Should I Put My Foot down About Daughter Continuing to Dance Competitively?

Updated on July 23, 2015
L.D. asks from Nashville, TN
26 answers

My dd has been dancing competitively for 6 years for the same studio. Each year, our choreography has remained basic. The girls put in tons of time and practice only to score in the average range and rarely place overall. Their technique receives high reviews but the dances have no "umph" compared to the studios they are competing against. As other dance moms know, competition dance requires a huge time and financial commitment. We have had girls leave to go to other studios where they compete now and have grown and win. Our girls want to win and work hard. We have encouraged the teacher to push our girls and make them work harder. It falls on deaf ears. My dd enjoys dancing but I feel as if she has gotten as good as she is going to get where she currently is because she is not pushed to become better. No challenges are given to the team. I have been on the fence for a couple of years now and wonder if it's time for me to say enough is enough. If she wants to dance, she needs to go to another studio where she will become the dancer we know she can be or should I let her stay where she is because that's where her friends are?. She is 15, so I don't want to shut her out of the decision but I'm tired of putting in the time, money, and her being stagnant in her dance growth. What to do???

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So What Happened?

We talked about it again this morning but have not come to a decision. I realize that in my original question, I left out a lot of information such as the fact that we have already talked about it and it's not all my idea. She is frustrated about putting in all the time and work and it not pay off at competitions. She gets worked up when seeing all the other excellent dancers and awesome routines they compete against and wonders why they don't get to try things like this. Their skill level is excellent and the team as a whole is talented and dance with great technique. She has mentioned that the dance teacher must not believe in them because she doesn't try harder choreography with them. This is not all about me. She is a beautiful dancer and has gained skills that she would not have gotten otherwise. Money is an issue. I'm a single mom and it's a struggle. I don't mind the sacrifice of $6000+ a year for dance if SHE is getting what she wants out of it. There is a certain expectation that comes from competition level sports. When we put the time and financial commitment in that is required, there should be some return on this investment as well. If she loves to dance, I support that and encourage the friendships that she has. Just think it's ridiculous to pay $6000+ to be on a competition team for dance at a level she is beyond & for friendships when she could get the same out of recreational dance at $800/year. She has two options 1) Dance recreationally instead of competitively so she could continue her love of dance and stay with her friends. 2) Change studios if she wants to continue to dance at a competitive level.

My original post may have sounded like I was a crazy dance mom but I am really in this for her. At competitions, I am proud of her no matter what. She is a perfectionist and has a drive to be the best she can be and to continue working on getting better. It's hard to sit back and watch her be disappointed week after week during competition season when I know all the hours of practice she puts in.

Featured Answers


answers from Denver on

If you had a son on a baseball team with all of his friends would you remove him because they haven't won a lot and put him on a random team just so he can win? A lot of times its really not about the sport as it is about the camaraderie. I wouldn't move any of my kids to a different team unless they were 100% wanting to do it.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

What does SHE want to do? Is winning the most important thing to HER? Or is it the most important thing to YOU?
Is SHE happy where she is, even if she isn't bringing home trophies? Dance should, IMO, above all else, be FUN. If she is content where she is, then let her stay there.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Her decision. Dancing is a hobby, not a vocation and certainly not a career path.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Which one of you wants her to do this as a profession? You or her?

If you were taking a zumba class, or pilates or spinning, would you think that you were wasting your money if you didn't get better all the time and could do harder and more complicated routines all the time? I hope the answer is no. It's a form of exercise and a way to make your body do what your brain tells you to do. Maybe THAT is what your daughter likes. Maybe she doesn't want cutthroat competition that all the winners of the competition team go through. And they DO go through them...

