Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!!

Posted by: Feminicricket

Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 01:33 PM

I have a recent transfer student from another teacher from the school where I teach. I have known this child who is turning eight this year to be whiny and lazy even before she came to me because I know her previous teacher. Trouble is the mom wants to continue lessons and has enrolled her with me of all people. In one year , she has barely learned anything from her last teacher who is a really good teacher.I can`t talk her out of her classes because it is tricky working for a music school where they are particular about you retaining their students. For me it is not about money. I would gladly tell her mom that she is wasting her money and my time. How do I deal with this child? Any tips to motivate her? Any 'lectures' I can give her. She comes into class and whines and slouches herself over the keyboard. When I make her go over her mistakes to correct them she says"What?Again? NOOOO!" Starts again slouching over the keyboard and treats the piano like a big pillow to lay her cute head. She is really testing my patience because I am not the lovey dovey kind of teachers and expect kids to behave in my class or I actually tell them off firmly but as kindly as possible. Please HELP! My first measure is to insist that the mom sits in the class with me today.
Posted by: Lollipop

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 02:11 PM

I have one like this! She's been with me for 3 years now, and is only now getting better... by which I mean, non-whiney lessons are probably 75% now. I don't know if it's anything I'm doing, or if she's just growing out of it. It's been rough, though.

Here are a few things I've done: Bribe. I have a bowl of candy in the room - it is my no-whining candy. Students are allowed to choose one piece at the end of the lesson. I'm pretty "easy" about it, but I have denied this child candy 3 times. (And never denied any other student.) In addition, she has denied herself a few more times. Most of the time, it just takes a reminder about no-whining.

Father sits in on lessons. She is worse when mother sits in. At first I was surprised that the parents didn't deal with this, but I think they are the sort that doesn't believe in disciplining in front of other people. I was intimidated by the parents at first, but now I freely scold, cajole, etc. I have suggested to the parents (in front of the child) that an earlier bedtime might help her cope better with her attitude problems.

Mom's explanation is that the child is a perfectionist and doesn't want to fail. This may well be the case, but child has also learned to manipulate with it.

I find it helps to ignore the behavior when possible. Sit patiently, and repeat your command. "We're going to play it over and over until I'm satisfied that you understand it. It's up to you how long it takes." Sometimes I speak perhaps a bit sharply - "you're wasting my time. Stop it." Or "I don't wanna hear it." I do this rarely, and as I'm generally a pretty nice, easygoing teacher, it usually catches her attention.

Just recently, I've started ending work on a piece as soon as the whining gets intolerable. "We're going to stop now; this is obviously too distressing for you." Interestingly, I've pulled this trick twice, and she looked shocked and ashamed both times. Perhaps I'm playing into her fear of failure; I think that is what is causing the most improvement.

Both times, this has occurred near the end of the lesson. My back-pocket plan is to remove her from the keyboard and do drills or games with her, letting her know that I am doing it because piano seems too hard for her right now, and maybe she can try again another day when she is feeling more capable, after she's had a chance to practice learning this way. My rationale is to treat the piano itself as a privilege, not a right.

Another thing I started doing recently is keeping my own notebook - apart from the student's notebook - on which I take notes during the lesson. In hers, I make a note of what she "finds too hard." (I don't call it whining, I call it things she is having trouble with.) When she starts whining, and I pull out my notebook and write something like, "trouble playing things several times in a row." She doesn't like this, and tries to prove me wrong.

In your case, I would ask the child outright if she whines like this at school, and what the teacher does about it? You can also ask her what she would like you to do about it, or what is the best way to get her to stop? You can suggest that you would be happy to play Dominoes with her and just skip the piano all together, if that's what she wants. Just let her know that you are NOT interested in listening to the whining.

I do find this kind of student to be very draining! Having a plan has helped me be a bit more in control, even if it hasn't changed the child as quickly as I would have liked. I hope you find something that works.
Posted by: danshure

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 02:19 PM

No lectures
No mom in the room
No disciplining

I have found what works EVERY time with situations like this is to find something they like (sorry for the cliche but it really is the solution). I had one student like this, and as soon as we started using recording software on the computer each lesson, and learning about that as well as piano, he has been fine.

Another student has responded well to constant new material - new songs, new games etc.

Another student responded really well to limits and clear clear expectations. We write a lesson plan on the board every week. He knows exactly what to expect. I give him the responsibility to stay on track in terms of the time.

Try something active at the beginning to work out some of her energy.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 02:29 PM

Originally Posted By: Lollipop
Mom's explanation is that the child is a perfectionist and doesn't want to fail. This may well be the case, but child has also learned to manipulate with it.



In your case, I would ask the child outright if she whines like this at school, and what the teacher does

I do find this kind of student to be very draining! Having a plan has helped me be a bit more in control, even if it hasn't changed the child as quickly as I would have liked. I hope you find something that works.

I had another student (not with me anymore) whose mom told me that it is because she( the child) is a perfectionist the child gets easily upset when corrected . This child used to stomp her foot and cry(8 year old). She used to actually walk out of class teary eyed. Never practices and finally I got a letter from the mom to "mind what I say to her child". I thought "What!?" Her child is a brat in class and she expects me to tolerate this nonsense?

Lollipop, I really admire you to have pulled through with your 'whiny one'. I am going to try your suggestions for sure. I am going to try every bit of suggestion given on this thread. Thank you so much!
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 02:32 PM

Originally Posted By: danshure


Try something active at the beginning to work out some of her energy.


She needs to be shaken up from her laziness. I will try this too. Thanks.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 02:38 PM

Maybe we all should have a 'whine' list?
Posted by: D4v3

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 02:38 PM

If it isnt about the money have you thought about saying this to the mom:

"I have been noticing that <child's name> doesnt seem to be enjoying her lessons. I tend to suggest children that are frustrated (not paying attention or not wanting review areas that need to be worked), take a break from music lessons and then after a couple of months see if the child would like to resume lessons."

They will either talk to the child to get them to behave, or pull the child out of lessons (which may be the best thing at this time) or go to another teacher.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 02:43 PM

Originally Posted By: D4v3
If it isnt about the money have you thought about saying this to the mom:

"I have been noticing that <child's name> doesnt seem to be enjoying her lessons. I tend to suggest children that are frustrated (not paying attention or not wanting review areas that need to be worked), take a break from music lessons and then after a couple of months see if the child would like to resume lessons."

They will either talk to the child to get them to behave, or pull the child out of lessons (which may be the best thing at this time) or go to another teacher.

As I said in my original post, it is tricky doing this in a music school where you teach one to one. If she was a private at home student of mine, she would be out of my class if she carries this on.
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 02:53 PM

Laziness is VERY rarely the actual problem. Laziness is mainly just a sign that something else is wrong. Sometimes the "something else" is under your control; other times maybe not. Dan's essential advice, to try something different rather than trying to do the same thing better, might be just what's needed.

Many years ago I had a very young student who was under a great deal of pressure at home. (New divorce, angry parents, frightened little boy.) He was (no surprise) very lazy in piano practice and in lessons. I soon figured out why, but I felt there was not much I could do other than try to make his lesson the safest most predictable place he had been that day, and do my best to teach him something. Not sure I even succeeded at those goals...
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 03:01 PM

Originally Posted By: david_a
Laziness is VERY rarely the actual problem.


Really? Speak to some teachers at your local public schools. Laziness is pandemic. mad Even among the honors students laziness is rampant. Kids today want to get the most out of doing the least amount of work. You rarely find hard workers.

Try teaching at a low-performing school. Yikes!
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 03:09 PM

OK, you're right, let me rephrase that:

Laziness is very rarely the problem that needs solving, because there's almost always another problem directly causing it, and if you don't fix the other thing, then the laziness comes back.
Posted by: Andy Platt

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 03:48 PM

Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Kids today want to get the most out of doing the least amount of work. You rarely find hard workers.


Today? Every generation has claimed that kid's today are lazy as if the things used to be different but there are ample quotes from previous generations about how kids are lazy and don't want to work. I try to remember back to my childhood ... what was I "lazy" at? Mostly things I never wanted to do in the first place? Sounds like there are some good ideas about helping this become something she wants to do and hopefully that will help.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 08:50 PM

So this is what happened today. The student came in with her mom but her mom was oblivious to the kid`s lazy ,sloppy behavior. I kept telling the kid,"Please sit properly and don`t put your ankle over your knee". She told me that she forgot to practice this week. I told the mom that learning music is like learning a new language. You have to practice at home or you`ll forget it. She told me that she wants her daughter to have fun and not be under pressure. To have an enjoyable time at her class. So I told the mom to get her daughter to put in at least 15mins a day everyday (which is not enough). She looked at me like I was nuts.
People think that piano lessons are just fun,fun and fun and you don`t have to work at all just because the musician they hear sounds like he is having fun. Guess what? He had to practice (for hours everyday for years) to get where he is. Take your daughter to the beach or the park if you want her to have fun and not practice. What is wrong with people!?
Anyway, I calmly told her that her daughter should practice something everyday even for 10 minutes. If not, she is going to have very little or no progress. I was wondering if some people actually think that going to music lessons is like going to the spa???
Posted by: Lollipop

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 09:31 PM

Feminicricket - Sounds like Mom will not be supportive. Since you don't really have a choice about teaching this child, I guess you'll have to make the best of it. Can a student learn to play piano in 30 minutes per week (without practicing)? Yes, actually. They may be 99 by the time they get to hands together, though. wink But I suspect this child's whiny attitude and frustration is due in part to the lack of success she feels. To a certain extent, mom is right - it needs to be fun.

So, for thirty minutes each week, play games, do flashcards, dance, whatever. Remove all expectations. Review the previous week's piece. (Do NOT give more than one.) If the child could pass the piece in one week by practicing it every day, then perhaps she can pass it in one month, by practicing it with you once a week. But you will somehow need to stay encouraging. Find something you like and harp on it. Wow - beautiful hand position! Hey! You only made 4 mistakes in that measure; let's try again and see if you can make only 3!

I think the key with her will be to make the steps so incremental that you have something to celebrate each week. And as the student begins to feel successful, she will move toward the piano more on her own.

I don't know what level she is at - I am assuming that she is still pretty low skill-wise - if practicing has been an ongoing issue. If so, that's good news. It's easier to improve from the lower levels. However, resist the urge to pass her on something too soon. (Although "good enough" might have to do.) You may even need to back up, but choosing a "new" book that repeats some of the concepts she should have learned previously but didn't. I don't think in this situation that I would even mention practicing at home. Consider it a gift if it happens.

Along with her ONE piece, you can give her other "assignments". Teach her how to practice good hand position by playing 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 three times in C position every day, for example. Time her. Show her it takes less than a minute. Ask her to try to find one minute for you every day. That's just an example, that may or may not be appropriate for your student. But I think if you can get her used to feeling capable and successful at the piano, it may become more fun.

