Forum: Advice / Ask a Parent

Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By Dream_chaserPremium member
On Wed Sep 02, 2009 04:51 PM

We started a thread for parents, to help them avoid pitfalls in dealing with dance schools.

I hope that this is a help to some of you. . . .


23 Replies to Advice FOR parents - what not to do.

re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do. (karma: 1)
By BlackTights
On Thu Sep 03, 2009 03:58 PM
I have some things to add, as a parent who has spent time around other ballet parents...I won't post to the thread, since you asked parents not to respond there, but I will instead post my reply here:

--Don't hang around the studio while your child is in class, even if it is allowed. Observing once in a while, if it is allowed at your school is great. Watching every single class is not necessary and can be distracting. It also sets you up to be part of the circle of gossipy parents who hang around and are disruptive to students and the teachers/administration. There are often nearby coffee shops to hang out in, libraries to can even use the time to get a bit of your own exercise in, or run errands, etc. instead of waiting around. Similarly, if your school has a waiting area and you decide to hang out, please don't leave your empty coffee cups and food wrappers laying around. Clean up any messes your toddlers or other children make as well.

--If you do want to be around the studio a lot, because it is a fun place and you enjoy the environment, make yourself useful by volunteering. There are always a million things that need volunteer help. Ask the director for some chores! If you do volunteer, don't do it with the expectation that this will benefit your child in terms of casting or level placement decisions. Do it only out of a desire to help the school and be productive.

--Don't complain about casting decisions or level placement. There are a whole slew of variables that go into these decisions and they are impossible for any parent to be able to completely assess. Trust your directors or teachers. If you don't trust them for whatever reason, then it is time for you to move on to a different school where you can.

--Don't compare your child to others in the class in terms of their technique, body type, nothing! Worry about your dancer and leave it at that. Remember that children mature and grow at different rates, and that is FINE. If your child doesn't get moved up one year, or if your daughter doesn't get put on pointe at the same time as everyone else, it doesn't mean she's doomed or necessarily a poor student/dancer, or that the director/teacher doesn't like your child.

--Know what your priorities are in advance of each new school year. Don't overcommit your child to a number of classes per week, or performances/rehearsals and then find that it conflicts with whatever else you're up to. If your child is doing a bunch of different activities, prioritize and think before you decide you can do another class or a show. Realize that being involved with other activities will make your child less available for things like rehearsals and classes, and may affect casting/level placement. Don't be surprised or upset when this happens.

--Get places on time. Whether it is class, rehearsal, or a performance, make sure you show up and your child is ready to dance at the scheduled time. If your dancer needs time to eat, change, fix hair, etc., take that into account and show up a bit earlier.

--If you are dealing with costumes (backstage at a performance, or if you take them home for some reason), make sure you enforce whatever rules the school has in place for taking care of those costumes. Usually this means no food or drink in or around the costumes (sometimes water is allowed, sometimes not), sometimes there is no sitting allowed in certain costumes. Costumes should never be left in a pile on the floor (seen this and cleaned up after these children/parents too many times), and they should always be immediately hung up or put away as they were before the child got into them. Teach your young dancer to be respectful and careful with their costumes.

--If you are the parent of an older child, encourage your child try to work out any sort of questions or concerns he or she has with their teachers/directors before you get involved. It is important for them to learn how to do this, and to be comfortable doing so. Get involved if things go unanswered or if your child doesn't understand what is being said, and of course if there is some sort of huge, serious concern that would necessitate parental involvement (abuse, serious injury, etc.).

--Teach your child never to conceal an injury or any sort of recurring pain they are having. Make sure they know they should go directly to their teacher with any sort of pain/injury immediately, so that their teacher is aware and can advise.

--Discourage negative self talk and negative talk about other dancers. Don't participate in this behavior with your child, and if you overhear others, please tell them to knock it off.

