As we are about to embark on another dancing year I thought I would share with you some reflections, observations and tips on parenting the shy child.
Year after year we see children arrive to class for a trial, they walk in and see the studio, all the other children and their parents, the barres, the mirrors and all the wide space and suddenly freeze. Unfortunately for some that is the end. Sadly some leave before the class has even finished so we don’t get the change to assure them that this is a completely natural reaction. Instead they leave embarrassed, often grumpy and with a child screaming and think that dancing isn't for their child.
I’d like to share some pearls of wisdom here and tell you why it’s worth the perseverance.
Several years ago a little girl walked into class and froze. She sat up the back of the room unable to leave her mother's side. After the class I spoke to her mother and encouraged her to return next week, and with full credit to her she did. She did this 5 weeks in a row. However, on the 6th lesson I sat down in the middle of the room like I do every class to welcome the children and the first child to join me was this little girl. You see each week she had gone home and repeated the steps she had watched, she practiced her movements and watched the structure of the class so that when, in her own time she was ready and she felt confident she joined in as if she had been dancing each week.
A passive trial is a very powerful lesson and children do get a lot out of just being encouraged to sit and watch. Sometimes a child simply isn’t ready so trying again at a later stage can be very beneficial. Occasionally children will decide this isn’t for them, but it's worth asking the studio if their is another class they could do as sometimes it can be as simple as the colour of the costume. But most often they are just shy.
Now, if I asked you to dance in a group in front of complete strangers ...would you? And by the way the little girl now dances 4 days a week and has performed in every concert since she started.
- Arrive early, in my experience shy children need 15-20 min of settling time. This was one of the best bits of advice I received with my daughter and it worked!
- If they don’t want to join in then just find a spot to sit and reassure them that it's ok to just watch. Our assistant teachers will pop over from time to time to see if they will take their hand but they won't force and neither should you.
- Stay calm … trust me I know how it feels I’m a mum too.
- Explain that the other children have a uniform, and that it is ok to look different and eventually they too will earn their tutu when they join in but it doesn't have to be today.
- If they dance at home and repeat the steps form class….you have a dancer, so please persevere!