Also, you may be in a tough position if another teacher in your studio "failed" with this student. Your commiseration with the other teacher might subconsciously keep you from succeeding. The other teacher may be giving you extra baggage to carry. Try to distance yourself from the other teacher and put yourself firmly on the child's side.

Easy to say from my arm-chair! I just think you probably need to spend extra time prepping, and lower your expectations for awhile. I hope you'll eventually be pleasantly surprised.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/07/10 10:19 PM

Thank you Lollipop. Your ideas and psychology are fantastic! I have given her 4 pieces this week, all Middle C position(about 8 measures each) that she does 'guess work'on . I patienty reviewed her past lessons to make sure she knew how to read her notes. Next week I am just going to concentrate on 1 piece and do more theory and flashcards. I think I need to work on my patience as well. I have been 'spoilt' by my hard-working students and also where I grew up, teachers do not bend over backwards for their students. I can see that you are a very patient and loving teacher. Do you recommend any books on child psychology that you think might help me deal with my thoughts and kids like these? I might be too set in my ways and maybe need to be more lenient with students like this one.
Posted by: Elissa Milne

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 03:31 AM

Thing is, it's never fun for the child if they are not progressing. And they won't progress at anything like a noticeable rate unless they practice.

Whenever I make a rule that students must do x amount of practice or they get kicked out of lessons there is a sudden increase of happiness: 99% of students do more practice and feel better about themselves, and 1% stop lessons=100% happiness.

What will happen to you if this child stops lessons? WIll you be punished in some way?
Posted by: danshure

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 05:38 AM

Is music

work work work ------ > fun

OR

fun ------- > work work work

?
Posted by: danshure

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 05:58 AM

Originally Posted By: Feminicricket
Thank you Lollipop. Your ideas and psychology are fantastic! I have given her 4 pieces this week, all Middle C position(about 8 measures each) that she does 'guess work'on . I patienty reviewed her past lessons to make sure she knew how to read her notes. Next week I am just going to concentrate on 1 piece and do more theory and flashcards. I think I need to work on my patience as well. I have been 'spoilt' by my hard-working students and also where I grew up, teachers do not bend over backwards for their students. I can see that you are a very patient and loving teacher. Do you recommend any books on child psychology that you think might help me deal with my thoughts and kids like these? I might be too set in my ways and maybe need to be more lenient with students like this one.

This is great to hear you be willing to make an effort!

BEST book -- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey--- not about teaching specifically but an infinite resource when it comes to working with your own psychology and with other people.
Posted by: Lollipop

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 08:32 AM

Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you find them helpful. I don't have any psych book recommendations, but Dansure's sounds like a good place to start. My psych books are college textbooks that I don't think anyone wants to read who doesn't have to! (In a past life I worked in the mental health field with children.)
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 09:24 AM

I agree 100% on the idea that success breeds success, and you have found the root of her problem - not practicing! I think you need to have a heart to heart with the mom without the child present, and simply explain what piano is. Try to relate to something in her field if you know what she does for a living. Her daughter is whining and throwing this tantrums because she knows she cannot do what you're asking without lots of mistakes because she has not worked at the the week before. She has very little upon which to build. So lessons end up being a review of the previous week's materials, and the child is faced with the fact that she has failed to advance. Since many children aren't self-disciplined, she needs the support of her parents to practice.

I like your idea of at least 10 minutes a day. Perhaps even lower you expectations to playing piano every day, no matter how long or short a time it is, with the ultimate goal being 15 minutes per day. That way if she's tired or doesn't have a lot of time (really who can't find 15 minutes in a day? but this is just to get her playing) she will at least get some practice in. Tell her that even if it means practicing in her pajamas because she forgot to practice that day, she needs to do it. Again, mom needs to be on board with this.

Also explain to mom that piano is only fun if you can do it. Her daughter is *not* having fun because she cannot do it since she doesn't practice. If her goal is for her daughter to have fun, either she helps her practice every day, or she put her money toward a different activity that doesn't require any skill.
Posted by: Ben Crosland

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 10:16 AM

I always tell my students that "Practice makes perfect" isn't really true and that really, it should be "Practice makes easy" - most will agree that "Easy = Fun" and that, therefore, "Practice makes it fun".

With a reluctant practiser, I will try to force-feed them a very short passage in the lesson, using the "Five times Perfect" challenge - in other words, they have to play the sequence of notes, with absolutely no mistakes, five times consecutively. I keep tally of their score by holding up my fingers, and make a bit of drama about it when they've achieved four by commentating like "Oh no - the pressure's mounting! Can they make the fifth one, or are they going back to zero again?!" etc. The students always take this in good humour, even when they do actually crack and have to start all over again - the point being that they won't take anywhere near as long to get back to that position again.

Ideally, what starts to happen, is that they reach a state of mind where they can actually feel the progress occuring in real time - you can always tell that this has happened because they no longer need prompting to try again. This, for me, is the crucial element to the whole process, and I make a point of talking them through the experience, once they've completed the challenge - not only to make them more self-aware about the learning process, but also to capitalise on the high that they'll be experiencing from the sense of achievement.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 10:29 AM

It might be about the same financial difference to the school's owner if this child could be reassigned to a different teacher.

Unsurprisingly, it sounds like you are burning out on this one. And, frankly, piano may not be this child's gift to the world.

If the school's contract has no minimum standard for music students' behavior, it should have one. If it does have one, maybe the parent could be reminded of it.

I am sorry the child is so unhappy. They seldom are so unless a stable framework, a good example, and healthy boundaries are set for them by the parents, and they are encouraged within their capabilities. You are not in a position to afford the child all these things.
Posted by: danshure

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 11:20 AM

Sorry Morodiene - I respectfully and completely disagree with having this "talk" before exhausting all other possibilities;

- making sure there is a good practice environment at home
- trying all sorts of things during the lesson - WAY out of the box if need be.
- incorporating technology - recordings etc
- being sure she really knows how to read music - bring it WAY back to lines/spaces, make games out of it, have fun and be sure the basics are covered
- on the converse try harder material - some students I've found excel when challenged
- be very structured about the lesson time - scheduling it out in 5-10 minute intervals, and writing it out so she can see it, even have her participate in the coming up with the structure for each lesson. many kids do WAY better when they have this "syllabus" format
- adjusting our demeanor in general to that of being more positive
- maybe she is on medication? I have had students who exhibit the same behavior, only to find out it's because of a prescription medicine.

I'm not saying one of these things will magically fix things, but it's our job as teachers to try any and all possibilities to change ourselves and our methods and adapt to the student to reach them. Such talks should only be one last Hail Mary effort after everything else has been given a fair chance and failed.
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 12:04 PM

Originally Posted By: danshure
Is music

work work work ------ > fun

OR

fun ------- > work work work

?
No.

Fun is not part of music. Fun happens by accident on the way, and I'm glad every time it does, but neither layout above makes sense.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 12:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Elissa Milne
Thing is, it's never fun for the child if they are not progressing. And they won't progress at anything like a noticeable rate unless they practice.

Whenever I make a rule that students must do x amount of practice or they get kicked out of lessons there is a sudden increase of happiness: 99% of students do more practice and feel better about themselves, and 1% stop lessons=100% happiness.

What will happen to you if this child stops lessons? WIll you be punished in some way?


Hello Elissa.In a music school, most owners are interested in teachers sustaining the student. So I cannot have a talk with a student`s parent about quitting piano. If I influence a parent into stopping lessons, the school probably won`t trust me with more students because it is not in their best interest to lose students. If a student is bad and stops on their own ,that is a different matter. Sometimes, in my conscience I feel like I am being a bit dishonest for not telling the parents like it is.......am I? When I got this student, I was told by my boss not to expect too much. So my fault too for expecting something out of nothing.I just did not think that it will be more of a sight reading class. I am reading all the comments here and want to take this as a challenge for myself and see where it goes. I am going to try all the different suggestions and solve this. At least this student is not the crying type. For that , I am very grateful. She is not on any medication, just maybe gets her way with her mom who is very loving and sweet with her child. Mom doesn`t understand about the need to practice so she is not going to help the child at all. I have asked her to help weeks ago but nothing happened. I am a mom to 2 cats and not to a child, maybe that`s why I find it hard to understand. Most lazy ones who come to me don`t last long because they realize that they have to work and put in some effort on their part for the lessons. They quit or switch to another teacher is what normally happens eventually. They go through a whole list of teachers because parents always want to believe that it is the teacher`s fault and not the child`s. Of course sometimes it is the teacher`s fault but not with lazy ones. I will try my best and see where this goes. I have to change my attitude with this one.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 12:48 PM

Originally Posted By: Ben Crosland
I always tell my students that "Practice makes perfect" isn't really true and that really, it should be "Practice makes easy" - most will agree that "Easy = Fun" and that, therefore, "Practice makes it fun".

With a reluctant practiser, I will try to force-feed them a very short passage in the lesson, using the "Five times Perfect" challenge - in other words, they have to play the sequence of notes, with absolutely no mistakes, five times consecutively. I keep tally of their score by holding up my fingers, and make a bit of drama about it when they've achieved four by commentating like "Oh no - the pressure's mounting! Can they make the fifth one, or are they going back to zero again?!" etc. The students always take this in good humour, even when they do actually crack and have to start all over again - the point being that they won't take anywhere near as long to get back to that position again.

Ideally, what starts to happen, is that they reach a state of mind where they can actually feel the progress occuring in real time - you can always tell that this has happened because they no longer need prompting to try again. This, for me, is the crucial element to the whole process, and I make a point of talking them through the experience, once they've completed the challenge - not only to make them more self-aware about the learning process, but also to capitalise on the high that they'll be experiencing from the sense of achievement.


I will try this with her too. She whines when I make her play something again.Probably I will tell her that if she plays it well 5 times, I will give her a star. I am afraid of giving them candies and stuff because I don`t know what kind of food allergies some kids have.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 12:51 PM

Originally Posted By: david_a
Originally Posted By: danshure
Is music

work work work ------ > fun

OR

fun ------- > work work work

?
No.

Fun is not part of music. Fun happens by accident on the way, and I'm glad every time it does, but neither layout above makes sense.

For me personally, fun comes as a reward after you 'bother' to practice because it becomes easier.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 12:53 PM

Originally Posted By: Lollipop
Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you find them helpful. I don't have any psych book recommendations, but Dansure's sounds like a good place to start. My psych books are college textbooks that I don't think anyone wants to read who doesn't have to! (In a past life I worked in the mental health field with children.)

Do you mean "past life" as in a previous life ...like in reincarnation?
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 01:06 PM

Originally Posted By: danshure
Originally Posted By: Feminicricket
Thank you Lollipop. Your ideas and psychology are fantastic! I have given her 4 pieces this week, all Middle C position(about 8 measures each) that she does 'guess work'on . I patienty reviewed her past lessons to make sure she knew how to read her notes. Next week I am just going to concentrate on 1 piece and do more theory and flashcards. I think I need to work on my patience as well. I have been 'spoilt' by my hard-working students and also where I grew up, teachers do not bend over backwards for their students. I can see that you are a very patient and loving teacher. Do you recommend any books on child psychology that you think might help me deal with my thoughts and kids like these? I might be too set in my ways and maybe need to be more lenient with students like this one.

