Whether your students are toddlers or pre-teens, you’re sure to have a few conflicts during the year. Dancers who are upset or angry can interrupt the flow and atmosphere of class, so developing strong conflict-management skills is a crucial part of being a studio owner. Implement the following policies in your studio to improve conflict resolution for students and get everyone back to doing what they love.
Teach children to discuss conflict
Make it a studio policy that students talk to each other about problems. Responsive Classroom explained that student-to-student conflict resolution will help children learn how to deal with disagreements in a positive manner and prevent conflict in the future. These skills are extremely valuable, especially for young dancers, and they’ll carry the lesson with them throughout life.
To resolve a conflict, bring the two or three parties into your office for a low-key conversation. Before anyone talks, have the students take a few deep breaths and do a few of their favorite stretches. This will help everyone cool down and prepare them to talk calmly. Let each student say what is bothering him or her, and make sure the other students listen without interrupting (gee, does this sound a lot like parental conflict management or what?). Then work together to brainstorm a solution to the conflict and discuss how the issue can be avoided in the future.
Have a whole-class exercise
If you find that student conflicts are a common occurrence, it might be time to plan a lesson for the whole class. You may think to yourself, “Do I really need to be lecturing kids about problem solving? I’m supposed to be teaching them to dance.” However, if you have professional dance experience, you know that squabbles between dancers persist throughout all skill levels and can cause big problems. If your dancers are serious about pursuing their dreams, interpersonal skills will be imperative to their success.
Discovery Education recommended that you discuss different kinds of hurtful behavior with your class and then work together to develop coping strategies. Set aside 15 or 20 minutes of class time to run this activity. Have your students share a time when their feelings were hurt, either in the studio or in school. If they’re not comfortable sharing out loud, have them write on index cards. Then, work as a class to develop methods for dealing with name-calling, gossip, exclusion and any other problems that come up. You can display these coping strategies on a poster in your studio or have students sign a contract saying they’ll stick to the policies.
Just when you think that studio life couldn’t be going any more perfectly, mama drama rears its ugly head. All parents want the best for their children, but overly competitive parents sometimes take it too far and create rivalry and conflict in your studio. As the owner, it’s in your best interest to nip any parent disagreements in the bud as quickly as possible. Even though the problem may have nothing to do with you, an unhappy parent might remove their child from your program. If you hear that two parents aren’t getting along, use these conflict resolution strategies to resolve the problem and reestablish a harmonious atmosphere.
Invite all the involved parties to a private meeting, away from other parents and students. Give each parent the opportunity to air his or her grievances without being interrupted. Listen carefully to what is being said. Scholastic suggested asking open-ended questions and for specific examples of the problem. Helping parents to get the frustration off their chest will allow you to have a calm, reasonable discussion. You’ll also want to see if there are some underlying issues. The fight might appear to be about carpool scheduling, but the real problem might be hurtful gossip. Try to read between the lines and get to the root of the problem.
Top of the list for conflict resolution strategies: approach the conflict with the mindset that it can be solved. After you listen to what the parents have to say, take both sides into account and suggest a possible compromise. Be careful not to “take sides” in the argument. Acknowledging that each parent has a justified point will make sure the parties know they’re being taken seriously. Explain that you value each parent as a customer and want to take their needs into consideration as much as possible.
Shift the Focus Back to the Dancers
Whether the disagreement is about scheduling, class placement or student achievement, the best way to resolve a conflict is to remind parents why they’re at your studio in the first place: their kids! The Australian Sports Commission explained that parents don’t realize their conflicts take attention away from supporting their children. Each student is there to learn to dance and have fun, and listening to bickering in the waiting room can hurt that experience. Ask parents that they settle their disagreement for the sake of the dancers so that everyone can learn in a positive, supportive environment.
It’s an unpleasant fact, but you can’t run a dance studio and not deal with mama drama. Parents are paying you to teach their children, and they’re entitled to voice their opinions, whether justified or not. How an owner deals with the complaints and concerns that arise can make or break a studio. Use these practical tips for dealing with a difficult parent and ensure your studio is a positive learning environment for both parents and kids.
Implement a Communication System
The last thing you want is an angry parent confronting you in front of your instructors and students, so it’s important to establish a complaint system and stick to it. According to Dance Advantage, a good method of communication is to have parent/student concern forms readily available in the studio. This gives you a chance to review the problem, decide on a plan of action and set up an appropriate meeting time with all parties involved.
