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#1199739 - 05/15/09 10:53 AM What do you do about overbearing, mean parents?
PianoKitty Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 133
Loc: US
I have a situation with a student's father and I just don't know how to handle this. I've only been teaching for a few years, and this is the first time I've encountered a "bully" of a parent.

My student is 7 years old and just started taking lessons with me a few months ago. This girl is SO sweet - she brings me cards that she draws herself, showing me and her playing the piano with hearts all around it LOL, and "I love you" at the bottom. She even drew a little bookmark for my daughter a few weeks ago, which she told me to give her after her lesson. When she left, I looked at it, and it said "Your mommy is the best, prettiest, nicest piano teacher in the whole world." Talk about a little sweetheart! She seems to truly love coming to lessons, but I always feel so bad for her when she tells me how mean her dad is.

Basically, she is doing very well with piano so far. She does have some problems with keeping a steady 4/4 time, but the times I have tried to work on it with her, she has gotten really upset and said that her dad is going to be very upset with her for not doing well. One time when I wrote a "reminder" in her notebook about it, so she could remember to count out loud 1-2-3-4 while practicing, she started crying and shaking! When I asked her what was wrong, she said her dad always looks in her notebook after lessons and if there is something even remotely "constructive" that he grounds her, yells at her, and tells her she is stupid and should be doing better. shocked

I have to admit that her father is pretty intimidating. This is an Asian family (that is neither here nor there LOL) but I can tell he is very demanding of her. I can definitely picture him doing what she says he does... I always make sure to praise her when he picks her up; I go over the top with the praise, actually, because I am so worried for her!

She is doing great with note reading, dynamics, everything except keeping the steady beat and holding notes their full counts. But that is to be expected since she's only taken lessons for a few months!

I just don't know what to do! She got very frightened when I said I was going to have a talk with her dad - she begged me not to because she said he'll get very mad and yell at her, ground her, call her names, etc. I really don't want to cause any further problems for her at home, or incur that kind of wrath from her father, so how can I handle this so that doesn't happen?
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#1199798 - 05/15/09 12:06 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: PianoKitty]
Morodiene Online   content
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Hmm, that's a tough one. Does the father come in to pick her up from lessons? I would call him and ask that he does so you can 'review' what you worked on with him. Also during this conversation you can tell him that you like to see independence in your students so that they learn self-discipline. This means that while he can listen to her play, he shouldn't be there while she is practicing, or she may become dependent on him to tell her what to do.

Include him in the process in other ways. When he is there to pick her up at lessons, praise her in front of him. Let him know that while there is always room for improvement, she is doing very well, and give specifics. Let him know where she stands compared to other students in your studio. Sometimes parents just have no idea what their child should be doing at that age. They may be affected by seeing Suzuki students who play amazingly well but struggle with reading which often isn't reflected in their performances (not to bash Suzuki, but many parents do not understand that and just see other kids playing and think why can't their child play like that?). I think communication is very important. I have had overbearing parents that simply needed some gently coaxing in the right direction.

If he ever chastises the child in front of you, you have every right to tell him that that sort of talk is counterproductive to your efforts. You are the professional here and are being paid to use your expertise to bring the child to the point where they can play to the best of their abilities, and any undermining that he is doing will not be tolerated.
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#1199815 - 05/15/09 12:18 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: Morodiene]
Stanny Offline
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Registered: 11/08/06
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That's just so sad! I agree, lots of praise for the child, and also in the notebook.
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#1199822 - 05/15/09 12:23 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: Stanny]
Diane... Offline
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Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3450
Loc: Western Canada
Where is the "mother" in all of this?
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#1199823 - 05/15/09 12:26 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: Stanny]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
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Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
I would take it seriously if she is afraid of her dad. Sadly, there are parents that will abuse their kids for any, or no, reason. The kids usually have a reason to be afraid. This may be a bit extreme, but as teachers we are legally bound to contact authorities for any suspected abuse. I would just be very aware.

Yikes, poor little thing frown
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#1199850 - 05/15/09 01:14 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Ebony and Ivory
I would take it seriously if she is afraid of her dad. Sadly, there are parents that will abuse their kids for any, or no, reason. The kids usually have a reason to be afraid. This may be a bit extreme, but as teachers we are legally bound to contact authorities for any suspected abuse. I would just be very aware.


I'm curious -- is that Minnesota state law?
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#1199860 - 05/15/09 01:24 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Piano*Dad Offline
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At some risk of giving unintended offense, I'm going to raise some questions and perhaps be a little bit of a devil's advocate.

The only information we have here is that a 'sweet' seven year old child is expressing some feelings about her home life by talking about her 'mean' dad. That's it.

