Ask the Experts: Competitive Parents

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Q: I have several parents at my studio who are very competitive. Unfortunately, their kids—though talented—are laid-back. These parents will tell me, "Push her! Make her do it!" It's frustrating. How should I handle this?


A: Over the years, I've found that it's not uncommon for competitive, go-getter parents to have children who are the exact opposite. In many cases, the parents' attitudes are so overpowering that their child's personality seems to get lost. It's frustrating and unfair to hear parents say things like, “This is going to be her year, Joanne—make her do it!"

Here's how I handled one of these moms: One evening, when I knew she'd been watching her daughter in class, I asked her to come in and talk with me. I told her that her daughter had potential and was making good progress, but that we—me, my staff and her—needed to focus on growing her daughter's confidence. I explained that pushing her daughter too hard and too quickly could have a negative effect on her confidence. Instead, we needed to let her know that we support her—and that her parents support my training methods. That's how to help her succeed, going forward.

No teacher can make a dancer perform; we can teach, motivate and encourage our students, but it's up to the dancer to put it all together. It can be a challenge to convince parents that this process takes time, but the reward of having a happy child who loves what she's doing is worth the wait.

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