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General, How To...

Stage Parenting 101

At times the term stage parent carries with it negative connotations, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Popular television shows like Dance Moms and Toddlers in Tiaras often paint an extreme image of parenting behind the wings. But there is a big difference between supporting your child to be the best all-around performer that they can be, and becoming a negative stage parent. Let’s take a closer look at how to nurture a healthy, positive performance experience with your dancer.

You May Be a Stage Parent If…
Do you have a child who barely has time to eat dinner in the car between dance classes and play rehearsal? Does your child have more pairs of dance shoes than street shoes, and an entire wing of your home devoted to costumes? Do voice lessons conflict with auditions, that conflict with ballet classes, that conflict with school functions, that conflict with homework, that leave you exhausted seven days a week? If you answered yes to all of the above, you just may be a stage parent!

In all seriousness, though, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, there are some dance students who become overbooked in life, which gives them an unrealistic outlook on how to balance their daily lives in adulthood. However, sitting down with your children to carefully plan and review their schedules, make compromises where necessary, and cut back on activities as needed, is a step in the direction of healthy stage parenting. Many dancers learn excellent skills of prioritizing and time management when you let them play an active role in creating their schedule. And don’t forget to leave important time for relaxation, and fun.

Two-Way Communication is Key
The most important thing to remember as a stage parent is that the world does not revolve around your child, at least, not the way your world does. There are other people who are affected by your child’s actions, especially if he or she is involved in many different activities. If schedules need to be rearranged or conflicts arise, please keep in mind that this affects their directors, teachers, and fellow students. As long as all conflicts are communicated with enough advance notice, and policies are followed at each of the student’s activities, there should not be any major issues. In all cases, over-communication is better than little or no communication.

Remember, it would be important for your child’s voice teacher to know that she is attending a vocal audition in the next few weeks, so that the teacher can tailor the lessons appropriately. Likewise, a dance teacher or dance studio owner would want to know that your son was called back for an outside production of the Nutcracker, so that they can know ahead of time what classes he will be missing. They could also arrange for a few private ballet lessons to brush up his technique, or make an announcement to the studio so his fellow students can go to watch his performances.

Stage Parents are a Blessing, Not a Curse
Positive stage parents are welcomed and valued in the dance studio. They are usually the parents who will volunteer to work backstage at the recital, or submit ads for the program book, or attend all of the parent observation days in class, because they genuinely care about their child’s advancement and involvement in the dance studio.

Keep advocating for your child, but keep communicating to the teachers and directors so they are aware of conflicts. Most importantly keep an open conversation going with your dance student so they do not get burned out, feel un-necessary pressure and so that you can be reassured that they are still enjoying themselves.

By being an involved, nurturing, positive, and open presence in your dancer’s activities, they will reap the benefits not only in their performance experiences, but in developing key skills for life.


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About Terry

Terry Finch is a dance teacher and choreographer with an extensive training and teaching background that spans 26 years. Terry has held a variety of teaching positions, from assisting instructors at her dance studio, to teaching at summer performing arts camp, and leading college level master classes. She is currently in her fourth year as a dance teacher at a studio in central Pennsylvania.

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