Before we bring in the child abuse police, please take a deep breath and think through all the possibilities here.

If I were an abused seven year old, I would be reticent about having my 'confidante' talk to the abuser. But if I were a manipulative 'sweet' seven year old, I would also be quite scared about having my 'confidante' talk to my dad!

Perhaps Monica can tell us about usual patterns of behavior in abused children, but before people go off the deep end on an internet forum, a little distance and a little perspective may help.
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#1199876 - 05/15/09 01:47 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: Piano*Dad]
guest1013 Offline
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Registered: 10/13/07
Posts: 1239
I agree with Piano* Dad, let's calm down and think this through. There are likely cultural barriers and misunderstandings. There is no physical abuse mentioned. Let's not jump off the deep end. The laws generally pertain to physical abuse, risk of physical injury.
MN law
WA law


Edited by guest1013 (05/15/09 01:48 PM)

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#1199878 - 05/15/09 01:47 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: Piano*Dad]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
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Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad

The only information we have here is that a 'sweet' seven year old child is expressing some feelings about her home life by talking about her 'mean' dad. That's it.

Before we bring in the child abuse police, please take a deep breath and think through all the possibilities here.

If I were an abused seven year old, I would be reticent about having my 'confidante' talk to the abuser. But if I were a manipulative 'sweet' seven year old, I would also be quite scared about having my 'confidante' talk to my dad!


Yes these are valid points. But the OP also stated that he is intimidating, to the point of being a bully. Abuse is not only physical. I didn't accuse, I'm just saying that it is important to realize that it COULD be taking place.

I know how manipulative kids can be, but there are also lots of abused kids that aren't taken seriously.

Again, I am NOT saying this is happening here, just pointing out that we always need to be "aware".

Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
I'm curious -- is that Minnesota state law?


Not sure, but it's drilled into us at public school, and when I was a Cosmetologist it was drilled into us there too. I had to report a family once when I was cutting hair and noticed that the youngster had chunks of hair missing.

Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
child abuse police...
before people go off the deep end...


I'm not the police, I'm not calling them, or accusing anyone.

I don't think I'm off the deep end just for suggesting awareness. I understand that you weren't trying to offend me. It just is very sad how many children ARE abused (in one way or another) and too many people just blow them off when they cry for help. Again, NOT saying that's what happening here.

It's all good. smile
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#1199887 - 05/15/09 02:00 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Oh, the only reason I asked was because, as a school teacher, you probably taught in a school which took Federal money, which had strings attached to it. Private teachers, not involved with Interstate Commerce (the Constitutional provision which Congress uses to impose various restrictions, etc.) doesn't apply. Washington State has it's own law, but when I lived in Wyoming, it was pretty laissez faire about such matters.
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#1199908 - 05/15/09 02:38 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: John v.d.Brook]
guest1013 Offline
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Registered: 10/13/07
Posts: 1239
We have been told nothing that fits any of the general legal definitions of abuse. The child appears to be functioning at an acceptable level. Summary of all child abuse laws in U.S.

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#1199915 - 05/15/09 02:50 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: guest1013]
Morodiene Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/07
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Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I agree that assuming the child is abused is probably going too far without proper support for such a view. I agree with the poster who mentioned that it would be odd for an abused child to confide in an adult. Most abused kids go out of their way to hide such things, as they blame themselves for it.

That's why I say speak with the father in front of the child, so that communication is clear...to *both* of them.
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#1199919 - 05/15/09 03:01 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I agree that assuming the child is abused is probably going too far

I don't think anyone assumed that. I know I didn't.
My original statement was
Originally Posted By: Ebony and Ivory
I would just be very aware.
_________________________
It is better to be kind than to be right.

Professional private piano teacher since 1994.

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#1199961 - 05/15/09 04:20 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: Morodiene]
PianoKitty Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 133
Loc: US
Wow, thanks for the responses. I knew I could count on y'all for some advice. This situation has been going on for a few months - I was hoping it would get better with my constant praise but it hasn't, so now I feel like something else needs to be done.

Morodiene - Yes, he brings her and picks her up every week. I have met the mother once, at our initial student meeting, but she did not talk, so I assume she doesn't speak English very well. I have not seen her since, and all of my communication is with the father.

