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#1034322 - 12/07/04 03:55 PM I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
My situation is this.

I started piano 5 years ago, one month after oldest daughter, who is now 13.

Middle daughter started 4 years ago. She is now 10.5. Middle daughter is talented and has fast fingers.

I can play circles around them, even though they should be able to accomplish twice as much as me with half the effort. I don't practice enough, but I will put my head down and grind out a new piece. I don't just go through the motions like they do. I'm always looking for a challenge, whereas they are happy to do the minimum to get by.

And tonight, I *exploded.*

I did everything you're not supposed to do. I told the oldest one that she should not feel good about doing songs out of an early intermediate book for the past 2-3 years. I asked her how come she's not playing Chopin or Mozart. I scorned her practice efforts. I expressed disgust that the simple pieces she is now playing well in December are all she hopes to manage until the recital in February. As for middle daughter, I rebuffed her suggestion that I get her a pop piano teacher, telling her if she wants to learn the piano, then she has the perfect teacher for that.

All of this tongue lashing occurred in the van on the way to their lessons.

And it *worked!*

Oldest daughter is going to attempt a Christmas song that I can play but that her teacher thinks might be too challenging. Oldest daughter is also going to toss aside these easy pieces and take on new stuff for next week, and we'll play some CDs and try to find something she likes. Middle daughter came home from lesson and *practiced.*

Maybe they've been scared straight . . .
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#1034323 - 12/07/04 04:14 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
seebechstein Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/04
Posts: 1085
Loc: houston
I think it's too early to tell if the "law" won...

We'll see how they do with the pieces. If they haven't bit off more than they can chew and they can make steady progress without getting too frustrated, then you're to be congratulated!

Keep in mind that children progress differently in different ways. At times it may not seem like any progress is being made (and you may be right) but it might not be time for progress right now... but there may be some point in time that the talent develops explosively. And maybe that time is now! Tough call... your passion seems greater than theirs.

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#1034324 - 12/07/04 04:23 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
I know! My passion *is* greater than theirs. I mean, I've given them explicit permission to quit, but they are treading water for some reason. Four and five years of lessons really is enough time to decide if you're in or you're out.

It's like having a kid on the track squad who won't run. Or a kid on the swim team who casually does the side-stroke because backstroke is too hard. It's *maddening!*
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#1034325 - 12/07/04 05:10 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
you might need a more inspiring teacher for the girls.
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accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, ├Ľun (apple in Estonian)

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#1034326 - 12/07/04 07:15 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
Jeffrey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/04
Posts: 2948
Loc: New York
Cindy - What is wrong with a "Pop" teacher? Learning from a fake book is a whole separate piano skill one doesn't get from playing Mozart. Maybe that is what she is more interested in. Are you imposing *your* musical values on her? I don't know, just a thought. (I personally like learning pop stuff with my classical.)

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#1034327 - 12/07/04 07:22 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
seebechstein Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/04
Posts: 1085
Loc: houston
 Quote:
Originally posted by Cindysphinx:
...I've given them explicit permission to quit, but they are treading water for some reason. Four and five years of lessons really is enough time to decide if you're in or you're out.[/b]
I liked Apple's suggestion about trying a different teacher. I think kids need to want to perform for their teacher.

Couple of other thoughts:
1) They may not actually know if they want to play the piano. It may take them 20 years like it took me -- well wait a minute, I'm not sure I want to play...
2) Is the money you're spending on lessons what's causing you to evaluate whether or not they are serious?
3) Playing the piano is hard. (Am I allowed to say that?) I'm not sure that it is a legitimate excuse for not working diligently at it though. Is the piano "too hard?" For some, it seems there might not be enough talent or curiosity to keep them encouraged and wanting to work. But I still don't think that's enough to just allow a child to quit if they don't outright rebel and won't do it or if it's too much effort on the parent's part to make them play. I don't think I would give permission apriori allowing them to quit; there would have to be some sort of crisis or epiphany.
4) Maybe you're just really good yourself and you think they should be able to keep up?

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#1034328 - 12/07/04 07:56 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Me? Really good? No, I'm not good at all. They have way more potential than I do.

