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Ballet Talk for Dancers

what to do with an impatient learner...


Gracey

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How do you deal with a girl ( 10) who is very talented but gets frustrated when she is not picking up a new step as fast as "she" thinks she should. She is not slower then anyone else or behind, just impatient. She takes no comfort in the fact that others take just as long to learn something and won't cut herself a bit of slack!

 

I suggest that she walk away from it for a few minutes, hours,whatever she wants and go back - which does work in calming her.

 

Is there anything I can say to her which will help her not even get frustrated to begin with?

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Mel Johnson

This is a classic, no matter what the subject matter. As their impatience grows, so must your patience. I've got a call out to another of our moderators who's good with this kind of issue, so she should be along shortly to add some more specific guidance.

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Thanks so much - you know this is a classic example of why this site is so valuable...and worth helping to keep around!

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Good morning, Gracey. Try to hang in there - so many people are attending their offspring's Spring performances this weekend and may not be near a computer. :thumbsup:

 

While we're waiting, how does your daughter's ballet teacher handle your daughter's impatience, or does your daughter only show her feelings at home or after class in the car?

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She is careful while in class, and it can range from a simple frustrated look to being reduced to tears. IF she cries, she claims not to feel well, and then goes right back to it. Her teachers ( she has a couple) just tell her to do her best...that takes the pressure she thinks they are placing on her off and she then goes on with the class.

 

She does not practise her ballet at home but if she could not get something, boy there is no stopping her until she has - foot stomps and all.

 

She has had a couple meltdowns in the car after class if the class did not finish with her accomplishing what she thinks was required of herself.

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Mel Johnson

She should be aware that in throwing a fit, she stresses herself, and makes it more unlikely that she will get what she's aiming for correct. I remember an actor I worked with in a production of West Side Story and he was fine in rehearsal as Chino. However on opening night, he wanted actually to BE hurt after the rumble in which Bernardo and Riff are killed. He ran around backstage asking the boys to punch him several times in the face! When nobody took him up on it, he went out into the alley and rammed his face up against a utility pole several times! His face was so swollen in his big scene that his dialogue was unintelligible. He didn't last too long.

 

When Kris Kristoffersen was starting his acting career, his approach to method acting was very simple. If you have to appear drunk in a scene, actually BE drunk. Of course, that killed the possibility of doing any other scenes that day....

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So worry if she should get to play Juliet?

 

Thankfully she does not rage. If she cries - the tears slip quietly down her face and if she stomps - it is a single stomp only.

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Gracey, it can be hard on you as Mom to deal with a kid who feels things so keenly. Mel is right -- the more impatient she is, the more patient you must be. Often, it is you who will bear the brunt of whatever she is feeling. Kids like this -- and I am VERY familiar with one! -- often hold themselves together in public, but at the cost of falling apart in private.

 

It often helps to just be sympathetic, and reflect back to her what she is feeling. When my emotional daughter was 10, she emerged from a 3-hour Nutcracker rehearsal in a rage. She ordered me around, and demanded that she be taken for a snack. It was hugely unpleasant -- and, of course, a bit embarrassing. My own initial emotion was anger and annoyance, and complete opposition to anything she asked for. Luckily, after about 10 minutes I realized what was happening.

 

"It must have been tough to sit through such a long rehearsal. You probably used up a lot of energy just staying quiet and attentive," I said.

 

She flashed me a smile, calmed down immediately, and said yeah, that was true. *I* calmed down also, and suggested we go get a snack -- whereupon she said sweetly, "That's okay, we'll be home in a few minutes anyway."

 

I count that among my most succesful parenting moments -- a perfect 10!

 

Your situation is a little different, but some of the feelings will be the same -- on her part AND on yours. You cannot do anything to reduce her frustration, but you CAN help by acknowledging it.

 

Your tactic of having her give it a rest for a while is a good one. As she becomes older and more self-aware, you can even develop a little ritual about this, make it humorous. It's a bit like the distraction technique you used when she was two.

 

As for prevention -- well, you don't want to eradicate it completely, because the flip side of her impatience to master something is her perseverence at working on it. That's a good quality that you don't want her to bury. It might help to keep her stoked up; one thing I've learned is that my daughter copes MUCH better when she is well-fed (and well-rested, for that matter). You can also talk with her ahead of time about what she thinks the expectations are. At this age, she may only be able to discuss her own expectations, as seeing things from another person's perspective is part of a developmental competence that only begins to emerge around 10. You can help her by asking what she thinks the teacher expects her to learn and be able to do, and whether that is different from what she expects of herself. If she is able to see that there might be a difference, you can ask her whose expectation is more helpful and realistic: hers or her teacher's? And, of course, you can ask what she thinks YOU expect of her. You might be able to pick up whether she feels pressure from you, although kids are pretty guarded about admitting this to either their parents OR themselves.

 

Good luck! You have already demonstrated yourself to be a caring, humorous mom (I loved your Juliet quip!). You're just finding out yet again what we all know to be true: parenting is a hugely demanding job, not for the faint of heart!

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shuttleservice

Gracey,

 

Perfectionism is such an important trait to work on. The self-imposed high standard of a perfectionist can make learning quite difficult. The person who has a friendlier relationship with mistakes actually has an easier time learning because they understand the process and journey of learning. The perfect combo is the person with a high standard and an understanding of the process of getting there... the love of the journey.

