Studio Success with Just for Kix

Cindy Clough's 6 Top Tips for Dealing With Difficult Parents

Courtesy Just for Kix

As a teacher or studio owner, customer service is a major part of the job. It's easy to dread the difficult sides of it, like being questioned or criticized by an unhappy parent. "In the early years, parent issues could have been the one thing that got me to give up teaching," says Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a teacher and studio owner with over 43 years of experience. "Hang in there—it does get easier."

We asked Clough her top tips for dealing with difficult parents:


Remember: You're all on the same team.

"So many dance teachers see parents as the enemy. What if we started looking at it differently? We would be smarter to think of them as our customers. We also need to be able to differentiate a parent with a problem, and a problem parent. Parents have the right to advocate for their child. It turns into a problem when they have unrealistic expectations."

Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Be on the offensive.

"If you know there is going to be an uncomfortable conversation, call the parent rather than waiting for them to call you. For example, if Jane doesn't make the team, and she was on it last year, you know she and her parents are going to be upset. Instead of waiting for a phone call, give the parent a heads up before the list is published. Be honest about the reasons for your decision. They will hear how much you care."

Q.T.I.P.

"A fellow coach shared this with me: Quit Taking It Personally. Many studio owners are automatically defensive when questioned by parents. It takes confidence and thick skin to be called on the carpet and not crumble. My mentor, Ron Stolski, who was an athletic director and football coach, would say that parents are entrusting you with their most valuable possession: their child. They have every right to question you. Expect it. Then you won't be blindsided."

Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Hold Parent Meetings

"Every year I hold a meeting for those on competitive teams. I cover expectations, rules, and our culture and norms. I always say, the kids buy into it and we hope to have our parents adopt our culture, too. We feel it's important to coach them in how to do so just as we do our dancers."

Talk About Trust

"Tell parents that just as they do not want their parenting undermined, we need their support on our coaching decisions. They are not always going to agree with us. We are going to make mistakes, but if we are going to have any kind of teamwork, our students need to trust us."

Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Ask for Feedback

"By opening ourselves up to criticism, we're able to build trust, particularly as we follow through on some of the parents' suggestions. This feed-back is incredibly valuable, and helps us to become better directors."

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