It's their very first day of dancing!
It's their very first day of dancing!
You've pre-paid for the class.
Bought the uniform.
Bought the shoes.
Called every relative & friend to tell them it's happening.
You've talked about it every day, reminding your little dancer how many more sleeps until their very first dance class & how excited you are because they're going to have so much fun.
You've been through the emotional worry about how they will cope without you in the room because they can be very shy & you've discussed this at length with your husband & every friend who has been over for coffee in the last 3 weeks.
You arrive at the studio where you park & carry them from the car, all the way into the class where you attempt to put them down so you can head into the waiting room.
And that's when the tears start.
"Oh no!" you think, "they’ve been so excited about this for weeks but now all of a sudden they don't want to do it?"
Never fear mumma, I’m here to help you understand how to avoid this type of situation & make their first dancing lesson a fun, enjoyable day for you both.
Here are 8 things your dance teacher would like you to know before you go ahead & register or even mention the words "dance class" to your little one:
1. Children will do what you expect them to do
Now, please don’t get too excited, I don’t mean that if you expect them to keep their room tidy & eat their vegetables every day that they will do it, sorry! I'm talking about how we can sometimes unintentionally influence our children’s mindset on things. If they hear the uncertainty in your voice when you tell your friend, your husband or even the teacher "Oh I just don't think she'll go in without me, she's very shy & probably won’t do anything if I'm not there in the room.." it can make them feel uncertain too. We want to set a positive expectation of the first class. Project your confidence onto them by letting them hear the positivity in your voice when you speak about how the first class will go & it will encourage them to believe in themselves.
2. Mention it once
“On Monday we’re going to dancing! You can wear your tutu & your tap shoes, you can go in with Miss Sarah, & mummy will sit in the waiting room & I’ll watch you through the window the whole time. How fun!”
That’s all. You’ve let them know what they can expect to happen, now we leave it. The more it’s spoken about – even in a positive way - the more chance there is of developing anxiety around the big event. They could completely psych themselves out by thinking & overthinking it. By the time the first lesson comes around, we could have a very stressed little dancer on our hands who refuses to even get out of the car.
On the other hand, they could build it up in their little mind so much & create a completely wonderful (but very different) picture of what they expect will happen on the day. When the opposite actually happens (Miss Sarah played a song by The Wiggles instead of from Frozen!) it can be very upsetting & disappointing for them, which can put a damper on their whole first experience.
3. Walk them into dancing rather than carry them
A small but powerful way to re-inforce the fact that they are going to a big person class without mummy is to have them hold your hand & walk from the car to the studio. When you carry them, you’re subconsciously reminding them that they need mummy’s help, plus you run the risk of them not wanting to be put down.
4. Allow them plenty of time before class starts
It’s very difficult for a child of any age to walk into a class once it’s already begun. There’s the added stress that “everyone started without me & they’re already having a good time, I won’t know what to do, will you take me in please mummy?” Aim to have them there at least 5 minutes prior so they can be introduced to & welcomed by their teacher at the same time as all of the other children.
5. Steer clear of the dance room
Help remind your child that the dance room is a special place just for them & not mummy, by remaining in the waiting room. Imagine an invisible line across the threshold. Once you cross that threshold & you’re in the room, you’re part of the class & it’s very, very hard to leave. Once other children see a mum in the room they will expect their mum to be in there too.
6. Don’t give up – be consistent
The very first dance lesson is a new, big adventure for a little one & their personality will determine how they spend their time.
They may go into it 110%, follow the teacher everywhere, be the leader of the line, smile the whole time & come out afterwards gushing about it.
They may choose to take a quieter approach. Participate in everything without saying a word, keep a neutral or even worried look on their face. But they’re listening. And they’re doing it.
They may do nothing. Not a thing. They may sit & not say a word. But they’re paying attention. They’re taking it all in. They want to see what it’s all about before they decide to join in.
They may appear upset. Teary. Nervous. Anxious to get out & see you. It’s a new environment. Everyone is a stranger. The teacher is clapping & singing & dancing & they’re just not 100% certain yet.
They may even do the complete opposite of what everyone else is doing. This can look like mis-behaving & you could even be tempted to stick your head in & remind them to “pay attention to your teacher!” But they are paying attention to their teacher - they’re just not imitating her like everyone else. They’re testing boundaries, testing their new teacher. And that’s ok, their teacher is watching, allowing their personality to unfold & patiently waiting to pass her “test”. If they become disruptive, she will gently encourage them back to the group.
This may happen the first lesson. And the second. Even the third or fourth. And that is completely normal. There are 7 whole days in between coming to each class which is a really long time in a child’s life! Try not to think they’re “taking weeks” to settle in. In reality, they’re only taking hours - if you put those four or five lessons back to back without the time in between, they’re actually coming along really fast!
Avoid skipping a week, even if you feel like “they’re not really doing much in class anyway”. They’re doing. They’re doing lots. It may not seem like it but their sponge-like brains are taking it all in.
7. They’ll practice at home, just maybe not in front of you
You may “catch” your child repeating moves or phrases from class. This is amazing! If they’re doing it in private, simply admire them from afar. They’re building up the confidence to show you what they can do. When they feel comfortable sharing with you, they will, I promise.
8. Trust your dance teacher
Your teacher has been doing this for decades & loves it! She has taught all different kinds of personalities & found a way to engage & encourage them all. Giving your child a positive, fun, happy, educational dance experience is her top priority. If there is ever a problem, she will let you know.
Why can’t mum just be in the room?
The same reason we don’t stay at pre-school or school; the same reason we’re politely asked to remain on the sidelines at sport – we’re a distraction.
I know, it’s a gut-wrenching, hard-to-hear truth, & while they may tug at our heart strings with their tears & vice-like grip on our leg, children are honestly more engaged & focused without parents immediately present. Out of sight, out of mind.
As both a teacher & a mum, I can vouch for this 100%. When we’re in the room as a mum, we’re giving them a reason to stop dancing so they can come & tell us something (important, like: my sock is touching my ankle or remember when I touched that tree last week, well now I have a scratch on my finger). They’ll start coming up with reasons to come over, simply because we’re there. Once one child in the room starts this, others will follow, for no reason at all other than “that child is doing it too”. When this happens, all of the teachers hard work to keep them engaged goes straight out the window.
I’ve taught at many different types of venues & the set up that works the best is when parents can see their kids (I have no problem at all with parents watching everything, I have nothing to hide, I highly encourage it!) but kids cannot see their parents.
Our studio is separated from the waiting room with glass doors, which the children are faced away from because – out of sight, out of mind. They’re still able to turn around & wave or blow a kiss to you when they remember you’re there.
Dancing is a wonderful experience for children of all ages. I have developed specific class structures to ensure students get the most out of their time at Everybody Dance Now. I hope you will join us!