Guess you can’t really have a site without first addressing one of hardest topics of all – “drama momma”… “momma drama”….
This little article is not meant to demean anyone. I
‘m not pointing fingers or tagging anyone in a thread as being one. It’s just a fact that in the world of dance you have Drama.
I haven’t seen anyone else stepping up to the plate to talk about the issue, so I’m assuming none of you have drama, right? Right…..
This is an old article fist posted March 19, 2009 at 6:18pm . So, if you feel this article is talking about you – maybe you should consider the advice it contains, and seek to make changes in your life. I began writing about people like Abby Lee, before she and her fellow actors became a reality show phenomenon. Mamma drama, or the term, stage parent, are nothing new.
I was told not to go easy… so here goes….
The following statement is meant to warm you up, and welcome you to the land of mama drama.
Well the blood sucking venomous cow! Don’t go waging your finger in my face. My baby is above your rules.
Life in the dance world doesn’t have to be filled with drama every single day. With that being said, some of you are laughing at me already. You should be careful however; I might be describing you within this text.
Offended already? Not yet? No? You might be thinking I’m a stupid know-it all old crow who talks to dinosaurs. Good! You keep thinking that, and let’s get down to business then.
Any mom or dad that has a child in dance should know a little about the world of stage/dance competition before signing their little darlings up for class. You may innocently think that your family (child) is above the drama.
Why would you think that? Because you are spiritual maybe? Or your political views, family values, etc., are stead fast? You know you represent the elite amongst the crowd – and rise far above simple drama.
Why you are so good and so helpful to all the new parents – without even being asked to help. You help in many ways. You begin by explaining to any new parent you meet your experiences with little you-know-who, and the other parental units in the group that need to be avoided. You explain the difficulties of the past, and then tell them they are lucky it isn’t happening now.
Did you just fall for that crap? If you did – I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.
Anyone who starts off with the statement “do you know so-and-so”? RUN… RUN away really fast!
Most seasoned dance parents know that if they have their child signed up for classes everyday of the week, and in all the advanced classes, they are now somehow entitled. Hummm, entitled to what?
Maybe it gives them an advantage as far as what classes they are in, but it doesn’t give them a reason to bad mouth, or isolate others. Doesn’t mean you get the lead or the Presidents position either. It’s based on merit only!
You may have your child on the bare minimum plan, one class “period”. Surely no drama can take place in one class right? You have a mamma, then you have drama.
Next day the phone of the studio is ringing off the wall with some angry parent wanting to know why you are destroying the precious psyche of their little darling.
It only takes one person – one little tiny person to kick off world war #4 on the dance floor. Say that real fast “world war #4 on the dance floor!” It generally begins with, so- and-so said this and so-and-so did that.
Next day the phone of the studio is ringing off the wall with some angry parent wanting to know why you are destroying the precious psyche of their little darling. As an instructor, you are totally oblivious to the whole affair, but you try to reasonably assure the frantic parent you will look into the matter. You agree to sit in on the class and observe.
I find that it is easy to spot the weak teachers from the strong. The weak teachers quickly put the little darling trouble maker up front. The “I’m in the special spot -I’m in front and your not,” spot. Of course this poor teacher has unknowingly just fed into the fire storm rolling down hill in his or her direction.
Next day, another call comes into the studio. As you listen you almost can feel the anger of the parent through the very fibers of the phone line. You are bombarded with negative comments like “you play favorites at that studio”, and “you let your friends brat’s control everything”, and “your kid gets everything even when I’m paying your big fat bill each month”.
Ever wonder why it is hard to get the director on the phone? See above….
Let’s play a game.
Suppose we have 7, 8, 9, 10 or more, of these special little dancing darlings in a class. It’s time to give out positions and learn the brand new transitions to those positions. Well, let me tell you, NATURE has a pecking order. It’s the primeval instinct that is born into the survival of the fittest – it’s called competition. I can just hear it. “Mommie she put me in the back for the opening.”
Frankly, there is a lot of special treatment handed out at studios. I’d like to think it is because of the hard work and dedication of those students who are successfully following directions and thus improving. But, it isn’t always true, and that is unfortunate.
It is also hard to work with students when you have your own child on the front line. Any of you who do have children in your own studio know it is true. When your child fails to accomplish good things – It is a double edge sword for sure. You love dance, and your kid doesn’t. It can quickly become a battle field.
