Catty behavior or relational aggression can easily become a problem in your dance studio. While these issues are personal ones, how your dance studio’s leadership talks about and responds to catty behaviors is important, not only for the “victim” of bullying behaviors, but also for the character development of so-called “mean girls.”
Effective Communication Regarding Catty Behaviors
Don’t assume anything; each year, make sure that each instructor informs the dancers in their class that if anyone is the victim of bullying (in speech or actions), the first step should be to talk with an objective confidant who has the maturity to help the dancer through it. Ideally, this initial step should be taken with someone outside the dance studio, such as a parent or a friend. It’s important for her to be able to communicate what happened and how it made her feel. A successful conversation will allow her to come away feeling empowered to respond in a more effective way, if the bullying occurs again.
Careful Choices About Catty Behaviors
For more introverted girls, making a joke, telling the mean girls that their words or actions were hurtful, or simply walking away may be a good response. Another option is to intentionally pursue the bully, attempting to build a friendship and understanding.
Even if they might never become besties, rival dancers can often come to an understanding about how to handle future criticisms or frustrations with one another more maturely (for instance, a one-on-one is always preferred to a public insult or behind-the-back remark). The ability to be able to come up with such a compromise will serve them both well, throughout their dancing careers and in life beyond the dance studio.
Important Commitments About Catty Behaviors
As much as you want to encourage your dancers to work out their relational frustrations individually, sometimes your staff will have to get involved. Your dancers need to know that if another dancer is consistently acting in a way that keeps her from enjoying dance class, she can discuss the issue with her instructor. The teacher can then either directly address the issue with the other dancer or mediate a discussion between the two.
Extreme Counteractions for Catty Behaviors
If you realize that your dance studio seems to breed relational aggression, you’ll need to be proactive about counteracting such a trend and intentionally create a culture of empathy and direct communication instead.
First, make sure your instructors are modeling the kind of behavior you wish to see in your dancers. Next, make it clear that instructors will be giving any necessary feedback, and adopt a “zero tolerance” policy for criticizing other dancers. Determine suitable consequences for each infraction, and be sure to consistently stick to those standards.
Third, establish a set of guidelines and new rituals. Those traditions might include applauding others as they perform and verbally complimenting fellow dancers. As a studio, find ways to acknowledge your dancers’ positive non-dance achievements, and consider giving out weekly rewards for those “caught being kind.”