Every time he picks her up, I tell him what we worked on during that lesson (because he seems to want to know every week), how well she is doing, how much she has learned already, etc. He always asks questions like, "How is she doing compared to your other students?" and "Is she as good as she should be right now?" And he asks them right in front of his daughter, which kind of bothers me... She is doing VERY well (except for a few minor things), so I always praise her. She consistently practices at least 30 minutes every single day, without fail. She has never missed a practice day (each student has a chart they show me each week, initialed by their parents) in all my months of teaching her, which is very impressive compared to other students who I can't get to practice at all LOL! I think I said to the father once, before I knew how he was treating her at home, that we needed to work on her note reading, but after that she got a lot better at note reading, so now the issue is the rhythm. But again, now that I know his personality and how it affects the child, I don't really talk to him about the minor troubles she is having. Instead, I focus on the positives every week. But I am so scared to write anything in her notebook now because she gets so upset... I try to talk about the things I want her to work on in class instead, and that seems to calm her down.

I like the idea of telling him that I want to instill independence in my students, so I'd rather the parents not observe their practicing at home or comment on it either (unless it's positive comments!). He has never chastised her right in front of me. Believe me, I would definitely speak up in her defense if he did!

Unfortunately, I now have another student scheduled right after this child, so I won't have time to really talk to the father like I have in the past. I have another hour of lessons after this student's lesson ends. So I am going to have to figure out how to find the time to talk to him about this. I get the feeling he wouldn't be receptive to a "conference" type phone call.

Someone PM'd me with a wonderful idea about sending a "newsletter" type thing to my students' homes, with information about being encouraging and not negative, etc. That may be an indirect way to address this, too.
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#1199966 - 05/15/09 04:23 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: PianoKitty]
PianoKitty Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 133
Loc: US
And regarding abuse - I have seen nothing to support that, although I admit it did cross my mind (I wouldn't be a good teacher if I didn't consider the possibility). I guess what is happening could be considered emotional abuse, but I am not about to call in CPS on this family. I think there is a cultural difference in play here, and I need to try to frame the father's mind a little differently, and get him to see how well his daughter is doing instead of focusing only on the negatives, like he currently is.

Hopefully I can get this turned around, because every week it just breaks my heart when she leaves, because I can tell she is afraid of her father. =(

I will keep y'all updated with how it goes. Thanks again for all of the advice and suggestions.
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#1199969 - 05/15/09 04:33 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: PianoKitty]
guest1013 Offline
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Registered: 10/13/07
Posts: 1239
Originally Posted By: PianoKitty


...she consistently practices at least 30 minutes every single day, without fail. She has never missed a practice day (each student has a chart they show me each week, initialed by their parents) in all my months of teaching her, which is very impressive compared to other students who I can't get to practice at all LOL! ,
Someone PM'd me with a wonderful idea about sending a "newsletter" type thing to my students' homes, with information about being encouraging and not negative, etc. That may be an indirect way to address this, too.


Give her an award for her consistent practice, make up one if necessary. And put that in your newsletter to all your students, hold her up as a model to follow. That is proof for the father, I would think.
Cultural competency and Asian American family roots



Edited by guest1013 (05/15/09 04:41 PM)

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#1199975 - 05/15/09 04:56 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: PianoKitty]
bitWrangler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 1789
Loc: Central TX
Originally Posted By: PianoKitty
She consistently practices at least 30 minutes every single day, without fail. She has never missed a practice day (each student has a chart they show me each week, initialed by their parents) in all my months of teaching her, which is very impressive compared to other students who I can't get to practice at all LOL! I think I said to the father once, before I knew how he was treating her at home, that we needed to work on her note reading, but after that she got a lot better at note reading, so now the issue is the rhythm. But again, now that I know his personality and how it affects the child, I don't really talk to him about the minor troubles she is having.


Consider that the reason why she practices consistently and that her note reading improved could be due to the expectations set forth by the father (and possibly mother). I know our daughter at that age was very conscientious about practicing, but even then, I can guarantee that there were times she would have been much happier playing with friends or reading and the only reason why she practiced 7 days a week was due to parental expectations.

Originally Posted By: PianoKitty
I like the idea of telling him that I want to instill independence in my students, so I'd rather the parents not observe their practicing at home or comment on it either (unless it's positive comments!).


I guess if he's the ogre that he's being made out to be, then that would be good (but likely unheeded) advice. However, if it were my kids teacher saying that to me, we'd likely be looking for a new teacher. I know my opinions on this topic differ from many teachers, but I think it's a fine line to be drawn.

Originally Posted By: guest1013

Give her an award for her consistent practice, make up one if necessary. And put that in your newsletter to all your students, hold her up as a model to follow. That is proof for the father, I would think.


If you do the award thing, make it for the student. I don't think this will change his attitude.

BTW, PianoKitty, have you ever had a sit down with the family to discuss goals and expectations? At the very least this should give you a better understanding of what you're facing. If the dad want's his little girl to be playing Carnegie Hall at 14 and winning every competition she enters, then you might have a tough row to hoe and "little" things like awarding consistent practice will not be enough.