The number of times I’ve watched a studio owner put their own child up front even when they couldn’t get the simply movements down – is numerous. All I could do was secretly hope their phone rang off the wall the next day. Well, maybe I will just meet one of those newbie moms at the door and warn them about it. NOT!
I love this thing called dance, don’t you?
Now you understand I’m just looking at some of the negatives. But, unfortunately, things like this really happen. As good as you may want things to turn out, the potential for mamma drama, or drama in general can ruin the best of days. Don’t let it.
If someone is taking advantage of your child, it is the responsibility of the parent to look into the matter. It doesn’t matter if you own a studio or not. But, to all those blood sucking venomous cows who are just trying to live their lives out though their children, it’s time to stop. Your children deserve to live their lives and learn lessons in the world for themselves. I’m talking about the simple lessons in life like, “you can’t have the front because you pitch a fit and call your mommie”. And mommies, you can’t micro-manager everything they do. It isn’t healthy.
Parents need to learn that their job is to be the cheerleader. You do have a role. You are their greatest fan. You have to cheer them on, even when you know the outcome may mean they didn’t win at a competition, or get the lead in the dance. They might not have even made the cut. The important thing is that your child tried to do something, and that should be rewarded with praise.
Parents sometimes push their young children out onto the stage without thinking about the fears and anxiety that comes with that event. Stage fright is real. Some kids love it – others don’t. As parents, we really shouldn’t ask our kids to do more than we ourselves would be willing to do.
Parents need to actively sit on the side lines and let their children grow up. You can’t jump in there and beat up the 2nd grade teacher because she moved our child to the side or back, or made them sit in the naughty chair, and call their parent.
At some time in the dance game, you will be surprised with something you might not be expecting. Usher in the teenage years.
Experienced teenage dancers should have their acts down pretty good by this time. Doesn’t mean they don’t sharpen their claws however. The thing with this age group “teen something” is it really isn’t much different from 3rd grade.
The biggest difference for girls is PMS, and many of them let you know about it too. I’m not so conservative that I can’t say “GET OVER YOUR PMS”! If you have a doctor’s note “fine”. If not, you are expected to be on the dance floor ready to go. Besides Menopause trumps PMS. I’m on it 24/7 – wanta go there with me?!….. I didn’t think so.
I had to explain to a group of cheerleaders about the benefits of good hygiene one time. They were appalled when we got to the part about smelly tights. Did their moms just stop talking to them? I wondered..…
If you dance or do any type of sport, you will have smelly tights. Boys too. Deodorant can save a lot of students from embarrassment. I don’t wait for the other students to pick on a member of the group – I let them ALL know up front where they can find deodorant samples at the front counter area. “Please take a sample home with you – and use it!”
It is one thing to leave the studio smelling like something the cat drug in; it is another to show up already smelling that way. Do your best with that one.
Kids are cruel. One little hair out of place, a rip in a garment and you are scarred for the week. I love the poster of the ballet point shoes that are beat up and tore. I think every studio should have that poster hanging at the front door. Clean nice neat shoes are a sure sign of a weak studio, and weak dancers. The more beat up – the better. Many studio dancers don’t dance with shoes at all! Most use PAWS, Foot Undies, an old sock, or just go barefoot (except for ballet).
Clothing on young dancers varies depending on what genre of dance you are teaching. Ballet is one of the strictest, and for good reason. Leotards, tights, proper shoes, and hair back – that is proper for ballet. There should be no jewelry, or minimum at the least. From ballet, clothing can vary.
It’s easier to have everyone wearing the same thing. The warm up outfits don’t have to be ugly either. There are so many options that students and studios can choose from. Rule of thumb “get input from the students on costumes” – they DO know style. You can always turn down inappropriate clothing.
I have TROUBLE with students who show up with their butts showing, guts hanging out sporting the latest belly ring fashion, or tops that have to be adjusted every 6 to 8 counts. Not cool. I’m not too hip on tattoo’s either. Body art should be washable.
If I wanted to view someone’s art I’d visit an art gallery. I prefer a team that looks like a team rather than a group all competing for a chance to glorify their solo body art. If it can’t be covered by the costume or shoes don’t get it.
“Well you blood sucking venomous cow!” Yep, that would be me. I’ve heard worse.
Drama Mama’s come in many sizes, shapes, personalities, and economical social cliché’s. No group is immune.
Some words from the past:
- “Well, don’t you just think you’re miss hottsey-tottsey?”