--Learn as much as you can about ballet training. Read books, read the Ballet Talk for Dancers website (great resource for ballet parents), get to know other ballet parents from other schools/places, talk to teachers, professionals, etc. Do this so that you are informed and able to make good decisions for your child.
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By Dream_chaserPremium member
On Thu Sep 03, 2009 09:16 PM
Edited by JLL (11405) on 2009-09-03 21:18:24
Thank you so much!! Can you be a parent where I work? LOL

I will link this to the other one so that they can see your replies, too. You must just be a gem where you child dances.

re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By BlackTights
On Fri Sep 04, 2009 09:13 AM

My son dances at a residential school now, so I am totally out of the way! About 3,000 miles out of the way, in fact! :) I think that qualifies as a gem, right? :) Haha!

Before he went away, he danced at four different schools, and so I noticed most of these same behaviors happening nearly everywhere, except at the one school that didn't have a waiting area for parents and didn't allow observation except on designated observation days.

That school also had a director and faculty that was very professional and hands-off when it came to the parents. They did this in a professional and very courteous way, but parents got the message that they were not to interfere with the goings on at the school. I noticed a lot of the volunteers who did costuming and things of that nature were the parents of children who had already graduated or left the school for residential schools, etc. That was different, but it also signaled to me that for whatever reason, this school had built relationships with these families that were enduring. An excellent sign, I thought!

I ran into that school's director last week at a performance, and she mentioned that every year around this time, when she assigns the levels, there are always parents who call up with complaints, and then she has to carefully word things--including the names of the levels she creates--so that nobody feels their child was slighted somehow. She said this happens everywhere, and happens every year. There is just no way around it, and it is a bit of a headache.

At the school where my son began his training, I spent time working in the costume room (hence my experiences with costumes left on a heap on dressing room floors) and helping out backstage during performances.

I've come to really empathize as much as a parent can with the directors and teachers at dance schools. You all have more patience and strength than I do, that's for sure!

I've experienced great teachers and directors, but have also had a number of negative experiences as well. The trick was knowing what was okay, or good ballet training/school administration, and what was not. I can only say that reading like a madwoman on the ballet talk for dancers site, and getting to know other parents who had been through it all before me is what really helped to learn these distinctions. That's why I suggest every parent learn as much as they can, both from reading books and websites, but also via talking to others who have been there, done that, before you.

My son's training isn't near being over, and I am still learning how to be a supportive and involved parent. As they progress through the different age groups, things change, and you have to keep learning along the way.

Hugs back to you, I hope this advice is taken to heart by all the dance parents reading.

Have a great school year!

re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By Dream_chaserPremium member
On Fri Sep 04, 2009 11:31 AM
That's why I suggest every parent learn as much as they can, both from reading books and websites, but also via talking to others who have been there, done that, before you.

Exactly. Education is the key. A parent will investigate the car that they will buy but not where their children will be highly influenced and their physical and mental well-being comes into play.
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By BlackTights
On Fri Sep 04, 2009 05:24 PM
Honestly, it didn't occur to me at first to research ballet training. I took my son to the school I trained at as a child, which was affiliated with the local professional company. I figured that was all I needed to do to ensure he was in good hands....needless to say, I was so wrong!

Around ten years prior to my son's enrollment there, the school had been sold by the AD of the company to the current director--so while the school was still affiliated somewhat, there was really no formal professional connection, and the AD of the company who was my childhood teacher was no longer teaching at the school. Things were VERY different from the way I remembered them being as a child.

The new school director had mostly a gymnastics background, a degree in sports medicine, and no real long term experience of studying ballet as a child. She did not get a degree in dance, but did dance with the company (when it was a very new company and couldn't attract/hire dancers with a lot of formal ballet training/experience). So her knowledge and understanding of ballet is not anywhere near complete, nor did she have formal ballet training as a child, or pedagogy classes...nothing like that. The most qualified teacher at the school taught only the class of the most advanced girls.

I took my son out of that school after three years because I realized and learned, mostly through the ballet talk website, but also just from being there for a few years, and talking with some of the company men, as well as a non-affiliated pilates teacher who was an ex dancer, that he wasn't receiving quality training, and definitely not for a boy.

I wouldn't have discovered any of this had I just went by the assumption that this school must know what they're doing since they're associated with the professional company. This is still the best school in that town, though it is sorely lacking. However, once I found out it wasn't safe or appropriate for my son, we moved on. That was a major pain for everyone, but we did what had to be done.

