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.
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Copyright 2013 John Aschenbrenner All Rights Reserved
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