How Not To Parent Like Dance Moms

From watching the reality TV show 'Dance Moms', it becomes quickly apparent that there are lessons every parent can learn from.

By Salt 106.5 Network Wednesday 26 Oct 2016ParentingReading Time: 5 minutes

Dance Moms is a reality television show about a group of mothers whose daughters dream of being professional dancers. It’s more about the mothers though, and their relationship with the dance teacher. In fact, the dancing a bit of a side issue.

My daughter is an avid fan of this television show. I’ve now watched plenty of episodes of this insight into the world of American dance studios. There’s something quite cringeful and “surely they’re all acting” about this show.

The characters in Dance Moms

There are three main characters in this program:

  1. Abby, the dance teacher who seems to epitomise the best and worst of the role. She seems to flicker between being a caring adult and a tough critic. Although there’s been more criticism than caring in the latest season. Other dance teachers have appeared in earlier series who seem cut from the same cloth too.
  2. The girls, who are now all teenagers. These young dancers stake everything on making the cut. They have moved across the country with their mum for their opportunity at stardom. On the whole they seem nice girls. They encourage one another and pick each other up when things aren’t going their way. I think it’s a shame that their positive values get overshadowed by the behaviour of the adults.
  3. The Dance Moms. The dancers and mums seem to come and go, apart from the regulars who have been on the show for years. It’s a difficult group to break into, and even more difficult to stay in. It takes a determined character to secure a long term spot.

In calling the show Dance Moms, the producers seem to focus on the lives and behaviour of the women. The girls and the dancing are more of a side issue.

Whenever I watch this show it reminds me of a cartoon my kids used to watch called Total Drama Island. A parody of Survivor and other reality shows, it pokes fun at the stereotyped casting and the use of a confessional. In Total Drama Island, the confessional is in a toilet and shows how people talk when they think no one else can hear.

With that background, here’s ten lessons every parent can learn from the Dance Moms.

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Ten parenting gems from Dance Moms

  1. Don’t always say what you’re thinking. The Dance Moms don’t need to be in a confessional to put down one another. For women who spend a lot of time together, it’s sad that they say such awful things. Both about each other and their daughters. If we want our young people to grow up respecting and tolerating others, we need to set a good example.
  2. Just because you say something out of someone else’s hearing doesn’t mean they won’t hear it. The idea of baring your soul to a camera is a favourite tactic of reality television. Why do the Dance Moms talk about one another behind their backs, knowing that their comments will be public when the program airs? It’s not a bad reminder that when we talk about someone, it may get back to them.
  3. Kids are sponges. So many episodes of this show involve the women yelling and screaming while the girls are watching. In the latest seasons the girls seem more immune to this behaviour. But in earlier ones the girls would get upset and one of the mums would have to usher them out of the way. We should never underestimate how much our kids are watching and learning from how we respond to situations.
  4. Don’t pretend to be friends if you’re not. Some of the Dance Moms need to learn that proximity doesn’t need to lead to intimacy. You can choose to just be polite and keep to yourself. People see through your fakeness if you try to hide that you really don’t like someone.
  5. Catfights are ugly. Particularly when they involve grown women. We should leave the catfights to young girls who haven’t learned the art of resolving issues with a calm conversation.
  6. You can’t keep everyone happy. The Dance Moms who try to be diplomatic get themselves caught out at some point. There’s a complex web of alliances on this show. The Moms who survive best stay true to themselves and focus on what’s good for their daughter, rather than pleasing everyone. The flipside is when they go after what they want and step on toes. Parenting is about advocating for our own kids without allowing the opportunities of others to be limited either. In a competitive world, that means we have to be happy to win some and lose some.
  7. Commitment to the team is essential. The mothers on this show find their common bond when faced with an external attack or challenge. Parents can do great things if they band together to support the whole team, rather than focusing on just their own child. The stars will always stand out, but they don’t need to be the centre of attention all the time.
  8. Choose a teacher or coach who will build your teen or tween up. Abby spends a lot of time with the girls on Dance Moms. If my daughter was one of them, I’d be weighing up if the tuition outweighed the yelling, humiliation and putdowns that come with it. We should surround our kids with adults who can show them different perspectives of the adult life but who encourage them to make good choices.
  9. You are just a mum. I don’t want to belittle the role of being a mother, because I think it’s often undervalued. But I think we also need to remember that it’s not about us, it’s about the kids. The best bit about this show is watching the girls hurriedly prepare their weekly dances and then go out there to do their best. We should never let the pursuits of our teenagers be more about our desires and goals than theirs.
  10. Always do your hair before appearing on camera. There has been a lot of bedhead this season. I’ve learned that you don’t get portrayed as a rational being when you’re looking crazy and overwhelmed.

What do you think? Have you watched this show and made your own conclusions about the life lessons it serves up? Perhaps there’s another show that makes you reflect on your own parenting greatness? I’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Article supplied with thanks to Rachel Doherty from Tweens 2 Teens. Rachel lives in Brisbane, with her husband of 20 years and their three teenagers. She has received a number of qualifications in social work and teaching and built up a bank of experiences in working with young people and their families.


The image from the Dance Moms show originally comes from the Lifestyle Channel‘s website, who have the rights to Dance Moms.  We would like to acknowledge the creators of this image.