If you have a younger sibling, it’s bound to happen at some point…
You’re performing with your kid brother in a talent show, or Mom and Dad want you both to put something together for Great Aunt Matilda’s 80th birthday, or (yikes!) you are the assistant in your sister’s dance class and have been ordered to help her…
As the older sibling, you’ve somehow been put “in charge” of getting results from the last person on earth who would want to listen to a word you say (except, of course, unless you’ve said something tattle-worthy). So, how do you get this kid to cooperate?
- When it’s time to work, don’t tell her. Just bring a CD player, iPod, or whatever to a place where she is nearby. Turn on the music and start working on or doing the dance yourself — don’t even acknowledge her at this point. If it looks fun (or maybe just because deep down she really does idolize you) she may want to join you or help.
- While practicing, let her be the expert. Ask for her ideas, resist putting them down and actually use some of them in the dance — even her ideas aren’t what you would have come up with. If you are rehearsing, you might pretend to mess up on parts she already knows or “forget” and ask her if she knows the next step. Or, let her guess what comes next on parts she’s less familiar with. Even if it’s way wrong say “good guess but actually it’s this!” Make it a game – it’s okay if she knows you are pretending, if it’s silly enough she’ll play along.
- Offer incentives. Set a goal — to learn just three more steps, or 16 counts (Remember the younger your sibling, the shorter her attention span is likely to be). Try saying something like “Guess what? If we learn three more steps today, mom says we can put on a show for her!” When she finishes with the parts she knows, she can dance however she likes until the end of the music. She may even want to go beyond the original goal out of excitement and the possibility for positive attention from an “audience”. But, if all you get is three more steps, well, at least you got that far. Don’t push her to do more.
- Don’t try to beat her, join her. Being bossy and controlling will not work. Forcing her to comply using threats because you’re bigger or older or more experienced will only be frustrating for both of you. Allow yourself to have fun. Be patient, funny, and energetic and you’ll see better results.
Acknowledge achievement. When she does go along with you, remembers a step, or show that she’s eager (even if it is just a little bit), acknowledge it. “Thanks for watching so closely, you really got it that time!” or “You remembered the kick! Wow, you’re really working hard!’ Say thank you when she listens well or does a good job. Congratulate her on the work she puts in. She’ll be more cooperative when you show appreciation for her efforts, no matter how small.
I’ve used “her” in this example just to keep things simple. Believe it or not, this stuff can work for brothers too.
You know your younger sibling and what motivates him/her better than I do. You may have to get creative! But these are the keys to success:
- make learning the dance FUN
- ASK rather than tell (let her be the teacher, quiz her, or find out what she thinks)
- choose REWARDS that make her feel good about the dance
- do it TOGETHER (no bossing)
- and say THANK YOU!
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.