Some mothers aren’t sure if their children should watch “Dance Moms,” the reality TV show about a group of competitive adolescent dancers and the drama they have with their parents, teammates and instructors.
As one mother wrote for Entertainment Weekly, the show, which premiered its sixth season on Tuesday night, isn’t always the family-friendly show it’s supposed to be. It doesn’t show inappropriate material, but rather it often portrays negative family values that aren’t always the most comforting to watch, the mother wrote.
“While there is nothing technically inappropriate about the hit reality show, I still can’t help feeling slightly uncomfortable with the mom-fighting, bullying and children being put in giant hamster bubbles … and yet, this is the wonderful world of Dance Moms,” the mother wrote for Entertainment Weekly. “I still can’t help but wonder if I’m a bad mom for watching it with my girls week after week.”
The mother wrote about how her daughters didn’t feel inspired by one of the new dancing girls, Brynn, in the show’s latest episode. Rather, they cheered for one of her opponents, a boy named Gavin, mainly because Brynn’s mother wasn’t very kind, either, she wrote.
“In the end, my girls couldn’t stop obsessing over the new girl Brynn and her mom,” she wrote for EW.
The show shouldn’t teach children to disapprove of another girl or her mother, the writer explained.
“Dance Moms,” which debuted in 2011 on the Lifetime network, follows the dancing careers of young children and their parents. The show has produced some stars — including Maddie Ziegler, who was named one of the 30 most influential teens by Time magazine last year — and averages between 1 and 2 million viewers for every episode.
But the show hasn’t aired without controversy. Back in October, one of the show’s stars, instructor Abby Lee Miller, was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly hiding $755,000 in earnings from the Lifetime show, which could force her to go to prison for five years and owe more than $5 million in fines, Deadline reported.
The investigation began when the federal government noticed the show had a lot of money to spend, and yet hadn’t reported the full earnings, Deadline reported.
Miller, though, is still involved with the show, at least for the moment. But that hasn’t stopped parents from airing their grievances about her and the show.
Parent members of Common Sense Media posted mostly negative reviews about the show, claiming, “It is abusive the way the children are talked to by Abby Lee. I’ve never seen anyone tear down a child’s self esteem like she does. Pitiful mothers to allow it and to pay her to do it,” as one parent wrote.
Another mom said her daughter, who is in dance, couldn’t even watch the show because of the show’s negative portrayal of family and the unfriendly lessons.
“This show is awful,” parent Annaa1 wrote. “My daughter LOVES dance class. We watched about 10 min. of this show and it was so obnoxious we actually had to turn it off. I taped it and went back later to see if it was just that part or the whole show, the entire time it was rude people treating others awful. People pay this lady to abuse their children?? What’s wrong with them.”
Some reviewers, like Margaret Lyons of Vulture, have compared it to “Toddlers and Tiaras,” a TLC show that depicts the lives of child beauty pageant stars, since both TV shows portray “emotional and psychological abuse” towards children and exploits the youngsters.
“Attention, parents: If you are approached to have your child appear in a reality show, say no! Always say no,” Lyons wrote. “No matter how talented or precocious a child is, early exposure to fame — even crappy TLC-level fame — is rarely recipe for long-term emotional and financial stability.”
Lyons wrote that the show also usually offers negative lessons for children, which may make them unhappy with their parents.
“The lessons the girls on Dance Moms learn is a different one, a more acutely sad one: That their moms won’t protect them,” Lyons wrote. “There’s a difference between parents who push their children, ones that hold them to high standards, and ones that are complicit in their child’s misery.”
But some have pointed out that “Dance Moms” teaches some meaningful lifelong lessons for young children, like the fact that the world sometimes can be a cruel place that may require you to accept criticism, Kristie Rohwedder wrote for Bustle. It has also taught children to always strive to reach their goals.
“If you get a flat tire on your commute, don’t waste your time with a tow truck,” Rohwedder wrote. “Go ahead and push your car to work. If you run out of salt while cooking dinner, use garlic powder in its place. It’s almost the same color, so it should do the trick. Plus, you don’t want to waste precious minutes asking your neighbor for salt. Don’t let any obstacle stop you from getting the job done.”
The mother who wrote for Entertainment Weekly also offered one last thought about what the show does positively for children. She said her daughters often complained in this season’s premiere about new families, saying they wanted to see some of the older stars of the shows and families that have since left the spotlight.
“Maybe this show teaches loyalty? Am I reaching?” she asked. “I hope not, because in the end, the three of us still really want to keep watching.”