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Ballet Talk for Dancers

what to do with an impatient learner...


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Althoughhhhh, I do remember one fateful episode when my daughter was in later elementary school years (so fourth of fifth grade) when she was completely disolving one night, because some rehearsal went too late, she had some report due, and I told her she had to give it up and go to bed. She was an EXCELLENT student and she was panicked and disolving in tears that she would not get an "A" on something she COULD get and "A" on. I would be lying if I pretended to remember EXACTLY what I said, but it was something to the tune of - "kiddo - you can't do it all and give all of it your best all the time. So tomorrow you'll take a C or a D and you'll learn something important - that the world won't stop turning.


Now the great thing was that I wrote some kind of note to the teacher, not asking for any special favors, just - something short and sweet, this is what the night was; the kid ran out of juice; I don't care what grade she gets, I just don't want her to feel any more rotten. Anyway - the teacher was great; dealt with it with humor and kindness and she came home relieved and happy, with the world a little more in perspective. Really, even back then I felt like we got over some kind of bump in terms of staying tuned in with the stressmometer of life, and knowing when once in a while something is going to have to go on hold while full energy is centered and focused on whatever is primary at the time.


I think I just went off on a tangent, to I can delete this if y'all prefer - maybe it's related - I can't tell. :shrug::thumbsup::)

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Not on my watch, it won't be deleted! No, no no! :thumbsup:


This is a great story and both you and the teacher interacted successfully to bring a powerful message forward and into focus. Congratulations! :)

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I too have a 10-year old DD who is somewhat of a perfectionist. I can't really say that she is frustrated by her learning curve, but rather frustrated when things do not go as planned. I wonder if these "perfectionists" are the ones led to ballet because of their drive and stamina?

In past years I have had to assist my daughter much more in time management and have spoken to teachers prior to the busy Nutcracker month of December to try and get some of her work earlier in November. It seems I have had to do less of that this year. However, next year is Middle School and I can see both of us having to relearn the ropes of balancing academics with a heavy studio schedule. The most useful thing I have learned is not to let myself get frustrated when things veer off the planned course...I have to admit it, I'm a bit of a perfectionist myself (she had to come from somewhere!). It's taken quite a few years for me to learn to relax when things don't go as planned!

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She likes to get things right on the first try, which is why I say she hates the learning curve. She loves doing it a hundred times correctly ( hence her love for ballet). She does not like the fact that things may take her a few tries ( or more) and that is where the frustration comes in.


I think understanding that our minds and bodies take some time to learn a new thing is what I want to get through to her. Shuttleservice is right about loving the jouney and that is what she is missing by focusing on the end result.


Dancingthrulife: Incidently her academic school feels that ballet too much of a priority for her, and though she does very well in school, she is impatient with the classes and the other kids and the time it takes to teach a class a new concept. They asked that I use it(ballet) as a "treat" and take it away when she is not showing her school work as a priority or patience.

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I'm not entirely on board with the school on that suggestion, Gracey. I wonder if they would have made it if her outside pursuit were piano lessons. I am somewhat in agreement with it to the extent that if her academic work suffers, then something will have to be done, but I don't think restricting her from ballet class is the answer. That is merely likely to engender resentment and frustration even more, and so to the detriment of her academics. At that point, perhaps counseling with a psychologist or other mental or social health professional might be indicated.

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Not a ballet mom and also sligtly OT, so delete if necessary:


Syr said:

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.


Wow, what an amazing insight. This statement really made my day.

In the last few years, since becoming an 'adult' I have often wondered where my earlier perfectionsim had gone too and have even been a bit depressed that perhaps I am now making do with mediocrity. Thanks, syr, for letting me realise that what I've done is to mature. :thumbsup:

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She is beginning to sound more and more like my daughter (#2, who currently is 12)! For mine, the important thing is neither the process, nor mastery, but finishing. This is more true of her academic pursuits -- and her crafts and hobbies, for that matter -- than it is of dance. It's not that she blows things off (which implies a mindset of "I know what the results could be if I tried, and I just don't care"). It's more complicated psychologically, and I'm not sure even now that I understand it fully. She DOES care about the results, she DOES want to do well -- but somehow in her mind (or gut), that gets turned around into "the important thing is being the first one to finish." Like many of our DKs, she is exceptionally smart and able, so it took us a long time to realize that this was a problem for her. She did very well in school; the only hint her teachers gave was that, each year, they reported a reluctance to edit her own work (even though she is sought out by other children to edit THEIR work, as technically she is very proficient at this!).


