The role of parents in music lessons

Private teaching has its perks- flexible schedule, higher rate of pay, nice working environment.. But for many teachers, the perks stop right there.  There is one problem with teaching at a student’s house- the parent!

Example 1.

I am teaching a new student. She’s had a couple of lessons, improving quite quickly – her tone became clearer and more resonant and her hand position looks better already.  Third lesson in, the mum (who hasn’t seen how I teach), says in front of her child before the lesson “she’s not going to be a soloist, so please just teach her enough to keep up in band, you know, the notes and fingerings”.

Example 2.

Parent always sits in the lesson.  “She needs to work on these pieces more and her high notes.  Could you just do that today?”

Example 3.

“Sorry, … couldn’t practise this week because he had too much school work / he had friends over for a party”.   (All week?!!)

Funny example: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uDF3CHqqb-4
Example 4.

Mother sits in the background letting me teach.  After the lesson she asks what her daughter should be practising.  I show her the note book and the mum listens to her daughter’s practice regularly.

The parent in example 4 is a rare species!  It’s so refreshing when parents are supportive without being interfering or undermining the teacher’s expertise.

As a parent, you want the best for your child.  That’s why you seek out a qualified teacher in your area with knowledge of what and how to teach students.  Therefore, parents should trust that the teacher knows what they are doing, just as they trust other teachers at school.

Here are a few DOs and DON’Ts for parents.

DO:

  • Encourage your child to practise
  • Take an interest in what they are learning
  • Listen and monitor their practice
  • Give your child opportunities to perform at home
  • Trust the teacher and talk with him/her privately if you have any concerns
  • Ask the teacher for help with buying instrument


DON’T:

  • Tell the teacher what to teach- they know what to teach and when to teach it
  • Limit the student’s progress to note learning.  This becomes boring for both teacher and student
  • Give excuses for the student’s lack of practice.

For the teachers, we must learn to accept there are going to be parents who think they know best and try to dictate the course of study.  It’s our duty to inform the parents of our method and expectations.
Thanks for reading and happy fluting!

Next blog:  YouTube pick of the week

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5 thoughts on “The role of parents in music lessons

  1. I am both a private teacher and a parent of students taking private lessons (with a teacher who isn’t me) and this has given me some new perspective on lessons/practicing, etc. I’m present at most of my kids’ lessons (occasionally it’s my tone-deaf husband if I can’t be there). My kids are still fairly young, and two have some fairly big hurdles to overcome (one is autistic and has severe ADHD, another has epilepsy and severe ADHD, the third has no major developmental issues, but is in tears at nearly every lesson yet insists that she LOVES playing and doesn’t want to stop…. my youngest daughter is not yet playing an instrument and for that I’m grateful!). The one thing I will say is that I always thought I would have kids who came home from school every day, had a snack, did their homework, went into the practise room, played for 30 minutes, and then shuffled off to do chores, etc. before touching an electronic or television remote. HAH! My triplets are only in 2nd grade and they are SWAMPED with homework every night – no joke. By the time they are finished with their homework, it’s all I can do to shove dinner in their face, get them into a bath or shower, and get them into bed on time to start it all over again. I’m lucky if they practice a couple days a week, including weekends. And they don’t get along well enough to practice together, even though they’re all learning out of the same book, so they have to practise at different times or in different rooms (we have a very small house, so different rooms can be a challenge). I’m not offering excuses, but I can tell you that the explanation for why they didn’t practise can be genuine. Ultimately, however, it shouldn’t be on the parent for why a kid didn’t practise – it’s on the kid. If the kid won’t prioritise it, then all the time in the practise room won’t help anyway. When I was a kid, all I *wanted* was to practise. My kids aren’t wired the same way – it turns out I wasn’t a normal kid! (go figure). I’m still hopeful that someday my kids will want it (and they did when it was summer time and they didn’t have a thousand other things tugging at their time), but for now, I encourage, but do not *force* my kids into the practise room. They will progress at their own pace and so long as they remain interested, they will keep playing. If they find something else that interests them more (and therefore motivates them more), then I will encourage that as well.

    But please don’t assume that parents are just making excuses. Parents have to prioritise their battles, and with four kids in my house, each with complex issues, there are a LOT of battles that I’m juggling every single day. Very few make the top of the list. The only ones that DO make the top of the list are the ones that relate to health and safety.

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    1. Thanks for your comment and insight.

      Indeed, every student has their own background and situation and having taught in areas where practice is even banned by religion, I know some explanations are genuine and not just excuses. Your case is different to most – I was pointing out that some parents give excuses and this doesn’t help since the student doesn’t feel the need to practise because their parent can get them out of trouble. This doesn’t work in school, so I just wanted to make the point that flute lessons should be given equal importance and attention as all other subjects. The parents have the wisdom and knowledge of how practise (like homework) can help and the child doesn’t always have that insight.

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      1. You are absolutely correct – I have an unusual set of circumstances, and I do believe that practising is of paramount importance. My main goal with music lessons at this age (age 8) is to show my children that they DO improve through hard (or at least moderate) work and diligence. In that sense, practising, at least on a semi-regular basis, is absolutely vital. But making it a battle ground is something I will not do. My parents attempted to remind me to practise exactly once before I told them what a laughable thing that was since I was always telling THEM that I needed them to carve out time for me to practise. My kids need gentle reminders, but anything more than that, and they won’t even bother.

        I was only giving you the extreme example because it’s very easy to fall into the trap of blaming parents for excuses until you’ve been on the parent side of things (especially when there are multiple children in the mix). When I had just one kid life was a lot simpler. With triplets, it’s a whole different ball game! (My kids play violin, viola and cello… I’m holding out for my youngest to play double bass…. none have shown the least bit of interest in the flute, and I think I’m okay with that for now!)

        Thanks for a great blog post – there are always multiple sides to any story and it’s always important to think about the other perspectives.

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