Pushy parents (inspired by Dance Moms)

I do have some favourite tv shows, and some of them might be classed as trashy. Many of those I tend to only catch glimpses of inbetween catching up on those shows I’ve recorded, others I just have to watch.  Anything dance oriented and I’m there – although only having freeview does mean I miss many of the shows because they’re only on Sky. I caught a chat on twitter about the show Dance Moms on Sky a while back but noticed recently it was on Freeview being repeated.

Result.  Dance Moms is my new guilty pleasure, although I’m so far behind I think it’s only on season 3 (so no spoilers please!).

Dance Moms credit still

If you’ve not seen it, it’s a reality show, set around a dance studio and focusing on a competition troupe of young girl dancers (age 8 and up), and on their mums.  The teacher is really strict and harsh on the girls and the mums, the girls are amazing dancers and acrobats (doing much harder moves than we ever did even age 15 or 16), and the mums spend a lot of time arguing and giving their views.  Having danced from the age of 4 to 16 (and then picking up dancing again as an adult), it was always going to be essential viewing for me.

Obviously pushy parents (in particular mums) are always something that’s been mentioned whenever you get talented children, but this blew me away.  As a child and teen I did a lot of music (including playing in orchestras you needed to audition for, doing scholarships and competitions) and dancing (shows, medals, exams but no competitions as we were more about ballet) and met a lot of different types of mums, but I don’t think I ever came across people so overtly precious and pushy about their daughters.

Now I’ve got a child, I get to see it from the other side and also wonder how I’m seen.

I never felt like my mum pushed me as a child. She gave us the opportunities, asked for our thoughts on taking part in things. The only thing she tried to be strict about was music practice otherwise I was a total slacker at that.  I always did pretty well as the things I took part in, but maybe if she’d pushed me harder (or if I’d been a favourite of my dance teacher) I’d have gone on to take up music  professionally or pushed harder to achieve more in sport.

There were parents of a girl in the class below us who was pushing the daughter on, and she was a favourite of the teacher. But she wasn’t an amazing dancer, didn’t get moved up a class like she wanted to, and didn’t achieve any more than the other girls in my class who didn’t have pushy parents once they’d left the dance school.

Similarly with music I didn’t see really pushy parents around.  The nearest was my friends, but only to get her to a certain level so she had reached the correct level to apply for a scholarship for school. But after that the pressure was off.  Other children may have had pushy parents behind the scenes but in public it was just getting the kids ready, being friendly, and encouraging them.  There was certainly no bitching and arguing with other mums or the teachers, even when other children were given solos over theirs.

Maybe things are different now.  I’m surprised if so because competition is quite often frowned upon with schools removing awards for winning at events and sports days.  But maybe out of school where parents are paying money to get their children ahead and into sports and music, it’s a different matter.

So far at school we’ve not come across it.  There are children at the age of 4 and 5 who do a lot of sport clubs outside of school as well as in.  But there’s so far not been anything with parents seeming to overly push their children into things.

I could be pushy with N.  I’d quite like him to try a tennis club – he seems to really enjoy it in school, and it’s a sport we could do together.  But he seems to hate the idea of sports lessons – anything structured and routine.  He moans enough about swimming lessons even though he knows it’s for safety reasons, and loves being in the pool.  I’d offered to book him into the LTA’s campaign of free tennis lessons which one of the clubs in town are offering in the summer.  He said he’d like to do one session, but not every week.  Sigh.  I know if I booked him in it could do one of two ways – either he’d love it and happily participate every week, or more likely he’d refuse to do anything.

practising his golf swing
Practising his golf

Similarly I’d like him to get into music.  One of my sister in law’s heard him singing the other day, and commented that he obviously took after the musical side of the family.  He can sing in tune and to the right notes for songs which many young children can’t.  And playing the piano (again he refuses to let me teach him some), he’ll really listen before and while he plays rather than just plinking away.  But I want to give him the choice rather than pushing him into it because it’s hard enough to get children who choose to play an instrument, to practise.