This is great to hear you be willing to make an effort!

BEST book -- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey--- not about teaching specifically but an infinite resource when it comes to working with your own psychology and with other people.

You know something, that title sounds so familiar. I read a lot of psychology books. I enjoy reading them and often put the knowledge to use especially to deal with my own internal feelings. I will look into it and at the same time am going to google some child psychology books. I have never read them. One of the biggest reason I feel like I need to change something about my attitude is because when I think about my childhood and the teachers that I had. I only have the fondest memories of the kind ones. My piano teacher was a real dragon but started being really nice to me only after I started practicing..... My violin teacher was a real ogre and I started practicing only after he started being nice to me. So I am a bit confused about the whole thing.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 01:19 PM

Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I agree 100% on the idea that success breeds success, and you have found the root of her problem - not practicing! I think you need to have a heart to heart with the mom without the child present, and simply explain what piano is. Try to relate to something in her field if you know what she does for a living. Her daughter is whining and throwing this tantrums because she knows she cannot do what you're asking without lots of mistakes because she has not worked at the the week before. She has very little upon which to build. So lessons end up being a review of the previous week's materials, and the child is faced with the fact that she has failed to advance. Since many children aren't self-disciplined, she needs the support of her parents to practice.

I like your idea of at least 10 minutes a day. Perhaps even lower you expectations to playing piano every day, no matter how long or short a time it is, with the ultimate goal being 15 minutes per day. That way if she's tired or doesn't have a lot of time (really who can't find 15 minutes in a day? but this is just to get her playing) she will at least get some practice in. Tell her that even if it means practicing in her pajamas because she forgot to practice that day, she needs to do it. Again, mom needs to be on board with this.

Also explain to mom that piano is only fun if you can do it. Her daughter is *not* having fun because she cannot do it since she doesn't practice. If her goal is for her daughter to have fun, either she helps her practice every day...

I had mentioned all these point to this mom. I told her that it is just like learning a new language and if you don`t practice speaking the language, you will forget it. I don`t think the mom is going to put in any effort. She just wants her daughter to have fun. I am going to try my best to make it fun but that is not my teaching personality type. It is going to be a change on my part. I will do my best and see where this goes. If she stops, I`ll know I tried my best but maybe I am not good for these type of students.
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 02:19 PM

Originally Posted By: Feminicricket
For me personally, fun comes as a reward after you 'bother' to practice because it becomes easier.
I don't look at it that way. If, as a student, I start to look at it that way, I realize (a) that I might never get to "the fun part", and (b) when I do get there, I have an attitude problem of "This had better be fun, because I've earned it!" - and then during what was supposed to be the fun part, I find out that only a piano teacher would call this fun.

So, as a teacher, I prefer to think of "fun" as something in the mind of the student (and in my own mind), and I don't divide music or music lessons into "the fun part" and "the not fun part". It's all the fun part, if you want it to be; and none of it is fun, if you've decided ahead of time that it isn't going to be.

Lest I be regarded as a nasty teacher, I should say that criticism of my teaching (from those who dislike it) boils down to "too much fun and not enough honest hard work". I just happen to prefer dishonest hard work that feels like fun. smile
Posted by: Lollipop

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/08/10 02:46 PM

Originally Posted By: Feminicricket
Originally Posted By: Lollipop
Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you find them helpful. I don't have any psych book recommendations, but Dansure's sounds like a good place to start. My psych books are college textbooks that I don't think anyone wants to read who doesn't have to! (In a past life I worked in the mental health field with children.)

Do you mean "past life" as in a previous life ...like in reincarnation?


Ha ha. No. I phrase it that way to reinforce the idea that it is not the life I currently live! I have changed careers and/or circumstances a few times over the years. They all feel like different lives sometimes.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/15/10 01:19 PM

Would you all believe this. After my 'lecture' to the parent about practicing, the mom actually bothered to make her child practice. I gave her just 2 songs yesterday(one old one from the previous lesson and one new one). I am still going slow with this one and taking it easy. I praised the girl and gave her a star sticker on her book and wrote "Good" in her book. Told her to play it faster next lesson. I was surprised to hear her complain"Good? Not Terrific, just Good?" she says to me. Really it was just average but I wanted to encourage her but she wanted me to say that she was very good. Her previous teacher easily says things like "Fabulous, terrific, awesome, phenomenal etc." I don`t use those words in my teaching vocabulary unless they play outstandingly well. Next, I have to work on the mom getting to class in time. She is always 5 minutes late and gives me a funny look when I stop on the clock. I am very punctual and the school does not appreciate me not starting a student on time.
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/15/10 02:04 PM

False praise is a pet topic of mine. I won't start. frown
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/15/10 02:21 PM

Originally Posted By: david_a
False praise is a pet topic of mine. I won't start. frown


PLEASE start. I want to do everything to help this kid break out of her current way. To false praise or not, that is the question.
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/15/10 03:00 PM

OK.

Dishonest praise (or inflated, or false, or whatever you want to call it) damages a child's self-esteem. Excessive and unwarranted reward does exactly the same damage as excessive and unwarranted punishment. The reason is that, really, reward and punishment are the same thing. Every "Reward" coin we hand out to a child has "Punishment" embossed on the other side. There's nothing we can do about that - that's how those coins come from the mint. smile

The child himself is no dummy, and knows to look at both sides of whatever coin he is presented with. He also knows that any coin that gets handed out all the time at every occasion can't be worth much. Therefore, if you are excessive with your praise, your student implicitly knows you are also (perhaps secretly) excessive with your blame; and furthermore it means that neither your praise nor your blame can be worth paying attention to, since they are indiscriminately slathered over everything, like sickly-sweet ketchup over a bad hamburger.


There. I feel better now. smile
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/15/10 03:13 PM

...which boils down, in the end, to:

a) Students are not stupid, so don't treat them as if they are.

b) Students need the truth about their performance, not lies.

c) Encouragement (You can do it! Keep going!) and praise (Well done! Terrific!) are not the same thing. Use them both appropriately. Confusing the two is a big mistake.
Posted by: danshure

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/15/10 08:51 PM

I'm going to try and be clear.

You can either teach students to become CO-DEPENDENT or INDEPENDENT. It's that simple. There's our two basic choices as teachers. We can teach with one in mind or the other. Unfortunately, many of us have "co-dependent" in mind as default and don't realize it. Independent takes longer (seemingly). It's harder to teach with it in mind. It takes patience, selflessness, holistic knowledge, long term and short term thinking...

A CO-DEPENDENT Student

-needs us to tell them "good" or "bad"
-depends on us to point out mistakes
-needs us to guide them every step of the way
-needs us to tell them how much to practice
-needs us to "get" them to practice to begin with
-makes music to please others
-thinks of music as a competition
-thinks of music in terms of how others judge them

An INDEPENDENT Student

-has an internal sense of good vs bad (they don't look towards teachers, friends, adults etc to justify their skills - or reprimand them - they know for themselves when music sounds good)
-knows how to self teach, or is headed in that direction
-knows when they make a mistake without being told
-uses their own resourcefulness instead of depending on the teacher to tell them the notes etc
-grows to love music and make it because they want to, not to please others
-has a genuine love for sharing music and hearing the music of others. they do not think it is a competition of who is better
-ultimately practices on their own

How do you get INDEPENDENT? You examine your intentions, actions, words, thoughts, motivations and teaching techniques very carefully and ask which result am I REALLY going to get? Now, and in the long run? Who will this student be when I am not their teacher anymore?
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/15/10 11:58 PM

FeminicricketL

I'm still a bit curious on the way the music school works. I can understand the situation that the music school has put you into (that you can't escape this student), but I'm finding that as a teacher I had to actually say no to a potential student, simply because I felt I would be no good to him. A teacher isn't supposed to support all kind of students, all types of learning personalities. A young girl at the age of 8 should actually also bent over and work for the teacher, not the other way around!

I mean, chances are that the girl might still remain spoiled, as she appears to be, lazy and not happy with the lessons. Even if you do actually change (as you've done already). So what is then going to happen? The parents might actually want to spend that time in spa or something, while the kids on lesson. (at least here in Greece this type of thing can be happening, with parents not caring what's going on in private tuition, or one to one, especially for music tution which is a luxury item to purchase in the first place).
Posted by: TimR

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/16/10 09:22 AM

Originally Posted By: Feminicricket
Originally Posted By: david_a
False praise is a pet topic of mine. I won't start. frown


PLEASE start. I want to do everything to help this kid break out of her current way. To false praise or not, that is the question.


"false" praise is a value judgement that will be unproductive. (it continues this blaming cycle - I would never use the word lazy)

Instead take a step back and operationalize it. What you are looking for are ways to alter (modify, improve) specific behavior, not their sense of morality.

My dog is food motivated. Hold up a potato chip and she'll run through her entire repertoire at breakneck speed while drooling. My brother's dog couldn't care less, so different motivation must be found. At any rate, when I need to teach a new behavior, a food treat is highly motivating.

What you have found with this student is that your approval is highly motivating. That gives you enormous leverage. We don't need to speculate on why, just use it. I was going to suggest reviewing the Premack principle (high probability behaviors can be used to reinforce low probability ones) until you came up with this one.

Books. I am not a fan of the Covey book. In my opinion it is thinly disguised religion rather than science. But I haven't read it all carefully, and maybe you can get something out of it. Most of my psychology texts are left over from grad school and would be little help. I would suggest finding something fairly rudimentary on behavioral psychology and read the sections on reinforcement schedules, shaping, etc. This stuff works. It really does. I've used it in state mental hospitals with patients low functioning beyond anything a music teacher is going to encounter. The behavioral approach doesn't require you to do much different, but more think about it differently. Also, you need to remain calm and get past the judgment. For that I recommend the Rational Emotive Therapy stuff based on Albert Ellis's cognitive psychology. This is not for the child - it is to keep you from overreacting and improve your effectiveness.
Posted by: danshure

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/16/10 10:02 AM

So what you're saying Tim, is that if someone used those same techniques on you, they would work? That's classic psych error 101 - humans are not dogs, nor mental patients. We have free will and can't be conditioned in such a way. Dogs ARE co-dependent on something else ("pack leader - thanks Caeser!). Mental patients for the most part are also.

I'm a big fan of cognative psych so I think that is a good suggestion. However, all it really is, is developing an awareness of the thought/emotion connection and logical fallacies in thinking and when they contribute to negative emotions. It does not go further and provide actionable ways to handle a piano student.