This really isn't about you. It's about her. Talk to her. Really talk to her. And don't be Tiger Mom here.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Seems like a no-brainer to me. Figure out which studio she'd rather dance with and go.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

Have you asked her what she would like to do?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I agree with Dana K. Dance (like any other sport) is something parents take way too seriously. It's a hobby, it's exercise, it's fun (or it should be) it's not school and it will almost never lead to anything professionally beyond high school. So why are you even concerned about her "dance growth?"
Have you seen the movie Black Swan?
Watch it and ask yourself if that's a path you really want for your daughter.
mom of a (former) competitive gymnast

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

What is your daughter's reaction when her team places in the middle of the pack? Acceptance, mild disappointment, total dejection, unrelenting complaining? Do she and her friends judge themselves by how much fun they had and how in sync they were, or do they judge themselves based on points?

If they are more or less fine with it, and if they are having fun, anxious to go to class, getting exercise and making friends, I don't see why you would want to lower the boom because she's not in a competitive enough program. Maybe your daughter isn't as competitive, doesn't want the stress of intense competition.

At 15, I think she gets to have a major vote here. If she's willing to go to class, if she participates fully, then you are getting your money's worth. If the teacher is better at technique and not so much at innovative choreography, so what? One thing some of the better dancers do in our area is they learn to choreography their own routines. Perhaps the teacher would allow some of that for the more experienced dancers, to broaden their skills.

If your daughter is unhappy and upset with her stagnation, then she should move, and trust that she will make new friends. If the only person concerned about the scores at the end of the competition is you, then no, don't move her. You may be much more competitive than she is. If she's not going to the Boston Ballet or Alvin Ailey, what is your reason for insisting she "be more" than she is? With so many parents complaining that their kids do nothing but watch TV or fool around on the computer, I would think you'd be thrilled that your daughter is happily active.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i have a hard time relating to this. 'shutting her out' (you say you don't want to, but nothing in here indicates her preferences so i assume they're not important) just makes no sense to me.
what is YOUR goal for her dancing? do you think she's going to become a highly-paid professional? is that what your time and money are buying you?
or is it a child who is flexible, athletic, and happy?
if SHE wants to become competitively successful and pursue some sort of career (is that even realistic?) and you've got the money for it, then SHE should be pushing to move, right?
if it's more about dancing with her friends and enjoying herself, there are surely ways you can keep her at her current studio and maybe cut down on the competitions or money if that's really bugging you.
i know we were happy, even with money tight as it was, to let our kids play ball or show ponies or take archery classes without worrying about them being 'stagnant'. if we couldn't afford it, well, that door was shut. but we didn't limit them based on how they did at competitions.
but maybe the dance world is different.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Of course you don't shut her out!! She is 15, the decision should really be hers, correct?? She is the one doing the dancing. Does she feel the same way you do? This is really more about what she would want than what you want.

Talk to your daughter and then decide together.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Um, seriously, it seems you use the word "push" quite frequently.
#1 question: is this your daughter's future? Has she chosen this as a career?
If not, this is social & fun....& she should have full voice in where she wants to attend. If she's content in not winning awards, then this is a hobby.

Perhaps it's time for you to ask yourself who is this more important or your daughter. & please remember 16 is coming up & she'll be thinking on other visits begin in the Jr year of high school. :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

The #1 person of importance in the discussion is your daughter.

What I'm hearing from you is that you have the time and money necessary, but you resent spending it in a way that isn't meeting your needs as a competitive dance-mom. You're forgetting that this isn't about you or what you want out of the class.

If your daughter is happy and wants to stay where she is, that is your answer. If she wants to move on to a new studio, that is your answer. If she wants to quit dance entirely, that is your answer.

Do talk with her about your thoughts, but without pressuring her and certainly without trying to make the choice for her. It is her call to make.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

How does your daughter feel?

She is 15 and has been dancing for 6 years.

Is the competing important TO HER? Is the winning important TO HER? Is her "dance growth" important TO HER? Or is it dancing with her friends that is important TO HER?

That's the starting point of the discussion. Yes, you're paying for it, but please don't become one of those horrible "dance moms" that does it less for the kid and more for the win.