- “Crawl down off that cross and give someone else a turn.”
- “I hear she’s sleeping around.”
- “Little miss perfect – got caught.”
- “I’m going to take you to the school board”
- “My child deserves home coming queen”
- “She/he is a back stabbing little beep”
- “I’ll show them!”
- “I’m back baby”
- “My child is the best jock”
- “My, my, my tie is on so tight, the blood vessel in my neck might pop!”
Some of you are thinking “are you the real deal?” “Would I want my child around you,” “is she this way in class,” “and is this how it really is?” “My sweet little baby is so much better than this. I may home school”.
Well, I’m not that way. But if you are offended by what you have read here, competition studio dance or drill, may not be the way for you go. This is how it can be. But, it doesn’t have to be.
If you don’t know ANY warning signs, you may be setting little Julie or John up for a bad experience. Growing up is tough, and some parents have a hard time adjusting to that fact.
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Some would argue that if you get control at the beginning and set up ground rules “it just isn’t allowed” that makes it not happen. People… It happens. Yes control at the beginning is GOOD, but it will not keep all of the drama out.
One thing I can state, is that I don’t have small children in dance anymore. I don’t eat, sleep, and drink my college student’s life for them either. I’d like too ! Darn, I guess I have to trust that they actually learned how to maneuver through the blood sucking venomous cows on campus and off.
Many parents would love to be at college with their children. They would be the best helicopter parents you ever seen. Unfortunately for them however, the administrative staff usually discovers where the parent landing pads are, and turn the lights out on it. They can’t seem to land anymore.
Oh empty nest! It’s almost as bad as third grade.
Love your dancers; trust them to make the best decisions. Don’t micro manager everything that happens in their lives. Let them live. Set them free and they will come back to you. After all, you’re their biggest fan. They love you. They just want you to be proud of them. Getting boo boo’s on the knee is part of growing up.
Dance is a discipline. Your child will have to learn that.
There is a thing called the unforgivable momma – drama. As a teacher the hardest thing is to hold someone else’s baby when they cry and they tell you their mommie hates them because they are stupid. They have the bruises too. I have called Department of Child and Family Services. Yes I have.
From a well seasoned drama momma survior, to all my blood sucking venomous cow friends! I don’t really miss you!
Ha ha..Yea I guess I do.. Some of you..
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I’ve waited on posting this article until after competition season had ended. It is so hard to get a word in edge-wise during any competition season, or event. Besides, I didn’t want any parent to assume I was talking about them. I’m not. The article is more in general, since there are so many types of parents, I wouldn’t lump them all into one group, just because they go to competitions. I’ve met some very fascinating, kind, and gentle parents throughout the years at competitions. This year I’ve worked with some of the best!
For the most part, I can actually say I don’t know to many “stage parents”. What I do know, is some of what they are up too. Stage parenting is easier to explain to someone who has been, or is raising a talented child. You know what it is like to be at competition, and you understand the stress that often comes with it.
To a number of parents and kids, the prospect of winning is everything. I know it shouldn’t be – but it is. I’ve experienced it, and most of my fellow dancers have experienced it as well. It comes with the territory. What you have to do is survive.
Enter little Miss Perfect. Miss Perfect has all the friends, all the dance/singing/event parts, and her parents are social elites! They got it all – at least in their own little minds. Their world revolves around their little Mr. or Miss Perfect children. They are it, at least until Miss Perfect hit’s a sour note, misses a step, and/or goodness forbid, little Mr. Perfect say something to another perfect parent or their perfect child.
It is interesting to watch how some stage parents interact with those around them at events. They tend to be the “get in your face” type of people. You see them hanging around back stage, announcing if given an open microphone (yikes), lining up performers, etc. No, they aren’t the teachers either.
They scrutinize others with a sharp tongue, a frown, and eyes that roll with their displeasure. They have no trouble letting you know publicly their feelings. They can be loud, and hateful, or calm and behind your back. Yeah, those types of parents. I’m sure you know plenty.
Let’s face it, someone has to be the high fashion diva’s of society. They busily push their way to the top of the list of where-ever it is they are going. If you get in their path, they will go out of their way to show you your place. It’s a power thing. The need for control. If they can’t control the competition, or their surroundings, then they are out of control. It’s that simple. They don’t care how big a scene they make – just so long as they feel they are in control. The more public the scene – the better.
