehab.
The parent of another successful young actress -- who at age 20 has never been in trouble -- replied "Oh, hell no!" when asked if she would ever party with her daughter. "You can't party with your kid," she said. "You have to keep your position as a parent." She asked to remain anonymous so as not to embarrass her daughter.
Richard Taite is the founder and CEO of Cliffside Malibu, the rehab facility where Lindsay Lohan was treated last year. He cites a "truism that never changes."
"When parents raise their children with a healthy boundary and recognize that they are not to be this child's friend, but to be their parent, what happens is, these children grow up to be well-adjusted," Taite said. "We look at them as stars, but the reality is they are still children, and children crave boundaries. If you're going to be their friend primarily, and you just happen to be a parent, then don't be shocked when your children grow up with social adjustment issues."
Unnatural role reversal
Parents of a young star often leave their own jobs to travel with their children as they make movies or perform on concert tours. "The parent can no longer work because they run around with them, and sometimes the kids realize that and it's unnatural," the previously quoted mother said. "They let the kid turn wild because they feel guilty, because they are not working."
A mother is needed to do things the manager or agent won't do, such as helping them study scripts and run lines with them between scenes, she said. "No agent does that."
But even if parents keep their own careers, their child's income can far exceed their own. This role reversal can leave a parent powerless to enforce rules.
"It's hard for the parent to have control when the kid knows they're making more money than them," she said. "If he wants to go to a party, he's going to use that."
This mother shared the story of another parent who put her foot down when her 16-year-old actress daughter refused to clean up her bedroom. The teen suggested the maid could do it. The mom called the producer of her hit TV series and told him the actress would not be showing that day until she cleaned her room. The producer agreed to shoot around the young actress that day. The daughter cleaned the room after that, she said.
It's a move many parents are afraid of making, out of fear it could cost their child work in the future. "Parents afraid to upset the system," the mother said.
No one to say 'No'
"These kids need structure," Raskin said. "They need boundaries. They need to be told 'no'. Sometimes the parents are missing, emotionally abandoning them, being too involved in their own lives. There is no one to say 'no' if your parent can't say 'no' to you."
Justin Bieber needs "someone who is willing to piss him off," the actress's mother said. "A good parent has to do that." It's something she does regularly with her daughter, even though she's now legally an adult. "It's no secret -- we battle," she said.
Michael Lohan said it is "important to steer them into the right direction" about who they should associate with, but it is "hard to control that." It's the "parasites that come around them" at night that cause problems, he said. Another problem is that the bodyguards -- who are suppose to protect them -- party with them and help to cover it up, Lohan said.
Momagers and predators
When a performer turns 18 in California, he or she is handed the checkbook to the trust fund where 15% of their earnings have been deposited under the state's "Coogan Act." The law was written to protect them from the fate of Jackie Coogan, who made a fortune as a child actor in silent films, but his parents spent the money before he became an adult.
These 18-year-olds are also given the freedom make their own business decisions. It's almost a ritual for managers, agents, lawyers and publicists to approach them with the advice that they ditch their parents as advisers, the actress's mother said.
"When they are almost 18, they have secret lunches and they tell your kids 'You need to leave your parents,'" she said. "The parents have no power then." Her own daughter only told her a year later that her manager "took her to lunch and said she needed to get away from mom," she said.
"The agents turned because I was putting pressure on them, because they didn't have a plan for her at 17 and 18," the mother said. "When you make them do their job, then you become the enemy."
Michael Lohan told a similar story about his daughter when she was almost 18 and making the movie "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen."
Justin's mom: 'He's just Justin to me'
Justin Bieber's mother Pattie Mallette told CNN's Anderson Cooper in a 2012 interview that she "didn't want him even to know it was an option" to be in the entertainment industry. However, it was his mother who first put his videos on YouTube, which led to his discovery by manager Scooter Braun. She moved with him from Canada to Atlanta where Braun launched Bieber's remarkable career.
"Parenting him is, I think, like anybody parenting a child," Mallette told HLN a year ago. "We just have a different set of circumstances. It doesn't affect me at all. His lifestyle has different circumstances that we have to work around, but he's just Justin to me."
Mallette told USAToday that she's always been protective of her son. "You hear all the horror stories about kids and teenagers in this industry, and I didn't want to throw my son to the wolves. I've done my best to protect him and surround him with good people."
Michelle Obama: 'I'd pull him close'
First lady Michelle Obama, mother of two girls, was asked by Univision Radio host Enrique Santos on Friday what she would do if Justin Bieber was her son.
"I'd pull him close," Obama said. "I don't know if it would be advice as much as action. I would be very present in his life right now and I would be probably with him a good chunk of the time, just there to talk, to figure out what's going on in his head, to figure out who's in his life and who's not."
Her daughters "just want me near, they want that advice from a parent," she said. "They want to see you on a daily basis."
Taite's suggestion for Justin Bieber does not involve his parents. He should have a talk with the Justin Bieber of 15 years from now.
"What he has to do is have a moment of truth and sit down and recognize that his 35-year-old self would be bitch-slapping him right now," the rehab owner said.
Bieber also should find "the best, top notch therapist he humanely, possibly can in the industry, who is desensitized to who he is," Taite said.