If your daughter DOES want to grow, then she needs to leave. Perhaps if that's the case, then talk to the moms of her friends and find out if their kids are on the same page. They might be thinking the same thing but not have gotten to the point of going since the other kids are still there. If the moms have spoken to the studio one at a time, that may not carry as much weight as the group of moms telling the studio "bring the teaching up a notch or we're moving on".

Feel your daughter out first. If she wants more, feel the other families out. If THEY want more, let the studio know what you need in order to stay. Then move on if they don't. But your daughter has to be on board.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

What does your daughter think?

ETA: Since she is frustrated with the current program, I say switch. She will make new friends in the new program. And she can keep in touch with friends on the current team on her own time.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

We have switched gymnastics teams (different sport, but same idea), and it was the best thing we ever did. My dd won state and actually practiced fewer hours!
The coach or instructor makes a big difference and so does the choreography. Try a few trial classes elsewhere. You are not obligated to stay where you are.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I would move her if you feel there is a studio you can get her to that you like. I suggest you take your time in choosing the next studio.

We moved our daughter because we had to. The change was to her advantage.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I was kind of in the same spot you are with my daughter and Karate. For years she was in a very competitive program and did very well, earning her 2nd degree black belt at age 12 (started at 5). We moved here and enrolled her in the local program and it was not competitive at all. Kids were advanced to the next belt by timing, not by skill level. She was WAY above the rest of the class and was only 1 degree behind the instructor. She did it for awhile, but it did feel like a waste of time and money. She was asked to assist instruct, but she didn't want to do it - she said she couldn't get on board with allowing kids to test for the next belt when they didn't have the skills.

Her and I together made the decision to stop. It was hard for both of us - this was a big part of her life for years. However SHE was the one who ultimately wanted out - I just supported her decision. Maybe she would be willing to check out a different studio for a week or two and that would help her decide on her own "is my dancing for fun or do I want to take it to the next level."

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I have 2 competitive dancers who work with a variety of very high level (Olympic and International Champions) coaches. It is always a good idea to receive training from multiple coaches at your daughter's level.

Your daughter can try out a new place on her own time to test the waters so to speak and see if another studio is the right fit. My hunch is that when she sees what else is out there, under no pressure nor commitment, she will be ready and willing to change. Basically, make the switch under the guise of searching. Since there is already a precedent of girls leaving the current studio, it won't be all that new and terrible of a transition.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

For me, if it's an expensive skill, you GO to where you get the best instruction. You're not paying that kind of money for her to socialize, your doing it so she can reach her full potential.

Dont' force her to switch if you feel it's not a good idea, but I'd STRONGLY ENCOURAGE HER to switch..

I wouldn't give a hoot about prizes or winning, but the lack of progressing in the craft would make me livid. If she's driven to do better, put her somewhere that will help her do better!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

ETA: I agree with your two options. So propose them to your daughter. And then let her choose.

Original: This seems to be about you more than about your daughter. Decide what you can afford, and allow your daughter to decide how much she wants to "grow." It's very unlikely she's going to become a professional dancer, and if she has the talent and personality type to become one, she will choose the better dance studio, regardless of where her friends are.

This should be your daughter's choice. If my daughter were getting frustrated that she wasn't getting better and complaining about it, I would say, "Well honey, if you really want it, you can switch to the better dance studio. But if you'd rather stay at the current studio with your friends and stagnate, that's your choice." And then I would go on with my life.

If constant "growth" is a requirement of your continuing to pay for your daughter's dance, I think you are misguided. Kids need hobbies and physical outlets, and we are required to financially support those. Most of those hobbies don't turn into careers.

