Ask the Experts: Parents' Unrealistic Requests

I think my students’ parents have been watching too much reality dance TV. They’re convinced that they know what special tricks or acro moves will give their kids an edge in competition. How do I calmly and professionally tell them to back off?

Establishing and maintaining a positive, professional relationship with your studio parents can be challenging, but it’s an essential part of your business. After all, they’re your customers! But you’re right—catering to parents’ unrealistic requests can backfire. A few years ago, a mom at my studio insisted that her daughter do a front aerial in her solo, even though the aerial wasn’t solid yet. The child’s teacher went against her own better judgment and put the aerial in. At stage rehearsal, the student landed the aerial poorly and fractured a vertebra in her spine.

This is why it’s important to never let parents tell you how to do your job. We all have the students’ best interests at heart. Always be confident in your dealings with parents. Never get into a public confrontation with them—you’ll both come out looking bad. Bring the discussion back to the studio, where you can meet with them privately before or after classes when no one else is around. Remind them that you’re constantly working on helping every student reach his or her true potential.

It’s important that you deal with an issue like this one-on-one. Sending out a mass e-mail to all parents about this behavior won’t nip it in the bud—it will only draw everyone’s attention to the problem and make it bigger.

Joanne Chapman is owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Brampton, Ontario.

Photo by Dan Boskovic, courtesy of Joanne Chapman

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