I don't think a different teacher is the answer. They adore their teacher (she's my teacher too), which might be one reason they're so reluctant to throw in the towel. I think they want a teacher who will make it "fun" because they'd be playing Britney Spears tunes. Well, piano can be fun, and they must be enjoying it somewhat if they won't quit. But it is also hard work, there's no way around it, no matter who their teacher is.

It's this fundamental lack of desire to do the thing well that is driving me up a tree. If they were pulling a C average in school and were capable of more but just figured what they're doing is good enough for government work, that would bother me. Seeing them give the piano a lick and a promise day after day is kind of the same thing.

And yes, it is most definitely and without a shadow of a doubt the money. I'm happy to drive them wherever they'd like to go. But dang it, this is by far the single most expensive thing we've done. I'd guess my oldest has had almost $10,000 worth of piano lessons in her. Gads.

Man. All the whining about how they wanted to quit over the years and now they have the chance and they won't blank or get off the pot. Grrrrr.
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#1034329 - 12/07/04 08:01 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Sorry, Jeffrey. I missed your post.

What's wrong is that I'm not seeing anything to suggest the pop thing would go better. They have the option of playing pop for their lessons now -- they just have to pick a piece and bring it to lesson.

I think I've reached that point where I'm just getting tired of the kids bouncing from thing to thing to thing. Karate. Soccer. Tennis. Skating. Basketball. Diving. Swimming. Piano. Cello. Clarinet. Drums (but I said no). Chorus.

Commit already, why doncha! ;\)

Cindy -- who isn't going to last another 5 years until the first goes to college
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#1034330 - 12/07/04 08:16 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
markjpcs Offline


Registered: 08/31/04
Posts: 3170
Loc: Wisconsin
Cindy,

You are not alone.
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#1034331 - 12/07/04 08:31 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Does your daughter know how much money (and time) you've invested in her lessons? Frequently parents hide financial aspects from their children. If she doesn't realize what resources you have committed to her, then she may look at the lessons as half lark and half chore.

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#1034332 - 12/07/04 11:20 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
Donovan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/12/04
Posts: 37
Loc: Louisiana
When you had this heart to heart with your children did you ask them why they haven't quit yet?

If so, what was there response?

As for as them bouncing from one thing to another, of course that is perfectly normal for children...hell, some adults are still bouncing from one thing to another, trying to find their niche.

However, I do understand how it can be frustrating as a parent with limited resources to invest in everything.

I agree with Bob, this ample opportunity to reinforce an age old saying to your children "Money doesn't grow on trees".

If your children are "fully" aware of how hard you are trying so they can have the privilege of being exposed to these things, it can very well motivate them to try harder.

You and your children both excel by feeding off each other's effort and energy.

A lot of times children don't understand that things like that are a privilege and should be treated as such.

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#1034333 - 12/08/04 01:22 AM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3238
Loc: Virginia, USA
Not trying to be critical.

I'm not sure what your goals are for them.

Are you sure? Do they know? Do they agree? Up to a point you can force them, after that they have to buy in.

Are you possibly getting close to being a piano mom, like a pageant mom?

I require my kids to take piano lessons. I've told them music is a mandatory class like math, science, or English. They need to learn the basics at an early age, and they have to exhibit good work habits. They do not have to become good, they don't have to do it all their life, they don't have to have music become their hobby. (and they are authorized to negotiate changes. My older daughter was signed up for band but argued for piano instead.) I'm not saying these should be your goals for your kids, just using this as an example of how I've tried to be clear with them.

I'm 51, and my 14 year old and I started lessons with the same teacher 3 months ago. I practice significantly longer and more efficiently. On the whole I think she's making better progress though. If you're keeping up with your kids over 5 years I think you do have more than average talent and discipline.
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#1034334 - 12/08/04 01:26 AM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3238
Loc: Virginia, USA
PS.

