TV shows like “Dance Moms” have given a notorious reputation to all dance parents. Some tips and ideas on how to beat the stereotypes and be the coolest dance mom or dance dad, ever!
Competition/ Recitals season will be soon upon us. And those who have spent most of their time watching "Dance Moms" a couple of years back and now eagerly awaiting the new show touted as season 8, here is some news. Reality has stretched a tad too much in reality TV shows, and whether you are a dancer or a dance parent, you should take it with a pinch of salt!
Understanding The Dance Mom (Or Dance Parent)
You didn’t choose upon yourself to be a dance mom. It was handed over to you the moment your child decided she wants to be a dancer. Suddenly, from a safe and secure world of the known, like going to work or doing housework, you are catapulted into a world which is beyond your control.
Watching those little feet in small shoes that you never wanted to take off gradually gets replaced by constant push and pull of power between the parent and the child. The daily grind of being a dance mom is enough to make a reality TV show of your own, because of the ups and downs and the underlying range of emotions from excitement to the euphoria that comes with the title.
A dance parent is someone you would encounter sitting in the waiting area of a dance studio, or waiting backstage for the child to finish the performance. There are still a few who are forever recording whatever is happening around them on their phones. A dance mother could either be gregarious or reclusive or someone who is ambivalent to various factions of dance parents.
Then there will be some who would be pushy, always wanting the best out of everyone, while being at their worst behavior. They nudge their children to stand in the front row, ask studio owners and instructors tonnes of questions with raised eyebrows and are generally being nasty/condescending to no one in particular.
I can visualize you smirking as you are reading this, but some dance parents live their reality show participant fantasy in real life! In the end, your children may hate you for being such a bad influence( and may need a therapist to get over it), the dance instructors curse you under their breath or shudder at the mere thought of having you back again the next season, and you are left wondering where and how you went wrong about all this.
Being a Cool and Supportive Dance Mom (Or Dance Parent)
Being a dance mom is like walking on razor’s edge. You could be blamed for the slightest disciplinary nuance in your behavior, or you could be termed too slack and uninterested in your child's dance progress.
Ways, the blame, as well as the credit of how bad or good your dancer performs often gets shared by you. You can not absolve yourself after paying the fee and ensuring they are dropped and picked up on time. Here are a few tips on how to be a cool but supportive dance mom.
Prepare your child to be in class at least 15 minutes early
A no-fret mom knows that traffic could be an issue, and reaching early can help your child, and you socialize with others attending the class. Your child will have enough time to warm up and get focused as well.
Make sure your child is in proper dancewear
All good dance schools have dress codes.
Teachers have different reasons for this- when all dancers look the same, mistakes stand out better and can be corrected quickly, proper dancewear ensures you can see the body to check technique, footwork, and pirouettes.
Slicked bun helps to master spotting for pirouettes. The list goes on. You may feel like buying shoes a size or two up because kids outgrow them too fast, but it is dangerous as it could cause injury.
Ensure a healthy diet for your child, and yourself
No the soda and a quick takeout, while you are driving, is not your lunch. Dancers too need to fuel their body correctly. If you are not following healthy meals, it’s hard to stress on the same to your young child. Take the lead and eat healthy for your child to develop. Bonus? Eating healthy keeps you in shape!
Ensure your child is well rested
If the child is sleep deprived, he/she is bound to be slow in getting ready, maybe cranky too. Lack of sleep adds to stress levels and affects their performance. Have healthy sleeping habits yourself, and follow it through to make sure the child has too.
Stock up your child’s dance bag
Make sure your child’s dance bag has band-aids, bobby pins, hairnets, a hairbrush, extra tights, new leotards, safety pins, a spoon and fork, tissues, toe pads, lamb's wool, headphones, and emergency cash. If you are giving a cell-phone to your child, make sure it’s adequately charged, and sync it with your phone for emergencies. Encourage them to stock up their bag if they are in their teens. Self-dependency teaches them a lot many things.
Put all important dates like recital dates, audition dates, and deadlines on your calendar. Remember to check the bulletin boards in the studio from time to time. If you are new to the studio, ask other parents questions and always spend a little extra time getting to know the faculty.
Take care of your finances
The cost of summer programs is crazy, and it’s only going to get worse. Start saving in a separate account for your child’s dance fund right away. By the time they are ready for the next level, you will have enough saved to meet the expenses comfortably.
Be a cool mom, volunteer for your child’s dance school. Participate in fundraisers, teach other moms how to put their kids’ hair into a bun, offer to carpool, or pick up the teacher on their way if asked. If you are great at DIY, offer to assist with costumes.
Dads can pitch in too, pulling the curtains, running fog machines, setting up the stage, there is a lot that needs to get done, and helping out motivates and inspires your child to perform their best. One sound advice, help other kids too, not just your own- it’s gratifying.
How Dance Moms Can Inspire and Be a Pillar of Strength
Parenting is a rewarding journey.
There are more lows than highs, but it teaches you a lot of things. And the reward and the end of any tiring day are a happy child and a tight hug. Amongst so many duties and making ends meet, it is easy to lose focus and the reason for all the hassles you go through to make sure your child lives the dream of being a dancer.
There are many times when you would look for ways to motivate a young dancer on the verge of giving up.
There are many things that you can
1. Be a good listener - Your child will go through a lot of emotions and will be frustrated. Give an excellent hearing to all their feelings, let them vent out, try and stay unaffected. Listen, but don’t react.
2. Stay positive - Always find the bright side of things. If your child is asked to repeat a level, tell them they will be far ahead of others in the class. Be sympathetic; it’s not easy to accept defeat, even if at a young age. If they are not selected for a lead role, tell them hard work always beats talent, especially when talent doesn’t work hard.
3. Help manage stress - Your children are also affected by your stress levels, and the pressure to perform during auditions is tremendous, you can help your children stay motivated during dance auditions and continue doing what they love with some handy tips here
4. Don’t discuss other students - Every dancer works hard to be where they are. During competitions or even during recitals or practices, avoid commenting on other dancers. Whether you care for their dance or not, they deserve your appreciation and respect. Don’t sow the seeds of looking down on others in your child. Keep your comments to yourself or your partner for the wine after dinner!
5. Respect and praise the process - It’s not just about the performance or the grand finale. The method of learning the dance should be celebrated more than winning. Compliment your child and her team on how prepared they are; feel proud of the hard work they all have put in.
6. Learn to be in shadows - No armchair quarterbacking, please! Don’t offer unsolicited, last minute advice. It doesn’t help your child. Never draw attention to their weaknesses right after the performance. No matter how small, your child knows! Sit in the audience and let your child and her instructor know you have confidence in their abilities.
7. Enjoy being a dance mom! - The days you and your child are living are never going to be back again. Take each day as it comes, and make sure you live them to the fullest. The idea here is to make your child understand how they can learn a new skill without pressure and still enjoy themselves. Dance is a great leveler and can teach your child some essential life skills like staying focussed, disciplined and working hard, besides keeping them fit.
To all the dance moms and dads out there, you guys are doing a fabulous job! Less drama and more helpfulness, and never doubt that your child or their dance teachers don't understand the sacrifices you make for their passion, they may not say it, but they appreciate you equally!