If $6000 is too much to pay for her hobby, then stop paying it. No one says you have to spend that much on a hobby. If you can't afford it, she will either have to find a cheaper sport or get a job to help pay for her dance. She doesn't get to sit around whining, and you don't have to listen to her whine. True athletes don't whine that they aren't getting better. They either make it happen, or they switch sports or change their goals.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dover on

Since you've discussed with your daughter, do you know if she has discussed with the other girls? My thought, especially given that your daughter is 15 and not 7, if the girls as a group spoke to the instructor it may help. The instructor may be more of an "in it for technique and fun" than "competition" but if the dancers want to step it up then she may be swayed more. Especially if someone posed the question as "are you not challenging them because you don't think they can handle it? or are you just not willing to take them to the next level?" It may help her get the hint that these girls want to grow much more and she will step up to avoid loosing them. Unless, of course, she's not skilled enough to help them.

If the girls want to do this, your daughters friends may be willing to switch with your daughter if this instructor isn't stepping up. If they don't, it may come down to asking your daughter "You want to dance so...Do you want to stay where you are and be with your friends? or do you want to be challenged and grow even if it means leaving the friends behind?" Support her if you can. She can still be friends, just not team mates if that is the case.

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answers from Washington DC on

I started a reply earlier in the day and the computer crashed. Glad it did, since your addition does help give the bigger picture of what your daughter thinks, something that was missing in the original post.

There is a third option in addition to the two you list in your update: She stays with this competitive team (not just doing recreational dance at her current studio but staying with the current dance team)--with the realistic expectation that she will get excellent technical training but won't WIN much. That is an option if she decides that being with this particular team of friends and at this particular studio outweighs her frustrations.

I think the other two options you list are truly the better ones, but this third option is one to put on the table. It sounds as if she might be frustrated enough to say, yes, I want to go elsewhere and be more challenged in choreography, but it's her call about whether she wants to stay put or go. Ask her (without commentary of your own, because what you say will influence her, and she might feel she must do whatever makes you happy) : "If you stay with the current team and studio, with the realistic knowledge that you won't win much, but the knowledge that you would still get good technical training--would you want to stay?" And let that percolate with her, rather than telling her one way or the other what you think. Yep, tell her what you think later, but she needs to think through all three options.

I'd have her sit down with pen and paper and list the pros and cons of each option and list any additional pros and cons she can think of. It's a good exercise to see these things in writing.

I like the post below that urges the dancers to go as a team to the teacher and ask that their routines be tougher. If the dancers do this in a mature and positive way that focuses on challenging new routines, and not in a "we're not winning enough" attitude, it could be inspiring for the teacher and kick up her work a notch. But a lot depends on the teacher's personality and how she (assuming it's a she -- my daughter just came in from a class taught by a male teacher!) regards her own teaching. If the teacher is pretty open to suggestions as a rule, she might take it well. If she is touchy or defensive, she might see it as a rebellion. But if the kids approach her maturely, then it could work. But it's for these teens to do it, not their parents. If the teacher sees a mature suggestion as rebellion, and takes it out on the dancers in negative ways, then you and she will both KNOW that the teacher is one she's outgrown and one who is not open to change.

If she thinks she wants to leave but isn't sure, I would have her do some sample classes at other studios if that's done in the competitive dance world. (Not sure if maybe they don't do that out of fear that other studios will steal their routines--??) My daughter dances ballet and modern, noncompetitively but extensively, and that's what one does if considering changing studios; you go in and take a sample class or observe a class. If that's not possible, she could talk to other dancers who have left the studio. But that requires a little care and some maturity -- dancers might have chips on their shoulders (I've seen it happen first-hand) about the current studio, and your daughter should take what they say with a grain of salt.

One last thing. You mention that you're proud of her "no matter what" but then also say "there should be some return on investment." I hope that by "return on investment" you mean, she's happy -- even if that happiness comes on a team that doesn't win much. If she chooses to stay put at least for now, can you be OK with that choice on her part? I don't see her really staying put, based on what you say about her thoughts so far, but you need to be ready for her to make a choice that may not be what you want at the moment.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I think you should either switch studios, or if she wants to stay where she is, drop down to a recreation dancer (just a couple classes a week) instead of a competitive dancer. It is not worth the time or the money if she isn't progressing anymore.