Edited by bitWrangler (05/15/09 05:05 PM)

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#1199982 - 05/15/09 05:08 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
electronblue Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/13/09
Posts: 15
Now that you know her father is using her notebook as a way to evaluate how she is doing, you may need to add positive re-enforcement to the comments as well so it doesn't look so skewed towards the negative side.

Add Stars, and comments: "Good Job!", "Nice note reading!" and A+++++ comments to offset the reminders on timing. That way the father sees both sides, and not just 'what needs improvement'

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#1199991 - 05/15/09 05:31 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: electronblue]
ProdigalPianist Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
This is all assuming that the child is not a little drama queen who wants sympathy...Since you are there and I am not, and you appear to believe her, we will go with the assumption that the father's attitudes and actions are causing the child needless distress.

First, might I suggest explicitly explaining to the father that a child's skill level at music is not an "all or nothing" situation.

In other words, some aspects of music will always come easier (and quicker) to a student than others, and some will come slower. So point out very clearly she is not "failing" at rhythm and counting...it is just an aspect of music that is taking her longer to excel at (or words to that effect). Mention aspects of music (whatever they are) that are easier for her for comparison.

I would personally consider having a private discussion with him in which I would warn him of the "dangers" of focusing too much on the child's supposed "failures". Explain to him that it is not realistic for a child taking music lessons to not have something on which they should be improving...that is the point of lessons! Scare him a little wink about how crippling it can be to a music student to be afraid of making mistakes. Or to label herself as "bad at rhythm"...which could turn into a lifetime of self-fulfilling prophesy.

You have said that the man is intimidating...by which I assume you mean he even intimidates you. Don't let him. He has hired you because you know something he does not...how to teach his daughter to play the piano. As the content area expert, you have the right and obligation to expect him to respect your knowledge about these things. Many Asian cultures hold a teacher and the teacher's knowledge in great esteem. Make this work for you.

Edited to add: Remember it is important to talk to dad on his terms. Don't try an approach that would require the father to accept your views about child-rearing, the importance of positive reinforcement, etc. Tell him on his own terms why what he is doing is a bad thing. If he is about 'results', point out that what he is doing is counter-productive. If he wants her to be a 'success'...explain to him that intimidation will prevent that. Explain the outlook necessary for the piano student to achieve "X" (whatever it is he wants her to achieve), and point out to him that it will be necessary for the *parent* to do "Y" (what you want him to do) and NOT to do "Z" (what you don't want him to do).


Edited by ProdigalPianist (05/15/09 05:55 PM)
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#1200028 - 05/15/09 06:40 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: ProdigalPianist]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Dad sounds like a frickin idiot! And the mother is probably scared of him too.

Guess what? It IS abusive to talk to a child like that. Those who don't think so need to get a clue.

As far as what to do, I'd talk with the father directly. It's the only way to know what's going through that reptilian brain of his.

P.S. Yet another reason piano teachers should charge more.
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#1200037 - 05/15/09 07:02 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: eweiss]
guest1013 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/13/07
Posts: 1239
Originally Posted By: eweiss

Guess what? It IS abusive to talk to a child like that. Those who don't think so need to get a clue.

As far as what to do, I'd talk with the father directly. It's the only way to know what's going through that reptilian brain of his.
I don't like how he talks to the daughter. But this must be handled carefully, there are cultural issues which we don't know about and dissing the father will not correct the situation. Respect for teacher will work in PianoKitty's favor if she can tactfully speak to him, but she would be well served to bring in someone from the father's culture to help explain, translate for the mother, the behaviors that are most productive for learning the piano, as well as the destructive behaviors to stop.

P.S.+1 What prodigalpianist added to the last post.


Edited by guest1013 (05/15/09 07:09 PM)

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#1200038 - 05/15/09 07:08 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: guest1013]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Piano Kitty isn't teaching in China is she? I can only tell you how I would handle this and if it were me, I'd say "you're not helping your daughter's progress by berating her."

Simple and direct. That's what most guys of this ilk respond to anyway.

Further, if he chose not to stop, I'd stop teaching the student because it's almost equally abusive to see and hear what this douche bag is doing in front of his own daughter.

Oh well, I guess she can always go into computer science or engineering.
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#1200051 - 05/15/09 07:26 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: eweiss]
bitWrangler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 1789
Loc: Central TX
Originally Posted By: eweiss
Dad sounds like a frickin idiot!

Originally Posted By: eweiss
It's the only way to know what's going through that reptilian brain of his.

Originally Posted By: eweiss
... it's almost equally abusive to see and hear what this douche bag is doing ...


Your posts drip with irony.