An attempt at a religion usually comes with an attempt to join something - church, official group or organization, to carry out certain actions - Covey's material does none of this.
Posted by: liyhann

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/16/10 11:31 AM

Make in-class repetitions a game. The Piano Student's Guide to Effective Practicing by Nancy Breth has a wealth of games and practice strategies. (There is also a "Parents' Guide")

http://www.amazon.com/Students-Effective-Practicing-Educational-Library/dp/0634068849

You need "Button down" My students love that one - we use pennies. Move one to the other side of the piano for each correct practice run through on a difficult spot. Another great resource for teachers: The Practice Revolution, by Philip Johnston. An effective tool is the "Ledger System."

http://www.amazon.com/Practice-Revolution-Getting-results-between/dp/095819050X
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/16/10 12:45 PM

Your approval is a false goal for the student, causing her to waste all her piano time. Her real musical goal (of course) needs to be "to play the piano better and better", or "to learn [list of things]", or something like that. Teaching her the difference is part of your job. If your approval is her goal, then in truth her own playing is pointless to her, just a creepy game played for your benefit.

Lead her to find within herself her own approval for a job well done.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/16/10 10:07 PM

Thank you all for replying. I am reading every one of your posts and 'digesting' it. I really value all the input on this matter because I can apply it also to some of my other students who are not whining but need a little push in the right direction. Now I am only strict with the hard working ones and treat the lazy , whiny ones with more of a different approach to get some results. Before, I used to tell off the lazy ones point blank but I have stopped doing this and am tailoring the classes differently.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/16/10 10:09 PM

Originally Posted By: liyhann
Make in-class repetitions a game. The Piano Student's Guide to Effective Practicing by Nancy Breth has a wealth of games and practice strategies. (There is also a "Parents' Guide")

http://www.amazon.com/Students-Effective-Practicing-Educational-Library/dp/0634068849

You need "Button down" My students love that one - we use pennies. Move one to the other side of the piano for each correct practice run through on a difficult spot. Another great resource for teachers: The Practice Revolution, by Philip Johnston. An effective tool is the "Ledger System."

http://www.amazon.com/Practice-Revolution-Getting-results-between/dp/095819050X

Sounds interesting. I have never read this. Will look into it. Thank you.
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/16/10 10:33 PM

Originally Posted By: Feminicricket
Thank you all for replying. I am reading every one of your posts and 'digesting' it. I really value all the input on this matter because I can apply it also to some of my other students who are not whining but need a little push in the right direction. Now I am only strict with the hard working ones and treat the lazy , whiny ones with more of a different approach to get some results. Before, I used to tell off the lazy ones point blank but I have stopped doing this and am tailoring the classes differently.
Results are certainly important.

As you tailor your approach, watch that in each case the results are still somewhere in line with the real goals for that student. With frustrating situations or frustrating students, it's easy to get sucked into accepting just any old result.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 08:32 AM

Originally Posted By: danshure
So what you're saying Tim, is that if someone used those same techniques on you, they would work? That's classic psych error 101 - humans are not dogs, nor mental patients.


You are very, very confident about your rejection of subjects you have not investigated in the slightest.

In fact, everyone responds to reinforcement, whether external or internal.

"whininess" is not a symptom of moral evil but merely a behavior that can be shaped or extinguished in a number of ways. I'm pulling a couple of books out of deep memory so they may no longer be available. But at one time Parent Effectiveness Training and Teacher Effectiveness Training (or something like that) offered some practical approaches for improving children's behavior.

Not sure where you're going with your dismissal of the religious aspect. Covey is a devout Mormon and has written a number of religious books as well. Some feel the spillover into his "habits" books is large. I'm not sure myself, haven't read them in enough depth.
Posted by: danshure

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 11:07 AM

Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: danshure
So what you're saying Tim, is that if someone used those same techniques on you, they would work? That's classic psych error 101 - humans are not dogs, nor mental patients.


You are very, very confident about your rejection of subjects you have not investigated in the slightest.

In fact, everyone responds to reinforcement, whether external or internal.

"whininess" is not a symptom of moral evil but merely a behavior that can be shaped or extinguished in a number of ways. I'm pulling a couple of books out of deep memory so they may no longer be available. But at one time Parent Effectiveness Training and Teacher Effectiveness Training (or something like that) offered some practical approaches for improving children's behavior.

Not sure where you're going with your dismissal of the religious aspect. Covey is a devout Mormon and has written a number of religious books as well. Some feel the spillover into his "habits" books is large. I'm not sure myself, haven't read them in enough depth.

Tim, I stand corrected in my wording, although I have read psychology books quite a bit. I know what you're referring to is mainly behavioral psych (ie pavlov). You're approach is right on in a behaviorist model. I just fundamentally disagree that a behaviorist psych model is the way to go and disagree with behaviorism.

Behaviorism's view is that every observable external behavior can be changed through external means with no regard to internal process. I disagree with this approach entirely. I'd prefer to work with a person's internal processes so they then change themselves through a process of their own will. This brings long term and meaningful results. I know that everyone responds to motivators and reinforcement but this does not mean we should always use them, and it does not mean that what works for dogs and mental patients can also work for humans.

I do however agree with many aspects of Cognitive psych and some elements of humanism, although really I just pull from everything I've learned about and my own experiences and try to find the best approach. In general, in 10+ years of teaching I have never found behavioral psych to work.

As for Covey, I am familiar with the fact he is Mormon. I've read several of his Habits books, and they have helped greatly, and I am not religious. His Habits books site several different faiths, showing how they all have similarities, and in fact he never mentioned Mormonism at all.

I respect and understand your advise to try things with behaviorism, so I meant no insult, I just disagree.
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 12:23 PM

Originally Posted By: TimR
In fact, everyone responds to reinforcement, whether external or internal.
They do; but not in neat predictable ways. One obvious example is a student who is given frequent reinforcement by someone who later betrays them. The student may begin to associate reinforcement with impending betrayal, and may avoid responding, respond negatively, or attempt to escape the situation. Another obvious example (which I mentioned previously) is a student "seeing through" the teacher's plan to reinforce a certain behavior, and either purposefully thwarting the teacher's plan or building resentment at being deceived.

Reinforcement being used as a behavior modification strategy by parents and teachers is perceived by intelligent students as a trap; in other human relationships, behavioral reinforcement is called "game playing" and viewed as immoral (e.g. abusive partners use these same behavior modification tricks to trap the other person). It's time for teaching to discard most of its uses of this technique, for two reasons: it can put the student in an ethical double bind, which is painful and confusing; and there simply are more effective ways to get things done.

I'm not saying reinforcement is immoral in every case; but I am saying it's a very clumsy and usually temporary method, and with questionable ethics to boot.
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 03:50 PM

Feminicricket, if someone can get this student to practice, I have a feeling the whining would end. She needs to be prepared for lessons, and not have parent in the room for lessons IMO.

I would suggest to the parent to require daily practice and pay the child $5 for each 30 minute practice. With 5 days practice she earns $25.00 and for a lot of kids this can be very motivational!

(This suggestion was brought to mind by all the discussion about behavior modification.)
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 04:45 PM

Regarding "false praise" and praise, I would just say that my approach is to give hearty approbation and honest praise. When the student said "Not terrific, just good?" an honest response could be, "You have made terrific progress in being prepared for lessons" or something along those lines. Celebrate the small successes. (And of course then go on to focus on areas to be improved)...i.e. "This time emphasize the dynamic changes..." etc. Instead of "You ignored all the dynamic markings" or anything that sounds critical.

Since I've started having kids match notes (that they can't name) to notes on a chart, after they correctly match and name notes I tell them "Good job!" enthusiastically and sometimes I even clap for them. It changes the atmosphere from disapproval ("one more note I couldn't remember") to "yea! I was able to match a note correctly". For beginners I think this is essential! They get a feeling of success instead of being beaten down in the learning process.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 05:10 PM

Originally Posted By: Nikolas
FeminicricketL

I'm still a bit curious on the way the music school works. I can understand the situation that the music school has put you into (that you can't escape this student), but I'm finding that as a teacher I had to actually say no to a potential student, simply because I felt I would be no good to him. A teacher isn't supposed to support all kind of students, all types of learning personalities. A young girl at the age of 8 should actually also bent over and work for the teacher, not the other way around!

I mean, chances are that the girl might still remain spoiled, as she appears to be, lazy and not happy with the lessons. Even if you do actually change (as you've done already). So what is then going to happen? The parents might actually want to spend that time in spa or something, while the kids on lesson. (at least here in Greece this type of thing can be happening, with parents not caring what's going on in private tuition, or one to one, especially for music tution which is a luxury item to purchase in the first place).


I have always believed that a student should work at the lesson and practice at home. I have 'old school' thinking maybe. I have in the past not supported the scenario where the teacher be should be accomodating and make things always fun and entertaining for the student or else the kid acts up. I am now trying to see if this other 'fun' approach works for the whiny lazy ones( the ones who obviously don`t want to be at their lessons). It is like an experiment I am conducting to see if it will motivate the unmotivated. Of course I am not going to use this method on the ones who don`t need me to make the lessons entertaining and fun- (the hardworking ones). I find that my 'lecturing' doesn`t always get them to practice(sometimes lectures work but rarely), it makes me feel bad afterward and the student probably wishes they had my face on their dartboard....so I am trying to look for a win-win situation. In music schools , if you turn down students, they stop supplying you with them because you are picky. Although once in the past I had a student that I really could not stand and I called my boss and begged not to have the child(very lazy chatterbox who was full of excuses) in my class. Did not work. But another teacher convinced me that this particular child is more for theatre classes, dancing and singing (fun!!!) and she was right. The other teacher convinced my boss to call her parents and talk them to switch to these classes. This kid is doing very well now in those classes. Do you need to have a certain personality type to play piano and violin maybe? I have always been a hermit and loner as a child but totally enjoyed practicing. I was afraid of my strict teacher but as a child/teenager/adult very drawn to the piano.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 05:17 PM

Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky
Regarding "false praise" and praise, I would just say that my approach is to give hearty approbation and honest praise. When the student said "Not terrific, just good?" an honest response could be, "You have made terrific progress in being prepared for lessons" or something along those lines. Celebrate the small successes. (And of course then go on to focus on areas to be improved)...i.e. "This time emphasize the dynamic changes..." etc. Instead of "You ignored all the dynamic markings" or anything that sounds critical.

Since I've started having kids match notes (that they can't name) to notes on a chart, after they correctly match and name notes I tell them "Good job!" enthusiastically and sometimes I even clap for them. It changes the atmosphere from disapproval ("one more note I couldn't remember") to "yea! I was able to match a note correctly". For beginners I think this is essential! They get a feeling of success instead of being beaten down in the learning process.


Thank you, Ann. More and more I have come to realize how sensitive children are and how when I correct them on their mistakes, their face turns red no matter how kindly I say it. I have come to learn that I have to praise them first for all the good parts they played and then say "Alright, let`s work on this part where you played B instead of C"
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 05:20 PM

There's never anything wrong with honest praise & approval given for free. It's when they have strings attached, trying to getting the student to do something else, that the problems start. We all know that bribes are a sure sign of corruption - kids know it too.
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 06:06 PM

Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky
I would suggest to the parent to require daily practice and pay the child $5 for each 30 minute practice. With 5 days practice she earns $25.00 and for a lot of kids this can be very motivational!


