Why Children Need Grit, and How Dance Makes a Difference

 Gritty people have a growth mindset; they don’t give up.

 This paraphrased quote is from author Angela Duckworth, who popularized the word “grit” with her famous TED Talk about the power of passion and perseverance.  She wasn’t talking specifically about dancers, but she could have been!

 Children need to develop resilience in order to learn from their experiences and grow into their full potential.  This is why we value determination and tenacity so highly here at Expressions Dance, because we know these are beneficial qualities to have in life, in or out of the dance classroom.  But can you teach a child these qualities; to be more resilient, more gritty?  We strongly believe the answer to that is YES. 

In dance class, we want our students to know we care about them and want them to succeed.  But we also want to hold them to age-appropriate, growth-driven standards—high standards that will require their hard work, practice, and focus for achievement.

Dance, like life, can present its challenges: the step might not look correct yet; your body might be sore or injured; the audition answer might be no; you might even fall down every now and then.  Allowing a child to simply walk away from those challenges (or give up on them) only teaches the child that hard work need not apply.  Persevering through those challenges, however, teaches them to bounce back; to build the work ethic they will need throughout their childhood and young adult life.

 These lessons in dance will be hard at times, no doubt.  As parents and teachers, we know there will sometimes be tears or frustrations.  But that won’t stop us from encouraging these kids to push themselves.  They are amazing kids who will go on to persevere through a tough exam at school, bounce back from a job they didn’t get, or work through a strained friendship.  They are amazing kids who will become amazing adults because they have been challenged by failure and fueled by success.

At Expressions Dance, we want you to know that this message is very important to us and close to our hearts, and it helps us coach the best out of your child, day in and day out.  Through dance we’re teaching them how to be grittier and in turn, empowering them for the future.

Raising a Healthy Dancer

In our dance classes at Expressions Dance, we are committed to developing dancers who have healthy bodies and minds—and a healthy outlook on life!  We want our dancers to feel confident about themselves and love their bodies. 

What can you do at home to support this objective and boost your child’s overall wellness?  We encourage these principles as a guide to build healthy habits in your child:

  • Think about food as fuel!

    • Nutrition plays a huge role in developing healthy dancers!  Help your child see food as fuel by referring to it that way, that food makes up the protein, fats, and carbohydrates they need to have the energy and mental clarity for dancing. 

  • Make hydration easy!

    • Whether at home or at the studio, children may need extra reminders to stay hydrated.  Make drinking water a habit by having a water bottle available whenever possible (such as in their backpack or dance bag) and inviting your child to help prepare it in their favorite way, such as with the squeeze of an orange or an overload of ice cubes!

  • Wind down before bedtime!

    • To optimize your child’s existing routine, help them discover ways to “decompress like a dancer” in the hour before bedtime.  Listening to music or gently stretching, for example, can be excellent ways to unwind.

  • Talk about bodies in a healthful way!

    • At Expressions Dance, we are hyper-aware that body-positive talk by adults influences kids’ perspectives about their own bodies.  We encourage parents to curb any negative talk about themselves and instead model an appreciation for what healthy bodies can do, such as grow stronger muscles or learn new dance moves!

  • Take social media breaks!

    • Children can easily get caught in a current of body-comparisons as they scroll through their social media.  Encouraging them to take breaks—even just an evening at a time—interrupts those thoughts, allowing kids to refresh their thinking.

It’s essential for us at Expressions Dance to grow the mindset that dance class is about more than just the steps: it’s also a place that helps shape healthy habits for life.  We appreciate our dance parents standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us on this mission!

Why Performing is Beneficial for Your Child

As you’ve probably noticed, the team at Expressions Dance has already begun talking about recital!  Even though it’s only January, our recital planning is well underway.  It’s this time of year, with the buzz of recital just beginning, that parents sometimes ask us, “Why should my child participate?  What’s beneficial about it?”

This is an excellent question—and a significant one!  The recital is an investment in your child’s dance education, and it’s a pretty important commitment.  At its core, dance is a performing art, which is part of the reason why we want every child to experience the thrill of being onstage.

 We believe there are three core reasons at the heart of why performing is so valuable, even for our youngest dancers:

  1.  Progress:

    Throughout the dance season, your child is making awesome progress in class.  And when we say “awesome progress” we don’t necessarily mean the obvious, like learning fancy ballet steps (although that is pretty awesome too!).  What we mean is that your super-shy child bursts with confidence, or your child who said “I can’t” now says “I can,” or your teen who hid her smile now shines with every practice.  Seeing this kind of progress in class is great, but having it showcased on stage is priceless!  Performing allows your child to demonstrate their progress—both with the steps AND with their self-esteem.

  2. Potential

    The recital is an excellent time to see what’s possible if your child sticks with dance for the long-term.  From the audience, you’re able to see the potential dance holds as you watch the variety of styles and age groups.  Your child, too, will be inspired by seeing the different dance routines, and might think to themselves, “I bet I can do that too!”  Dance offers the promise of so much growth if a young child perseveres and works hard; the recital performance brings this potential into the spotlight!

  3. Passion

    Performing holds an excitement like some children have never experienced before.  Nerves can transform in an instant as the dancers light up with joy when stepping foot onstage; they are swept away by the magic of entertaining the crowd.  The sense of accomplishment they feel has them hooked!  It’s this growing passion—not perfect technique or memory—that makes performing so special.

Progress, potential, passion … these are the foundation of what performance is all about!  At Expressions Dance, we love pretty much any opportunity to chat about these benefits, so if you have any questions about having your child perform in our recital, don’t hesitate to ask! Be on the lookout for our recital information to be sent home after class and by email! All families need to submit their consent forms in order to participate!

Dance Lessons Teach Life Lessons

At Expressions Dance, we believe that learning how to dance should be an encouraging and positive experience for children at any age!  And while the dance steps themselves are an important element to every class, the benefits of dance go far beyond pliés and pirouettes. We feel that dance lessons are life lessons!

Here are our five favorite benefits of dance: 

  1. Dance requires perseverance. In today’s world of instant gratification, dance is different because it teaches children how to work hard over days, weeks, months, and years!  Consistent, developmentally-appropriate practice is the way to achieve progress.

  2. There are opportunities everywhere. Every class is a chance to learn something new or grow in a new way.  Whether it’s getting better at a step you already know or trying a new skill, the chance to try and try again is always there!

  3. Forever friendships are formed. There’s something pretty special about the friends you dance with … you share laughs, work together as a team, push each other to do your best, and support each other’s dreams.

  4. Dance prepares kids for life in the “real world.” The dance classroom is full of life lessons: from our preschoolers learning how to take turns with each other to our teenagers understanding how to prepare for an audition, everyone is developing the discipline and patience they’ll need in life outside the classroom.

  5. The “comfort zone” is challenged. Trying new steps.  Performing in front of an audience.  Reaching for a goal.  All of these things help children grow outside their comfort zones!  A shy dancer can learn how to love the stage; an enthusiastic one can learn how to harness her energy. 

As you may already have observed in your child, the immediate joy of dancing comes from the thrill of movement and music!  What follows is another type of joy; one that comes from the long-term, deeply-rooted character qualities instilled during dance class.

These five benefits aren’t the only positives of course, but they are certainly some of the best!  We hope you see them develop in your child as they discover their love for dance.