One caution about being too direct, esp if it means letting on that the conversation is precipitated by the daughter saying something, is that it's not unheard of for those parents who truly are abusive to take any embarrassment from the exposure of their actions, out on their child. That's one of the reasons why I think it's always a good idea to have a general in scope talk (that and I think it makes supreme sense anyway for all students/parents).

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#1200060 - 05/15/09 07:45 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: bitWrangler]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Bitwrangler,

What irony? Am I talking to a 6 year old girl or to (hopefully) mature adults on this board?

Piano teachers are not meant to be counselors.

Again, all I can say is if it were me, I'd pull the father aside and explain that berating a child does not help and can only hinder progress. Pretty simple.

After that, it's on the father as to what he does or does not do.
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#1200066 - 05/15/09 07:59 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: bitWrangler]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: bitWrangler
Consider that the reason why she practices consistently and that her note reading improved could be due to the expectations set forth by the father (and possibly mother). I know our daughter at that age was very conscientious about practicing, but even then, I can guarantee that there were times she would have been much happier playing with friends or reading and the only reason why she practiced 7 days a week was due to parental expectations.

So the ends justify the means here? And what are the ends? Producing a perfect little pianist who can note read and play technically well? No wonder so many are turned off to learning piano. Turning out good little classical pianists who can play everything correctly and perfectly. It's nauseating and slightly psychotic.

And the most pathetic thing about all of it is it's ALL about the parent and not the child. It's what the parent wants. Sick sheeyet. cursing
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#1200071 - 05/15/09 08:06 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: eweiss]
guest1013 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/13/07
Posts: 1239
Originally Posted By: eweiss
[quote=bitWrangler]
So the ends justify the means here? And what are the ends? Producing a perfect little pianist who can note read and play technically well? :

No, that is unfair, I don't believe that is what bitwrangler was talking about. Why are you picking a fight? You use rude language in your posts which is generally disrespectful of persons. One can disagree with actions and yet show respect for the human person.

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#1200073 - 05/15/09 08:12 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: guest1013]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: guest1013
Originally Posted By: eweiss
[quote=bitWrangler]
So the ends justify the means here? And what are the ends? Producing a perfect little pianist who can note read and play technically well? :

No, that is unfair, I don't believe that is what bitwrangler was talking about. Why are you picking a fight? You use rude language in your posts which is generally disrespectful of persons. One can disagree with actions and yet show respect for the human person.

But Guest, reread what he said. You may not believe he meant it, but I do. And last I heard, we still have free speech here in the U.S.

Sorry you got offended. Perhaps you should bring in the language police. thumb
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#1200076 - 05/15/09 08:14 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: bitWrangler]
ProdigalPianist Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
Originally Posted By: bitWrangler


One caution about being too direct, esp if it means letting on that the conversation is precipitated by the daughter saying something, is that it's not unheard of for those parents who truly are abusive to take any embarrassment from the exposure of their actions, out on their child.


This is true. Even for parent's that are not 'truly abusive'.

My brother and I knew that the absolute worst thing we could EVER do is embarrass our mother. And not just by 'acting up' in public (although we did get into trouble for that). Nothing got us in trouble more than other people finding out what she was like behind her public facade. That was the worst crime we could commit. Messing up her house was a close second. She once told me to "stop bleeding in her car" when I got hurt shocked

I would not tell this father that the daughter had told me what he did. I would wait until he said or did something (which sounds like it happens after every lesson) that would give me an opening to broach the subject.
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#1200083 - 05/15/09 08:22 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: eweiss]
guest1013 Offline
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Registered: 10/13/07
Posts: 1239
eweiss, I am not offended. You used berating language to criticize the father for berating the child. That is what I believe bitWrangler read as irony.

+1 Prodigal pianist. PianoKitty, I agree, do not quote the child back to the father, he will take it as an embarrassment, it will close his ears and heart to the changes he needs to make for the child's welfare.


Edited by guest1013 (05/15/09 08:24 PM)

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#1200088 - 05/15/09 08:27 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: guest1013]
eweiss Offline
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Yeah. I did. But Guest, there's a difference. The father was talking to his 7 year old daughter. I am talking to adults here on this board.

I felt angry about what this father was doing to his daughter and expressed it.

I hate it when adults misuse their power. And in this case, it seems to be just that.

Funny, how some defend the abuser instead of the victim. Actually, it's not funny. It's very, very sad.
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#1200193 - 05/16/09 12:41 AM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: PianoKitty]
Candywoman Offline
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Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 842
Since you've only had this student a short time, you have to admit you need to get to know them both better. I would find a way to go to their house. You could say you always like to know what instrument they're playing on, to see about lighting or whatever. And the kids really like it. Then when you are there, play some piano and try to find out the parents' experience with music when they were young, and currently. Gradually you will learn what their priorities are.

