Paging: Piano Dad

Posted by: Barb860

Paging: Piano Dad - 10/09/12 10:49 PM

and anyone else who would care to respond but Piano Dad I really need your help here....

new student, young man age 10. Dad has brought him to the past 3 lessons and continues to make comments while the child is playing. Way too many comments.
"Son, you know you can do that better", "Son, you know that's a c#", on and on.

I am teacher #2.
I don't want to offend Dad, because honestly I appreciate his interest in his son's musical instruction.
How to best address this?

forgot to mention that in contacting teacher #1, she said neither parent attended the lessons.
Posted by: kayvee

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 12:14 AM

I'm not Piano Dad, but if I were you, I'd take the parent aside and be assertive.

"I appreciate that you are so knowledgeable and aware of what's going on in the lessons and you are always welcome to sit in, but I really need to be in better control so I can better teach your son. I'd like to ask that you don't correct him during the lessons. I'll make sure he plays correctly and works on his mistakes; that's what you're paying me for, after all, and I want to do my job as best as I can for you and your son."

There's probably a more tactful way, too, but in the end I think something similar will be your best course of action.
Posted by: LadyChen

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 12:24 AM

What kayvee said, and even better, ask him not to stay during the lesson.
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 12:35 AM

You might also add something like, "Sometimes I choose to ignore certain errors because they are not central to the skill we are working on at the moment."
Posted by: rlinkt

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 02:31 AM

I am an 'involved' dad as well :-) I don't think I go near this level of participation during the lessons, but I am certainly not completely passive either. Also, I have the highest regard for my daughter's teacher -- she has done wonderful things for my daughter's musical development.

Just tell the dad directly about what the limits are during the lessons. If the dad does not agree, it won't work over the long haul anyway.
Posted by: DadAgain

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 06:29 AM

Yep - I'm a permanent fixture in daughter's lessons, but I sit there and don't interrupt unless questioned or invited to comment.

I think you need to make clear what the level of acceptable participation is and in all probability this parent will be devastatingly embarrassed that what he thinks is helping is actually interrupting.
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 07:29 AM

Does he do that when the kid's practising?
Posted by: apple*

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 08:40 AM

there is a reason i let my kids play thru a song and not interrupt them.. sometimes they get it better on the 2nd line.. sometimes a big mistake in technique is revealed. - the kids are much more relaxed if allowed to show what they have practiced.
Posted by: Lollipop

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 09:51 AM

The dad is trying to show you that he is involved, is aware, is musically competent.

I would establish limits in a friendly, off-the-cuff way. "No comments from the peanut gallery." or "Everybody's a critic." or even a quick, "shhh."

If it persisted, I would tell him casually that it was refreshing to have such an involved parent, but that during lessons I really need to be the only teacher. Team-teaching during lessons would be counter-productive because I might be listening for or working on different things.
Posted by: Overexposed

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 11:02 AM

Barb, I do not have experience with a parent of a 10 year old sitting in on lessons. Yet my policy is that a parent is welcome to observe.

I would ask the parent if he intends to observe all lessons. And then ask what he hopes to gain from it. I'd let him know that I don't think it is necessary. Still, I'd let him know that I allow one parent at a time to observe, but prefer that they do not comment during the lesson, unless to clarify a point with me.
Posted by: Piano*Dad

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 11:05 AM

Hi, P*D here!

I hope this thread doesn't move in the direction of parent-bash / parent-defense. I don't think that's the point here.

This behavior is extreme and dad sounds more than a touch insecure in front of you. This might all go away with a bit of gentle humor on your part.
Posted by: pianomouse

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 11:09 AM

Originally Posted By: Lollipop
The dad is trying to show you that he is involved, is aware, is musically competent.

This may be right, but this is not about the Dad, but the student! If the Dad wants to be musically involved, he should take piano lessons himself.

My 10-year-olds usually come to their lessons alone, we keep a diary, so at home, it's clear what the homework is. The parents are always welcome to attend lessons, but if a parent wants to be there every time, I usually take the kid aside and ask him/her, if it's okay that the parent is attending the lessons. From that on, we can work out something new: for example that the parent attends every other lesson, or only the last 10 minutes of every lesson or only on request by the student or me.
You need to make clear (it's all been said already) that during the lesson, it's entirely about your student and you. Asking the parent to simply attend quietly is absolutely okay. Something else has been mentioned before: it would be very interesting to know, if and how the Dad interferes with the student's practising. Parents' help can be very valuable, but not all the students are comfortable with it. You may have to discuss this through as well and set up some kind of rules for it in order to make it easier for your student.
Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 01:09 PM

Barb, do you have the physical space where Dad can be elsewhere than in your teaching room? If so, next time invite dad to please sit out there.

