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#2160046 - 09/30/13 11:57 AM Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids
P.M. Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/27/11
Posts: 18
I have been teaching for several years now, and have a fairly decent student base of private students who come to my home. I get along pretty well with most of them but do have issues with some of the parents who come to me. All of the parents who come to me are Chinese because I live in a Chinese neighborhood. The majority are serious about education for their children, however there are times when it goes to far.

I have one mother who recently came to me with her daughter. Both take lessons from me now. From day one, the mother would constantly scold her daughter in Chinese in front of me at lessons, to the point where the poor girl wouldn't even sing for me! Finally I talked to the mother and she stopped and lessons got better and the girl got more confident it seems. Last lesson, the mother was back to her old tricks and I felt powerless. I wanted to tell her to stop, but she also takes lessons from me and I don't want to lose both of them, since they are both good students. I will definitely be addressing this next lesson, but it seems she doesn't get it. The girl is only 5. She has already passed the first music tree book and is on the second. While her sight reading is not fast, I do not expect it to be, she is only 5! The mother however seems intent on driving her daughters education further as she even asked what I could do to speed up her reading. I said she is doing fine and that we would just work on it in class.

How to explain to her and other parents I have had in the past, to stop demanding so much from the children? I even had a different parent, not this one, say to me in front of the child "maybe she is not smart". I wanted to smack her but told her that she has to encourage her instead of putting her down.

any tips? I can be very tough, don't get me wrong, but it can be aggressive and perhaps drive parents away and reflect on my reputation. I want to hear from others as to what I should do.

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#2160062 - 09/30/13 12:27 PM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: P.M.]
de cajon Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/10/13
Posts: 181
Loc: London, UK
If it's any help (and I don't find it so I must admit), it's normal - a different cultural parenting model.
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#2160064 - 09/30/13 12:35 PM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: P.M.]
nyke Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/13
Posts: 49
Hello, P.M.
I have dealt with a large amount of the family's who put a ton of pressure on their children as well. I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. I think that you should give a little as well and turn up the heat in your lessons. A lot of these children are coming from very competitive backgrounds with other things as well. I think most American teachers unfortunately like to be a bit laid back and slow-ful compared to other cultures. That is why in other nationalities there are children at the ages of 4,5,and 6 playing advanced repertoire. They don't let their children waste time playing video games, and all the unnecessary things they make their children work from day 1 towards success.
So I would turn up the heat on the 5 year old and make her work hard-but to a certain extent. Push her to read faster with reading exercises, give her extra work to do in her off time etc. Although, playing music is fun...the learning process isn't always fun and games, sometimes you really do have to turn up the heat-so to speak. Happy Teaching
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#2160069 - 09/30/13 12:49 PM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: P.M.]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
You definitely need to be pack-leader during the lesson, to the point you can send the mother out if it isn't working. You said you feel 'powerless'. But it is your job to teach, this is what she hired you for and you may need to remind her this.

Since I've had a decent number of students, now I don't fear losing them, and losing this fear has improved my teaching tremendously! smile Sometimes you just gotta do what you know is right, even when it won't go down well.

You can't control completely what goes on in the home, but you can specify some things, eg. no practice session more than 30 minutes (on grounds of not causing injury), not beyond pg such-and-such in the book and only assign things you think the child can reasonably manage.
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#2160082 - 09/30/13 01:22 PM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: P.M.]
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
In a culture that doesn't value too much about being smart, but values putting in 100% of effort and then some more, it might not be a horrible thing to say that someone might not be that smart. I think it's actually common for Chinese parents to say that their kids are not that smart but they are willing to work hard----this is actually bragging, because they believe that hard work will make up for the lack of any talent.

If you are dealing with lots of Chinese families, I think it would help if you exchange ideas with the parents about different cultures and attitudes toward work and learning. There are also many books out there talking about the difference between current American culture toward learning and the culture in other countries (East and West). One major difference is that many other cultures set the bar high for their students.

The mom might have very good reasons and in the end might really be doing her daughter a big favor by setting the bar high for the child. Her approach during the lesson, however, seems scary and ineffective. But if the mom and the child are willing to expedite building reading skills, surely there are workbooks that they can do at home...

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#2160095 - 09/30/13 01:49 PM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: P.M.]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
I think you should just tell the mom she can't sit in on her daughter's lessons. Regardless of whether what she is saying is helpful or true, it is a distraction and YOU should be in charge for that period of time.

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#2160099 - 09/30/13 02:01 PM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: P.M.]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10356
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
What would people say if the OP had never mentioned ethnicity?

