Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Attention Fellow Dance Moms

I feel this has to be written. I am at my son's dance studio three days a week and every time I'm there, I see the same thing, over and over again. And I'm tired of it. I am there to support my son and his girls, not to babysit your children.

1. Be there for your child. Your child is there to dance and have fun, and if they are the same age as my son, they compete. I'm tired of the drop-off parents who drop their kids off and don't stay to watch the class. Yes, they pretty much do the same thing over and over again, but how are you to know if your child is doing good in class or having issues with the steps unless you are there? The instructor is not going to hunt you down. She doesn't have time for that.

Also, stop complaining if your child is not front and center for the routine. Yes, I do have a boy dancer, the only one on his line, but there have been times when he has been buried in the middle of the pack because his footwork isn't as good as some of the girls or he isn't as animated as some of the girls.  Doesn't bother me at all. I know that in order to get him to the front, he has to be better. And competition is not the time to be complaining to the instructor. COME TO CLASS and bring up the issue then. The instructor will give you a very good reason why your child is buried in the back corner of the group.

But most of all, your child will improve greatly if they know you are watching. They will stop screwing around in class if they know they will get reamed for it after class. Trust me, I went through this with my child. I threatened on more than one occasion to pull him from class if he doesn't stop screwing around. He loved dancing so much, he started paying attention and improving. Also, your child wants to do their best in front of you. And if they practice at their best, they will improve and have that dynamic performance at competition that will help earn the line that coveted Platinum award.

Also, if you come in the studio and watch your child, you won't miss important announcements! Stop relying on your child to get you the information. Half the time they forget by the time class is over or the flyer the instructor gives them gets stuffed in the bottom of the dance bag.

2. Leave the non-dancing children at home or find something to keep them occupied that doesn't involve disrupting other parents or dancers. I understand if you are a single parent or your spouse works. But find some other arrangement for your child or WATCH YOUR CHILDREN. I am not a babysitter. I am tired of telling kids to stop running in the studio hallway or screaming at the top of their lungs. It is very distracting for those trying to dance in the classrooms. If your child has a video game system and will sit still during class time if they are glued to it, bring it. Bring books, or coloring books. Sit them down so they are quiet. I don't know how many times my crochet bag is kicked or stepped on because some little rugrat is running around and not paying attention. And don't give me a dirty look if your child falls down and starts crying because they tripped on my bag. My bag is always by my feet so that it won't get tripped on. And walking fast so they don't get yelled at for running has the same consequences. Park their butts on the floor or in a chair with something to keep their brains occupied.

3. Brats. Yes, there are some very good children out there who can take no for an answer, but most children do not. Our studio has a treat bucket to sell healthy treats to raise money for the booster club. Every week, the same little girl begs her mother for a treat from the treat bucket, despite her mother saying that they have plenty of candy and stuff at home. Why don't you bring some, then? If you don't want to buy from the studio, bring your own snacks for your child. I do not enjoy listening to you weakly tell your child no, and they throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the studio. It is uncomfortable for any parent watching.

There is another child at the studio whose mother allows him to climb on the counter and sit on the counter. He keeps inching his way towards the treat bucket, trying to get around his mother, all the time lying and saying he isn't going for the treats. Yes, you are, you little brat, because if she gives you an inch, your grimy little hands are in the bucket.

Parents, be firm with your child.  Tell them no firmly and if they continue to be a brat, take them to the car. Don't force other parents to listen to your brat because you are too busy gossiping with your girlfriends. Again, refer to #2 - have them quiet, or find another arrangement for them.

Now, I'm saying this because I am a dance parent, and I'm also a member of the booster club board who provides these treats. Who knows how much we lose because a child gets sneaky and steals a treat?

4. Please, please don't overschedule your children. I have one dance mom who is always complaining about how hard it is to get her child up and out the door for school. She has dance, she has soccer, she has skiing and volleyball and a ton of homework every night. They don't get to bed until after 9 most nights because of everything.  STOP! Instead of complaining, do something about it. Don't allow her to do so many activities.

Parents today are so worried their child will not get into college that they overschedule them, especially high school or elementary students. Your child does not need to be in every activity. "I don't want her to miss out on anything. We might find something she is really good at." Then drop dance. Or drop an activity she might not be good at. Prioritize your life. Who cares if your child has to get up at 6 instead of 7 in order to catch the bus. If it is that hard, drop them off at school or schedule them for before school care. Or (here's a better idea) send them to bed earlier. My son goes to bed between 8 and 8:30 every night, and that is late. Children need about 10-12 hours of sleep a night. They are growing. Their bodies are susceptible to disease. Keep their immune systems strong by putting them to bed. If their studies suffer, drop an activity so they have that extra time for homework. Yes, my son has 5 dance classes a week. He has asked to join chess club or wrestling in the past. I ask him what is more important, dance or the other activity, if they conflict. He always goes back to dance.