You need to get him out of your teaching space.
Posted by: rocket88

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 02:30 PM

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
You might also add something like, "Sometimes I choose to ignore certain errors because they are not central to the skill we are working on at the moment."


One of the best posts of the day.
Posted by: Barb860

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 03:57 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Hi, P*D here!

I hope this thread doesn't move in the direction of parent-bash / parent-defense. I don't think that's the point here.

This behavior is extreme and dad sounds more than a touch insecure in front of you. This might all go away with a bit of gentle humor on your part.



Yes this could be the case. I appreciate all replies here. The fact that you say this dad's behavior is "extreme" is especially helpful, as you were very involved and supportive in your son's musical learning experiences, and have shared much with us here. And you are right that I don't want to turn this into a parent bashing or defensive debate. I am coming from the standpoint of appreciating this dad for his involvement, and want to stay positive. We teachers need supportive parents!
But this dad is over the top and I need to nip this in the bud.
In addition, both parents are a bit insecure right now I think because I am a brand new teacher for their kids.
Posted by: Barb860

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 03:58 PM

Originally Posted By: rocket88
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
You might also add something like, "Sometimes I choose to ignore certain errors because they are not central to the skill we are working on at the moment."


One of the best posts of the day.



yes I agree!!!!
Posted by: Barb860

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 04:01 PM

Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
Does he do that when the kid's practising?


I have a feeling, yes, this has been their routine.
Posted by: wouter79

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 04:41 PM

So far, no one asked about the sun that is getting the lesson. I can well imagine that HE is being getting annoyed by his dad tracing every of his steps. The particular comments that you put into his mouth are not very encouraging either so I think he would be better off without his dad sitting there.
Posted by: Piano*Dad

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 04:41 PM

Originally Posted By: Barb860
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Hi, P*D here!

I hope this thread doesn't move in the direction of parent-bash / parent-defense. I don't think that's the point here.

This behavior is extreme and dad sounds more than a touch insecure in front of you. This might all go away with a bit of gentle humor on your part.



Yes this could be the case. I appreciate all replies here. The fact that you say this dad's behavior is "extreme" is especially helpful, as you were very involved and supportive in your son's musical learning experiences, and have shared much with us here. And you are right that I don't want to turn this into a parent bashing or defensive debate. I am coming from the standpoint of appreciating this dad for his involvement, and want to stay positive. We teachers need supportive parents!
But this dad is over the top and I need to nip this in the bud.
In addition, both parents are a bit insecure right now I think because I am a brand new teacher for their kids.


Yes, I think this is extreme.

I will admit that on occasion I would "approach the bench," so to speak, to ask the teacher something or note something that I had observed at home, but constant interruption is completely counterproductive.

Does the kid basically look at dad throughout the lesson, waiting either for approval or rebuke? If so, you need to press the reset button! Gently, of course.

You do want a supportive parent, and a knowledgable one can be your best ally. But during lesson time there can be only one master. And even at home, the kid has to be able to take a breath or two without constant correction and nagging. A parent should be able to be in the room without distracting the student. Just read a newspaper or magazine! You'll still be able to follow along when needed.

For the first couple of years, I was the teacher's proverbial right hand, yet I too was "banished" from the room for a short while (a month or so, if I recall). I went, and did so without complaint. I understood that the teacher needed some complete and undivided attention. Later, I was deliberately brought back into the lesson and shown exactly what the teacher was trying to accomplish. It goes both ways. She knew I was her teaching assistant at home ... whether she liked it or not. smile

So she used that situation to her (and to my son's) advantage. Could things have gone better if I had become a potted plant? Who knows. Idle speculation.
Posted by: PApianoteacher

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 05:44 PM

I do the same thing apple*! I like to establish if it is just a one time mistake or if it is something missed consistently!
Posted by: DadAgain

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 07:57 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad

I will admit that on occasion I would "approach the bench," so to speak, to ask the teacher something or note something that I had observed at home, but constant interruption is completely counterproductive.