I gave my son the choice of either quitting ballet entirely or moving to this school in a different city. He didn't think twice when I put it that way, and realized that most of his connections to that old school were social and based on familiarity. He was 12 at the time, so coming up on a real crucial time as far as professional dance training goes, both for boys and girls. We're all very happy that he left the old school and moved on. He still dances at the new school when he's home on his breaks, and honestly, he didn't really HAVE to leave home for this residential school where he is now. The training at the new school is excellent as well. He just wanted a different experience, and wanted his ballet and academic schedule fit together neatly, as it is where he currently dances/lives for the year.

So to sum up that very long story--here's another don't for parents--don't assume that because your daughter or son is dancing in a school affiliated with a professional company that you don't need to research or learn more about the people teaching or directing the school, or that you are excused from learning about ballet training because they must know what they're doing. It simply isn't always the case, and the best weapon you have as a parent in terms of knowing how to deal with the different types of schools and personalities involved, is your knowledge of what good training is, and what a well run school looks like, etc.

Also, just because a school's literature claims it is a "pre-professional", "pre-pro", or "professional" school, don't assume that is true. Investigate as to why they claim this. You can ask the director what makes them a "pre-pro" school. You can also pay attention to schedules and how much the children who are looking for a career in dance are dancing each week in the advanced levels--how many pointe classes, how many technique classes, etc. You can also ask about alumni--are there graduates who are dancing with professional companies? Do their grads go straight to trainee/apprenticeships/post grad training, or do they typically leave the school during the high school years for a professional/residential school?

These are all questions that can be asked and answered by members here and on ballet talk for dancers. You can also ask professional dancers (if you know any), parents of professionals, ex dancers, etc. There are also books one can read.

Oh! Haha, a couple more things for parents that I am not sure were included in the other thread...

--Injuries: look around and see if you notice many injuries in class. Look for the obvious things like knee braces, ankle braces, tape, etc. Also look for dancers who are sitting on the sidelines observing classes. They also may be injured. Ask the school about the rate of injuries and how they are handled. Does the school have a physiotherapist or doctor whom dancers are referred to? Be careful with those schools that seem to have an unusually high number of dancers injured and/or sitting out at any time. It could be a sign of bad training, bad floors, or who knows...maybe just a freak time of that particular year. But it should raise a red flag for you, at any rate.

--Floors: ask about the floors anywhere your child will be dancing. If they tell you they are sprung floors, or there is some sort of surface material they mention, ask further about what is UNDER the flooring, and research that online, with the dance teachers, websites, etc. If they say they don't know about the floors, or aren't sure, or don't care to talk much about them, be concerned. More red flags!

My son's old school had a studio upstairs that was a concrete floor with a thin layer of padding and marley on top of it. I watched this studio being built, and saw them doing the floors over the summer, so I knew. This is unacceptable flooring, and I can't tell you how much the rate of knee, ankle, foot and hip injuries at this school has increased since they moved to that building, but it was certainly apparent to me what was going on. I doubt any of the other parents have inquired about those floors because there is a sort of blind trust that seems to go on.

In contrast, another school in which my son danced actually had photos of their sprung floors being installed in different stages, and loved to show them off whenever someone inquired about the floors. I thought that was a great way of assuring parents that the children were dancing on the right sorts of surfaces.

Another don't--when leaving a school, try not to be dramatic or overly vocal about why you're leaving, no matter how tempting it is. There will be a lot of curious people, and a few who are genuinely concerned and want to know your reasoning. My policy was that if a parent asked me direct questions that pertained to my son's negative experiences, I would confirm or deny them. If they had specific questions about their experiences that were very similar to mine, I would point that out. But if they just asked casually, I just said we'd found a different school that we thought was more appropriate and a better situation for my son. At the same time, I told my son not to discuss why he left with anyone from the old school--to just say that he'd moved on to a different school that he liked better.

What I wanted to avoid was telling the entire parental body that the school was horrible, or badmouthing the teachers. At the same time, I wasn't going to lie and not say what my son had experienced if I was asked directly and in a specific way by a parent.