I could not disagree with this more!!!

A child should not be paid for doing what is expected of them. You don't pay them for doing their homework, why would you pay them for practicing?

This is, in large part, a problem in our society. Parents are wimping out on setting expectations and following through with consequences for poor behavior. Way too much psychobabble.
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 06:29 PM

Ha! Ha! I knew this would get a reaction. Once my son got to age 12 I found it helped to allow him to earn pay for practice. It's one thing to require a child age 8-11 to practice. But around middle school they try to exert their independence and say they're quitting piano. The thing is that I don't purchase video games for him etc. They're expensive and he has to use his own money. But by giving him the choice of whether to practice, and letting him earn money for it...has kept him practicing piano...and he gets the financial consequences when he doesn't practice.

I admit I am not a monument to excellent parenting, but this is working for us. And on the other hand, as adults we get paid for our work. Once they hit middle school why not let them get paid for their work too?
Posted by: TimR

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 06:54 PM

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky
I would suggest to the parent to require daily practice and pay the child $5 for each 30 minute practice. With 5 days practice she earns $25.00 and for a lot of kids this can be very motivational!


I could not disagree with this more!!!

A child should not be paid for doing what is expected of them.


Nor should a teacher be paid for doing what I expect of them. Their devotion to the music should be ample reward. If not, they need to find another more commercial profession.

Paying for practise is really an interesting experiment. There have been a number of experiments doing this with academic work, with mixed results (I've quoted some of these in previous posts.) Mostly, programs that paid for results (cash for A's, etc.) failed. Programs that paid for work (cash per book read) resulted in increased grade points and test scores.

I have several thoughts in reference to the psychology discussion. I know we have a psychologist on the forum, I don't claim to be one. (I went to grad school and worked 8 years in mental hospitals before becoming an engineer.)

1. Feel good self help books like the Covey series have no practical application to piano instruction. They're too general. Read them if you want, but don't expect results.

2. Behavioral psychology approaches work for modifying behavior. So does parenting. Psychology just abstracts the underlying principles from parenting and makes good parenting understandable and teachable. Much of response to child behavior is nonintuitive and maintains the behavior instead of reducing it, just as much of piano practice is nonintuitive and will be done wrong unless corrected. Teachers learn classroom management techniques during their education, and all of them are based on these principles. Piano teachers may not be exposed to this type of pedagogy depending on their background. Certainly a performance major will not.

3. Cognitive behavior approaches CAN work very well for letting a teacher gain enough control over their own responses to implement effective teaching techniques. But they often don't. When I worked for state mental hospitals, one of my jobs was teaching classes in these for staff and patients. (higher functioning patients, of course) The patients had trouble understanding the concepts, but to some extent could apply them; the staff had no trouble with the concepts but mostly declined to use them. They liked getting angry unnecessarily. Maybe I'd have eventually figured a solution but mechanical engineering came along.

4. There is no place for moralistic thinking in piano instruction, though it is very natural. Professionalism forbids it. If you call a child whiny or lazy you are making value judgments that have no place here.

5. There are no lazy children. (somewhere, somehow, there are children who don't do much of anything. but few of them take piano lessons) The same child who is "too lazy" to play piano will work hard for four hours a night mastering a video game that requires equal skill. Lazy is simply not a useful term for a child that works that hard and develops that degree of skill.
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 07:13 PM

Teaching teenage girls to suppress their own wishes, and instead to follow the wishes of others in return for money, is more than a bit disturbing.
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 08:13 PM

david, would you find it less disturbing to "teach teenage girls to suppress their own wishes, and instead to follow the wishes of others" if there is no money in return? Is it disturbing to you to require a teenager to dress modestly, do her homework and practice an instrument--all of wish may require "suppressing" her own wishes?

If she really had different interests she is certainly free to negotiate with the parent. "I really don't want to study piano any more, but would you be willing to allow me to get paid for work related to being on the swim team?" etc.

Are you disturbed by parent requiring certain behavior from their child, or disturbed by the child getting paid for doing the required behavior?

Haven't we all had jobs in which we have to suppress our own wish to sleep in and instead we dress up and show up for work?
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 08:57 PM

I'm saying that negotiation can be useful, and that payment is always counterproductive. I'm not at all disturbed by parents requiring their children to do something, I'm disturbed by their bribing the child to do it.

The daughter should be asking "Who am I doing this for?".


I suspect (and hope!) nobody pays their daughter to dress properly or do her homework. Due to social pressure, those items are not subject to personal choice except within very narrow limits. Music lessons are different. Why should it not be the daughter's choice to continue or to quit? Bribes from parents obviously mean the parents really really want the piano music to continue - but for what purpose? Who really benefits?

I would argue that nobody benefits from five-dollar piano practice, except what the daughter might buy with her money. Five dollars worth of bubble gum is worth more to me than an hour of bribed piano practice, because what kind of quality is the work going to be in a situation like that?
Posted by: danshure

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/17/10 09:05 PM

Originally Posted By: TimR

1. Feel good self help books like the Covey series have no practical application to piano instruction. They're too general. Read them if you want, but don't expect results.

Although I wouldn't classify Covey's material as "feel good" (it's not really anything like self help books by Wayne Dyer etc) Covey's material IS easily applied to teaching - in fact he has a direct reference to teaching children in his section on Stewardship Delegation. The OP's question was for a reference in alternative to behavioral psych. Covey is basically as anti-behavioral psych as you can get. But I applied his Stewardship Delegation idea very tangibly to teaching music in this blog post. (I recall one forum member saying how "boring" the article was - although, it wasn't written to be entertaining, it was written to outline a framework for teaching). I agree that his material is very general, but that's the point, that the "habits" can be universally applied to all areas of life.

Originally Posted By: TimR

2. Behavioral psychology approaches work for modifying behavior. So does parenting. Psychology just abstracts the underlying principles from parenting and makes good parenting understandable and teachable. Much of response to child behavior is nonintuitive and maintains the behavior instead of reducing it, just as much of piano practice is nonintuitive and will be done wrong unless corrected. Teachers learn classroom management techniques during their education, and all of them are based on these principles. Piano teachers may not be exposed to this type of pedagogy depending on their background. Certainly a performance major will not.

Although I take it to be you're saying that a behavioral approach in this case could be warranted as a quick approach to alter the child's lack of practice and bad behavior, and I agree it would probably work on the surface, the CHRONIC LONG TERM problem has still not been addressed. It's like "curing" a chronic illness temporarily with medication. You haven't cured anything, just stopped the symptoms.

I agree that Behavioral Psych works to change behavior. What I do not agree with, is that this is really what's best in the long run. In extreme cases it may be called for, but only as a last resort. Isn't the goal to get a student that plays, practices, learns and enjoys music on their own? Without having to have this external motivation. Sure, you can get the desired behavior - but what really are the long term results of this sort of teaching?

Originally Posted By: TimR

3. Cognitive behavior approaches CAN work very well for letting a teacher gain enough control over their own responses to implement effective teaching techniques. But they often don't. When I worked for state mental hospitals, one of my jobs was teaching classes in these for staff and patients. (higher functioning patients, of course) The patients had trouble understanding the concepts, but to some extent could apply them; the staff had no trouble with the concepts but mostly declined to use them. They liked getting angry unnecessarily. Maybe I'd have eventually figured a solution but mechanical engineering came along.

Basically agree with this. I found cognitive psych to be a great tool for getting in touch with thought/feeling connections - basically as an aid to feeling more positive emotions/less negative - but not much beyond that by way of working with other people.
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 08:28 AM

Is this a "bribe" too? "I'll pay you a monthly fee to teach my teenager to play piano, but she has no interest in playing and will not be practicing so don't even mention it to us. I want it to be fun for her." (Obviously it's something you don't want to do.) I think this is just a poor job offer.

I don't see a job offer as a "bribe". A 13 year old says "I'm quitting piano because when I get home from school I don't want practice interfering with my video game/free time" and parent says, "Oh, that's too bad. I was just planning to offer to pay you for your practice time, after all it is work" (and the parent notices the 13 year old does have some excitement when he has mastered particular pieces he likes).

Parent may also ask "Is there any other instrument, or extracurricular activity you would like to try?" And basically gets the same answer that no, I just don't want my free time interrupted, I do my homework and work hard enough at school.

As a parent you may say that my child has no interest in piano. Or you may see that they have interest, but lack motivation to continue the work.

I suppose there are the type that say sternly "As long as you live under my roof you have to practice piano 30 minutes each day!". And others battle it out each day with the 13 year old. And others simply allow the child to continue lessons without practice, or stop lessons altogether.

At least with a "job offer" the 13 year old has some say in the matter. "I really wanted my free time, but since you'll pay me I guess I can manage to practice after all."

It is important to me that my child continue this wholesome activity. And it's also based on my experience of having no one encourage me to practice or to continue lessons when I was that age (or bother to tune the damn piano). So yes, it matters to me, more that it matters to my child. He is obviously not going to be a piano major. But he continues to see results from his work. It matters to me. And I'm not spending much more money because he was always begging for me to buy games for him that he now uses his own money to purchase.

Also after you have a child of your own/job of your own/marriage of your own you may see your golden ideals get bent.
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 09:09 AM

"bribe: persuade (a person etc.) to act especially illegally or dishonestly in one's favor by a gift of money , services, etc." Oxford English Dictionary.

Some have stretched the word "bribe" beyond it's meaning...and are using it when simple persuasion is what is meant. There needs to be a priciple being compromised in order for it to be a bribe. An element of illegality or dishonesty.

What principle is being compromised? If you simply mean bribe to mean "persuade" then I can see why it makes sense to you, even though it is an inaccurate use of the word, or exaggeration at best.
Posted by: Avguste Antonov

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 09:11 AM

Young kids are always difficult to keep interested. I myself have quite a few of similar students.
What I found best to be working is a combination of tough and fun. All my students and parents know that I am a tough teacher and that I expect a lot. At the same time, I am also becoming more fun and talk to the kids more.
Asking them how was their day, how was school and such.
I also use stickies, memory charts (for end of the year) and so forth.
Posted by: Ben Crosland

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 09:13 AM

I encouraged my 7 (now 8) year old daughter to practise by offering her a star on a chart for each practice session. She gets 10p for every star she's achieved on her chart at the end of the week, and can achieve them for various other things, depending on what behaviour we are currently trying to encourage. The total is basically her pocket money for the week.

Oh, and brace yourself, David - HOMEWORK IS ALSO ON THE CHART !!!

The result? It has motivated her enough to kick-start regular practice, and she's really enjoying it. Meaningless psychobabble notwithstanding, I don't notice any increased sense of distrust in our relationship - she's happy with the arrangement (once the routine was established, it's like money for nothing to her), and I'm happy that she's practising the piano regularly.