It doesn’t mean they have won anything by being publicly obnoxious. But, in their minds they feel powerful.
DON’T react back. Just walk away from them. Let them have their rant. Maybe they will go find their friends now, and bad mouth you in that circle. At least they are gone. At some point it is a director’s call to deal with these parents.
They want others to know that their children have the best! They all own multiples of electronic devices: DX’s, Wii’s, iPods, cell phone, and this is just the kindergartners. These kids wouldn’t know what a party line was if you explained it too them. The sad part is, even some of their parents don’t know, because they too were raised to believe they were society’s darlings.
The tragedy behind this type of parenting is that too many of these children never learn how to behave in confrontational settings. They are left with the idea that someone will bail them out of all their troubles. They don’t learn that there are consequences to their actions. They have been programmed to believe that – mommy or daddy along with their perceived status and/or money will make it all better. When they become adults, they often are not mature enough to handle many real life situations.
Kids who often feel picked on by the Perfect’s, may or may not be seeing them for what they really are. It all depends on how “You” the parent interact with your own children. The culture inside our school systems is a tough one to grow up in as a kid. So training your kids by example at home is important.
Children, who do not believe that an entitlement comes from being born into a family, generally grow up to be well mannered and respectful citizens. These types of children also compete, but with different out come.
Someone has to beat Miss or Mr. Perfect. It might as well be the well educated and polite kid. Fair competition is the right way.
I’d like to say there are easy answers and ways to avoid the Perfect’s, but unfortunately they breed. They are everywhere: in the plays, the dance studios, the football fields, your car washes, bake sales, scouting – EVERYWHERE! If they weren’t everywhere, they wouldn’t be able to live vicariously through every sappy moment of their child’s life.
I do not have any problems with parents who get involved in their kids’ lives to help them. What parent doesn’t want to help their child succeed? Many times, my own parent did things with my siblings and me, and never let my dearest and best buddies know. It was our family time! Higher education was one of those things she instilled in all of us, same with baseball, swimming, cross county, track, and music. Whatever we wanted to do.
While dance was a big thing in my life, my parent allowed me to have other outlets, and a different circle of friends that was much broader and diverse.
What I do have a problem with are parents who create drama, attempt to demean other parents, and allow their children to behave like little animals, or attempt to control them by fear. Stage parents need to be taught what side of the field they are to sit on. That space should never include the field, dance floor, or stage. Stage parents don’t control other people – unless other people allow them too. Don’t allow it.
I’ve kind of left the dads out of this conversation until now for a reason. The reason being is that it is often the mom that you see first. Not always, but generally it will be the moms. Dads, like moms, come with different temperaments. Most of the dads I have had experience with are doting daddies with nothing but their little princesses in their eyes. That’s a good thing. What isn’t so good is the doting dad who accepts hugs and loves from little Miss Perfect, and then allows them to misbehave in public. You know the ones; kid screaming at the top of their lungs, and running up and down the bleacher. The cure? Dad whips out the old wallet and places wads of cash in little Miss Perfects hand. Little Miss Perfect then shuffles off, with friends in tow, to the vendor section to load up on what ever her heart desires.
Once in a while you get a mouthy dad – but most of them already know where security is located. When you do get an angry dad, it is best to make them aware of security, or security aware of them.
Setting up props doesn’t have to be a super hero sport or take a rocket scientist. The skinny little dad is just as proud as the big dad. Each has something to offer. We should leave it there.
One of the worst parenting experiences that I can recall, happened not inside an event, but outside. Don’t know if this would fall under stage parent, but it was bad enough.
Two parents who were related – sisters, were arguing over the other owing them money. The fight gradually escalated until it became physical. In the physical fight, one of the other sisters decided to bite the other sister. She actually took a chunk out of her sister’s stomach. I won’t go into the gross details – It wasn’t pretty. The police were called, an ambulance, and the hosts of the event had to be notified. It was a humiliating event, not for just these parent’s children, but our whole studio. I’d love to hear your worst experience.
STAGE MOM VS. TEAM PLAYER
Having had a parent who was a team mom – I learned from her how to avoid the rhetoric. She was a professional always – who wasn’t much into the mamma drama. But, if she was the one they called on to shut someone down – you know you were in the wrong. It just isn’t something that she does to often.
It has to be a serious situation for her to take a director position. She would tell you that she loves those moms and dancers – and that you always have to approach them firmly, knowledgeably, and be willing to forgive and forget. And she does!
