I have the benefit of not only being a dancer (or a dancer wannabe), but having children that love the art of dance as well. It is a unusual position in the dancing world, I believe. I can understand what my children are feeling before a performance, for instance. This has been a beneficial experience for me, because we can discuss the necessity for practice, appreciate the skill of another dancer together, and lament over difficulties. I love that I can share this with them on a deeper level, then just taking them to practice or watching them on stage. They know I am going through it and we lean on each other for support.
Even so, I still have my fair share of backstage discussions with other parents, as well as waiting room worries. I see things that bother me, that could potentially cause issues within a studio. Realize that sometimes the actions of a parent stem from their singular desire to further their child in the art. Some people are intentionally cruel, I will give you that. However, most of the people I have seen who are at the root of some of these problems have no idea that their actions are offending others.
I cannot tell you how to parent your dancer, nor can I give you solid advice as to how to handle difficult parents. I can, though, give you some suggestions for you to mull over and incorporate into your thoughts.
1) Your child is a beautiful dancer. I don’t care how old they are, what physical shape, or color of their hair. I can guarantee you if they are out there because they love the dance itself, it will show in their movements. I encourage you to watch your child with pride, and maybe even puff up that chest a little. My caution is… that you do not put your child on a pedestal with regard to their dance. There will always be someone better than them in something. This isn’t to say you have to hound them to get better at what they do, or put them down because they didn’t pirouette as good as the dancer next to them. A child will get discouraged if they don’t have something they think they can achieve. But the opposite is a prima donna who waltzes into the studio, thinking they are all that – burning bridges at every turn, unable to make friends because of their attitude, and ultimately leaving because they can’t get along with anyone. From what I have seen, the majority of the dancers who have this attitude at a young age – don’t have it because they are so very skilled they earned it, but because their parents told them at every turn they were the best dancer out there and stole the show. Making your child strong and confident in themselves is one thing, turning them into a brat is something else.
2) Believe it or not your child’s instructor, if you have been with this person for any length of time, knows your child’s skills, capabilities, and shortcomings. If they are a teacher worth their salt, they will not only see what the dancer has difficulty with, but also see what they are best at. Most teachers I have met only have your child’s welfare in mind. Remember, this dancer on stage is a reflection of their teaching – so they do want to see your dancer succeed. That being said, if your teacher recommends that your child be in a certain class – it doesn’t matter if all their friends are in a different one, or your schedule is more conducive towards this other time. What matters is that the teacher feels your child will get the best instruction in the class they suggest. I can’t stress this enough. If you are discouraged that your child is not moving up the same as their peers, then by all means schedule a meeting with the teacher (not come in a huff right before a class is starting, or during regularly scheduled class times). Then, in my opinion, the best move is for you to express your discouragement and ask what your child needs to work on to progress. However… and this is a BIG however. Ask your child first. Tell them which class the teacher has suggested. There is a huge possibility that your child just loves to dance so much, they won’t care which class they are in OR.. they may know deep down what is holding them back. If you go in there guns blazing, your child will only want to please you. It is wonderful you want your child to be the best dancer in the studio in the shortest amount of time – but listen to your child, enjoy what they have to say, and for goodness sake, back them in whatever decision they make. Then, and only then, approach the teacher and ask what can be done. Maybe additional classes are needed, or some maturity. Don’t be offended if the teacher point blank tells you what they feel, this is why you are there. Take what they say, digest it, savor it, and move on with it.
3) Enjoy your dancer, make them feel special – but don’t do it at the expense of another child or parent. There is nothing that grates on my nerves more than a parent who rushes backstage right before a performance, elbowing their way into the dressing room and exclaiming over the beauty of their child. Nerves are at an all time high backstage, and all performers need that time to deal with the hype. We normally don’t allow parents backstage, but as of late we have had little ones performing and those mother’s worry about their children more than those of us with seasoned dancers. I understand their worry, but if you are one of those parents – try to realize that the nerves you are experiencing are your own… not your child’s.
There are other topics I could touch on, but I feel like I have been up on my soap box long enough. I welcome any and all feedback, as well as advice of your own. If we all just realized that we are working for a common goal – to encourage and enjoy the art of dance – we might stop putting expectations on our children to be something they aren’t. If they have the love, the passion, the need to dance – nurture that, but don’t confuse it with a desire to be the best. They are not one in the same.
Just Another Dancing Mother