I printed out the Four Practice Hints from Piano Spot and a couple of other articles for my daughter. When she's a little older I'll introduce her to Chang. Efficiency in practice is NOT natural and DOES make a difference. See also the excellent series of posts by Bernhard.
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#1034335 - 12/08/04 04:03 AM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
markb Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/04
Posts: 2593
Loc: Maryland
 Quote:
Originally posted by Cindysphinx:
Karate. Soccer. Tennis. Skating. Basketball. Diving. Swimming. Piano. Cello. Clarinet. Drums (but I said no). [/b]
Hey now, wait a minute! What's wrong with drums? \:\)
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#1034336 - 12/08/04 04:19 AM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
Christopher James Quinn Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/15/03
Posts: 2299
(Warning: wisdom from the guy with no kids to follow)

Perhaps you need to give them the explicit option to "take a little break" rather than commit or no commit. Maybe a break where they can explore their own music and practice routines? Maybe they'll find that they like it, or don't and will commit to it one way or the other?

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#1034337 - 12/08/04 02:25 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
 Quote:
When you had this heart to heart with your children did you ask them why they haven't quit yet?

If so, what was there response?
Well, this discussion was more me exploding than them talking. ;\) But the subject has come up before, and I get those vague teenage answers you tend to get.

"Why haven't you quit?"

"Because."

"Because what?"

"Because I kind of like it."

"How come you don't practice, then?"

"I do practice." OR "It's boring." OR "I dunno."

You know what the real reason is? I think it is two-fold. If they quit, there would be an outpouring of disapproval from relatives. My kids are the only ones of 10 grandkids who play an instrument, and their adult relatives love to see them play and think it's great that they've stuck with it. Plus, kid brother is now 7 and wants to start lessons. No way do they want to give up their lessons (and all the attention) while little bro is sidling into spotlight.

Regarding the pageant mom thing, I think I'm the opposite because I'd be OK if they quit. Frankly, I'm not sure how much more they can learn than they know already unless they are willing to focus and commit more. I'd love for them to find their passion, and I do have to wonder if all that time and money could be better spent finding their true passion rather than doing piano because they've always done piano.

Mark, does your daughter self-motivate with piano? What does that look like, exactly?

Maybe I'll let them look at the Quicken summary of Money Spent On Piano. That will be quite an eye-opener . . .

Cindy -- who finds it highly amusing that the girls think their dad should quit his lessons because he doesn't practice much -- BECAUSE HE WORKS ALL DAY AND IS EXHAUSTED WHEN HE GETS HOME!!!
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#1034338 - 12/08/04 04:21 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
seebechstein Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/04
Posts: 1085
Loc: houston
 Quote:
Originally posted by Cindysphinx:
I think they want a teacher who will make it "fun" because they'd be playing Britney Spears tunes. [/b]
That doesn't take a teacher, it takes about 3 chords and an outfit you wouldn't want them wearing.

By the way, like the spice girls, I think Britney's 15 minutes are over.

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#1034339 - 12/09/04 07:43 AM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
Rodney Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/04
Posts: 735
Loc: Caledon ON, Canada
Cindy,

My wife and I tried to get my son involved in music at an early age but he showed no interest at all. I had played drums for many years and had given it up after college which left me without any musical outlet. I eventually picked up a keyboard and started learning on my own using a few of the standard adult piano method books. I did this in an effort to motivate my son to get involved as much as to bring music back into my life.

One day I caught my son humming a tune from his favourite video game (Zelda I think) and it sounded very simple so I went to the Internet and looked up the sheet music. It was a very easy piece to learn so it only took a couple of hours. When my son heard this, I saw the most remarkable transformation. He immediately joined me at the keyboard and wanted to learn this music. Next thing I knew he was trying to play by ear the music from some of his other games.

I couldn't get him off the keyboard and he was begging me to take him for lessons. That was five+ years ago, and now 4 electronic keyboards, a grand piano, and thousands of dollars in software (sequencers, notation, synthesizers, etc.), he plays non-stop, every chance he gets. His greatest joy comes from arranging his own original pieces. He is now composing original music involving different instruments and as a teenager has expressed a significant interest in making music his life. (Film and game scoring specifically). He has even acquired a love for classical music.

I guess my point is that music is about what moves you. I think you need to find out what moves your kids and meet them there. Ask them what their favourite music is (shouldn't be too hard as they are likely listening to the same thing over and over again), and then you should learn to play it. Hopefully they will be inspired by your new repertoire.

Maybe it will work as well for you as it did for me.

Best of luck,

Rodney

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#1034340 - 12/09/04 01:22 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
mikhailoh Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/20/04
Posts: 4288
Loc: Cincinnati
All interesting points as I am having the same problem with my daughter.

