Have you ever felt like you want to quit? Or have you ever heard from your dancing child, that they want to quit?
“I am done!!!” I said getting into my boyfriend’s car…
He knew that I am going to be quiet on our way home from my dance lesson. And that is better to not to ask any questions. And to let me just gaze through the window and wipe my tears off from time to time…
This was me years ago, pretty much every few weeks after a super hard workout on my dance class. Pain, sweat, tiredness, feeling not good enough, being constantly criticized…this is how you feel when you are a dancer. And it often makes you feel pretty crap.
How does it feel when you start taking dancing more seriously...
You jump as high as you can and you hear “no, higher!”
You think you just can’t cross your legs any more and you hear “more!”
You think (you hope!) this is the last time you need to repeat the exercise and you hear the most hated “One. More. Time” Over, and over again…
This feeling from a dancer’s perspective can often lead to giving up. Or at least thinking about giving up.
Don’t get me wrong. I totally understand teachers who push their dancers to the limits to make them leave the infamous “comfort zone”. It often includes a lot of discipline, sometimes even shouting. A lot of amazing dance teachers would be described as super strict. And their students achieve fantastic results. But perhaps some children are more sensitive and prone to giving up too soon?
Like everything in life learning dancing is a process which takes time, loads of persistence and loads of ups and downs. Easier said than done though. Once we understand that feeling low is a part of this whole process of growth (and actually it’s necessary!), we will be more able to survive through the bad moments and realise they won’t last forever.
But if your daughter is constantly telling you she wants to quit dancing, here is what you can do.
What are the situations your child is telling you that they want to quit?
Is it after the longest dance class, an unsuccessful competition, meeting a specific dance teacher?
I remember I used to feel the worst after my Monday class. When I think about it now, years after, there is no wonder why it was the case! Every Monday I would start my part-time job at 5 am (!!!), I would get back home to get changed quickly and have some lunch around 2 pm, travel to my dance school to be ready for 4 pm start. My first hour or two would be assisting the little ones’ class and Then I would start my own training at 5 pm to finish after 9 pm.
Can you imagine?! In the end, I was totally knackered and all my body tried to tell me was “Give me some rest!” (which I verbalized as “I don’t want to dance any more”). If I could turn back the time, I would feed myself way better before the class and perhaps even change my hours at work slightly to steal a one-hour power nap or something. But I see it now as an experienced adult. Children or even teenagers quite often see things from a totally different perspective.
Everyone got a bad day from time to time, even the world-class dancers! Ciara Sexton a lead dancer from the famous Lord of the Dance show admitted when I asked her, that she had a few moments of despair too!
“I’ve thought about leaving professional dance behind once or twice, but usually put it down to a bad day or show.” (C. Sexton)
Nobody is immune to this feeling but what really matters is how we respond to this sort of events.
Children don’t like to lose, that is obvious. I have seen so many tears after dance competitions when the results were announced. It’s so hard to handle that you didn’t win! So if your little one is disappointed that they didn’t get a medal this time, don’t be surprised that they want to quit dancing for good…well at least until the next victory, where they would hold the trophy saying “Quit?, I never said that, mum!”
I just need a break then...
As a dance teacher, I observed a lot of children getting back to class after a longer break. This could be due to the exams they had or an injury.
They would come back and face something very distressing “Everyone is dancing better than 3 months ago…and I am behind”. Comparison monster wakes up. Muscles are not happy to cooperate. Injured knee still hurts a bit. The dance teacher is as strict as they used to be. All of that mixes up into a powerful combination. Strong enough to bring your child down.
How to deal with that? Personally, I would avoid taking the time off dancing because of school. I know, exams can require a lot of additional work but in my opinion, it’s still doable to continue dancing and work on the school stuff. Regular dance training can give the brain a healthy reset.
Totally opposite though, when it comes to an injury. Finding a good physio, ideally specializing in sports injuries may be a crucial step for your child’s dance future. All you have to do after is listening to his instructions and trusting him. Allowing your child to get back to dance training sooner than adviced can be the beginning of the end of their career…
It’s definitely worth to set up a “come back plan” between the doctor and the dance teacher. Both of them should be able to draw the most reasonable scenario. List of exercises to practice each week, with gradual increase of intensity, additional but gentle activity (swimming!) to help the muscles to recover, sports massage, Kinesio taping…all of that can be super beneficial on your dancer’s road to come back.
Let’s not forget about the power of visualizations, affirmations, all that comes under a “positive thinking” term. There is a lot of spirit-lifting books and movies for youngsters! You can encourage your child to imagine their excellence stage performance every time they go to sleep. Put an amazing dance picture by their bed. Let them soak it in to ignite their passion back. What about a dream map, where they could frame a few pictures of them dancing, their dance idols, dance shoes and everything else which brings their best dance memories up? Good motivational message can do miracles!
If you feel that your child needs some special mindset assistance why not talking to a professional? Did you know that you can talk to a dance psychologist these days? Sean Connolly, an author of a “Little book of inspiration for Irish Dancers” runs some mindset workshops for dancers, also offers one to one sessions. Understanding the power of a mental attitude is a skill for life, not just for dancing!
So next time your little dancer says in tears that she don’t want do dance anymore, try to answer these questions:
1. Is she working too hard? Does she need a rest?
2. Is she disappointed after a competition, which didn’t go well?
3. Are there any circumstances that caused extra stress (such as a new teacher, new rules at class, more children she is not familiar with)?
4. Has she had a break because of an injury or other reason?
5. Does she struggle with the mindset?
The best piece of advice I can give you (and feel free to pass it on to your children) is this:
“It’s is ok to feel like you want to quit.
And MOST of the times is just a phase which will pass. And if it doesn’t it is ok to quit. Really.
But remember, never quit on a bad day.
Never quit when you are in pain.
Never quit before you try again.