The thing is, she is very musical and *loves* playing the piano - however, she, like many other children, doesn't motivate herself to do it very often. If a little encouragement is what it takes, then so be it.

Posted by: keystring

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 11:04 AM

This discussion is getting into personal values and that just doesn't work. Opposing approaches by different people can and do work. It depends on a lot of things.

I might as well say "Brace yourself, Ben. Not only did my children not get rewards for doing homework, they also could choose whether to attend school." My children are now young adults so I am not just a young person spouting ideals. Since I got the educational psychology, behaviour mod etc. in teacher training and saw what I saw in the field, it's not without a knowledge base either. But it does not mean that what worked for me is for everyone. The important thing is that our guidance should be thought through.

My own stance is similar to David's and Danshure's. The analogy of needing to get up in time to go to work as an adult doesn't go far enough. It begins with our GOALS as adults. The goal is to have food and shelter, the means is employment, and the means for keeping that employment is to get up on time.

Yes, our children can follow our instructions blindly, and *end up* with habits where they will *end up* with the good things in life. I prefer that they learn to choose, know their values, know how to prioritize by knowing what their priorities are. Being a follower has its dangers. And what happens if things don't pan out as you expect, and you haven't thought out your own deep seated goals and values?

Here there is a 15 year old girl who knows what she wants, and she has stated clearly what her wishes are. It does not matter what she says about her goals and values, they are being ignored by the parent who is guiding her toward adulthood. If, as was suggested (David? Danshure?) she begins practicing because something has been found that she values, that seems like a good thing. If she goes contrary to her feelings, or if she goes contrary to her personal values for the sake of a bribe, that is disturbing. There are too many confused people in this world who are not in touch with themselves. It just doesn't seem like a good thing.

These are personal values. On a teaching perspective, I have found that when students become invested in their learning, "owning" it, they do much better than if they have been forced. I have tutored kids with "problems" - in their view, their studies are a thing their teacher wants and they go through the motions of complying, thinking that this is what school studies are about. They invest their energy cleverly in making complex deals in trading games, or working out dance moves on the street with friends, yet seem "lacking intelligence" in school. I tend to agree with the two D's, that external motivation can have a limited effect.
Posted by: Ben Crosland

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 11:21 AM

Originally Posted By: keystring



Here there is a 15 year old girl who knows what she wants, and she has stated clearly what her wishes are.


Sorry if I'm being thick, but where has this bit come from? Before david_a mentioned bribing teenagers, I can't find a single reference specifically to teenagers in the whole thread? I took it from the OP that the student in question was a young child?
Posted by: keystring

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 11:31 AM

I think I mixed up threads. There is a similar theme in two of them in regards to teaching. One has a 15 year old girl, and the other doesn't. Sorry.
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 12:11 PM

Paying someone for a service that requires their expertise and paying a child to do something expected of them and is part of their education are two different things.

We give our children an allowance, but it is not tied to chores or behavior. Those things are expected as they are part of the family and everyone must contribute to the family life. If we asked them to do a job for which we might normally hire someone, we would pay them, but not for everyday things.

Practice and homework are everyday things. We set a regular schedule and expect them to abide by it. As a teacher, I have the same expectations of my students, but I also make sure they have clear goals and the tools with which to accomplish those goals. Practicing isn't something they get to choose to do. It's something they MUST do.

The students I have had that didn't practice did not do so because the parents did not follow through with the expectation. Everyone has to be on the same page.
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 12:12 PM

Feminicricket,
I think there are two issues here. One is rude behavior and the other is incentives/motivation.

Regarding rude behavior: when a student is in my studio, I sternly correct any rude behavior. I have had to do this with 3 different students. I say "NO. You are not allowed to be rude to me." Very stern voice, and it startles them.

The first time I did it, I worried later what I would hear from the parent. This last time I corrected an 8 year old girl for rudeness, I matter of factly told the parent "I corrected her one time for using a rude tone with me" and briefly told what happened. (I had told the child to use "hand lotion" after she blew her nose. She said in an extremely rude tone "It's hand SANITIZER". The parent said "Yes, she is correcting my pronunciation all the time". I matter of factly told the parent that kids learn what is acceptable behavior during lessons, that I've corrected other kids, and the behavior improves.

Anyway if a kid slouched over my piano I would get VERY stern, letting them know that while they are in my studio they must be respectful toward me and my propery. And a kid whining "AGAIN?!" when asked to play something...I would stop them in their tracks. Correct the behavior. They can shape up or whine to the parent and stop lessons.


Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 12:42 PM

Originally Posted By: keystring
...in their view, their studies are a thing their teacher wants and they go through the motions of complying, thinking that this is what school studies are about. They invest their energy cleverly in making complex deals in trading games, or working out dance moves on the street with friends, yet seem "lacking intelligence" in school...
Quote:
Yes, our children can follow our instructions blindly, and *end up* with habits where they will *end up* with the good things in life. I prefer that they learn to choose, know their values, know how to prioritize by knowing what their priorities are. Being a follower has its dangers. And what happens if things don't pan out as you expect, and you haven't thought out your own deep seated goals and values?
Keystring, you have very eloquently and effectively said the things that I wanted to be able to say but was not able to put into words. Thank you for a well-written post.


I tend to agree that this thread has gradually resolved into a discussion of the relative merits of goals and personal values, and therefore has the potential to go around and around endlessly without a satisfying conclusion.

I think with teen students this very issue (goals & values) becomes part of teaching and learning as well. With little children, not every student may be sensitive to (or even aware of) external vs. internal motivation, recognizing their own values and goals apart from those of the adults in their life, and issues of personal integrity. (I was, very intensely so, from a very early age; but I may have been a strange little boy. smile ) But as students get older, it gradually becomes apparent to me that there are two sets of values in the room, two sets of goals for the future; two voices are in on the decisions - not equal voices, but no longer just one voice either.

If a student spends five minutes thinking and acting like a responsible intelligent adult, to me that's worth far more than some B flat major scales and sonatinas. And if trying out five minutes as a responsible adult leads them to "maybe piano is not for me", I'll take that as it comes. Sometimes it might be a bit of a rebellion, just trying out the idea "My goals & values are my own". But sometimes it's also true.


Some teenagers are kind of "looking in two directions", ahead to adulthood and back to childhood. It can be hard to decide how to proceed with them. If I'm in doubt, I have a mental yardstick that I use for myself. I currently have another student who's fifty-ish and an engineer. If I wouldn't use some particular approach with her, I hesitate to use it with a teenager either.
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 01:10 PM

Minniemay,
I would agree that the way you are handling practice is ideal. Requiring daily practice worked for us when my child was under age 12. So what I'm doing now is a compromise. The main problem is that I started my son late in piano (age 10). He'd had violin for 6 months at age 6, and a year of guitar at age 8. If he'd started piano at age 8, and gotten more accomplished it may have helped him really identify himself as a pianist...and be motivational.

I think the incentives are an option when requiring daily practice is not working so well.

Anyway, in truth, I think you are doing a better parenting job. I'm just doing the best I can, instead of doing the best.
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 01:19 PM

Does anyone remember the child "Veruka" on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? The first post describing this child has me thinking of that child (yelling "I want it NOW!!") and I am grateful that I have my own studio instead of feeling pressured by an administrator to accept a child who misbehaves.
Posted by: casinitaly

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 01:29 PM

Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky
Does anyone remember the child "Veruka" on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? The first post describing this child has me thinking of that child (yelling "I want it NOW!!") and I am grateful that I have my own studio instead of feeling pressured by an administrator to accept a child who misbehaves.


"verruca" in Italian means "wart". Interesting choice of names, eh?
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 02:28 PM

Casinitaly, thanks for the correct spelling. Yes, I had heard it meant wart. LOL! Perfect name for that kind of kid!
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 04:10 PM

I just read this morning (in a review of a new biography of Roald Dahl) that one of the other Charlie & The Chocolate Factory children was originally to have been named Herpes Trout.

I get the impression that Dahl was as weird as some of his characters. smile
Posted by: MsAdrienne

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/18/10 11:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky
Does anyone remember the child "Veruka" on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? The first post describing this child has me thinking of that child (yelling "I want it NOW!!") and I am grateful that I have my own studio instead of feeling pressured by an administrator to accept a child who misbehaves.


Ann, this is great... we watched the original 1971 Willy Wonka movie several times last week when our little ones were under the weather and their dad was out of town... anyhow, now whenever little Miss A is whiny and/or obnoxious, I tease her and ask if she sounds like anyone from the movie. She gets this big smirk and says . . "Verruca...????" But oh, man, DO NOT call her that. YeeeIKES... smile

To the OP ~ I wish I had good advice! I've had to just be matter-of-fact in those situations and say, OK, when you are ready to play/try/count/clap/whatever was requested go ahead. I will wait. Then I just sit there and wait. And wait. And wait, with no outward emotion, just plain matter-of-fact (which is somehow impossible for me to do with my OWN darling children).

I don't talk, cajole, anything (unless the student is being destructive). Usually it gets the student to do SOMEthing. Nothing more irritating than the slumping and acting like it's torture. Then again, maybe she is not mature enough for formal lessons, despite her age. ?
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/19/10 03:44 AM

Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky
I'm just doing the best I can, instead of doing the best.
If every parent in the world was honest in this way, things would be better. smile

The fact that you can say this out loud makes me think you're probably a better mother than quite a few I've met.
Posted by: casinitaly

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/19/10 06:06 AM

Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky
Casinitaly, thanks for the correct spelling. Yes, I had heard it meant wart. LOL! Perfect name for that kind of kid!


I have no idea how they spelled the name for the film, I just took the Italian word! smile
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/19/10 09:40 AM

Originally Posted By: Ann in Kentucky
Feminicricket,
I think there are two issues here. One is rude behavior and the other is incentives/motivation.

Regarding rude behavior: when a student is in my studio, I sternly correct any rude behavior.

The first time I did it, I worried later what I would hear from the parent.


You know Ann, I have had the same thing happen where I corrected rude behaviour before and worried later that I would hear from the parent. They are not in class and would hear the child`s version of what took place on that day. I used to have a kid who used to stomp her foot and cry evertime I made her play something 2 times. When I told her to stop such behavior at once or I`ll have her parent called in, I got a letter from her mom telling me to be mindful about what I say to her child. Another boy talked back at me rudely in class and I asked him "Is that the way you talk to your teacher?" He said sorry but then that was the last I saw him in my class. My boyfriend who used to teach music in a university( stopped because he could not handle constantly rude kids)always told me not to hesitate to correct a child`s behaviour because that is what teachers are supposed to do. Unfortunately, parents tend to not understand this because they were not in class to see their child`s conduct in class. Pity isn`t it? I commend you for correcting rude behaviour. I really believe that sometimes little ones don`t know that they are being rude and it is our duty as teachers to teach them to be polite. Partly to blame are family sitcoms where children talk back and are being rude to their parents and then the laughing box goes"Ha ha ha !" in the background. I used to have a little boy who used to say "Yeah right!" and "Oh Boy!" while rolling his eyes when I asked him to do something. Where do they learn these things?
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/19/10 09:43 AM

I have never seen "Charlie and the Choc factory". Is it good?
Posted by: Ben Crosland

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/19/10 09:49 AM

When I was doing peripatetic teaching in a primary school, I was horrified by how rude and disruptive the kids were, at least when I was teaching them in groups.

