My Child Wants To Quit Piano

So now that you’ve paid hundreds if not thousands for piano lessons, your child walks in one day and says, “Mom, I hate piano. Can I quit?” What do you do?

There could be many reasons for this:

Your child may simply be overloaded with activities. I don’t know a child today who isn’t too busy.

Your child may have given piano an honest try, but maybe it’s not for them.

The lesson may be scheduled at a time that is inconvenient for the child, or for you.

Traveling to and from the lesson may prove stressful.

But there’s another more obvious reason why piano lessons may not be panning out: the teacher.

Have you sat in on a lesson or two, as some parents occasionally do? I myself as a piano teacher work only in people’s homes, so I am quite used to parent’s eyes over my shoulder. And frankly it doesn’t worry me because I get so absorbed in teaching the child and having fun with them that I really don’t notice a parent’s presence.

But the child and the teacher may feel differently. The child will tend to be a little tense, since they will want very much to please you, the parent, if you are present. Your presence is in general disruptive and counter-productive for the child unless your visits are very occasional. This is not true in all cases and depends entirely on the age and personality of the child, and the relationship between the teacher and child.

The teacher’s feelings about your presence is another case. Even if you know nothing about piano, music and lessons, you can make simple observations that will help you to determine why your child is uncomfortable.

Before we discuss these observations, the following should be said of piano teachers in general so that we run no risk of “teacher-bashing.” We’re really rooting for both sides here, the student and the teacher.

In the teacher’s defense,

Piano is a difficult instrument, like all instruments, to play well. To gain a cursory knowledge is not hard, but to master it in any sense is a lot of hard work. We can assume the teacher is well trained and a professional, and knows and appreciates the beauty of the piano and music in general.

Teaching a child the piano from the beginning is a very tedious process for the teacher in many ways: they are going over and over what are for them the most painfully basic of concepts. It’s hard to do this unless you truly love kids.

Simply dealing with kids can be difficult, unless you know how to do it. Add to this the task of learning a noble, complex musical instrument, and you have a hard job.

Having said that in defense of the teachers, here are observations you can make in the piano lesson to see why your child is unhappy:

Is the child comfortable? Discount your presence and try to assess the child’s emotional state during the lesson. Tense? Intense? Happy? Petulant? It may be just that particular day’s mood, but you have to try to find out the child’s feelings about the lesson process itself.

What is the teacher’s manner? Is the teacher cold, bubbly, slow, old, young? Do they listen to the child, or is the lesson in essence a lecture?

How much interaction is there between the student and teacher?

How does the teacher handle repetition? Piano requires repetition as all musical instruments do, but a clever teacher disguises the repetition in the beginning. If the teacher goes over and over the same piece or section, it may be too much for the child. Children require variety and persistence in equal measure, and to simply repeat a portion of a piece until it pleases the teacher may terribly frustrate the child. A teacher has to be creative in the art of repetition.

How much variety is there? Does the teacher do the same sort of activity again and again, or is there some sense of variety? Many children have a very short attention span, and those few moments may be all the teacher has to introduce or refine a concept during a 30 minute lesson. There needs to be a variety of activities. Just reading music and honing those particular skills will exhaust the average child quickly. Many piano teachers do not know this.

If it seems the teacher is impatient and gruff in any way at all with the child, then the teacher may be well intentioned, but they are not suited to teaching children the piano. Children are extremely sensitive in the one-on-one atmosphere of piano lessons, and the teacher must find a way of correcting the child without humiliating them or hurting their feelings.

If it seems the teacher is kind, patient, warm and experienced with kids, then it may be that the child is indeed not happy with the lessons. There’s no reason for a child to be unhappy with a sympathetic teacher.

So look for those two questions: is the child at ease in the lesson, and is the teacher patient and kind? If the answer to either question is no, you should consider changing piano teachers, or simply stopping for a while or trying another instrument.

It never pays for kids to take music lessons if they are not happy with them at least to some small degree. They don’t have to love it, but if they hate it, it’s a sign something is wrong.

Better to wait and try again later than to turn them off forever. And you run the risk of that if you force them to take piano lessons.

Visit http://pianoiseasy2.com for a beginning piano method kids really enjoy!

Copyright 2013 John Aschenbrenner All Rights Reserved

Visit http://www.pianoiseasy.com to see the fun Piano by Number method for kids.

12 Responses to “My Child Wants To Quit Piano”

  1. sarasota piano lessons Says:

    Great post. Each student presents a new set of challenges, and we as educators have to be inventive and creative in getting our students to develop a love for the instrument and the desire to learn it. Good luck!

    ~~friends at Allegro Music Aademy

  2. Gulipek Says:

    Thank you for posting this article. My six years old daughter taking piano lessons since september 2010. She is doing pretty good, she loves the teacher, but she does not want to practice at home. Every day we have to remind her, ask her many times to do her piano practice. It is a battle everyday, and I am getting tired of it. I asked her a lot of times if she wants to quit piano, if she wants to stop taking lessons, but she says she wants to go to the teacher.
    Would you give me any advice about what I can do to make her do her practice in a nice and happy way, instead of a battle?

