No parents allowed

Some friends were recently telling my wife and me that their four-year-old daughter began ballet classes a few months ago. But until the first recital, they’d never actually watched their tiny dancer do any ballet. It’s not that they aren’t invested parents—they are. But the instructor has one rule that must be followed: Parents are not allowed to observe the classes. In fact, they need to physically leave the building for the entirety of the class.

Four-year-olds can be easily distracted. And according to the instructor, that’s especially true when a parent is within their child’s field of vision. The problem is only exacerbated when parents can’t help but snap pictures, film video, or even lob their own instructions to their newbie ballerinas.

When it’s recital time, parents (and their cameras) are invited and warmly welcomed. But the classes are for dancers only. No parents allowed.

When I write often here about the need for parents of teenagers to stop hovering, to step back, and to allow their teens to take more responsibility for their own lives even if that means occasionally letting them fail, it’s never lost on me just how much worse the opposite problem would be. Better to be a little too invested than to completely ignore your student.

But in your search for the right balance, consider whether or not your presence (at the practice, the performance, the tournament, etc.) is a positive addition for your teen. When in doubt, just ask your son or daughter. Express how interested you are, but acknowledge that they should get to decide whether or not they want a parent in the literal or figurative stands.

It might be a temporary blow to your ego not to get an invite. But if given the choice, you likely would not want your teen in the room when you give your big sales presentation, or when the boss is delivering your annual performance review, or when the results are announced for the PTA election in which you’re a candidate. It doesn’t mean you love your kid any less. It just means that sometimes, having an audience creates more stress than it does support.

Our friends easily embraced the “No parents allowed” rule as an opportunity to take a nice walk together for an hour every Saturday. Maybe staying back can benefit both you and your student?

Engage, attend, and cheer on when you’re invited and welcome. And when you’re not, accept—and embrace—when no parents are allowed.