Ask the Experts: Dealing with Disrespectful Teenage Students

Q: I am really struggling with disrespectful teenage students, some who are bullies and some who think they have a say in how I run the school. I’m ready to tell them: “This is how it’s going to go, or find another school.” Any advice?

A: Respect must be the foundational culture of your studio. Set up a student-parent-teacher conference, and include another staff member in the meeting with you. Have your staff member take notes to determine what resolution can be reached and whether the student wishes to participate further on your terms.

Regardless of your studio rules and guidelines, unless you hold people accountable for their behavior, it will not end. If you tolerate bullying or negativity as “typical teenage behavior,” the nastiness will keep escalating and have an effect on your studio. Warning, scolding or threatening usually results only in tirades from parents about your unprofessionalism and insensitivity. Instead, there must be real consequences, stated in writing, for actions that negatively impact you, your business or other students’ participation.

Identify what behavior would result in dismissal from your class, team or school, and be prepared to follow through on the consequences. Do not let the fear of losing students stop you from doing what is best for your business. Yes, you may have some difficult issues to work through. But once your students know what will not be tolerated, you will create a much more peaceful environment.

If a student chooses to leave your program, understand that while you cannot control what will be posted on social media or in reviews of your business, you can be prepared with a professional statement from the studio regarding any decisions or actions that were taken. Ultimately, you will be glad you set boundaries and stuck to them.

Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of

Photo by by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety

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