I was perplexed by this, as they didn't seem to be so bad in their classrooms, from what I could tell. I was curious to know what it was that made them see me as fair game for this kind of disrespect - I don't tolerate bad behaviour, I'm never afraid to tell kids off, if needs be, and I don't come across as weak or anxious in front a class, afaik.

One thing that eventually struck me as being a possible factor: I had introduced myself as, and allowed the children to call me by my first name. I have no idea if this is what made the difference, but one thing's for sure - next peri job I take on, the kids are going to be calling me 'Mr. Crosland'...
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/19/10 10:02 AM

Originally Posted By: Ben Crosland
When I was doing peripatetic teaching in a primary school, I was horrified by how rude and disruptive the kids were, at least when I was teaching them in groups.

I was perplexed by this, as they didn't seem to be so bad in their classrooms, from what I could tell. I was curious to know what it was that made them see me as fair game for this kind of disrespect - I don't tolerate bad behaviour, I'm never afraid to tell kids off, if needs be, and I don't come across as weak or anxious in front a class, afaik.

One thing that eventually struck me as being a possible factor: I had introduced myself as, and allowed the children to call me by my first name. I have no idea if this is what made the difference, but one thing's for sure - next peri job I take on, the kids are going to be calling me 'Mr. Crosland'...

Good for you Mr.Crosland! Teach them right.
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/19/10 01:03 PM

Originally Posted By: Feminicricket
I have never seen "Charlie and the Choc factory". Is it good?
The book is very good. There are two movies, one with Gene Wilder and the other with Johnny Depp. Neither movie was quite what I expected, but then how could they be from a story with so many strange things? (Note that the newer movie changes and adds to the story significantly.)
Posted by: Alreadyinuse

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/21/10 11:51 AM

I am not a piano teacher but I am a parent and I just wanted to add that I don’t think you should expect the child to practice if the mother doesn’t care and if the mother just wants the child to have fun. I know that in many ways the child will have more fun improving but many parents have philosophies that are as strongly held as the philosophies of many people on this forum. They do not believe in “pushing” their children but they do want to “expose” them to cultural experiences such as musical education, dance etc. to broaden their minds.

I do no actually subscribe this approach, but MANY of my perfectly nice friends do. They send their kids to ballet once a week, and have been for 5 years. I go to the year end recital and you never saw such a chaotic, ungraceful collection of kids in tutus in your life. The teacher is a professional ballet dancer and could teach the kids. However, kids quit the first year she was teaching because she corrected them in class. The teacher reformed her thinking on what the class was about for the kids and parents. The kids did not want to be good. They wanted to have fun dancing around to nice music. Their parents had no ballet goals for them, only that they have a fun after school activity that was different. So the implicit agreement is "I will bring my child to you once a week, she will have fun pretending to learn ballet and you will have fun pretending to teach her, and we will make cherished videos at the end of the year of their essentially untutored efforts and we will all be happy and enroll next year."

That is what this parent is likely asking of you, and it is what the school is asking of you so it is what you should do. Have fun, play games, some of them at the piano, some standing up and dancing to music, clapping rhythms, singing, learning notes. Don’t worry about pace, achievement, performance or anything else. Have fun and be her once-a-week after school activity.

Someone on this board gave good advice that I have been using with my own daughter to keep her practicing when a piece needs work. We move miniature "my little ponies" of which we have six from the left to the right of the piano. She rolls the die to determine how many times she is going to play through a difficult section. Then she places the correct number of ponies on the left of the piano. After each repetition, the little ponies "dance" around in wild appreciation, and one is selected to move to the other side of the piano. When they are all on the right, we leave that section and sometimes the piece. My daughter loves performing for the little ponies (who are unstinting in their appreciation, while I am more considered) and she loves the fact that the die sometimes comes up 1 or 2 (although ours seems to be unbalanced because it comes up SIXES a LOT!)
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/21/10 12:50 PM

Originally Posted By: Alreadyinuse
So the implicit agreement is "I will bring my child to you once a week, she will have fun pretending to learn ballet and you will have fun pretending to teach her, and we will make cherished videos at the end of the year of their essentially untutored efforts and we will all be happy and enroll next year."


I understand what you are saying and that you don't agree with it, but as a teacher I care very much for my art and I think if one asks for a higher standard, one will get it. Certainly there are those that do not agree and they study with someone who doesn't care about piano. My students enjoy the success that they have from their hard work, and they learn discipline, not chaos, is what brings a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/21/10 01:29 PM

Originally Posted By: Alreadyinuse
That is what this parent is likely asking of you, and it is what the school is asking of you so it is what you should do.
That would be all right, if music didn't matter to me. And if music didn't matter to me, then I would be a plumber and make some actual money. frown

Fake lessons in anything are a waste of time and money. Letting children think they're learning something, when in fact they're not, is harmful. If you want a babysitter, then call the position "babysitter", and hire a responsible teenager at minimum wage.
Posted by: Alreadyinuse

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/21/10 02:49 PM

[/quote]That would be all right, if music didn't matter to me. And if music didn't matter to me, then I would be a plumber and make some actual money. frown [/quote]

Maybe the original poster can find a better position, and being a teacher for this school that wants to retain students that don't want to practice is just the first option that came along. In which case, if it is very frustrating, it would be worth adhering to higher principles and risking the student and parent quitting, and risking the school's wrath and reduction in her income . But if the OP needs this job, reframing what the job is may help her to tolerate or even enjoy the lessons, and help the kid enjoy them too. And everyone will be happy.

I am a professor and when I began teaching I suffered through relentless questions of the type "Are you teaching us this because we have to know it or is this just you saying? Like is this on the exam?" I found this so demoralizing I asked the Chair if I could teach only Honors students. Now I have a great time teaching super motivated kids to whom I can relate. But there are many other people in my department who have been able to cognitively reframe their teaching task and who have skills I don't, and they teach the regular students and are good at it, so everyone's happy.

In the case of the OP, I think it would be useful for her to cognitively reframe what her job is according to the parent (who is paying) and the school (who has hired her) and figure out a way to enjoy it. (Easy for me to say when I couldn't do it myself, but others have.) Realistically, there are worse afterschool activities than a very slow paced introduction to piano. If the child were not in the OP's studio, who knows, maybe they'd be in front of the TV, so the lessons -- even watered down -- are adding value to that kid's life.

Anyway, I'm not saying this is right; I'm just throwing in this perspective, which is widely held among the parents I know.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/21/10 08:36 PM

Originally Posted By: Lollipop
Feminicricket - Sounds like Mom will not be supportive. Since you don't really have a choice about teaching this child, I guess you'll have to make the best of it. Can a student learn to play piano in 30 minutes per week (without practicing)? Yes, actually. They may be 99 by the time they get to hands together, though. wink But I suspect this child's whiny attitude and frustration is due in part to the lack of success she feels. To a certain extent, mom is right - it needs to be fun.

So, for thirty minutes each week, play games, do flashcards, dance, whatever. Remove all expectations. Review the previous week's piece. (Do NOT give more than one.) If the child could pass the piece in one week by practicing it every day, then perhaps she can pass it in one month, by practicing it with you once a week. But you will somehow need to stay encouraging. Find something you like and harp on it. Wow - beautiful hand position! Hey! You only made 4 mistakes in that measure; let's try again and see if you can make only 3!

I think the key with her will be to make the steps so incremental that you have something to celebrate each week. And as the student begins to feel successful, she will move toward the piano more on her own.

I don't know what level she is at - I am assuming that she is still pretty low skill-wise - if practicing has been an ongoing issue. If so, that's good news. It's easier to improve from the lower levels. However, resist the urge to pass her on something too soon. (Although "good enough" might have to do.) You may even need to back up, but choosing a "new" book that repeats some of the concepts she should have learned previously but didn't. I don't think in this situation that I would even mention practicing at home. Consider it a gift if it happens.

Along with her ONE piece, you can give her other "assignments". Teach her how to practice good hand position by playing 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 three times in C position every day, for example. Time her. Show her it takes less than a minute. Ask her to try to find one minute for you every day. That's just an example, that may or may not be appropriate for your student. But I think if you can get her used to feeling capable and successful at the piano, it may become more fun.

Also, you may be in a tough position if another teacher in your studio "failed" with this student. Your commiseration with the other teacher might subconsciously keep you from succeeding. The other teacher may be giving you extra baggage to carry. Try to distance yourself from the other teacher and put yourself firmly on the child's side.

Easy to say from my arm-chair! I just think you probably need to spend extra time prepping, and lower your expectations for awhile. I hope you'll eventually be pleasantly surprised.


Thank you. Your approach of giving 1-2 pieces worked. The mother actually took the trouble of seeing that her daughter learned to read notes. Today, the girl was focused, played much better than last week and even wanted to play the piece again by herself. She was motivated in her lessons and I too feel like I got somewhere with her.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/21/10 08:53 PM

Originally Posted By: Alreadyinuse
[/quote]

Maybe the original poster can find a better position, and being a teacher for this school that wants to retain students that don't want to practice is just the first option that came along. In which case, if it is very frustrating, it would be worth adhering to higher principles and risking the student and parent quitting, and risking the school's wrath and reduction in her income . But if the OP needs this job, reframing what the job is may help her to tolerate or even enjoy the lessons, and help the kid enjoy them too. And everyone will be happy.

I am a professor and when I began teaching I suffered through relentless questions of the type "Are you teaching us this because we have to know it or is this just you saying? Like is this on the exam?" I found this so demoralizing I asked the Chair if I could teach only Honors students. Now I have a great time teaching super motivated kids to whom I can relate. But there are many other people in my department who have been able to cognitively reframe their teaching task and who have skills I don't, and they teach the regular students and are good at it, so everyone's happy.

In the case of the OP, I think it would be useful for her to cognitively reframe what her job is according to the parent (who is paying) and the school (who has hired her) and figure out a way to enjoy it. (Easy for me to say when I couldn't do it myself, but others have.) Realistically, there are worse afterschool activities than a very slow paced introduction to piano. If the child were not in the OP's studio, who knows, maybe they'd be in front of the TV, so the lessons -- even watered down -- are adding value to that kid's life.

Anyway, I'm not saying this is right; I'm just throwing in this perspective, which is widely held among the parents I know.

