Parents often ask their dance teacher for help when their child one day out of the blue decides she/he doesn't want to attend class.
We all know, more or less, how to cope when our kids don't feel like going to daycare or school, but are perplexed and often angered when they suddenly want to quit a recreational activity that has cost money in fees and possibly uniforms.
In dance this can primarily occur in the 3-8 years age group and here are some of the various reasons for these little students to suddenly baulk at going to class.
Involved in an Interesting Play Activity
Younger children can be happily immersed in a game or daycare activity and then be asked to drop it and get ready for dance class.
Try and make sure you plan enough time to finish any daycare or play activity before having to leave for dance class. It is probably better to leave before an activity starts and spend some time at the studio preparing for class instead.
Children starting daycare, kindergarten or prep are often very tired in the initial months and it might be better to drop dance class for a few weeks until they have adjusted to the longer day or look for an alternative class on a Saturday.
Swimming and other sporting activities often exhaust a child and planning their dance classes on days with no sport is a good idea.
Some children get very low on energy at the end of the week so try scheduling dance classes earlier in the week.
Children can also have had a restless night or be sick with something and might be happier just watching class or only doing half the class and then leaving if they are still tired.
Caution: Try not to make a habit of sitting and watching dance class with your child too often as this sometimes becomes preferable to the child than actually doing the class and can also disturb the class for the teacher when other children then want to sit out as well.
Some small children occasionally feel that they might be missing out on something while in class, especially if their mothers are with their other sibling(s).
We have also noticed that when a new baby is born some children fear that their Mothers are engaging with the new baby and they are being left out.
If this is the case, try asking the teacher if mother or sibling can watch from the doorway for a while so the child doesn't feel jealous or left out.
Sometimes a child may feel bullied or harassed or ignored by another child or set of children in class and this makes them reluctant to attend.
Always approach both the class teacher and parent of the children concerned and try and find out what is really going on.
Sometimes even another child wearing a leotard or hair ribbon in a hated colour can offend another sensitive small child and talking through things together can go a long way to sorting things out.
Making social dates with other children in your dance class eases many tensions too. Changing to another class might be a help if things don't work out quickly.
To Quit or Persevere?
If a child is consistently refusing to go to class, parents need to make a decision on whether to quit a dance class mid term or to persevere to the end of term or the course. Alternative options are to try a different dance class on an alternative day or with a different teacher, or to take a break for a few weeks, and then try restarting class.
Starting and quitting one recreational hobby after another is both expensive and time consuming. Persevereing often brings great results in the long term, but also finding the right hobby is just as important.
Finally, some general thoughts on after school activities from David Elkind, Ph.D., professor of child development at Tufts University:
"Struggling with children about after-school activities tends to accelerate. In the end, it is impossible to force children to participate in a class or sport. Trying to force them may only develop anxiety that could make them even more reluctant to try other new experiences. Involve children in decision-making about trying new activities, rather than deciding for yourself what you think they'll like."
At the same time, Elkind advises parents to bear in mind that kids tend to overestimate how much they'll actually enjoy an activity.
Consider whether your child's reluctance to continue with an activity is the result of fatigue or need for more down time. Many kids are overscheduled, and may simply need more time to relax.