You may also want to establish a no-gossip rule under your studio’s roof. Encourage your instructors to be aware of any grievances that might be expressed in waiting rooms. Some parents may voice their concerns to peers instead of you, so have instructors refer any gossipers in your direction. With this practice, you’ll be aware of any concerns about your studio, both large and small.
Establish Partnerships with Parents
Even though they can give you headaches and gray hair, remember that parents are not the enemy. They generally know their child better than you do and have potential to contribute to your studio’s success.
“For many, many years, I perceived the mothers as pitted against my own desires and intentions, and that didn’t work very well,” Kathy Blake, owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios, told the Dance Studio Owners website. “I have since learned the mothers and fathers are my greatest allies.”
Dealing with a difficult parent can become an opportunity for cooperation in the studio (just make sure it stays out of the classroom). You can always use an extra pair of eyes when it comes to music and costume choices, teacher effectiveness and facility conditions. Don’t view feedback as attack, but rather a chance to make your studio the best it can be. Blake explained that your studio should have good customer service practices, and this will often mean admitting that “the customer is always right.” You probably won’t be able to solve every problem, but acknowledge the legitimacy of each concern and explain to the parent what you can do about it.
On the flip side of the coin, don’t get too friendly with parents. You’re running a business and don’t want to be perceived as playing favorites. Blake warned that while it’s easy to see the best in people, some parents befriend you (or your instructors) to get special treatment for their child.
Recognize Preventable Problems
The best approach to dealing with a difficult parent is to make sure he or she doesn’t have anything to complain about. Be clear with every parent from the day they sign up that they will not be involved in the studio’s decision-making process. Having rules set in stone will ensure that all dancers have an even playing field. Dance Deck recommended that if you find that certain events like casting bring out the worst in parents, send out friendly reminders of your studio’s policies. Politely but firmly explain that you and your teachers work together to assign roles fairly and that there will be no changes once they’ve been announced.
When you set a policy like this, Dance Studio Owner recommended that you put out a general questionnaire to gauge parent reactions. There will likely be a few skeptics, but chances are that the majority of parents will appreciate your fairness and regard for their opinions.
As the owner of a dance studio, it’s in your best interest to keep your students and staff happy. Happy students mean continued business, and happy instructors mean inspired routines. However, it can be tough to keep everyone content, especially with all your other responsibilities. Here are three easy dance studio tips that will keep your students and teachers in good spirits and eliminate problems before they happen.
1. Keep “Mama Drama” in Check
You’re bound to run into a few troublesome parents when you run a dance studio. They’ll want their child in the front of all performances. They’ll want to oversee all your events. They’re more than happy to tell instructors how to do their job. They’ll be eager to share their own dance studio tips with you, even if they’ve never been in charge of a studio.
It’s important to find ways to handle drama mamas, as they can lead to unhappy teachers and dancers. First thing’s first – don’t leave it to the teachers to handle unruly parents. As owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure your studio is a positive learning environment.
If you’ve never had a troublesome parent before, Bree Hafen, a professional dancer and experienced teacher, recommended on her blog that you start by sitting down with the parent to talk about the problem. Explain that the teachers are doing the best they can to include everyone. Also point out that you’re trying to teach the dancers to be independent, so constant hovering is undermining the cause.
2. Cultivate Inspiration
If you’ve ever had a mundane office job, you know how tedious it can be to do the same thing every day. The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing explained that to keep students happy, you need to keep them inspired. You can do this by mixing up the music, warm-up routines and genres.
It can also be beneficial to organize field trips to live performances and foster interaction outside of the studio. Talk to your teachers about switching up classes and allow them to pursue activities they think will engage the students.
3. Foster Open Lines of Communication
The best way to nip problems in the bud is to talk about them. Whether one of your dancers is falling behind or your teacher needs to adjust her schedule, a sit-down conversation is the best way to resolve the issue. Emphasize to everyone that your studio is a place where all ideas are welcome.
Make an appearance in each class, and try to learn as many names as possible. The more familiar people are with you, the more likely they’ll trust you with their problems. An open-door policy is an established way to encourage communication among your teachers and students, and can go a long way to keeping everyone happy.
What about you? What are some of the dance studio tips you’ve used to create a happy, positive atmosphere at your studio? Leave us a comment below!