Cindy, I have to tell you, having spoken with you on the phone, that I had visions of you towering over your children, enraged, while they cowered in the corner trembling and thinking maybe practice is better that THIS....

I think what I am going to do is put together the figures on what we have spent on her lessons and ask her if she thinks she has tried hard enough to justify it.

Will post results.
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====

He is so solemn, detached and uninvolved he makes Mr. Spock look like Hunter S. Thompson at closing time.'

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#1034341 - 12/09/04 01:57 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
cdefgab Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/24/04
Posts: 50
Loc: Third Rock
Sounds to me that Cindy has gotten everything under control.

Short attention span is not good enough an excuse. I think Cindy was trying to get her kids to work for the things they loved.

Like I said, she got things under control. Good for you, Cindy .

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#1034342 - 12/09/04 02:00 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
I want Rodney's kid! ;\)
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#1034343 - 12/09/04 04:41 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
pianafetish Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/26/04
Posts: 139
Loc: Greenville, NC
Cobbett; do you know how much i would KILL to have my relatives' support when it comes to this kind of art? do you know how much i would DIE for my parents to have spent that kind of money for piano lessons?
anyway, maybe the girl isn't very good, either b/c she isn't all that dedicated to piano, or just isn't that talented. if you can play circle around the kids, then your age [or finger joints] have nothing to do with you ability. maybe they take it for granted b/c it's right at their disposal, unlike me, who loves it, but have to work hard to get the lessons.

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#1034344 - 12/09/04 06:05 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
ragtimebg Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/07/04
Posts: 180
Loc: California
Raising kids is so hard. I had three and they all exhibited the same type of behavior, some with the piano lessons they dumped, others with the sports they wouldn't pursue, or the studies that they wouldn't apply themselves to. I figure if we somehow stumble our way into raising half-way well-adjusted kids, then we get a gold star in the parent's goody book.
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#1034345 - 12/09/04 08:45 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
WCSMinorCircuit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/11/04
Posts: 1124
Loc: California
It's odd, my parents never forced me to practice. They actually used to ground me from the piano when I'd skip out on chores and other duties to practice the piano. That and reading. I always got in trouble for reading too far into the night. My mom was took all my good books away. Hahah. That just makes me laugh now.

As my cousin once said: My mom told me that I couldn't move from the piano until I practiced for one hour. So I fell asleep on the bench and then I wake up with a red and sore rear end.

And another cousin told me: Wow! If my mom caught me reading in the middle of the night she'd throw a party!
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#1034346 - 12/09/04 11:06 PM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
tk Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/04
Posts: 695
Loc: Los Angeles County
[Warning: long post. Please bear with me.]

Here's my perspective from my 10-year-old self:

I like playing, but I don't like to practice. In fact, I usually only practice a couple of times during the week and just before my lesson. To be honest, I would rather play with my friends or watch cartoons. And, really, I have a fairly short attention span and get bored after 15 minutes. Can't I go ride my bike to my friend's house now? Time and money don't really mean much to me--I don't have enough life experience to really understand the value of these things...

Here's my perspective from my 13-year-old self:

All the comments above still apply, with the exception of preferring to watch cartoons (though I still like to watch them after school), but add onto that: If my mom told me how much money the lessons are, I would probably feel bad. But, then, I would probably also feel resentful that she "made me" feel guilty... These days, I spend hours on the phone or at friends' houses giggling about cute boys, reading "Teen Beat," and planning what outfit I am going to wear tomorrow. I really want to grow out my nails... I still like the piano, and there is a piece of me that knows it is something that makes me specical. But, am also concerned about finding my place in the social hierarchy at school, fitting in, beginning to form my "own" identity (which would be the same identity as all my friends, of course, just not that of my parents), etc. Five years has not been enough time for me to decide "if I am in or if I am out." I am torn. And, really, I just want it all. AND, I want it to be easy and not have to work at it. Unfortunately, I just don't value this experience much--it just doesn't have meaning to me yet, b/c I cannot fathom how much I may come to need this form of expression in my life when I am older and needing an outlet to de-stress from the daily realities of the "real world," and when I have enough life experience to understand the emotional connection to the pieces as well as to recognize how fortunate I am to have music in my life.