My reasoning was that most parents honestly don't care to know, as they don't have a lot of ballet knowledge of their own and don't want to make the effort to learn, and so they will end up keeping their child at the school no matter what you tell them. So why bother, unless they are asking you something very specific that relates directly to your own child's experience and their child's experience at that school. Don't speculate or insinuate things, even if you feel they are probably true. I know it is tempting, but it's really not a graceful way to leave, and this sort of behavior will follow you around from school to school, as directors and teachers do know each other and do speak.
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By Dream_chaserPremium member
On Fri Sep 04, 2009 08:05 PM
Again, you also speak the truth. Never assume, always investigate. Working with people who are not teaching properly, not just in technique but the whole student, can do harm in the long run. Having a child is a full-time job. Once a person has children, that should be their first responsibility, other than their marriage/relationship (yes, even if divorced... for the kids).

You are another example of one smart parent.
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By ChristinePremium member
On Fri Sep 04, 2009 08:21 PM

I think "Black Tights" should do the "workshop circuit" and get some of our studios in shape, don't you?

Her advice is so right on...and parents would be so much happier if they followed it. So would their children.

Come to think of it...everyone would!

*hums "What A Wonderful World It Would Be"

Thanks you, Ladies!

re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By Dream_chaserPremium member
On Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:34 PM
I like that song!! LOL

I think that just as when you teach a child the right way to live their life, that it makes them happier, teaching parents how to be the "perfect" studio parent, will make everyone happy.

This is not to say that they should not say something if there is an obvious problem, but it is all about stepping back and realizing that it is the child's activity, not the parents. Kids become embarrassed when parents step over the line and in the long run, that is who gets hurt.

I had to remove a preschool student from my school because of the grandmother. She was such a troublemaker and complainer that she upset other parents and kids. Then she blamed me for ruining her granddaughter's life. Ah, she is three, she will get over it but WHO did that?
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By BlackTights
On Mon Sep 14, 2009 11:32 AM
Hi, I'm baaaaack! Haha!

I thought of one more sort of strange thing--

Parents, please try not to be concerned about your child studying under a teacher of the opposite sex, and don't demand that this teacher not give your child hands-on corrections. Physical corrections are important to dancers, and given by the vast majority of teachers. Male teachers can, and do teach female dancers, and vice versa.

For teachers/studio owners--it might be helpful to state the nature of ballet training requires physical corrections in your school literature so that parents are aware of this up front. It might sound ridiculous that you would need to include such a thing, but I have come across a number of parents who were really not okay with a male teacher physically correcting their daughter. More than that, I've heard parents being concerned that a male teacher couldn't possibly teach a female anything about ballet.

You might also include a blurb that states something like "if a student ever feels uncomfortable with a teacher's physical corrections, please have them address their concerns with the director" etc.
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By Dream_chaserPremium member
On Mon Sep 14, 2009 05:51 PM
I had, in my policies, "please be aware that sometimes teachers will need to make hands-on corrections."

My male ballet teacher, even though he was gay, always had a female assistant for the younger and lower level girls. Once they were of higher levels, it was not a problem.