 

Ballet is the perfect forum for working on this trait because of all the repetition. On some level your daughter will be faced with the fact that learning comes from repetition or practice.

 

You can give her many other daily activities in your home that give her the opportunity to learn from her mistakes and make it all very friendly. Cooking, sewing, crafting... anything where the final product is improved with each additional attempt and the process is fun.

 

Pay close attention to which adults in your home are also perfectionist and may impose their standards on your daughter. This is frequently the case and may make it more difficult for your daughter if adult expectations of her are also too high. Perfectionism is such a common trait among first born children. My poor children are doomed, as they have two parents who have tendencies towards perfectionism. But it seems to hit our first born the hardest.

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Oh wow, that sounds like me, except instead of stomping and crying, I pace........constantly. I only came close to exploding once last year while taking a choreography class. A teacher told me to not stress about it so much, to just DO the assignment. I didn't want to just DO it, I wanted to do it well! I think the people I dance for and with know to just leave me alone once I start pacing. Saying anything just makes it worse. My sister is the same way, except she does cry sometimes. Its very rare nowadays (she's 18 and I'm 24), but when it does happen in class, its usually best to let her cry for a bit, get out her frustrations, then go talk to her.

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Dear Sea Monkey - I liked your post very much. I cannot add any thing as a teacher, but in my experience in the workplace I think you have gotten to a least one important point. The standards of the perfectionist are really no higher than the standards of we who have very high standards, IMHO, just their expectations of outcomes are less realistic. And we have learned some figurative way to "shake it off" pretty quickly and go on the next project. Plus (sorry sea monkey) - it is no fun for others to be around practicing perfectionists!

 

so ... can't tell you how to cure it, but I have no doubt it will also have social ramifications if she continues on. Even if she curbs it in the studio to the extent you describe, it is a heaviness that others can feel and draws attention to her for the wrong reason; very likely most others are working just as hard.

 

When she is on stage she will need to curb it entirely - always pretend it is perfect!

So, I hope others have some tips for you ... it is such a long haul if she wants to be a professional - and how they cope is a big part of whether they have the make-up to keep going.

 

good luck, Gracey - And I love your sense of humor, too! Does she share that also, I hope!

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To be honest Syr - I don't think she appreciates my sense of humor at all - but she definitely has it. She says I laugh at too much. I have told her that if I don't then I'd probably cry and that she'd honestly prefer me laughing.

 

Interestingly enough she gets along very well with the girls at ballet school who understand her completely, and hardly at all with the girls in her academic school. They find her much too emotional and hate it when she talks too much about dance or wears pink!

 

Seamonkey: If she turns out like you when she's 24 - I'll stop worrying right now.

 

She is trying to find her center....can you feel my pain? With my luck she'll grow a foot as soon as she finds it!

 

Shuttleservice: I am going to try the craft idea - letting her choose one, and see how she handles it. Watch her choose knitting.....then drop a few stitchs.....

 

Treefrog: you and Mel are right. Patience is the key and sympathy/understanding which is what I think she needs from me most. I do however draw the line with rudeness though. She did it once ( and only once) infront of a waiting room full of parents. She had been upset when emerging from class and started right in on me. I asked her calmly but as loudly as she was talking IF she was SURE she wanted to have this type of conversation right then and there and in front of all those people because I was more the willing to follow her lead. She didn't and I had to make her apologise.

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Hi Gracey,

 

I have one of those too! And she's 10! Ballet has helped her alot in learning to work through the process of not knowing to knowing. She happens to be a perfectionist, and is quite frustrated when she doesn't "get" something. She also struggles in school, and used to get very frustrated when she didn't understand something. Like I said, though, Ballet has helped her in this area. One day I asked dd "what do you think will happen if you don't understand how to do this?". Her reply was that she thought she was a bad person. So we talked alot about how I love her because she's my daughter, not because of what she does. Some of this type of thinking, I believe, is because she has an auditory processing weakness, and is very literal and concrete. I am in no way a perfectionist, and am always pleased with her efforts no matter what the result. Some things I tell her are: "It's ok not to know!" or," At first, it will be difficult, and you won't know what to do. Then you practice, and then you're able to do it!" These little reminders seem to help her. I also remind her that when her older sister, who is a serious piano student, doesn't just pick up a piece of difficult music and start playing. At first she doesn't know it, she practices, then she can do it.

 

I fully understand how difficult this is as a mom. It forces me to have patience beyond what I thought was possible. Thankfully, she's grown out of a lot of this!

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Mel Johnson
She did it once ( and only once) infront of a waiting room full of parents. She had been upset when emerging from class and started right in on me. I asked her calmly but as loudly as she was talking IF she was SURE she wanted to have this type of conversation right then and there and in front of all those people because I was more the willing to follow her lead. She didn't and I had to make her apologise.

As long as you can find an opportunity to make an apology to the assembled audience yourself, that's a valid strategy. Modeling a desired behavior is more effective than "forcing" it from a misbehaving child.

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I find an ample sense of humor is required, along with being able to tell your child with a laugh to "Get over yourself-it isn't going to be perfect ever! Nuff said." :thumbsup:

 

It has worked for my firstborn used to be perfectionist who got over it quick when I'd just laugh every time he tried to pull it. I just won't let him entertain the thought.

 

Something to do with recognizing what you can and can't control...

 

Dance is life- enjoy it before you can't do it anymore.

 

Clara :)

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