Took a lot of years for me to understand her style and level of professionalism when dealing with people. She understands that people don’t want to be told “no”, “stop”, or “quit”. She also understands that some will explode in her face, once they are firmly confronted. It is better to get issues aired out, rather than let them sit and brew. Clear the air, and clear it quickly.
I think I couldn’t hear what she was saying because she always said it during competition season. It could of been wax too! 🙂
That is why I am writing this article now – when competition season is over. It’s easier to get the message heard when people aren’t already stressed out about what is happening on the dance floor. It is also not my intent to make anyone feel bad (guilty). Just once in a while we all need a gentle reminder that “WE” aren’t PERFECT! I said “WE”, as in you and me.
I’m not as easily intimidated as I was when I was younger. I’ve learned how to shut the average stage parent down for the most part. I’m realist too, I know that if others are worried about me, they are leaving someone else alone. I’m a big girl, and I can take or leave their rhetoric for the most part.
No one wants negative feedback, so it is important to know how to deal with it when it happens. Number one rule, be honest with yourself and set limits that are reachable.
I truly feel sorry for those little kids who are caught up in the behavior of their own personal stage parent – adult drama. Stage parents want you to be frightened by their gobbledygook and their self perceived prestige. It doesn’t matter if their ideologies are society backed, morally self righteous, or taken from a popular cliché’. How they perceive the world – is in their kids favor, or their own – period. They will make up the rules as they go.
The best thing you can do is understand that actions have consequences. Those stage parents will eventually have to pay the consequences. Teach your kids to be happy with whom they are. Give them options, and let them get involved in things they enjoy.
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Not everyone wants to go back into the dance world right out of high school. The load of college is sometimes too much. You might be noticing that a lot of people you went to school with are settling down and having kids already. But not all. A lot are opting to get an established career going after college.
Some are trying their hand at teaching dance. Not as easy as you think. Family commitment, college, and job responsibilities make that living hard, if it isn’t your full time occupation. Trying to arrange to travel to competitions is also “out of pocket”. A few are even trying the studio route. Again, not as easy as you think.
Good studios aren’t running off debt, and renting space will quickly drain your wallet due to all the over head costs. If you are challenged to open your own studio, a little word of caution may be in order – take up bookkeeping first.
Another precaution, is when you decide to partner with a friend to open a studio. That can also be a sure way to end a friendship. It might be something to consider before you put your name on the dotted line. It costs you nothing to sit down and visit with the Small Business Development (SBD) professional and talk about setting up your own business. You need a good business plan.
What are the responsibilities in a partnership, and who has the final say? Deciding not to partner with a friend in a business venture can have a number of different outcomes. But even if they open a studio of their own without you – big deal. Open your own. May the best technical teacher “bookkeeper” win… It’s called Capitalism.
Then there are those who aren’t likely to ever give up dance. It will be with them until the end. These are generally your lifers. They radiate dance. They still enjoy the art of dance, but don’t want to be saddled with the debt, management, and administrative aspects. They prefer the creative end of things. Being able to continue to train and learn is what its all about. They don’t have the desire to take over. They are your consultants, professionals outside of the internal organization that you can draw advice and help from.
Making up your mind to continue in dance is something only you can do. Deciding who, what, when, and how, is also your choice. If you really love dance you will find a way to be involved at some level.
It really is up to all of us to train the next generation of dancers. The real talent in young dancers is discovered between the ages of K through 5th grade. This is when they start to solidify their technique – in these early years. If they are strong and study hard past this time, then hopefully they won’t look gangly and thin in their teen years. 7th through 9th grade is a very difficult time for dancers body wise, and unfortunately social wise.
Sure it is nice to work with older dancers – but if they don’t have a strong dance foundation to back them up – you might as well be teaching the lower levels. Because that is what you will be doing. Having and owning all the videos and professional dance choreography in the world won’t help you if you don’t have solid technical dancers to work with.
In this same line of thinking, not everyone who teaches should teach, and that is a sad fact that many learn too late. Don’t go into something that you really don’t have a desire to stay in.
It’s important to understand where everyone is coming from, and where they are going, in a dance family. Not everyone wants the hassle of owning a studio. Not everyone wants to teach either. You have to find that balance between all the members of your dance family and use their skills to build upon each and every successful venture.
After high school – then what?
“In fashions swim with the current, in principles stand like a rock”.