It sounds like some of her friends have already changed studios. Why don't you have her talk to them and see which studio sounds like the best fit for her. Can you do a few trial classes to make sure before dropping out of her current ones?

Eventually, if enough people leave the studio, the teachers may be inspired to make some changes.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Ask her if she's happy or wants to go to another studio. She might feel like she's doing well and loves it there.

I am in the same position, sort of, and am so very confused.

We do tumbling and dance and we're having huge issues with tumbling. Our dance teacher won't do competition anymore. She did and was always the top winner everywhere they went. They went to Branson every year for competition for the big one. Then did a bunch in Oklahoma.

The tumbling coach used to do competition too but not now.

When I look at the level of dancers on TV and see what my kiddos are going to be up against when competing for scholarships and jobs later on I know they are going to pale in comparison. The kids they taught years ago had much competition under their belts and now, the kids only go to OKLA once a year. It's a wonderful wonderful clinic with a show where they're rated but it's not a true competition. They have teachers come in from LA and they do an all day's wonderful wonderful!

But it's not competition in that true sense. So our whole studio is lacking that edge and it will show when they get old enough for it to be too late.

The tumbling...the coach is getting older and he is tired. I think he just doesn't have the heart anymore. So he's added the tumble team to another adults job duties. He's there and assists if he feels like it but he doesn't do the whole thing. The other coach is great, don't get me wrong, she is amazing and she produces wonderful tumblers in her classes BUT she produces little robot like tumblers. They are precision, it's like a work of art. They are exactly the same, they flip the same, the same height, the same distance from hand to feet, exactly the same.

On a display team you want everyone to be different and the older kids doing higher level flips and fulls and aerials and arabians and more. But she is not doing the skills she had 3 years ago and she's lower than she was 2 years ago. There are other older kids on the exhibition team and they're leaving too. There is another tumbling gym in a nearby town and it's about the same price. I'd really like to take her up there and do that but I don't want to hurt our relationship with the dance teacher.

SO I have to decide on all this. They are older and they are experienced and just great but it's not enough.

My kiddo is so very very happy here though. She doesn't want to stop going. I feel like it's a waste of time and money if she wants to find finances for college with these skills because the people she'll be competing against will have years of competitive dance under their belt. They'll be on an entirely different level of skills and showmanship.

So, all in all, I don't know what to say to you except I understand where you're coming from and I too am confused.



answers from Portland on

I haven't gone through this with dance (we're in recreational) or sports (we're recreational there too). It's for fun and the kids are with their friends - some years the kids don't seem to grow much and the performances or games are lacking overall - it depends on who you get to lead them. So I get that part. And I suppose I'd be more concerned if I was shelling out that much for the classes, and my kids were seriously talented.

We've switched organizations for recreational programs before - just because we felt another place was better run. I agree with you - it has to be a positive experience. If it's half assed - what's the point? I agree with you there.

Is it possible for your daughter to do a camp or something at one of these other places to see if it's for her? That would be my suggestion. Ask her to try a few classes (I know ours offer camps in the summer) and see if she finds that big a difference. See if it will matter to not be with her friends.

Other than that - I think you go where she'll have the most positive experience overall. Whether that's to be with her friends for her, or to pursue her dance .. she should make that decision with your guidance of course.

Good luck :) tough one.



answers from New York on

There are a few component here, I think you should consider...

- Does she like this studio, maybe she has friends there and it's part competition, part social. What's her motivation for staying with this studio?
- What's the end game? Is it to absolutely win, or to foster a sense of learning, both maybe? I think sometimes when you step back and think what is the larger purpose, it's not always that obvious...

In the end if she enjoys it, and it's somethign that helps her develop as a human being, that's probably the most important thing, but again it's all about what you you want to get out of this, maybe both of you can discuss it together and meet in the middle?

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