(and what you can do to help them do better next time.)
1. What happened
Just like dancers, we parents have a huge amount invested in dance competitions. They are expensive and they take a huge commitment. Just to get them there involves a complicated regime of getting them to practice, organizing costumes, rearranging family events, the list goes on. When they step out on stage and don’t get the results we are hoping for we feel the same sense of disappointment and frustration that our dancers do. If they haven’t performed up to their usual standard, we quite rightly want to know what on earth happened. The problem is that asking your dancer what happened insinuates that we think that their poor performance or even their poor results are somehow their fault. Maybe some of it was but most likely much of it wasn’t. They aren’t wind-up dolls that can be rolled out on stage and be expected to perform like robots. They are human. Maybe they got psyched out by their competition, maybe their nerves got the better of them, maybe it just wasn’t their day or maybe they just aren’t quite at the point in their journey that they are aiming for. Whatever the reason, asking them what happened isn’t particularly useful. Making them feel like it is their fault isn’t productive and if a conversation needs to happen that will move them forward, straight after a disappointing day isn’t the time.
2. The judge just didn’t like you
This is without a doubt one of the worst things we can say to our dancers. Even when we suspect it may be true, it is important to take a step back. At the end of the day, even though competitive dance is judged on technique there is a huge dose of personal preference thrown in. It might seem like a judge doesn’t like your dancer but it isn’t personal. Rather, it is most likely down to how much weight they give a particular element of the performance. One judge may place a huge emphasis on musicality and mark it extremely highly. Some judges might reward simple technique performed cleanly whilst others might overlook bobbles because they appreciate the high level of difficulty in a routine. When we enter competitions, we are paying for a judge’s opinion and we need to accept that. Telling a dancer that the judge didn’t like them, makes them feel like it doesn’t matter what they do, it is all down to a judge’s like or dislike of them. With a mindset like this, why would they try?
3.Gee Sara danced well today
Competitive dancers are constantly being compared to their peers. Every single time they step into the studio they see what other dancers have got and compare themselves. This can be a positive. With the right mindset, dancers can learn from their peers and be inspired by their performance but this is something that takes work. The only purpose it serves right after a competition is to make your dancer feel worse than they already do.
4. I think you really need to work on….
You pay big bucks to have your child coached by professional dance teachers and even if you know for a fact that they need to improve their facials or their turns, inserting yourself into the coach/dancer relationship is rarely a good idea, especially right after a big disappointment. That’s not to say you can’t support your dancer to improve the things they need to but these kinds of conversations are best left to a later date. Once some time has passed you can start talking to them about goal setting and help them break down their goal into individual steps. You will know when this time is, and the car ride home isn’t the time.
5. You’re so talented
Telling your child they are talented can be incredibly damaging. Of course, we want to say something, anything really to help our dancers feel less bad but telling them they are talented isn’t the magic phrase. When dancers believe that their success or failure is due to natural talent they can start to become afraid of trying new things, or of pushing themselves further as if they fail they start to believe that this failure might disprove their talent. As dance parents, this is the absolute last thing we want. We want our dancers to try and fail and try again, to push themselves beyond their comfort zone. Worse still, when dancers start to internalize the concept of natural talent, they fail to make the connection between effort and success. What we ultimately want is for our dancers to believe that their effort is the key to their success, not some innate gift. There are enough rewards in the competitive dance circuit for natural talent without driving the message home through our words.
What should I say?
So what should you say? Sometimes just a hug is all you need and a smile and a ‘well done, I’m proud of you.” After all, even if the results weren’t quite what you were all hoping for, they still did an amazing thing. They got up on that stage and performed. When we see them doing this every weekend it is easy to lose sight of just how incredible this is. Furthermore, they put themselves out there. They were brave enough to do their best and then stand there on stage and be judged in front of everyone. There aren’t that many times in life that we as adults put ourselves through that but think back to the last time your performance was judged and remember how it felt. You are their parent and after a disappointment, a parent is what they need. Just love them and make sure they know you are proud.
What can I do to help my dancer improve?
The good news is that once the dust has settled, there ARE concrete steps that you can take to try to improve their performance even if you know nothing about dance technique. 92.5% of dancers surveyed report an improvement in their competition scores and 97.3% report an increase in their enjoyment of the dance competition experience after they have completed mindset training. Previously mindset training was only available to Olympic athletes and tightly paid sports stars. That was until the Success Mindset Journal for Dancers was born. It is a downloadable resource developed in conjunction with award-winning dance teachers and performance psychology professionals. Download and get started today. Once your dancer has mastered this powerful skill you will wonder how you ever sent them out on stage without it.