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#2044550 - 03/07/13 03:02 PM Teaching 8 year old with Anxiety Disorder - Help!
pianogirl1978 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/11
Posts: 104
Loc: Nebraska
I teach a wonderful 8 year old little girl and the first few lessons were fine and she understood everything I was teaching her, but now we are hitting a point where she is getting very anxious if she does not understand something immediately - to the point where there are tears during the last half of the lesson. She looks ahead in the book and panics about what is coming next. I try to make light of it and tell her "don't worry, we haven't learned it yet so you're not supposed to know how to do it!" Her mom discussed her anxiety and perfectionism a little with me and told me she does "deep breathing" when she gets anxious. So we are learning anything new lately and she stops and says "okay I have to take deep breaths now" and tears are coming down her face as she tries to calm herself down! I am a very laid-back teacher, very light-hearted so I really don't think it is me that is making her this anxious. I just don't know how long I should let this go on. She has shed tears the last 3 lessons. And if she doesn't cry, her voice wavers and her eyes start watering when she is learning a new concept. When should I talk to mom about maybe stopping lessons if this is not gonna be enjoyable for her?


Edited by pianogirl1978 (03/07/13 03:03 PM)
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#2044559 - 03/07/13 03:30 PM Re: Teaching 8 year old with Anxiety Disorder - Help! [Re: pianogirl1978]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5459
Loc: Orange County, CA
That's very noble of you to suggest stopping lessons! I probably wouldn't do that unless I have people on the waiting list. It's always hard to teach little perfectionists, especially when they are still in method books.

Good luck! Let us know how things go.
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#2044563 - 03/07/13 03:36 PM Re: Teaching 8 year old with Anxiety Disorder - Help! [Re: pianogirl1978]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I would make sure that I do nothing new with her. I know that seems counterintuitive, but if you do lots of preparatory games and experiences with her before you ever look at anything in print, you will always be able to say, "Why, look! You already know how to do this!"

Lots of improvisation, playing by ear, finger plays, moving, singing. Set every experience up to be something she already knows.
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B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#2044635 - 03/07/13 04:49 PM Re: Teaching 8 year old with Anxiety Disorder - Help! [Re: pianogirl1978]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
I think you need to keep the new concepts very small and finite. This student needs plenty of material to consolidate what she knows, and master it truly before moving on. You may need to use different books in parallel, to give her plenty practice. She will mature, for now she has ways of dealing with her anxiety, and crying is one of them.
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I am a competent teacher.


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#2044783 - 03/07/13 09:07 PM Re: Teaching 8 year old with Anxiety Disorder - Help! [Re: ten left thumbs]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2515
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Stay calm and detached from her anxiety. Please don't be controlled by her anxiety or her crying.

Stay in touch with the child and mom about strategies to respond to anxiety, deep breaths and whatever else she finds to do. She might discover a piano related calming activity; maybe she could play a scale or a chord while taking deep breaths or singing along with some notes.

You could read David Smith's book Monkey Mind for some insight about anxiety from a sufferer. (WARNING: adult content)
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A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2044923 - 03/08/13 06:46 AM Re: Teaching 8 year old with Anxiety Disorder - Help! [Re: malkin]
pianomouse Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/12
Posts: 88
Loc: Europe
I agree with everything said above. It might also help, if you don't use a book, where she sees what's coming next which seems to build up like a huge mountain for her. Why not use xeroxed music, and only give her what you actually work on?
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The piano keys are black and white,
But they sound like a million colours in your mind.
(Katie Melua)

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#2044927 - 03/08/13 07:05 AM Re: Teaching 8 year old with Anxiety Disorder - Help! [Re: Minniemay]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4783
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
I would make sure that I do nothing new with her. I know that seems counterintuitive, but if you do lots of preparatory games and experiences with her before you ever look at anything in print, you will always be able to say, "Why, look! You already know how to do this!"

Lots of improvisation, playing by ear, finger plays, moving, singing. Set every experience up to be something she already knows.

That's great!

I would add that it is the balance of success against challenges that is the key. Some people are always pushing to do something new and do not worry about imperfection. In its own way this can lead eventually to a high degree of mastery, but the teacher has to insist on fixing things and not always going on or glossing over imperfections.

With the obsessive perfectionists I think I tend to have them review a huge amount of material, then slip in new concepts or little improvements in very safe, gradual steps. It's a different mindset.

Perhaps all of us need more support than we realize this way. There is something about mastering an instrument that makes feeling good about where we are rather hard and feeling inadequate very easy. Just look at some of the most famous players who have ever lived. Why else would someone like Horowitz go through periods where he would say, "But I don't play piano any more..."
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