If you overschedule them, they will be mediocre at everything. They won't have the time to concentrate on one thing to get really good. They will be tired. Their schoolwork will suffer. Pick something and stick with it. If you are in competition dance, you are committing your child for the entire year, so they had better be there and had better be at every class/activity they need to be at. Including technique. Technique is not an optional class. Your child needs to be there. Work it out with the studio director if you can't make it for your line's technique class. That's what I had to do with my son. His ballet class counts as his technique class because he has hip hop during his line's technique. It is a sacrifice he has made. And don't come 15 minutes into the class. If you are running from one activity to another and are always late because you have to stop off for food because your child is starving, you should have to make up the class.  No excuses, unless you have cleared it with the instructor ahead of time.  Also, pack a snack. Have them eat in the car. You'll save money and time.

5. Follow the studio's rules. This includes attire. In the beginning of the year, us dance moms are told that the girls need to be wearing leotards and tights to class. Don't have to be full footed tights. You can wear a form fitting tank top or booty shorts with your leo. Always have your hair pulled back. Don't care how ugly it is if you have short hair - pull it back! By the 2nd class, these rules are forgotten. These rules are there to help improve your child. The instructor cannot correct your child if she cannot see the child's body. I have asked the studio director repeatedly what my son should wear to class. We've finally agreed on shorts and a tank top to imitate what the girls wear. Wear the proper footwear. If you don't have your stompers for clog or your ballet shoes (full foot ballet shoes, mind you) for technique, you should have to make up the class. With practice, your child can learn to be responsible for their dance shoes. My son is. He knows what bag he needs on what day for dance. He knows what he is supposed to wear. If he had long hair, it would be pulled back from his face.

It's true. I don't, in general, like other people's children. If they are brats, if they talk back to their parents disrespectfully, if they don't follow instructions - these are my pet peeves. Yes, my child is not perfect. I'd worry if he was. He gets into trouble, but he doesn't ever disrespect me. Every once in awhile a teacher, but I nip that in the bud right away. That's grounds for immediate punishment. I haven't had to spank my child ever in public. I haven't had to spank him at home in a long time. I've laid down the ground rules and I'm not afraid to punish my child. Yes, he gets most things he wants because he has earned them. He does chores. He helps out when I ask him to. We have fun together and I know I can take him out in public and he won't embarrass me. We have a very good relationship and he can talk to me about anything. But I am his parent first. I want him to succeed in life, and to do that, you need to lay the groundwork early and often.

A pet knows the word 'no'. What makes you think a child doesn't understand that word, either? If you say it firmly and loudly, it will startle them from what they were going to do and they stop. Say it to them as young as 1 or 2. Establish yourself as the parent and the rule maker young. Being too young is not an excuse for not disciplining your child.

"I don't want to be a mean mommy."

Please. You are the mom or dad. You have to be mean. It is in the job description. You have to set limitations for your child or you will have a teen runaway or drug addict or a pregnant teenager. Children need limitations. They need to know the rules. Be the mean parent who doesn't let them run with scissors or makes them clean up after themselves. Otherwise your life will be cleaning up after them all the time, even when they are an adult. You will have no time for yourself or your spouse because you will always be cleaning up something.

"I always swore I would not be like my mom."

My mom was a mean mommy. I turned out just fine. If your parents beat you or neglected you, then yes, strive to be a better parent. I'm not talking about the occasional spanking when you broke the rules or soap in the mouth when you swore or talked back, but actual physical abuse. I was able to do everything I wanted, within financial limits. I knew what I was allowed to do and what I wasn't. I didn't go to high school parties. Didn't do drugs. Didn't drink in high school. I'm not a felon. I had a mean mommy and I am just like her.

Yes, I may be a germaphobe at times. I may clean to excess sometimes. My child will go to bed without dessert sometimes because dessert is a priveledge, not a right. I know I don't have an easy road ahead of me with a teenager around the corner. But I do hope that the groundwork I have set for him now will help us both weather the road ahead.

Start now with your children, no matter what age they are. Put your foot down and establish the rules. Change the rules so they know what is expected of them. Children are not automatically going to be angels or turn into functioning adults. They need guideance from their parents and limitations.

That's my soap box speech for the day.



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