All I am trying to do is humble myself to say that my way of teaching is not necessarily alright for these students but I want to do something for them as their teacher. Music is my passion and I find it hard to pass up a student without giving my best and that is why I am asking the expert advice of all the wonderful teachers here in this this thread. When it comes to teaching piano, there is no one size fits all. I have always been a strict but kind teacher and am trying not to be too strict with the ones who just want to have fun. I am trying to change my teaching methods to suit these students. I appreciate your input as a parent and understand that most of your friends want their kids to go for lessons just to have fun and it has given me something to think about.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/21/10 09:02 PM

Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: Alreadyinuse
So the implicit agreement is "I will bring my child to you once a week, she will have fun pretending to learn ballet and you will have fun pretending to teach her, and we will make cherished videos at the end of the year of their essentially untutored efforts and we will all be happy and enroll next year."


I understand what you are saying and that you don't agree with it, but as a teacher I care very much for my art and I think if one asks for a higher standard, one will get it. Certainly there are those that do not agree and they study with someone who doesn't care about piano. My students enjoy the success that they have from their hard work, and they learn discipline, not chaos, is what brings a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.


This is how I have always thought of my reason for teaching as. The respect for learning the art that has been passed down for hundreds of years by great teachers, performers and composers. It is like a valuable inheritance that has been passed down for generations. I agree with you completely Morodiene. This is why I yearn so much for my student to learn something at their lesson and practice it.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/22/10 09:15 AM

Originally Posted By: Feminicricket
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: Alreadyinuse
So the implicit agreement is "I will bring my child to you once a week, she will have fun pretending to learn ballet and you will have fun pretending to teach her, and we will make cherished videos at the end of the year of their essentially untutored efforts and we will all be happy and enroll next year."


I understand what you are saying and that you don't agree with it, but as a teacher I care very much for my art and I think if one asks for a higher standard, one will get it. Certainly there are those that do not agree and they study with someone who doesn't care about piano. My students enjoy the success that they have from their hard work, and they learn discipline, not chaos, is what brings a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.


This is how I have always thought of my reason for teaching as. The respect for learning the art that has been passed down for hundreds of years by great teachers, performers and composers. It is like a valuable inheritance that has been passed down for generations. I agree with you completely Morodiene. This is why I yearn so much for my student to learn something at their lesson and practice it.

Exactly. And if that means helping that child to success by just getting them to learn hands separately, or the first 4 measures, or whatever, little steps you need to give her, then that is much better than sitting back and just letting her doodle for the entire lesson (the equivalent to what that dance "teacher" was doing).
Posted by: Lollipop

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/22/10 10:02 AM

Originally Posted By: Feminicricket
Thank you. Your approach of giving 1-2 pieces worked. The mother actually took the trouble of seeing that her daughter learned to read notes. Today, the girl was focused, played much better than last week and even wanted to play the piece again by herself. She was motivated in her lessons and I too feel like I got somewhere with her.


Glad to hear it! Thanks for posting the follow-up. After a rough week with my own students, it's nice to know I actually helped someone somewhere. smile
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/24/10 05:29 PM

Originally Posted By: Alreadyinuse
I am not a piano teacher but I am a parent and I just wanted to add that I don’t think you should expect the child to practice if the mother doesn’t care and if the mother just wants the child to have fun. I know that in many ways the child will have more fun improving but many parents have philosophies that are as strongly held as the philosophies of many people on this forum. They do not believe in “pushing” their children but they do want to “expose” them to cultural experiences such as musical education, dance etc. to broaden their minds.

I do no actually subscribe this approach, but MANY of my perfectly nice friends do. They send their kids to ballet once a week, and have been for 5 years. I go to the year end recital and you never saw such a chaotic, ungraceful collection of kids in tutus in your life. The teacher is a professional ballet dancer and could teach the kids. However, kids quit the first year she was teaching because she corrected them in class. The teacher reformed her thinking on what the class was about for the kids and parents. The kids did not want to be good. They wanted to have fun dancing around to nice music. Their parents had no ballet goals for them, only that they have a fun after school activity that was different. So the implicit agreement is "I will bring my child to you once a week, she will have fun pretending to learn ballet and you will have fun pretending to teach her, and we will make cherished videos at the end of the year of their essentially untutored efforts and we will all be happy and enroll next year."

That is what this parent is likely asking of you, and it is what the school is asking of you so it is what you should do. Have fun, play games, some of them at the piano, some standing up and dancing to music, clapping rhythms, singing, learning notes. Don’t worry about pace, achievement, performance or anything else. Have fun and be her once-a-week after school activity.

Someone on this board gave good advice that I have been using with my own daughter to keep her practicing when a piece needs work. We move miniature "my little ponies" of which we have six from the left to the right of the piano. She rolls the die to determine how many times she is going to play through a difficult section. Then she places the correct number of ponies on the left of the piano. After each repetition, the little ponies "dance" around in wild appreciation, and one is selected to move to the other side of the piano. When they are all on the right, we leave that section and sometimes the piece. My daughter loves performing for the little ponies (who are unstinting in their appreciation, while I am more considered) and she loves the fact that the die sometimes comes up 1 or 2 (although ours seems to be unbalanced because it comes up SIXES a LOT!)





I have to write something about this because it involves the mom of the kid that I am mentioning in this whole thread. The mom had mentioned to her previous teacher(a really great teacher) that she only wants her daughter to have fun. Same thing happened when she came to me "I want her to have fun". I got this for 3 weeks. This is a mom who intially looked at me like I was nuts for expecting her daughter to practice. And yet, the moment she realized that her daughter was guessing all the notes and could not read properly at all. She went marching to the front reception to complain that after 1 year of lessons , her daughter is not sure how to read. Obviously, her previous teacher had given up trying to motivate this girl to practice and had given in to teaching to play by ear and writing the letter names of the notes on the music she was playing. Do you see what I mean? Most teachers have to face this. Parents need to be clear upfront what they expect to be achieved from a lesson. Now, the mom actually is taking the time to see to the girl`s practice after finding out that her daughter did not sustain the lesson because of lack of practice and focus on study. I am in no way putting down a "fun lesson" but parents need to be clear of what they want at the end.
Posted by: david_a

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/24/10 05:41 PM

Feminicricket: Exactly. Doing nothing, really nothing, is only "fun" for a few lessons before it becomes deadly boring and frustrating. "Just for fun" is some parents' and students' code for "don't ask me to learn anything at all", which some think they want - but actually nobody does want that, except as a short rest.
Posted by: Chris H.

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/24/10 05:55 PM

I agree with David,

You only get out of it what you put in and unless you put in the practice it's unlikely that there is any fun to be had. It's not the same as other activities like sports and dance. They are often group sessions where there is social interaction and a mixture of kids who work and those who don't. It's still possible to enjoy those sessions if you don't practice although you get more from them if you do. In a piano lesson you are sat on that bench by yourself trying to do something which requires a lot of concentration, physical co-ordination and mental effort. If you are struggling with that then how can it be fun? And without practice and preparation you will struggle. I don't get why many parents fail to grasp this. If they want to expose their kids to music then take them to a concert where all they have to do is sit and listen. This would be more useful.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/27/10 10:42 AM

I thank all of you for understanding the various situations that we as teachers go through and I also thank you all for the extremely valuable ideas given to remedy the situation. I feel like I have been to a piano teacher`s psychologist and feel a whole burden lifted off because of the common understanding. I really appreciate it. Everyone`s remark on this thread is important to me. It helps me evaluate certain students much better to find a good solution.
Posted by: wouter79

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/27/10 12:01 PM

I think it is a fair requirement that the kid 'be happy' with the lesson. Gettting happiness out of it seems to me the main reason to play piano, right?

So I scanned the replies above to see how to get there.

Overall I get this impression:

1 Some (many?) have no idea that working is giving joy, and incorrectly think that fun is only about having food in your mouth or hanging on the bench.

2 Therefore, a light push to get them working makes all happy.

3 It would be even better if they realized (1) but I did not see any hint how to achieve that.
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/27/10 01:56 PM

Originally Posted By: wouter79
I think it is a fair requirement that the kid 'be happy' with the lesson. Gettting happiness out of it seems to me the main reason to play piano, right?

So I scanned the replies above to see how to get there.

Overall I get this impression:

1 Some (many?) have no idea that working is giving joy, and incorrectly think that fun is only about having food in your mouth or hanging on the bench.

2 Therefore, a light push to get them working makes all happy.

3 It would be even better if they realized (1) but I did not see any hint how to achieve that.


Are you a teacher? I was just curious. As teachers we try our best to make the class a happy one and all about having fun for certain type of kids. The problem starts normally when the kid gets too comfortable and starts getting too laid back about the lesson itself and then not focus on practicing or learning anything in class. A responsible teacher would be very bothered if a student comes to lessons every week with no improvement whatsoever. That is when the teacher has to stop some of the 'fun' and put the kid to work,or else, almost always if the kid plays badly at the school recitals, the teacher will get the blame. Some parents don`t understand that having a piano lesson is an education just like math. It requires using the brains and attention. Parents who don`t understand this are the ones who are going to concerts and listening to a musician 'have fun' during the concert and they assume that it is something that you do not have to work for. When I perform I sometimes cringe when someone tells me "Wow! You are so talented!" because it makes it sound like it came easy to me when in fact I had put in hours and hours of intensive practice for years and had a very strict teacher (thankfully). I must admit that I did not enjoy having a strict teacher at first and it was much later that I realized that my teacher was strict for my own good. I started enjoying my lessons more and more because my teacher pushed me and I started learning more challenging stuff. I realize that I can`t do this with the ones who just want to have fun and have to cut down my expectations greatly and give them very little work and stuff that is not challenging because they are not interested in such things.
Posted by: wouter79

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/27/10 04:14 PM

No I'm not a teacher although I sometimes teach my friend's child piano or help with school work.

But my point was that the problem seems to be that these children do not realize that work (eg studying on a piece) is also giving pleasure.

My question is just, how do you learn someone to learn with pleasure? Or maybe, why do they think some things are not fun?
Posted by: Feminicricket

Re: Whiny lazy kid ...HELP!!! - 10/28/10 09:26 AM

Originally Posted By: wouter79
No I'm not a teacher although I sometimes teach my friend's child piano or help with school work.

But my point was that the problem seems to be that these children do not realize that work (eg studying on a piece) is also giving pleasure.

My question is just, how do you learn someone to learn with pleasure? Or maybe, why do they think some things are not fun?


I think someone can start enjoying the class more if after understanding the lesson, they practice at home so that the following week`s lesson would make sense and lessons will be easier if they practice. Beginners pieces are very simple and sometimes sound boring. It is as they progress that they start playing something that sound much nicer to listen to.
Children might think some things are not fun because of the repetitions of the piece they have to do in order to correct mistakes and keep the flow of the tempo to play faster. Many come with preconceived ideas that it is always going to be really easy without any work on their part. Some violin students take lessons after listening to Andre Rieu and think their violin is going to sound like his in just a few lessons. I sometimes wish that artistes who appear on TV would give a little talk about the hours they had to practice to get where they are. Also I wish they had Classical Idol on TV. I can dream can`t I?