I have taught men/boys and had some awesome male teachers, who even taught pointe, beautifully.
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By mochichi
On Sun Sep 20, 2009 10:58 AM
I'd like to add something about competitions. When a teacher asks for a it and make sure you have it done when you arrive. I see parents coming in with a hair "scrunchie" when the dance calls for a bun because "my daughter's hair doesn't look good in a bun" or they show up and have 10 minutes to do their daughter's waist length straight hair in a high curly pony? Or crimped because "her hair doesn't hold a curl". What? If the teacher wants red red lipstick. What you have on hand doesn't cut it, especially if it's pink, orange, rust etc. RED! it shows up better on stage under all those bright lights. If the teacher wants eyeliner and them. It's not too hard if you practice. There are girls at the department store makeup counters that will do it for you if you don't know how. It is possible to get eyelashes and eyeliner on a 12 year old...really. Aaaanndd... they make them for girls with sensitive eyes. So even your daughter can look like the other girls who spent 2 hours getting ready and managed to make it on time. The teacher doesn't ask this of you to annoy you or to ruin your day, she does it because she wants all of her dancers to look the SAME on stage, that's why she picks the costumes and tights and shoes. The rest is up to you!
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By Dream_chaserPremium member
On Sun Sep 20, 2009 11:37 PM
Luckily, the parents I have worked with for competition students, for the most part, were very compliant on such things, but one mother, who really is lovely otherwise, insisted that her daughter, who DOES have long lashes, did not need lashes. So, I was prepared, and when she came without eyelashes, put some on that I brought and charged he mom twice the price for them, to include my fee for having to apply them. She never did it again, LOL.
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By mochichi
On Fri Sep 25, 2009 12:19 PM
PARENT WATCH DAY and siblings!- usually space is cramped with dancers already. If you must bring your 3,4,5 year old, etc in the room with you, it would be helpful if they did not take up chairs and leave parents standing; hold them on your lap. Also, don't let them lay on the floor where they'll get danced on or let them run back and forth to the toy room to get new toys. And teach them before you go in to be quiet (also good advice for parents). Many parents would like to hear the teacher, she may be giving some important information that we'd all like to hear. One last thing, if you would like to chat with the other moms, stay in the is a WATCH day. :)
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By Dream_chaserPremium member
On Fri Sep 25, 2009 09:53 PM
This is why, on observation day, two people per family, no one under 12 allowed. If they did not like it, do not attend.
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By surfer143
On Mon Nov 16, 2009 08:14 PM
This is my first post but I wanted to comment on the Advice for Parents post.
My two girls have been dancing at a studio for 6 years. I absolutely love their instructors and the recitals are better quality than some shows I have seen done professionally. I would pay to go even if I didn't have kids in them!
I want to say thanks for the post though.
There were a few things I have wondered about or heard other parents fussing about that you explained well. (i.e. why do parents pay for tickets to recital, why do we pay full Dec when there are 2 weeks off etc)I wish all parents had to read that post.
I am so thankful to my girls' instructors for the love and time they have given over the years. I will try to take these points and be a better parent to deal with! (and share the info with Whiney Mommies the next time they try to bend my ear!)
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By Dream_chaserPremium member
On Mon Nov 16, 2009 10:19 PM
Thank you. It is parents like you that make it a joy for teachers and studio owners, and make it possible to concentrate on doing a great job.
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By classydance
On Tue Nov 17, 2009 06:47 PM
Wow! what great comments. Really helpful.

I guess I would also add to avoid negative or overly dramatic parents, who are constantly complaining or seem unhappy. These people are in every studio and they are a major distraction.
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By kandykanePremium member
On Wed Nov 18, 2009 08:30 AM
Edited by kandykane (157761) on 2009-11-18 08:39:11
Having been around dance studios most of my life, I cringe to think that anyone ever thought of me as "one of those parents". I've seen four or five recent teacher threads complaining about "those parents" and I truly hope all dance parents are not seen this way. Guilty til proven innocent.

Believe me, "those parents" bother the rest of us parents just as much as they bother teachers and SOs. I recently had an encounter with a scary mom at a dance convention. Yikes!

It seems to me, the moms of the young dancers are getting worse. By the time your kid has danced for 15 years, you see a lot! And you learn a lot, too.

Really tho, most of these problems could be solved if some parents just remembered their manners.

re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By surfer143
On Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:36 AM
Very true...
Plus stopped trying to live out thier childhood fantasies through their kids.
Plus realized that their kids are not perfect and it's ok.
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By Dream_chaserPremium member
On Wed Nov 18, 2009 11:36 AM
kandykane wrote:

I've seen four or five recent teacher threads complaining about "those parents" and I truly hope all dance parents are not seen this way. Guilty til proven innocent.

Really tho, most of these problems could be solved if some parents just remembered their manners.


What you say is so true, it is all just basic manners, mixed with self-serving attitudes. People need to realize that life is not always about just them, that other people need to be considered.
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
By DanseMOM
On Sat Jan 02, 2010 01:56 AM
i once heard a dance teacher say that her studio would be so great if it didnt have parents..
She was only joking though.

One of my kids teachers often talks about the TRIANGLE and the importance of the
Dancer, The Teacher and The Parent..
which I think is really nice and important.
re: Advice FOR parents - what not to do.
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