Would I ever turn into something who’d suck up to a teacher or coach, and try and make sure my child was seen as the star, got extra attention and roles, and spend all my time and attention into doing this and getting involved with N’s hobbies?  I’m not sure I would.  Definitely not to the extremes of those mums on Dance Moms.  Maybe more encouraging, reasoning with the child, and supporting them.  And finding a coach or teacher who inspired and would get the best out of him.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping watching Dance Moms and hope the other seasons will continue to be repeated on Freeview.

Do you know pushy parents?  Are you one or worry you’re one?  Or is it all your children pushing themselves?

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  1. I always wonder the same if my band teacher would have put more effort or pushed me harder would I have done more with music or my parents. My parents weren’t the pushy type at all in fact they didn’t mind us doing nothing but me and my siblings were always in all sports and I think one just motivated the others. Its funny what influences us and pushes us. I am keen to see what my two pick up or want to do. They do swimming, music, and soccer and gymnastic now but when they are old enough to choose it will be curious to see how it goes. Thanks for linking up to #ShareWithMe

    1. There’s always that question for sure. I’m the same with mine – my mum went on and on about my lack of practice, and at 6th form, I only did 1 evening a week practice for my clarinet grade 8 exam and was only 4 marks off distinction. I do wish I’d pushed myself, even just one extra practice a week would have been enough to improve things a lot.

      Your kids do a lot. N refuses to do anything. He does swimming under duress for safety reasons, and has just started tennis after school and does it inside school as well. But then I can’t get him to any clubs apart from at the weekends which are free time.

  2. I wish my parents had been a bit firmer with me as a child as I think I may have stuck with activities longer. Some people may have considered me as pushy about my daughter’s gymnastics competition last year, but I see it as keeping my side of a deal.

    I wasn’t keen on her entering the competition as we already had plans that day and I didn’t think she’d do very well and it may demotivate her. The floor routine required her to do a cartwheel so I told her if she entered she had to learn to do a cartwheel and I made her practice that one move everyday. I’m not sure if she taught me a lesson in believing in her, or learnt one herself of the benefits of discipline, because she won the gold medal for her floor routine!

    1. That to me’s not pushy though. That’s following through, and certainly teaching that if you do an activity and enter something you don’t want to let yourself down and therefore need to work at it. Like me and my Grade 5 piano – stubbornness. My teacher told me to pull out because I’d not practised enough and wouldn’t pass. With 2 weeks to go I practiced every day and passed – not brilliantly, but enough marks over for it not to be totally embarrassing.

      Sometimes kids do need more strictness than just letting them do what they need.

  3. I have a particular dislike of pushy parents! Having 4 children (oldest is 16, and youngest is 4) means I have witnessed it many times over the years!! and whilst I understand that many children need encouragement, structure and a bit of discipline (in order to justify time and expense spent on activities) but I just don’t see the point of pushing them too hard at out of school stuff. Equally, I really don’t buy into the whole competitive nature between parents either … that really riles me!
    I’ve seen some Mums at dance class, who really just need to relax and let their girls enjoy the whole scene – if they excel at it, just stand back and let them shine by themselves. But if they don’t, well don’t sweat-it, just let them enjoy. That’s my motto, anyway!
    Anna x

    1. I agree you totally need to let the kids enjoy it first and foremost. Otherwise they’ll get sick of it (unless they’re a really driven child themselves) and rebel. It’s that fine line in knowing they may regret giving something up or not working just enough to get the best out of them and let them reach a level they could be capable of. But competitive mums – I don’t see the point of that with an extreme. Everyone can learn from each other.

  4. i completely get the whole not agreeing with pushy mums thing, it aint fair to force anyone to do anything well maybe not force but put pressure on them. however i’ve personally experienced the other side of things too, not being pushed and having a parent that didn’t push me to do homework or to do well in school or care when i got an award. so i think it can suck either way as as it is with anything can be hard to find that happy medium xx

  5. yep,, encouragement is fab.. but pushy is damaging … children shouldn’t feel that they have to win or are the best at something to feel validated by their parents

    1. That’s exactly it. Encourage them to push themselves to strive for their best, but know that their parents are behind them in whatever they do rather than forcing them at the expense of everyone else.

