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."

Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.