I do agree with Mel about not restricting dance -- particularly if that is where her friendships lie. (Mine also has social problems at school because she is "obsessed" with ballet.) However, it sounds as though it would be useful to help her set up a schedule or routine, particularly as she enters a period where the demands of school and ballet both ramp up. To my mind, it is okay if a kid is not as passionate about school as she is about ballet, but she does need to get her work done satisfactorally. To that end, you can have her decide when to schedule "brainwork" time, which she can use for homework or reading or solving puzzles or playing logic games or something similar. If she doesn't fulfill her responsibility, then it is fair to emphasize that schoolwork comes first, and she has to miss her next ballet class to make up the "brainwork" time. (CAUTION: Although I write confidently about this, I have not actually been able to enforce this in my house :thumbsup: ) This has the added benefit of helping her to focus on the process; the important thing is NOT finishing the assignment in 10 minutes, but spending a concentrated time exercising her brain. Incidentally, it might be helpful to break up this time into small chunks -- so, 45 minutes overall, but in three 15-minute chunks with a short break in between. Hopefully, the lesson will spill over to ballet, but it might not. You might have to draw an explicit connection for her.


Mel's suggestion of considering counseling is a good one. To that, I would add that you might consider a neuropsychological exam if you continue to be frustrated and/or to sense that something is not quite right or that she is unhappy. (A neuropsych exam is not nearly as scary as it sounds; basically, it's a battery of written and computerized tests that are fun for the kids to do, and that reveal difficulties in processing cognitive, social, and emotional information.) We learned a tremendous amount about how our daughter operates, which helped us enormously to maintain our equilibrium when she went into a tailspin. A big benefit of counseling and related tests, etc., is that you have some allies and ammunition when the school misguidedly suggests restricting ballet. Your "team" can help explain that ballet per se is not the problem, and could very well be part of a solution.


Finally -- continue to pay attention to your intuitions. Babsaroo remarked on another thread that moms' intuitions are usually right on target, and that is true in my experience as well. You sound as though you are very tuned in to your daughter's moods and behaviors. She's so lucky to have you for a mom!

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Gracey-you have gotten wonderful advice from all of the parents here! It is difficult to live with these perfectionist and driven young dancers. When they are gifted in everything that they try it makes life even harder.


One thing that as a parent I try to remember is that these kids are young and hormonal. They do have high expectations for themselves and others. We try to offer a balance or a different more relaxed way of thinking to help our daughter. Having a blunt little brother also helps put some of life's crisis into perspective.


Modeling relaxed alternatives to perfectionist thinking also helps. I am also a driven perfectionist but have learned to channel those behaviors into healthy areas that are under my control. There are many good books on this! We have also learned to step back and to listen without offering opinions (I think this skill increases as your kids age increases!)


It is the end of the school year- take a deep breath, step back and enjoy the pace of summer. I really liked the suggestion to explore activities that focus on the process and not the result.


I have also had to take an honest look at how my behaviors and expectations may be contributing to the problem. A few small changes can make a huge difference.

Our daughter has been an "adult" since she was born -we often wonder if we got the wrong child at the hospital! LOL! These kids may seem like they are adult and have logical thinking- but they are kids. They are still young. Life is too short to put so much pressure on yourself at such a young age.




Discussing realistic goals, role models, and life patterns are so important at this age. Who is your daughter comparing herself to? Is it realistic for her age and ability at this time? Is she in a studio that promotes competition amongst the dancers? If so then moving her into a different learning environment might help. I would also encourage different activities and friends outside of ballet (yes, I know that is hard!) to help balance her out.


Isn't your daughter the one who wanted to go to YAGP next year? Since she is so young you might want to seriously think about if putting her into that type of training and competitive mode is what will be best for her right now. Victoria Leigh has written some wonderful posts on that. My daughter went and had a great experience. She is also older and went with a different mindset. You can send me a pm if you have any other questions.


Hang in there!

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Yes, hang in there. As Sir Winston Churchill advised younger people on his ninetieth birthday, "Never give up. Never give up. Never, never, never give up!" :thumbsup:

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I just wanted to add that we tried restricting the favored outside activity for my non-DK until school became a greater priority and it doesn't work. Or rather, it does work in the short run, but does not solve the problem. It moves school work into the category of "eat your vegetables (school work) and then you get dessert (ballet).


We changed our focus to lively discussions and praise for all that was good and interesting about school and offered the understanding view that "no you don't have to love all subjects. I certainly didn't. But we all have things to do that we don't love." Our lines of communication improved and so did the attitude towards school.


Other than childhood, at no other time in one's life is a person expected to be a master at all subjects, well organized, motivated in all areas, a star athlete, accomplished musician and a social butterfly. What a lot of pressure.


