Mean teens in ballet
As a ballet teacher, my eyes are focused on technique, performance and musicality rather than on the personal interactions of my students. Consequently, I often miss the subtlety of “ballet bullying” among my young teen students, but I have recently become sorely aware of some of these negative interactions.
What compels a student to critique or correct a technical flaw of a fellow student? Sometimes, but rarely, that student is trying to be helpful. More times than not, such criticism is meant as a mean put-down, and stems from jealousy, insecurity, or a false sense of superiority. Or better put, it is a put-down is the most mean way.
Unkind words fly about in whispers in dressing rooms, halls and studios (where, incidentally there should be no talking). Those words come to me via concerned moms, my own observations and in video’s I watch after class. Those words are never kind or helpful. They are mean, hateful, and unacceptable. Putting someone down does not make a better person, it merely puts that person on the path to becoming a mean, petty and hurtful adult.
Is it that parents’ don’t teach their children social graces or even the difference between right and wrong? I think not. I watch my students’ parents intercede love and support while offering lessons about behavior.
But yet, these angelic children behave in surprisingly abhorrent ways. Parents think that their child couldn’t possibly say those horrible things? Believe it. I now do. How do we as the adults in these young aspiring adults teach good graces? What’s lacking or influencing our children today? TV? Anonymous texting and emails? Competition of life?
We all had competition as children and certainly face competition in our lives today; and we know (at least I hope know) that life is not fair. Things, and often very bad things, happen.
Why is it that middle and high school children continue to behave with such poor manners? No blows are struck but the non-verbal and verbal belie a darker purpose. Yes, words can hurt.
Most importantly, can we help the targets of these mean ballet girls learn to wave off such horrid remarks? I think we can.
Children learn by doing. For example, if a mean girl learns that she can get the desired results of hurting someone, she will continue to practice and refine that action. How about teaching the “victim” (I really don’t like that word, since it suggests powerlessness) to let comments pass without reaction. It would be like the wind passing through mesh rather than tightly woven fabric.
My studio has a zero-tolerance policy in regard to catty, critical behavior because that is tantamount to bullying! If your child is a “target” of said behavior, she must be taught to deflect and defer such criticism, as reacting to it will only provide fuel for the fire of the bully. But, MORE IMPORTANTLY, she must report this negative behavior to a parent or teacher so that warnings can be issued in hope that further incidents and/or disciplinary action can be avoided. “Mean” girls, and their buddies, must receive swift and highly uncomfortable warnings to effect a change in behavior. Consequences must make a point. Corporal punishment, of course, solves nothing. Alternative consequences still must make more than a ripple in the “Offender”.
When I hear of these incidents, it makes me want to just close the doors to the studio and go home, but I’ve made a commitment to teach ballet. Hopefully, with your help, I can teach your children how to have grace under fire.
With all that said, let it be know that I will NOT let this be played out like a scene from “Dance Moms!” Let’s manage this while it’s manageable.
“While I dance I can not judge,
I can not hate,
I can not separate myself from life.
I can only be joyful and whole.
This is why I dance.”
- Author: Hans Bos