SOME WEDNESDAY MORNING THOUGHTS ON COMMITMENT...
It's a recurring topic of conversation amongst studio owners and dance teachers. And so often you hear "children aren't as committed as they used to be". I'd say that's likely true, and there could be any number of reasons why. In our society we live busier lives than ever before, most parents are working longer hours than previous generations, and convenience culture has changed how we value time, comfort and effort.
From our point of view as dance studio owners, if we want COMMITTED, PASSIONATE DANCERS ...and we know that to facilitate this (unless orphanages are your target market) we need COMMITTED parents who VALUE dance and PRIORITISE it in the way that we ourselves do, then we have two options:
#1. To only allow those dancers who are 100% committed, dedicated, passionate and "all-in" join our studio... and only if their parents already happen to fully understand and appreciate our rules, and agree with them completely AND are 100% behaviourally compliant.
#2. To take on the challenge of educating each customer (parent) - setting clear expectations, providing explanations and reasoning why certain rules or expectations are in place, helping them to fully appreciate the value of what it is we teach and what true benefits there are for students learning dance (and specifically to students learning dance "the way we feel it should be taught, and with the commitment that we believe is essential to the process of becoming a team player and a disciplined, highly capable and consistently reliable young adult".
Obviously it would be lovely if we could do #1... but we wouldn't be able to make a living with just those 3 clients. (And also, don't you find that with that first category of people, a larger percentage of them are high-maintenance super-intense "dance moms"?)
So it leaves us with option #2. The difficult challenge of trying to CHANGE opinions, trying to CONDITION behaviour and trying to EDUCATE not just children but adults on why things need to be done certain ways and why it's actually in their best interest.
I think that as studio owners, once we understand that this is our mission, it helps us focus on what we can do to help, rather than on the frustration with the parents or kids who just don't get it.
And it's extremely HARD to change people's opinions, behaviours and values. The government spends millions of dollars on television campaigns to try to get people to stop smoking, or stop drink driving. Vegan groups spend billions on documentary films to try to explain, educate and condition society's behaviour and understanding around eating animal products. It's not easy. And that's why it doesn't work all the time.
What CAN we do? We can clearly establish guidelines / rules. We can set expectations and set in place policies to help manage the decision making around any commonly-occurring circumstances (ie. missing a rehearsal before a performance etc.) Although I also believe we can have a million policies in place, but commonsense and compassion and staying true to our studio values is perhaps a better way for some to manage things like this, since every situation is unique and there are so many variables. We can create and shape cultures in our studios that celebrate the behaviours we are trying to condition, like awards for good attendance or extra opportunities for those who show outstanding dedication and commitment. We can educate our parents with the WHY behind the policies, and help them better understand from the point of view of what is best for ALL, encouraging them to see if from a wider perspective. We can find ways to make it easier for them if they're terrible with remembering to turn up to things or keep track of information - with plenty of reminders and posting info across multiple platforms for them. And finally, we can be patient and tolerant when some of them still just don't seem to get it.
My confession: I only brush my teeth once a day. Every morning. I should brush them at night - but I haven't been able to get into a behavioural habit to do that. I want to. But I haven't yet succeeded at doing so. Now for some, that must seem outrageously stupid. You couldn't possibly imagine going to sleep at night without brushing your teeth. And I know I should be doing it, I understand the science behind it. But I don't. Maybe I will tonight. Imagine if you were my dentist what you would say! My dentist is always getting upset with me about it. He shows me pictures, tells me the stats, he explains why I really should be brushing 2 to 3 times a day. After years now, it's started to sink in. I will brush my teeth tonight.