Top 10 Ways to Become Everyone’s Favorite Parent

May 15, 2010

1. Be on time. This actually means be early- to class, to competitions, to shows and to meetings. If your dancer needs time to eat, change, fix hair, etc., you need take that into account and show up a bit earlier. People who are punctual often rise on my trust list, which translates to more opportunities for your and your dancer. A word to my fellow TC’s- Chewing out a dancer for being late, especially a young dancer, is not fair- most of the time it is the Parent who has challenges with punctuality.

2. Learn how to communicate with me. I’d love to answer your questions, especially if I can do it after class, by email or on the phone. It’s very frustrating for me and for other dancers when my attention is taken up by your chatting for the first 20 minutes of class.
Teach your child how to communicate with me. I don’t think I’m generally a scary person, and it’s good for children to learn how to talk to adults. It is very hard to work through a misunderstanding or problem if you let her make you a go-between, because she’s “shy” and can’t talk to me directly.
Oh, and if you have a question, ask me, not the parent sitting next to you in the lobby.

3. Be supportive of your dancer. It’s heartbreaking to see a child at a feis dance their best, walk back to their “stage mom” in the audience and hear that they danced badly. These kids in tears, gripping second place medals next to a parent fuming because if they had just danced better they could have won first- it’s horrible!
Great parents don’t compare their dancer with anyone else. They 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 stop.

4. Ask what you can do to help. Running a dance school is more than coming up with new dance steps. I had no idea that my passion for turned out feet would necessarily include finances, fundraising, paperwork, hours on the phone, tracking down softshoes, dressmakers and tardy teammates. There are so many wonderful things you can do to help your child have a great experience at a well-run, parent-supported school. My parents are amazingly talented people who give so much time, and it makes all the difference.

5. Be on top of your tuition and fees. If it’s easier for you to pay in longer spans than a month, we can work it out. If you can only go month-to-month, I understand. If you know you have a tendency to leave that check on the fridge door, feel free to mail it in. If your child has a stack of cash in their bag that they forgot to give me, we need to work another way out. It would be wonderful if my landlord were as forgiving about my paying studio rental as I am about your paying late or not at all. Don’t make me do awful things like charge late fees.

6. Don’t indulge in gossip with other parents. I know, it’s so easy. You have so much time there together while your dancers are in class. It’s so fun to speculate why Jane left for that other school, or what’s going on in Mike’s home life that his socks don’t match today. You may feel you NEED to know why Melva got moved up to the next level and your daughter didn’t. I’ve actually seen schools torn apart by the machinations of bored mothers in lobbies.
Instead, be part of a solution. Help recruit for our feis committee, brainstorm new ways of fundraising, always find something nice to say about the dancer all the other moms love to tear down.

7. Be aware of important dates. I do my best to give you as many points of access to my calendar as possible. Please check your email, ask your dancer for notes and calendars from class, and check the website. The worst excuse in the book is “I didn’t know”, and the Parent who uses it quickly loses favor.

8. Respect my judgement and rules, as well as the rules of my organization. I’ve been in this business for long enough to know my way around. I try my hardest to follow the rules my organization has set forth. I also have a set of personal school rules that help keep not only you, but myself in check. I want to be fair but merciful.
One big one here is class placement. The prime example of this is when two kids start dance together, and one has either more innate talent, or practices enough that they progress faster than the other. The parent of the dancer left back just can’t understand why they don’t get to move up together. Most think it’s because I don’t care about the lower student… it’s quite the opposite. I realize that the kids are friends and would love to be together, but it would be more detrimental to move a dancer up who is not ready. I want to make sure that each child is in a place where they can learn without being frustrated, and progress without pressure. Please help them understand this, and encourage them to set goals and plans for achieving them.

9. Help your child prioritize. It seems like today the more we do, the better our chances are in being considered a success. I’d love to take whoever invented the term “Supermom” out and whip them. Doing too much is not good for anyone, least of all our kids. Childhood is not about college applications. It’s about growing, playing, being loved and discovering what is out there. Kids who come to my dance class straight out of soccer practice, then have to leave five minutes early for their piano lesson that they couldn’t fit in later because of their church group… (you get the idea) are not learning effectively in my class. Help your child discover how to manage their time, but make sure they’re including unstructured play time.
If your child really can’t wait to get up in the morning to practice that trombone, well, I’ll miss them a lot, but I’ll understand that they’ve found something they truly adore, something that is worth simplifying life for.