    • pianobynumber Says:

      Try stop asking her to practice and see what happens. If she has pleased the teacher not practicing so far, she may be so quick that practice seems pointless to her. Try simply stopping asking. Don’t refer to the piano, don’t ask her to play, don’t do anything you usually do, and see what happens. Give it two or three weeks. You have nothing to lose and may find out a lot.

      • Dave Says:

        I’m 13, have been learning the instrument for 7 years and am doing my grade 6. My wonderful mother was persistent with practice from my first day. I now practice on my own. So as she is six and can learn things really quickly, only practice five minutes a day, together. Try to learn to read music and learn the piano together.

  3. IHATEPIANO Says:

    my mom makes me do piano for what i think shouldn’t i have a right in if i want to do that activity i know she’s my mom but still! i love singing so she said once i found a voice teacher i could quit piano
    and we found one but now she’s making me do piano with the voice teacher and also do voice with her what should i do???????

  4. John Says:

    What she may be trying to do is find the right talent for you. Have you told her you want to quit piano? Honestly, I love piano, but hate practicing. Maybe in front of other people is why. So, try to go on one side, and then ask if you can quit the one you don’t like. If that doesn’t work, tell her to google,” I really like playing piano, but hate practicing. What should I do?” and have her look at some of these articles.

  5. josh Says:

    im doing grade 8 and im sick of it. it ruins my life, im not allowed to go out with out 2 and a half hours of practise done, my my randomly enters me for stuff and i ve told them so many times to quite. They answer, if i quit i have to quit soccer (im representing my city for soccer) and love it. HELP!!! IM SICK AND TIRED OF THE CRAPPY INSTRUMENT!

    • pianobynumber Says:

      I’m really sorry you are in this situation. Your parents are wrong. All they have done is make you hate the piano. Since they are being so unfair, I suggest you quit soccer and be done with the whole sorry situation. Why do parents think that making you hate piano is worth paying for? Also, 2 1/2 hours of practice for a child who hates the instrument is a ridiculously bad parental choice. Tiger parents are wrong. Force produces hate.

    • pianobynumber Says:

      I want to add something to my last comment. You are in a very difficult position, and it doesn’t help that your parents threaten to take away soccer in return for quitting piano. Soccer is important. It teaches social skills, teamwork, coordination and strategy. So I hope you don’t have to quit soccer. The best outcome is this for you: get your parents to allow you to practice half an hour. That is enough.
      I can tell you love soccer. Someone, maybe your coach, taught you that, showed you how to work hard and enjoy the game. The biggest shame of your situation is that your piano teacher and parents haven’t bothered to teach you the same about the piano. Learning anything that lasts takes passion, like you have for soccer. That gift of passion should have been bestowed on you by your piano teacher, but instead their disciplinarianism has made you hate the piano. A more creative teacher would have helped, but that advice is too late now as you hate the piano, and I don’t blame you.. Good luck.

  6. Anton Pozharskiy Says:

    As this “child” you speak of I can tell you one thing. I have found piano more of a chore than anything. I am on the point where I finally understand that to me it will forever be useless time I have wasted away. And to parents: if they are not practicing the despise it to the depths of their hearts so just stop before the hate you to the point where the just want to leave the house.

    • Anton Pozharskiy Says:

      Oh and sorry that I forgot to mention that I have played for 7 years now.

    • pianobynumber Says:

      Piano doesn’t have to be a chore. It’s just that almost all piano teachers (including yours) make it that way. These piano teachers feel they must get through a certain curriculum regardless of the child’s reaction to that curriculum. A far better strategy is to get the child interested in PLAYING before you inundate them with the minutiae of musical notation.

      And then there’s the mindless repetition they demand, without regard for the child’s feelings about the piece. For example, I repeat Chopin’s Ballade in G Minor every day, but only because I love it with passion. I don’t repeat or practice pieces I hate, ever.

      I think your last sentence is, “If they (kids)are not practicing, they despise it to the depths of their hearts, so just stop (making them play)before they hate you (the parents) to the point where they (the kids) just want to leave the house.” Anton, that is the best I have ever heard it stated: parents irrationally make kids continue with piano teachers they hate, paying for the child to learn to HATE the piano. That’s a waste of your parent’s money and your brain.

      I hope you can quit. The world doesn’t need more people who are made to hate the piano, it needs millions of people who are allowed to discover that they enjoy playing piano in a fashion that is comfortable and satisfying. All the teacher has to do is lower the bar to a level you find comfortable. Unfortunately, almost all piano teachers have only one way of teaching, and set the bar impossibly high. Your story is proof of that. And it is very sad that piano teachers think they have to torture kids with their “method” in order to make a few bucks, for the money is their prime motivation. They could care less whether you grow up and someday want to play again.

      Your piano teacher got your parent’s money, and all you get is hatred of the piano. I’m truly sorry your piano teacher is such an inflexible moron.

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