  6. I have yet to experience this yet, but with Alice starting school in September I have it all to come, lucky me!! My parents weren’t pushy, just encouraged us and we did swimming and badminton and loved both. x

  7. I think the pushy parents on Dance Moms is because they want to create drama and boost ratings. On the other hand being pushed motivates you but be careful to not push them too hard because they might become resentful.

  8. It’s a tricky one – I hate the idea of really pushy parents, trying to make their kids do things they don’t want to or just piling the pressure on. But I know I needed to be encouraged/reminded to practise things as a child and would probably have given up easily on many otherwise.

    1. Yes practising was something I hated to do as well. Then you regret not doing things as well as you could have done years later if you don’t get pushed a bit

    1. I agree, a little bit of encouragement and ambition is good, and I think children should see that in parents, but not as pressure to the absence of everything else. Slightly different when the child wants that though.

  9. I think all parents are pushy depending on what they are being pushy about, for example, homework. I am pushy with the homework because I want my son to get the credit for doing it but I also argue with the teacher when she sends homework home on days when he shouldn’t have homework. Here in the states, the schools are required to give state testing that is supposed to test the teachers, not the students. However, the teachers put a lot of pressure on the kids and this testing starts in the third grade. They do the testing ALL DAY, then send homework home for the kids to get done by the next day. I believe that is unfair to the child who has already been under enormous stress at a young age just to show the government that the teachers are doing their jobs. I don’t mind helping my son with his homework but I don’t believe in pushing kids too far and causing unnecessary stress. I was in dance when I was 9 years old and I loved my teachers. They didn’t need to be mean like the teacher in Dance Moms to get us to listen or learn the dance moves. My aunt never came to a single practice but when I wouldn’t practice at home in front of her, she made me drop out of dance class. I learned a lot in my classes though:)

    1. I agree on the meanness. Not necessary to get the best out of students, although the kids are certainly talented.

      In the UK we now have similar testing -SATs at certain ages, including an informal assessment when they start school age 4/5. Really it was brought in to rank schools, not assess kids and there’s a lot of uproar about testing young children when it doesn’t need to happen. My son’s only in his first year at school so I’ve still got it to come but I can’t see him being keen (it probably would have suited me because I liked tests), but tests and then homework seems too much. Thanks for your comment Michelle.

    1. Ah yes, the subtle I’m not being pushy, but underneath it’s simmering. There is one I can recognise although with the older child at the moment. Will be interesting to see how things change once they get closer to SATs and also once N’s involved with sports or other clubs.

      1. And the pushy parents are also the competitive ones and they’re not just being competitive about their kids 😉 I find it amusing, especially one of them happens to be the parent of T’s friend and whom we’ve also gotten to know really well.

  10. I am not a pushy parent at all, in fact I think I am the complete opposite. I’d love to push my boys a bit more but I guess I will have plenty of time for it

    1. I think the same. There’s some things I’ve had to get strict on like getting N to do his school reading books, but otherwise I’d hope he’d find his interests. But I know by age 4 I’d already decided what instruments I wanted to play (god knows how I knew about a clarinet at that age) when I was older. N just wants to be on the farm, so my aim is to get him to experience more than that.

  11. Oh it is an interesting one. I do know pushy parents. Parents who get their children doing extra work before they have even got to school! Oldest likes to be doing a lot of clubs and she is learning the piano and I am very relieved that I don’t have to push her as she pushes herself. She happily sits herself down every night to play her set pieces. However, I don’t know what I would be like if she wasn’t like this. Hmmmm.

    1. It’s hard to know and when to draw the line. If she wasn’t so keen to push herself you’d probably want to get her to practise, but more around not wanting to lose the money that’s spent and ensuring she continues to progress. But I know what you mean.

      And yes, pushy parents ensuring their children know everything before school. Some obviously is down to the kids themselves, but others parents do train them in it. N just pushes the other way if I push too hard, so I just left him to it…hence he knew numbers but couldn’t write his name or read! Drives me mad, but I know he’ll just rebel. If he doesn’t take after me on the academic side, I’m hoping he’ll take after my sporting or musical ability – so hope he’ll take up the opportunities and find something he enjoys and is good at.

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