If you really feel the girl loves lessons, and if you think they are concerned with her progress, you could suggest twice weekly lessons.

As for counting, it might be better to use the ta ya system instead of counting. Also, you can put in extra words for long notes. So if you have a three beat note tied to a three beat note, you might sing "sea to the sea ya ya". Or "Take ya Me Out to the Ball ya ya Game ya ya." The latter song is in Faber Level 1.


Edited by Candywoman (05/16/09 12:41 AM)

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#1200194 - 05/16/09 12:42 AM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: eweiss]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
This, actually, is a very touchy subject. I hesitate to comment. We have an ongoing discussion in our country over parents rights to raise their children versus the state's right, which is a polite way of saying neighbors butting in. I doubt there's any reasonable doubt that the state needs to step in if starvation, whipping to the point of bleeding, etc., is going on. However, for any lessor form, there is a continuum of gray, and people differ greatly on the subject.

Does a parent have a right to do a lousy job of raising their kids, or do we want to have a "parenting patrol" roaming neighborhoods passing judgments on how we are doing as parents?

We, as teachers, need to tread very carefully. You could end up with a lawsuit on your hands by an irate parent, if you overstep your bounds.
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#1200252 - 05/16/09 03:52 AM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: PianoKitty]
Ocean Breeze Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/09/09
Posts: 7
I'd like to chime in and give my two cents. This is a very delicate issue, one of which it's hard to address.

I can speak from experience and give another example that is similar to this.

As previous people mentioned, this may be a cultural issue. In Asia, it is VERY COMMON to physically AND mentally discipline/abuse children. Although it seems like it's mostly mental abuse, stereotypically (I'm not saying EVERYONE), Asians that are old school are known to be very negative & use negative reinforcements. I have to say, if anything, YOU SHOULD THINK TWICE BEFORE REPORTING ABUSE TO THE AUTHORITIES!!! It can destroy families, and seeing that most of the time, no one will testify against the abuser, and the abuser will return home, you can make things worse. Think about it carefully, and until you have enough evidence, I would not take such measures. There is more than what meets the eye.

I personally was hit as a child quite often for not practicing the piano. I was never beaten severely, but I was hit with coat-hangers, back-scratcher, you name it, I was probably hit with it. I had my hair pulled really hard fairly frequently too. However, if my piano teacher ever called the authorities on my family, it would have completely taken everything I had. My family life for the most part was very pleasant - yes, the punishments were "extreme" (by American standards, not by Asian standards), but they were normal for my upbringing and cultural background. I grew up in a predominantly Asian / Mexican neighborhood, and I can honestly say that I don't know anyone who was never physically disciplined and/or mentally abused by their parents. I've heard "horror" stories far worse than mine and the one stated in this thread...

I had a roommate in which her father would constantly mentally abuse her. He would call her by various profanities, and downplay her regularly. She grew up with this negative reinforcement, and yes, it has affected her self-esteem. Not only that, he would also physically discipline her. However, do you think she would want someone to call the authorities on him? The answer is no.

I can only speak for myself, but I can honestly say that in my case, I would not say that I was being "abused." Despite the physical discipline and negative reinforcements, my family was very loving. I never got beaten to the point of bruises, nor do I think that the mental abuse affected my self-esteem. With that being said...

Here are my suggestions:
1. I think the newsletter idea is very good, because it's very indirect. However, many parents who commit these types of things don't even think it's directed at them, or think that it's ineffective.

2. I personally would refrain from talking directly with the dad about how the child is disturbed by his actions, because this can trigger unintended consequences. Basically, if you think that the dad is somewhat reasonable and will be able to realize his mistakes, and that he loves his daughter deep down inside, then yes, you should talk to him. However, if the two things I've listed does not apply - I would be weary of talking about it directly. It took my parents 10+ years to realize that what they did was wrong, and it was ONLY after I grew up, became of age, and gave them a little bit of the taste of their own medicine (i.e. talking back to them - which is pretty much not allowed in Confucian hierarchy).

3. Think about it very carefully before you involve the authorities. If the abuse is severe, I would report it, and by severe, I mean that it's so substantial that there is enough evidence against the guy to be convicted. You have to remember that the kid only has one dad, and albeit it's a crappy dad, but the kid most likely loves the dad. You do not want to take her dad away from her. You might do it under the intentions of "saving her" but there are many unintended consequences for your actions. I know this, because I grew up with it with my peers. The system is not the best in dealing with domestic issues.

4. You can try talking to the mom, but usually, that's ineffective too because the mom knows about it, yet lets it happen. Mom is probably in a similar situation.

