Occasional Visitor
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Registered: ‎03-08-2014


Hello parents,
I'm a relatively young piano teacher (age 28). I have no children of my own and I was an only child, so my experience with youngsters is fairly limited. This has not been a problem in my teaching until this year. I've recebtly acquired two new students from different families (age 6 and 7). Let's start with student no. 1. She is incredibly shy but she has slowly been opening up to me. The first time we had a "test", she didn't pass and became incredibly upset. She broke out in tears, left the piano bench, and threw herself at her mother. She refused to continue the lesson, even after friendly coaxing from her mother and myself. The other day, she was having a rough lesson. I stopped her during playing to correct several mistakes ( which is my job) and I noticed she started whining and looking at her mother for sympathy. Her mother coaxed her to continue the lesson. Near the end of the lesson, she once again left the piano bench and began crying on her mom who started saying "aww" and trying to gently encourage her to finish the lesson. She didn't listen to my encouragement or instructions. What is going on here? I never did this during my lessons. If I had, my father would have sternly ordered me to get back on the piano bench and follow my teachers' instructions. If I had refused, there would have been punishment to follow for sure!

Child no. 2...she has some mental issues. She gets frustrated very easily. As she walks into my studio each week, I can easily predict the next sentence, "She's not in a very good today." She has a hard time staying still during lessons. She's always fidgeting. This, I can deal with. What I'm baffled at is that she talks back to me. I'll make a suggestion that she needs to play slower to lessen her mistakes. I'll tell her she's playing a song way too fast. She say, "No, I'm not! I'm not playing it too fast!" What am I missing here? I never spoke that way to my teachers when I was young. The thought never even occurred to me. When she talks back to me like this, I'm not sure how to respond besides kindly asking her to not argue with me since it's impolite. Once more, this child tears up at lessons for unnecessary reasons, her mom cuddles her and gently coaxes her to continue the lesson and is usually met with refusal. Why are these kida behaving this way? How can I stop it? More than that, what could these parents have done to avoid having such disrespectful children? I ask the last question because I do plan on having my own child some day. Sincere advice is greatly appreciated.
Posted from Samsung SCH-I747
Regular Contributor
Posts: 223
Registered: ‎08-20-2013


From my own background (I've taught horse riding lessons for 10 years) if I had to make a guess (it's always tough when you don't personally see the situation/ know the kids) both kids don't really want to be there. 6 & 7 is a very hard age for kids if their parents want them to do something and they don't really want to do it in the first place. An older kid usually knows to just suck it up and do it because mom and dad say so, but the younger kids don't really get that part yet. Instead usually I'll see it come out in either apprehension to try something new, talking back, parents will usually coddle their kids because they know their kid doesn't really want to be there but the parent desperately wants them to excel at this (and often has a false idea that an earlier start will lead to faster progress), and just generally being more on the bad mood side when they are there for their lessons.


Usually for a kid like #1, I might encourage a little break from lessons with the parent. Almost always, the parents will go with the break idea to let their kids have a chance to mature a little bit more because they don't really want to feel like they're wasting their money on a set time where their kid just cries and is clingy and doesn't really make any progress. Either the parents will find something else for the kid to do that the kid likes more, or the kid decides that they want to do lessons again. Every time a kid HAS come back after a little break, they usually begin to progress a lot faster. The kids who don't come back are usually the ones that very clearly never wanted to have lessons in the first place, but their parents always wanted to have lessons as a kid and feel like that means their kids should really want lessons too.


For the second kid, don't be afraid to assert yourself with her. It is sometimes difficult if the parent is in the room with the child to do this, however to put an end to it you need to speak up when she is being disrespectful or not listening to you and have a tangible consequence. For me talking back/ not listening ends up presenting a safety problem so I have to put an end to it immediately. I have NO problems whatsoever with ending lessons short, taking time outs during lessons, etc for talking back and not listening, even though the parent is present during the lesson. I've NEVER had a parent tell me I'm not allowed to discipline their child during a lesson. They are paying for my time and my expertise. She will recognize if you are serious about following through with time outs, etc during her lessons. If she wants to be there and learn, then she'll shape up really quickly.


I think the big thing might be, if you do decide that they both really do want to take piano lessons, is that some kids also really really want something desperately, but are also very apprehensive about failing or just fit into a completely different learning mode from your teaching mode. For both kids, you will need to step back and reevaluate your lesson format for them. Not every kid is going to learn the same and some of them will be radically different than you. Some kids, like kid #2, might do better if you find a way to make the lesson more like games. Kid #1 will probably need different ways of measuring progress other than tests. Sometimes asking a parent to NOT watch a kid removes a lot of pressure off of them and they then do better. 


I also want to add- there is nothing wrong with suggesting that someone take their kids to work with a different teacher either. I've had to do this on a few occassions. I'm not a good teaching fit for every person out there, and I'd rather have someone go to someone else that will be a good fit for them.


The last part- rather than labeling them as "disrespectful" instead view them simply as your students. We tend to view things as what we've labeled them. From your description, I would NEVER for a second consider the first kid in this as disrespectful. Timid, yes. Quite possibly not even wanting to be at lessons, yes. But never disrespectful. For the second kid, look past the mental issues. Look at her for who she is. Easily frustrated, fidgety, argumentative- I'd probably label her as bored. Disrespectful is a totally different thing from timid and a totally different thing from bored but they are both labels that you can give both these kids that have way different solution patterns.


I hope this doesn't come off as sounding too preachy! It's super long but that's my basic take on students I've had in the past that have presented similar challenges for me. In all these instances, we were able to make some considerable progress and had a great deal of fun. Ultimately though I have never had a student presenting these challenges at such an early age continue lessons for another year or so, because they just didn't really want to take lessons in the first place.


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