My husband loves to say, (privately, of course) that the "A" students teach the "B" students and the "C" students rule the world. Guess which one he was??? :thumbsup:

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I have to add, when I was 13, my parents threatened to pull me from my extra activities if I didn't start taking school more seriously. At the time, I had dance classes and piano and flute lessons and thought that was WAY more important than learning fractions. I didn't think they were serious about pulling me.


They were.


A little over a month before the show, to the horror of my dance teachers and class mates and myself, my parents pulled me from the show and dance classes and then made me sit out the next year till I proved I was going to take school seriously.


I had a fever for 102 and had been throwing up for 2 days, but I still made my parents take me to the show and cried through the whole thing.


Knowing that I had let all those people down just because I wasn't taking school seriously made me feel HORRIBLE and when I was finally allowed to go back, I took dance and school much more seriously. My dance teachers still remember that and have commented how much my work ethic has changed since then.


It took a huge kick in the butt to start taking school seriously, and I hated my parents for a while for that, but it was worth it in the end.

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That last sentence contains why I would only counsel that as a LAST resort. Third-party counseling should happen before that eventuality. You obviously stopped hating your parents. There are those who would not, and it can start a downward spiral that can end up very unpleasantly.

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I'm with Mel, I wouldn't go that route.


Shuttleservice's experience sounds very positive to me and it obviously worked while helping the family not only keep the lines of communication open but improve them. too. :thumbsup:


As LRS said, you've gotten a great deal of good advice here... quite a large number of responses. I noticed something LRS said that really struck me as quite wise:

Is she in a studio that promotes competition amongst the dancers? If so then moving her into a different learning environment might help. I would also encourage different activities and friends outside of ballet (yes, I know that is hard!) to help balance her out.

Isn't your daughter the one who wanted to go to YAGP next year? Since she is so young you might want to seriously think about if putting her into that type of training and competitive mode is what will be best for her right now.




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Thanks, Mel. I heartily agree.


Gracey, I'm coming into this discussion a little late and still have to carefully read all the posts. So far I've read some of them and have found them to be very helpful. I tutor kids with learning difficulties. Sometimes their frustration is emotionally based but often it's a combination of some glitch in their learning process that causes the behavior which then becomes a habitual behavior.


For years I have taught parenting classes, more recently teachers, and this winter I became certified within a particular organization to train the trainers of parents and teachers as well. :thumbsup: I was able to combine business with pleasure because Treefrog lives in the city where I took the training. :thumbsup: We Alertniks are a small and very supportive group of folks.


Anyhow, a big red flag went up in my head when I read that the academic school is concerned enough about your daughter's behavior that they are urging you to use ballet as the bargaining chip. Well, I don't agree with their tactic but I respect the fact that they feel enough concern to want to resort to such a plan.


Of course I wouldn't follow through on that idea - she's only 10, right? - but I WOULD seek some professional help. There may be an underlying processing problem of some kind (usually having to do with an executive function glitch). It's a subtle kind of glitch that wouldn't really show up in any of the educational testing done by a school psychologist. As Treefrog mentioned, a neuropsychologist's testing can tease out the problem and recommend strategies. I consult frequently with two neuropsyches and have found their recommendations to be extremely helpful. Even when there's no obvious glitch, if a child's self-perception isn't healthy, I'd recommend such testing. If you rule out a cognitive difficulty, you still need to address the emotional.


An impatient bright kid of 10 who's very hard on herself and who breaks down into tears can end up in worse shape as a teenager so I would really want to check this out a little bit further. In ballet, especially, this kind of temperament can lead, in an adolescent girl, to unhealthy choices.


Also, some kids (and adults) don't have a large tolerance built-in for handling frustration. Their ability to be rational shuts down much faster than for most people. This kind of kid needs lots of patience from her family, lots of hugs, and lots of modeling on the part of the parent.


So, along with the recommendation for a neuropsyche eval, you can make sure you're not doing anything to enable such behavior. Kids are born with certain temperaments as we parents well know and, as we raise a child with a strong personality, we often end up trying not to rock the boat. That's the worst thing we can do.


If you would like to email me at vagansmom@hotmail.com or PM me, I'd be happy to make some recommendations you can start to use. They'd be along the lines of what to model, how to model it, the value of questioning rather than telling ("Don't tell; ASK!"), how to find the "belief behind the behavior", long-term vs. short-term goals, all of which addresses the sorts of behavior you're describing. This post is already too long. :wink:

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Shuttleservice, since you can't receive PM's yet, I just want to post here to tell you how much I enjoyed what you've written on this thread. You sound like Mel Levine and Positive Discipline (both favorites of mine) all rolled up into one! :rolleyes:

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