Q: I recently had a parent approach me, livid that her daughter wasn’t placed in a higher-level class and threatening to leave the studio. How do you handle disgruntled parents and help them understand that your decision was the best one for their daughter?
A: Although meeting with a disgruntled parent may be uncomfortable, it is better that they talk to you about a concern, complaint or issue, rather than just leave your studio frustrated. Schedule a private conference with the parent and student to review and explain in detail the strengths and areas of weakness in posture, musicality, flexibility, footwork, overall performance or technique. The most effective way to have this review is to put your eligibility requirements in writing, where you show that their advancement is based on assessment of standards that can be measured, not personal preference. This meeting will also give you the opportunity to identify a parent who is advocating for their child versus one who has unrealistic expectations and will never be satisfied with your decisions.
By opening the lines of communication, you foster cooperation and respect. And you can gain clarity on the student’s goals for the future. Create a plan that may include taking private lessons or additional technique classes as a way to safely add further training. By establishing a timeline to meet the criteria needed to close the gap between current performance and moving up to the next level, you can be confident that you’ve made the best decision to ensure that student’s success and safety. Plus, you’ve upheld your artistic standards.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.