It’s an unpleasant fact, but you can’t run a dance studio and not deal with mama drama. Parents are paying you to teach their children, and they’re entitled to voice their opinions, whether justified or not. How an owner deals with the complaints and concerns that arise can make or break a studio. Use these practical tips for dealing with a difficult parent and ensure your studio is a positive learning environment for both parents and kids.
Implement a Communication System
The last thing you want is an angry parent confronting you in front of your instructors and students, so it’s important to establish a complaint system and stick to it. According to Dance Advantage, a good method of communication is to have parent/student concern forms readily available in the studio. This gives you a chance to review the problem, decide on a plan of action and set up an appropriate meeting time with all parties involved.
You may also want to establish a no-gossip rule under your studio’s roof. Encourage your instructors to be aware of any grievances that might be expressed in waiting rooms. Some parents may voice their concerns to peers instead of you, so have instructors refer any gossipers in your direction. With this practice, you’ll be aware of any concerns about your studio, both large and small.
Establish Partnerships with Parents
Even though they can give you headaches and gray hair, remember that parents are not the enemy. They generally know their child better than you do and have potential to contribute to your studio’s success.
“For many, many years, I perceived the mothers as pitted against my own desires and intentions, and that didn’t work very well,” Kathy Blake, owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios, told the Dance Studio Owners website. “I have since learned the mothers and fathers are my greatest allies.”
Dealing with a difficult parent can become an opportunity for cooperation in the studio (just make sure it stays out of the classroom). You can always use an extra pair of eyes when it comes to music and costume choices, teacher effectiveness and facility conditions. Don’t view feedback as attack, but rather a chance to make your studio the best it can be. Blake explained that your studio should have good customer service practices, and this will often mean admitting that “the customer is always right.” You probably won’t be able to solve every problem, but acknowledge the legitimacy of each concern and explain to the parent what you can do about it.
On the flip side of the coin, don’t get too friendly with parents. You’re running a business and don’t want to be perceived as playing favorites. Blake warned that while it’s easy to see the best in people, some parents befriend you (or your instructors) to get special treatment for their child.
Recognize Preventable Problems
The best approach to dealing with a difficult parent is to make sure he or she doesn’t have anything to complain about. Be clear with every parent from the day they sign up that they will not be involved in the studio’s decision-making process. Having rules set in stone will ensure that all dancers have an even playing field. Dance Deck recommended that if you find that certain events like casting bring out the worst in parents, send out friendly reminders of your studio’s policies. Politely but firmly explain that you and your teachers work together to assign roles fairly and that there will be no changes once they’ve been announced.
When you set a policy like this, Dance Studio Owner recommended that you put out a general questionnaire to gauge parent reactions. There will likely be a few skeptics, but chances are that the majority of parents will appreciate your fairness and regard for their opinions.