I'm not trying to be snarky. This is a serious question. If you would have responded differently, ask yourself why. Is exhibiting sensitivity toward Asian-ness always a good thing? Ever a good thing? Do we tend to look at this same trait differently when it is exhibited by a white or black "American" mom? Should we? Review previous threads and I think you'll see that parents who do this are generally excoriated, not supported.
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#2160104 - 09/30/13 02:18 PM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: Piano*Dad]
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
In reality (not necessarily on this forum), I've seen the opposite as well: an Asian mom who does this is immediately labeled a tiger mom; a non-Asian mom who does this is regarded as setting her kids up for success. I think it depends on a lot of factors.

And timing is also a factor. When a society is prosperous and the vast majority have a good life without having to work hard, parents who push kids would probably be regarded as being excessive, because "let kids be kids" works well for most people. But when a society faces serious competition and people need to work hard to gain a good life, such parents will probably be commended.

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#2160110 - 09/30/13 02:46 PM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: P.M.]
nyke Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/13
Posts: 49
Hi Piano *Dad
To some degree what you are saying is true. Though-I don't allow parents to bully the students in my presence -I do encourage parents to place high expectations on the student as well as challenge them.
There's a difference.
Students who are belittled and talked down to, tend to respond to that with poor performance.
Students who are fussed at and told to do better because you believe in them and know they can do so much better tend to rise and accept the challenge.

I believe-Sometimes you just know when your own child isn't putting forth the effort.

So yes I fuss at all cultures and ethnicities in my studio, we have a large melting pot and Asians or Chinese aren't the ones usually getting fussed at! Lol :-)
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Blog Writer at http://musicacademyadvantage.com/
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#2160120 - 09/30/13 03:10 PM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: P.M.]
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
Is the mom a pretty good pianist? I think sometimes parents push their children to do well somewhere where they have not personally succeeded.
Do you speak Chinese? Can you add a room with a glass partition so she can see and not participate. I think the parent's job is to encourage, oversee amount of time practiced and pay for lessons. Most of all I think the student should enjoy learning and playing and that the lesson ought to be a pleasant experience. As teachers we want to focus on music but we are also teaching kindness and consideration.

rada

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#2160121 - 09/30/13 03:19 PM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: P.M.]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10356
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Quote:
Is the mom a pretty good pianist? I think sometimes parents push their children to do well somewhere where they have not personally succeeded.


Hmmm. I don't know why you would presume that. I find the opposite presumption just as persuasive. A parent who understands the instrument may work to help a kid develop their talent -- and this can often be read as "pushing" -- because they understand the importance of regular and disciplined work.

In any case, I think the variability of personality and family dynamics likely swamps any easy generalizations we might make.
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https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#2160164 - 09/30/13 05:15 PM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: P.M.]
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
Piano dad , I agree with your response as well...perhaps I should have used the word possibly in my thoughts.

rada

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#2160429 - 10/01/13 11:16 AM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: P.M.]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
"...Do you speak Chinese? Can you add a room with a glass partition so she can see and not participate..."

Boot the mother to the waiting room. She does not need to see, nor butt in, during the lesson. You may add some face-saving explanation if you wish, including making a DVD of the lesson for her to take home; this is also a prudent security measure.

Letting your blood pressure get away from you will prove a lot more expensive and troublesome than losing these students, if it comes to that. You will find that, in the long run, your reputation can take care of itself.

If you have friends from the neighborhood, you might consult them about the psychology and customs of the teacher/student/parent triangle, in the old country; maybe you will find less asbestos dust on the wheel covers (and less burned-up brakes) this way. Don't think for a minute that piano teachers there would tolerate it.
_________________________
Clef


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#2160534 - 10/01/13 04:41 PM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: Piano*Dad]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4785
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
A parent who understands the instrument may work to help a kid develop their talent -- and this can often be read as "pushing" -- because they understand the importance of regular and disciplined work.

I can't underscore the importance of this enough. A parent in the room can be totally destructive, but only if there is not respect for the teacher by the parent.

When the parent is an ally, it is powerful.

Now, getting the chemistry right for the student and the parent, working together, is a feel, and a lot has to do with the personality of the teacher.

When a parent is interfering with my teaching it also happens when the parent is out of the room. In fact for me it is WORSE when I can't confront the parent directly about the interference.

Most of the time problems can be nipped in the bud. If they can't be, it will be ongoing torture for the student and the teacher.



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Piano Teacher

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#2160724 - 10/02/13 04:16 AM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: Jeff Clef]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5462
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
maybe you will find less asbestos dust on the wheel covers (and less burned-up brakes) this way.

Talk about mixed metaphors smokin

If you talk to ten different Chinese people, they'll give you ten different opinions on this teacher-student-parent triangle. It's nice to be informed on what "normally" goes on, but in this day and age what's "normal" is no longer "normal."
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2160725 - 10/02/13 04:17 AM Re: Dealing with Parents who put too much pressure on their kids [Re: Piano*Dad]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5462
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
In any case, I think the variability of personality and family dynamics likely swamps any easy generalizations we might make.

This thumb
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Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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