So You Think You Can Be a Dance Mom — Saint Leo Psychology Professor Offers Tips for Parents
Saint Leo University’s Dr. Tammy Zacchilli offers advice to help children and not be ‘that’ parent in sports, dance, band, and other activities
By Dr. Tammy Zacchilli
I am a dance mom. I never really planned on becoming a dance mom. I was content being a soccer mom. It was so much easier. I never realized what the dance world was like when I signed up my middle child for her first dance class before she was 3 years old.
The first few years were easy. Recitals, holiday performances, and a couple of classes a week. Then at age 7, she joined the competitive dance world and our world changed!
I can’t say that I am an expert but I have definitely learned A LOT during the past six years so I thought I would share some tips for dance moms (and dads). Actually, if your children compete in any sport, band, or other activity, you might find these tips helpful.
No. 1: Find a supportive team family.
I list this as No. 1 because it can truly make or break you and your children’s experience. I love that our dance family supports each other and that we are friends. This support makes a huge difference as we go through preparing for competition season and attending competitions. It can also reduce drama that we often see in children’s athletic teams.
No. 2: Don’t allow bullying or mean girls.
While it is possible to find bullying in various sports, dance and cheer teams are often more susceptible to “mean girls” or bullying. Depending on the children’s ages, parents or coaches/teachers may need to step in. Other times, it might be best to let the kids work things out on their own. Competition can be healthy but when it leads to jealousy or bullying, it can quickly become unhealthy.
Be sure to openly communicate with your children about being a good sport and being a positive role model for other teammates. Be aware of how your child interacts with teammates because sometimes even the nicest kid can become too competitive. Pay attention to your own behavior too since we might be causing the drama or jealousy!
No. 3: Make sure your child keeps growing.
Sometimes a child can outgrow a team. If your child does not feel challenged, it might be good to have a conversation with the coaches or teachers. Sometimes the child might perceive things differently than the teachers or coaches so don’t go into the conversation making accusations or being defensive.
A good coach or teacher should be willing to discuss your child’s strengths and weaknesses and help determine the best next steps. Depending on how this conversation goes, you and your child might decide that it is time to move to a different team. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons if you do decide to make a change. Sometimes the grass isn’t greener on the other side, but sometimes it is!
No. 4: Balance!
Balancing homework, activities, household chores, etc. can be challenging for all of us. I use a whiteboard in the kitchen to try to keep track of activities and meetings. I also use the calendar in my phone so I get reminders. I encourage my kids to complete their homework as soon as they get home rather than waiting until after their activities.
Try to eat dinner together when you can. I know that can be easier said than done. And don’t overextend yourself or your children. If it seems like too much, it likely is too much so try to find ways to cut back.
No. 5: Have fun!
Yes, it can be stressful at times, but make sure that you and your child are having fun. If dance, cheer, baseball, etc. no longer seem fun for your child, then you might want to discuss why. The most important thing is that the child is enjoying the activity whatever it might be. Maybe it’s time to try something different or take a break.
I wish you all the best with the school year and a new season of activities!
Dr. Tammy Lowery Zacchilli is a professor of psychology at Saint Leo University and teaches the popular course, Psychology of Parenting. She is the Southeastern Regional Vice President of Psi Chi and associate editor of the Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research. Zacchilli earned her bachelor’s degree from Kennesaw State University; her master’s from Augusta State University; and her PhD from Texas Tech.