10. Lead by example. Realize that your kids are not perfect and it’s that’s okay. Be the type of parent that you want them to become. It’s incredible how children pick up on everything you do and say. The children who are polite, honest and happy invariably come from parents who exude the same qualities. The poor kids who whine, don’t try and are irresponsible come from similar stock.
I am their dance teacher, and as such have mentored many young people, but I am no substitute for a mom or dad who listens, provides emotional stability and physical security, and loves their kid in more than words.

As a final note, I want to thank the many parents who have made my school possible. They have been selfless and patient. They were all older than me when I started teaching their children! To place their faith in a young, inexperienced and slightly batty dance teacher, to place their precious children in my hands, was a priceless gift. And as the school has grown, we have grown together. They have forgiven me, let me forgive them, and worked together to give great experiences to not only their own children, but to everyone else that happened into our happy little studio. Thank you, wonderful mothers and fathers. Here’s to many more years together.

9 Responses to “Top 10 Ways to Become Everyone’s Favorite Parent”

  1. Jody said

    Another great post!

    I take private lessons from my TCRG in her home studio. Parents from the prior class would hang around because they “had” to talk to her or to each other. I finally had to say “excuse me, this is my class time.”

  2. I’m getting a lot of flack for being one-sided on this issue. I hope I didn’t come off sounding angry- But honestly I think some parents would like to know what they can do to be on my good side!

    The reason I wrote this is yes, sometimes I get frustrated when you’re always late! Same thing for the others. Forgive me if I tend to think that if you react violently to this post, it’s because you’re feeling guilty about it.

    I thank Jody for her mature outlook. She sees how frustrating behaviour from other parents affects her child.

    Maybe I should retitle this post- how to become the School’s Favorite Parent. What do you think?

  3. Jody said

    Thanks for the compliment — but I’m the one being affected, I don’t have children. I try to be polite but sometimes politeness doesn’t work.

  4. Chelsea said

    As an Irish dance teacher and director of a dance academy I couldn’t agree with this post more. I think it’s good that you put this into writing and I hope many parents read your post and take it to heart.

  5. The majority of this applies to my school and I suspect to many schools. I might have to send it on to our parents and see if they can see the similarities..
    At some stage we are all guilty of doing things we would really prefer not to have said or done – and that is part of being human. But I know only too well that its when its constantly happening, and its the same parents and same dancers using the same excuses, that it wears down the teachers and the other dancers too. We have just adopted a second motto in our school “Winners Train – Losers Complain” … its soo much more than dance, its life in general.
    Thank you for writing such a frank and truthful account of what many of us feel.

  6. Katie said

    These are great comments that are valid in so many other situations including most sporting events.

  7. Jennifer said

    Hi I am a new mom to Irish dance and while I would like to be there early, I work and struggle to get there on time. I think you need to understand that when the beginners start at 4:00 in some schools that it may be difficult for “working parents, not super mom” to get there. I do my best, but sometimes I am right on time and not early. Someone has to pay the bills.

    • Hi Jennifer!

      I think communication is key in this instance. If a child has erratic attendance with no explanation, it is far different than a parent who emails or talks to the teacher outside of class and explains that the work schedule is the reason for the attendance problem. Apologising and asking if there are other classes that might allow your child full participation would be a good start.

      happy dancing!

  8. cana57 said

    Excellent! The comment made by the student paying for privates (our school does not offer privates that I am aware of) got my immediate attention. Kudos to her for asserting herself. Like her, we all pay for class time for the teachers. One night a week there are two teachers for each class because of the size of the class and the students’ level. What gives one parent the right to “private” side-bar step instruction for their child, upcoming feisianna or not, when both of those teachers should be giving their attention to the next class. If “privates” or “tutor” sessions are going to be offered, they should be offered to all students. What happened in a particular class is unfair to the students who just had class and the students in the next class. As for the teachers, we know your time is limited. Perhaps a once a month parents’ session or informal dinner meeting somewhere (without children), to update everyone, give their suggestions for feisianna and to answer any other questions would be appropriate. I know there is a separate teacher’s blog as well as this one but I decided to post my comment to the parent blog.

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