5. The suggestions about the trophies, rewards, etc. - it will only work temporarily, at best. The kid's dad probably has friends who have sons/daughters that play the piano, and guess what he'll do? Compare. No matter what the teacher says, the dad will not be convinced until *HE* thinks that she is playing well. You can try to tell him that the most important thing about piano is that the student is supposed to ENJOY it, but if you force her to practice and/or not positively encourage her, it will stymie her growth as she would be playing for the wrong reasons. You can also emphasize that piano is important and that you see that he cares a lot for his child (you have to lie on this), but you think that it's integral for the dad to realize that everyone makes mistakes and that the more you make, the more you learn. However, you noticed that the child has very high expectations for herself and is afraid to make mistakes, so he is to ENCOURAGE her. (Notice how you are NOT placing blame on the dad.) If you say it INDIRECTLY like this, without being accusatory, it might work if he is somewhat reasonable. You can also state that you know other parents who physically and/or emotionally discipline their children, but in the end, these things don't work because the child needs confidence to perform, and without positive reinforcement, the child will never build this confidence. The key when saying this is that you're supposed to act like HE doesn't do it, and that you're citing "other" horror stories and putting him as someone equal to you.

In summary, be careful of what you say and how you say it, and think before you take consequential actions.

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#1200431 - 05/16/09 01:27 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: PianoKitty]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: PianoKitty

Basically, she is doing very well with piano so far. She does have some problems with keeping a steady 4/4 time, but the times I have tried to work on it with her, she has gotten really upset and said that her dad is going to be very upset with her for not doing well.

I would suggest you re-think your method of teaching rhythm.

There have been discussions of "metric counting" vs. other systems, but for me this is a non-issue.

I simply write in the counts. End of discussino. This words for kids as young as five, probably for some even younger.

The point is that if they are saying the counts, this does not mean that the counting is even—at first.

That's the advantage of counting. It CAN be uneven, at first, with children adjusting the speed or evenness according to what they are able to do and understand at the moment.

I work with parents, and I stress that it is OK for the counts to be uneven, at first. Getting them even is a process. No matter what counting system is used, it is difficult to get fingers moving and pressing keys and then try to keep track of any kind of rhythm at the same time.

Some of my beginners are not even at all, at first. They may not count anything evenly for a few weeks. But they all get there.

So if this little girl is counting, with any system, praise the counting. If it was very uneven last week and is a bit less uneven this week, praise the fact that it is improving. Also, think about letting the child work ahead a bit, and let things be uneven for the newer things, then stress review of older things with more even counting.

She will get there this way, but you will avoid having to tell her that she is not doing it right, not doing it well, failing in some way, and so on. If the father perceives some kind of steady improvement, the child's problem at home may disappear—unless the father really is dangerous, and that's a different matter.


Edited by Gary D. (05/16/09 01:27 PM)
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#1200463 - 05/16/09 02:39 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: Gary D.]
eweiss Offline
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Registered: 02/28/09
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Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Ocean Breeze,

That was a very well thought out post. But no one is talking about contacting the police or child protective services here. All I'm saying is pull the dad aside and talk to him.

If this doesn't work ... and it seems likely it won't in this case, at least she tried.

You yourself said it took your parents 10+ years to realize their mistakes. Why wait that long? Talking to dad now may circumvent years of emotional abuse. Remember the movie "Shine?"
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#1200508 - 05/16/09 04:55 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: eweiss]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
When a parent is negative, I think the only thing we can do is to try to provide an example of how it does not need to be that way.

I have had older students whose parents were so negative and also so blasted stubborn that I had to plan, with them, how to present anything to the parents.

I had one teen girl who loved to play, loved coming to lessons, obviously liked me. But she hated the idea of playing in front of people. She was unbelievably shy. She just wanted to play for her own enjoyment.

The parents were absolutely dead set on making her perform. I would not go along with them. The parents tore almost everything down I was doing. Eventually they made her quit.

So sometimes we have to actually do what we can to protect kids from their own parents until they are old enough to say: "Good bye!"
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#1201472 - 05/18/09 12:29 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: eweiss]
bitWrangler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/07
Posts: 1789
Loc: Central TX
Originally Posted By: eweiss
So the ends justify the means here? And what are the ends? Producing a perfect little pianist who can note read and play technically well? No wonder so many are turned off to learning piano. Turning out good little classical pianists who can play everything correctly and perfectly. It's nauseating and slightly psychotic.

And the most pathetic thing about all of it is it's ALL about the parent and not the child. It's what the parent wants. Sick sheeyet. cursing


Originally Posted By: eweiss
Yeah. I did. But Guest, there's a difference. The father was talking to his 7 year old daughter. I am talking to adults here on this board.

