The considerable space devoted to "grinding," found in the December Basalt High School Longhorn Roundup insert in The Aspen Times, highlights important issues about inappropriate behavior and peer pressure that students and parents must navigate together.
For starters, we need to define "dancing." Grinding is not dancing. It is teenage boys grinding their pelvises into the backsides of young ladies. Parents don't want their sons or daughters to be on either the giving or receiving end of this type of "dancing." Kids only do this stuff because they perceive that "everyone is doing it" and their peer-pressure, go-with-the- herd mentality prevents them from comfortably speaking up. Hopefully, the Basalt High School articles have started a dialogue in local households.
When my daughter went to Basalt Middle School four years ago, I heard the unsavory stories about the seventh- and eighth-grade grind dances. Our newly formed Basalt Middle School parents group decided to do something about this issue. We introduced kids to a different kind of school-dance experience. Dances should be fun!
Our parent group has sponsored fifth- through eighth-grade dances featuring the excellent DJ Ronnie, who gets out on the dance floor with the kids. Our (well-lit) dances have conga lines, limbo contests, and girl-versus-boy and grade-versus-grade dance contests. We've even had the Basalt High School dance team come and show the kids how to do popular dance moves. As a result, the kids have a good time, no one is stuck in a corner feeling awkward, and no one has to experience the icky grinding that used to define "school dance."
Hopefully, the next freshman class at Basalt High School (and their parents) will insist that Basalt High School continue to host similar fun dances.
If you Google "getyourfreakdancingoff," you'll find a blog with lots of great ideas for creating grind-free dances. Parental involvement is critical. All parents need to step up and help with dances and other school events. During the middle school and high school years, parents tend to drop their kids off at school and expect someone else to do the important work of guiding adolescents into adulthood. Teachers should not be expected to police kids night and day. Children need their parents more (not less) during these roller-coaster teenage years.
Parents and kids can start by talking about grinding in its larger context. Discuss what healthy, self-respectful, age-appropriate contact looks like. Talk about standing up for your core values in the face of peer pressure. And don't forget to twirl your kids on the living-room floor and show them what real dancing looks like.
Stacey McLendon Craft