Now, here's my perspective from my 31-year-old self reflecting on my experience starting piano at age eight and quitting at 17:

It took me 9 years to decide I was "out" and more than a dozen after that to decide I was (am) "in." Why did I quit in the first place? There was too much other drama in high school and I did not want to miss out! I wanted to have long nails I could paint red. I wanted to hang out with my friends after school instead of come home and practice or go to lessons. And, I was starting to resent my mom's guilt trips. But, ultimately, I was too young even at 17 to really understand and appreciate it.

I had five teachers during this period of time (which, because of the moving around my family did, really ended up being about 8 years of lessons). All of them had great expectations, said I was more advanced than their other students, that I had talent, etc. It didn't matter. I lived in the present and was not concerned about the future, so I had no idea that I would later regret not following through. I certainly regret it now, but my teenage self really couldn't understand that at the time.

I don't know if my experience is really representative of what your daughters may be experiencing. There are always those children to whom piano quickly becomes an integral part of who they are, and they eat, sleep, and breathe it. They are exceptional and progress quickly. But, I think many are probably like I was--not taking it seriously enough, not developing the potential/ And, it will not be until later in life that they really come to appreciate it.

BTW, as a result of joining this forum and reading about the progress of so many of you, it seems to me that a lot of adults progress faster than children. When you are an adult and make the decision to learn, it is your conscious decision and it has meaning to you. You have also learned how important discipline is in making progress toward any of your life's goals. I have been so impressed by how quickly so many of you have progressed. I look back at my earlier piano experiences and think, "Why in the world did my teachers ever think I had talent? I had been taking lessons for x number of years before playing x piece, whereas so-and-so has already learned it, but has only been playing for a year!"

Sorry, Cindy, I really don't know if this helped. But, based on my past experience, may I suggest that if finances allow, that you continue just letting it unfold for them? They probably do need more time to figure out how much of a priority they want to make piano in their lives. Continue being patient (and dare I say, hopeful). Continue to enjoy it yourself and express your passion. And, be careful about how you approach them about practicing, making a commitment, etc. They may just quit out of spite.

Good luck with all of this, Cindy. My sincere hope is that they come to value and appreciate it all much sooner than I did. Or, at least make a decision in the near future so as not to tie up your finances longer than need be!

\:\) tk

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#1034347 - 12/10/04 05:55 AM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
ossk8ter Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/17/04
Posts: 453
Loc: Dallas
Has an end game been presented to the kids? In other words, do they see that all of this will lead somewhere, and not simply another recital. Are the kids competitive? Do they want to enter competitions? There's motivation enough that they don't want to quit, but not enough motivation to urge them to strive. For adults it's easier. We have a purpose in mind, and know that if hard work is applied, the goal gets closer. Kids, in this world of instant gratification, don't see that.

I do not believe in using how much I've spent on lessons, BMX racing bicycles, violins, whatever as a motivating tool. It's effect is short lived at best, and I have chosen to spend the money. My children should not feel guilty about my decision. They should do what they do out of their desire not the parent's.

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#1034348 - 12/10/04 06:10 AM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
LudwigVanBee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/18/04
Posts: 83
Loc: USA
What the hell does this have to do with adult students?? This belongs in the kiddie corner
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#1034349 - 12/10/04 06:48 AM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
ossk8ter Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/17/04
Posts: 453
Loc: Dallas
Because it's posted by an adult student and is of interest to other adult students and parents in general. I think it's a great topic posted in the correct place.

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#1034350 - 12/10/04 06:55 AM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
Ludwig,

I know a number of ABs here have kids who also take lessons, so I thought they might have some insights. I don't think every question here must be relevant to ABs and nothing else. I think if the subject might be of concern to some ABs, that's close enough.

But hey, I don't make the rules. Sorry if my post was out of line.
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http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post...QvjrL_blog.html

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#1034351 - 12/10/04 07:20 AM Re: I Laid Down The Law, And The Law Won
ossk8ter Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/17/04
Posts: 453
Loc: Dallas
Yes Cindy, you naughty AB, you held a weapon of some kind to Lud's head and made him read your wildly misplaced topic. Shame on you. ;\)

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