13 Ways to Motivate Your Young Dancer to Excel and Enjoy Ballet

by Danielle Hernandez on September 25, 2018


I don’t want to do ballet anymore

It happens to the best of dance moms. They have moved mountains to bring their kids to their ballet lessons- schedule appointments, tweak routines, cut budgets to afford expensive accessories and instructor fee, and then the bubble bursts!

The young dancer doesn’t want to go anymore! Just like that, without any hint or warning, or any indication, suddenly the young dancer would have lost all interest and would have nothing to do with it.

Chat with any dance-mom crowded in any waiting area at any ballet studio across the country, and you will see the conversation often veering towards how to motivate young dancers to not only excel but also enjoy the ballet at the same time.

Dance Moms often wonder- “ I know the talent my young one has is far greater than what he/she delivers! How do I motivate him/her to have more heart and be mentally stronger?”

Keeping kids motivated while still making sure they are working hard and learning can be difficult.

Little ballet dancers who are self-motivated take part in ballet for the pure enjoyment of it. If you have to offer a reward to your little dancer every time you have to take them over to the studio, something is wrong.

To succeed in Ballet or any other dance form it is important that your young dancers love to participate and perform.

Being a ballet dancer because they want to make their mom or dad happy, or because their best friend is learning it is a bad idea.

Passion works in the brain like rocket fuel- Daniel Coyle - Author of the book- The Talent Code

13 Ways to Develop Motivation

1.  Stop Trying -

Stop trying

I often suggest to parents that they should stop trying to be the source of motivation, and work on what excites them about dancing. They might like it to be with friends, or be part of a group or just because they love flitting about in tutus! Whatever it is, as a dance-mom, it's your job to stay back and let the enthusiasm run its course before you pitch in to push further.

2.  Set Goals -

Set Goals

To help dancers become more committed is to set goals which are well defined, achievable and realistic. Dance moms should play the role of facilitators and encourage young dancers to stay committed to reaching these goals. A realistic and achievable goal - like “ I want to improve my Pointe Technique and I will work on this at least 2 hours a week” goes a long way than “ I will go to ballet class every day”

You could help set both personal and practice goals. Set them up on a place where the young dancer can see them every day, like on their mirror so they can look at it every-time they get ready and are reminded of it each day.

3.  Evaluate Goals Together -

They may have reached one goal, and it's for you to help them set a higher goal. You may have to rework on the goal already set as it might not be reasonable at this point in time. Young dancers often want goals like have fun, make friends or to learn dance. As they get older, goals would become more specific and more focused on improving performance.

4.  Don't Place Unhealthy Expectations -

It's not ok for dance moms to want to live their dreams through their young dancers. You might have been an accomplished ballerina in past, but leave the past where it belongs. Placing high expectations on your young dancers such as " You HAVE to master Arabesque today" or "You should not make such mistakes" is not healthy.

5.  Stop Comparing -

Stop comparing

Don't compare your child with others - there is no comparison between the sun and moon, they shine when it's their time.

Comparisons between young dancers are bound to happen, and dance-moms are the main culprits. Make sure that whatever comparisons are worming their way into your mind are not spilled out to young dancers. It is disheartening when after a lot of diligent work your mom says " Cherie was a better performer than you today" Children are perceptive and they can sense your disappointment as well!

6.  Respect their Age and Stage in Life -

It's been proved through studies that children under the age of 12 generally have just a few minutes’ attention spans. As a teacher or a dance mom is that you will need to find ingenious ways to hold their attention and to prevent them from goofing off. You must respect the fact that they are trying so hard for whatever goal they have set for themselves or agreed to work on with you.

7.  Make Them Feel Important Every Once in a While -

let's face it, dancing in the back row sucks. At least till your young dancer is a pro, they can not understand the importance of placement in a dance sequence. It gives them a semblance of achievement if they make it to that coveted spot before any of their peers do. Kids aren't stupid, they can sense when they are being hidden, or when same peers are getting solo parts in every dance. Speak to the instructor and ask them to rotate the kids during practices. Don't interfere too much but at least have a word on how it might work in motivating your young dancer into performing better.

8.  Stay Active and Set an Example -

Stay active and set an example

Dance moms, it's your turn to get moving. Stay active and enthusiastic about your daily routine and focus on being energetic throughout the day. Your energy and enthusiasm shall rub off on your young dancer who will feel charged up seeing you active. Maybe join them for a dance practice every once in a while if the studio permits.

9.  Be Sure and Invest in Good Dancewear -

Be sure and invest in good dancewear

To get your young dancers up and moving, remember, good quality dancewear plays a huge part. Make sure their dancewear and accessories are easy to put on and comfortable to wear. Invest in quality dancewear so they feel excited about trying new clothes. Keep checking the dancewear and accessories for wear and tear and repair/ replace them on time. Keeping a separate dance wardrobe will add to the fun element and keep them interested in practices and routines. 

10.  Treat them Once in a While -

As a dance mom, develop a routine where you treat them to something nice every once in a while if they maintain their class schedule. Every small development should be celebrated when it comes to young ones. An ice cream or a visit to the zoo after the dance session is sure to keep them motivated. But like we mentioned earlier, don't make it a routine to reward them for every small thing. Otherwise, they will not be self-motivated.

11.  Try to Stay Positive -

Children don't respond well to negative emotions. You may have invested a lot of time and money to get them into the ballet studio, not to mention their dancewear and other gear. There will still be days when they would simply not want to go to the practice, let them be, once in a while. If they decide not to continue any further, it may be a painful thought but there is not much you can do, so you may have to give it a break and maybe try again later. When they again get on with it, remember to add positive comments- Children love attention."Wow, Lindsey, look at those pointed toes!" let them show you some moves at home, encourage and motivate them by staying positive.

12.  Maintain a Healthy Relationship with the Dance Teacher -

Maintain a healthy relationship with the dance teacher

Dance moms of young competition dancers, you have to admit that the dance teacher is as much a parent to your kid as you are. They are spending 3-5 hours a day with your child, and they form a bond, too. Your child’s pain is their pain. Understand that dance teacher is pushing the limits, asking your child to repeat a step or reorganizing him/her into the back row, only in the best interest of your child. Give them space, your faith, and understanding. If you get upset and act like getting in the back row is the worst thing in the world, you're going to make your kid feel even worse! Butt out, but take regular feedback from the dance teacher, ask if he/she is behaving in the class and learning steps. Ask your child if he likes the teachers and feels comfortable to ask questions. 

13.  Finally: Give it Time -

Dance moms must understand that dance is a lifelong practice. And they should make it clear to the young dancers as much as possible. You never stop learning dance, neither you stop improving. Irrespective of your age, you have to keep working, and it may take decades to become a highly skilled dancer. Of course, its difficult for children whose bodies are still developing. But don’t give up easily.  

Your young dancers are ready to set the stage on fire, and all they need is your wholehearted support and understanding. Give your child extra love when they hop in the car after class today, you will see the difference it makes the next time they go in!


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