Being A Dance Parent
We all know the type: reality TV’s red-faced, hysterical, overly-invested, living-through-her-kid parent who appears to be doing more harm than good as a dance parent.
It is possible to support and motivate our children to grow in their talent without becoming the nightmare we see on our living room televisions?
Here are some quick tips to help you be an amazing an supportive competitive dance parent.
1. Set A Good Example! Think about how you would like your dancer to behave and act the same way. Model your enjoyment of physical activity and healthy eating. Be on time and prepared for your own activities as well as your child’s dance classes. Model your organization, timeliness and preparedness. Remember that you are working on skills (and not traits) so they will have to be taught with patience and consistency until they become habits for your child. Set a good example when it comes to social skills too! Be a fan and a friend to other dancers, coaches and teammates. Don’t speak negatively about other parents or competitors. Encourage a positive attitude. Normalize the challenges, but also positively reinforce your child’s developing skills.
2. Be Present in Order to Celebrate Your Child’s Efforts! While most dancers enjoy the applause that comes from a performance, your child should know that the work and focus they put into their classes is actually more important! Encourage their process as much as the outcome. Remember that a tolerance for the challenge of learning is essential in order for all of us to move forward in life. Encourage your child to try. Explain that you don’t expect perfection. Allowing your child to relax while they learn, will actually lead to further growth because your dancer will experience less frustration and give up less easily. During a competition, your child should know that you admire their best effort over a win. Remember the mantra, “Excellence breeds success. But a focus on success rarely breeds excellence.”
3. Encourage Your Child’s Voice and Independence! First of all, make sure that dance is your child’s love—not just yours. Your child will stay motivated when they feel you are giving priority to their interests. It has actually been proven that the more an athlete enjoys their activity, the more they learn and the better they perform. Nothing motivates your dancer more than enjoyment so it is necessary that they actually like the activity. Once this is established, have your child focus on their own, personal goals and skills—rather than focusing on the skills of other dancers. Remind your child that there are gifts in failure! Each risk is an opportunity to learn and therefore, get better.
4. Remind Your Child Their Teacher is an Ally, Not an Adversary! Encourage your child to openly communicate with their teacher about their goals. Remind them to speak with their teacher when they have questions or concerns. Model your respect of the teacher's process in teaching. Remind your child to pay attention in class and to trust their teacher's expertise. As a parent, it is important to stay informed but to also respect the teacher's boundaries. Be present (when you can) before and after class in case your child’s teacher has information to share. Request (politely) an opportunity to talk with a teacher should you have anything to ask or share.
5. Enjoy It! Be a consistent support for your child from outside of class or from the audience. Talk to your child and show interest in the class on the way home. Clap, cheer and celebrate your child’s efforts. Praise your child’s growth. Communicate an enthusiasm for the activity of dance itself. Remind your child that you love them unconditionally, beyond their performance. Put it all in perspective by balancing your focus on dance with excitement over other things to (like academics, family, even a sunny swim in the pool.) Remind your child that dance is fun and that’s exactly what its supposed to be!