I felt angry about what this father was doing to his daughter and expressed it.

I hate it when adults misuse their power. And in this case, it seems to be just that.

Funny, how some defend the abuser instead of the victim. Actually, it's not funny. It's very, very sad.


OK, so first, yes, I was referring to your language when I spoke of the irony. While you may defend it by saying that you are communicating with adults, the point is that one can choose to speak with respect to anyone, and when you justify not doing so for whatever reason, then it's ironic when you rail against someone else for doing the same thing (however different the reasoning).

Second, your top reply ("and the most pathetic thing ...") actually is quite perfect in that it really exemplifies why I replied in the first place. Many folks on this forum have an interesting tendency to take the barest slivers of information and then base some pretty broad brushed characterizations based on those slivers. So in this case, my reply simply points out that some of the positive attributes that PK mentioned about the daughter could very well be at least partially attributable to the parents. Somehow they gets turned into "it's all about the parent and not the child". One single sentence saying that kids want to play but sometimes parents make them do things other than goof off, gets turned into abusive parenting. Sheesh.

So my point is, we have hearsay based on someones recollections of a conversation with a 7 year old. The OP has already formed some judgments and then purposefully or not, automatically biased folks coming into this thread by the simple naming of it. From this some are ready to condemn the parents and start tossing around words like "over bearing", "mean", "reptilian" and "abusive". Now good ole dad may very well be all those things, he may also be a caring dad who simply has high expectations for his kids, I have no idea. It just seems out of place to automatically gloom onto one side and to start spouting off with colorful slang about the person based on the information given.

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#1201481 - 05/18/09 12:43 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: bitWrangler]
Morodiene Online   content
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Well put, BitWrangler. I don't think anyone here advocates abusing children, but since we are not the OP, we really can't know. I also don't think the OP can know at this point. My husband's parents were accused of abusing the kids, but they were just disciplining them. It was the youngest who didn't like getting in trouble for what he did and cried wolf on them and thus he was not disciplined for fear of the cops and the state taking over. No child wants to get in trouble, but they certainly do need boundaries. It's just when those boundaries are enforced through venting anger by the parent or no reason at all on the part of the child where it becomes abuse. It's a tough call on a forum, and a delicate situation that I don't think anyone can say definitively here.
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#1203148 - 05/21/09 12:28 AM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: Morodiene]
Brian Taylor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/07/08
Posts: 72
Loc: Etobicoke (Toronto) ON
John v.d.B and Ocean Breeze have supplied perspectives that are insightful and valuable.

From an earlier post by the OP: "One time when I wrote a "reminder" in her notebook about it, so she could remember to count out loud 1-2-3-4 while practicing, she started crying and shaking!" From my point of view this was no drama-queen stunt. It was thoroughly genuine.

There is a wonderful DVD movie called "Akeelah and the Bee" (a national spelling bee competition in the USA). The final competitor against Akeelah is an Asian boy whose father drives him relentlessly. Please watch the film if you can (I borrowed it from my local library). The thing that drives the father to drive the son is *fear of the shame of being less than the best*. I bet anything that PianoKitty will see her student's father in the Asian father in the film, and watching the film might give her some insight as to what makes her student's father tick (as well as demonstrate why he would not be effectively approachable in the ways that the western commentators in this thread are suggesting).

The oriental culture is saturated with a deathly fear of "losing face". The repeated questions from the student's father about his daughter's progress in relation to the other students is a major clue about this. This fear is so thoroughly and deeply ingrained that it CANNOT be eradicated superficially, easily or quickly. You have no idea how powerful a factor this fear was in why the Chinese were so slow to deal publicly with the S.A.R.S outbreak, and how hard they tried to keep under wraps information that they thought would reflect negatively on them (I read a book about this by a Chinese doctor/researcher working in China who shared the inside story). Look at the attitude of the Chinese in the Beijing Olympics, too. In the west, we have at least some sort of notion that presenting the truth to be faced and dealing with it is the best way to respond to an adverse situation. This 'humility before the truth' that we prefer is diametrically and radically opposed to the notion of "losing face". The idea that one poster had of trying to avoid a 10+ year period of parental realization by doing something soon that is apprently direct and not all that difficult simply fails to appreciate the depth of the real state of affairs in the person of the father.

One cannot blame the father for this. It is the way his person has been formed by his culture. But neither is there any way to deal with it in western culture that is fast and easy. Please, if you can, watch "Akeelah and the Bee", and you'll see what I am talking about (and while you do so, keep in mind that even this is Hollywood's characterization of that kind of disposition within the time limits of a DVD-length movie). [FWIW, my wife is Chinese, so I have insight from personal experience as well.]

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