Interesting - apart from the use of past tense instead of present tense I could have written this post almost word for word! (although I haven't been put in the 'sin bin' and banished from lessons yet!).

I'm probably more actively involved in daughters violin lessons than her piano - but thats because her teacher makes a point of involving me - asking me to watch from certain angles, comment on various technical aspects, occasionaly accompanist duties etc etc (even getting me to engineer a crude 'bow correction tool' out of a toilet roll tube, a pair of scissors and a couple of blobs of bluetack!). But still my involvement is driven entirely by teacher direction and she remains the undisputed 'director' of the 3 person team!
Posted by: rlinkt

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 09:01 PM

I usually try to restrict my conversations to the very beginning or very end, and mostly be an observer in between.
Posted by: kck

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/10/12 10:15 PM

Originally Posted By: DadAgain
Yep - I'm a permanent fixture in daughter's lessons, but I sit there and don't interrupt unless questioned or invited to comment.


Me too - except I'm sitting in on my son's piano lessons. I don't say a single thing unless prompted and our teacher clearly lays this out in the policy. I'm biased towards allowing a parent to sit in if the child is ok with it. If my son ever wanted to take his own notes and kick me out, I'd be fine with it.

I think an involved and engaged parent can be a music teacher's greatest ally. But interrupting during the lesson? Particularly mid-piece? Yikes. I agree this behavior is extreme. I would definitely let the parent know that you appreciate their involvement, but you would prefer to drive the lesson. Maybe give them a moment to say something at the beginning and ask questions at the end. My daughter's violin teacher particularly a nice method of saying to my daughter at the beginning "so if there anything your mom might like to tell me before we start?" and at the end "anything else mom might like to ask before we finish up?". Our piano teacher particularly encourages e-mail use for questions.
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/11/12 03:04 AM

Originally Posted By: Barb860
Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
Does he do that when the kid's practising?


I have a feeling, yes, this has been their routine.


Now, you see, I would see that as a problem too. The kid probably deals with is because he's used to it. But still a problem that likely won't go away by itself.
Posted by: Barb860

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/17/12 03:26 PM

Hi, checking in here with an update on this situation.
Here's what happened:
I had a quick chat with the dad before his son's lesson yesterday and borrowed Minnie may's line suggested in this thread , "sometimes I choose to ignore issues because they're not central to the skill we're working on at the moment". I felt that this went well. Dad was very apologetic and said piano lessons are brand new for him as a parent, he wanted to support his son by sitting in on the lessons, but he was not aware of "piano lesson etiquette".
It really is up to us as teachers to not be afraid to bring up issues with parents. I was afraid of offending the dad in this case. But the short discussion went well.
He went out and ran an errand during the lesson.
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/17/12 04:00 PM

I'm glad. Well done you for broaching this in such a way as not to have him lose face. I do wish they would all care so much! smile
Posted by: Barb860

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/17/12 04:47 PM

It was tricky and I was nervous about offending him. I did mention that I wished every parent cared so much like he does. I felt like it went O.K. Thanks very much for everyone's suggestions here!
Posted by: LadyChen

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/17/12 04:58 PM

This is awesome, Barb860 -- it sounds like the conversation went the best direction possible! And I love that he's just being over-zealous in his support -- I mean, isn't that way better than not caring? I'm glad this went well for you!
Posted by: Piano*Dad

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/17/12 05:18 PM

It's still jarring to see my "name" in a thread title ...

This is the outcome I probably would have forecast. It's easy to build a mental image of grand confrontation on the horizon when the real issue is a bit of overzealous insecurity on his part.

And you do want parents who care.
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/17/12 05:33 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
It's still jarring to see my "name" in a thread title ...



Hey, you're famous! smile
Posted by: Barb860

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/17/12 10:24 PM

Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
It's still jarring to see my "name" in a thread title ...



Hey, you're famous! smile


Yes he is!
and so is his cat, "Piano Cat", who we haven't heard about lately....does he miss Piano Son, away at college?
Posted by: Piano*Dad

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/18/12 11:41 AM

Alas, Piano*Cat passed away about a year and a half ago:


Lance the Piano*Cat
Posted by: Barb860

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/18/12 10:00 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Alas, Piano*Cat passed away about a year and a half ago:


Lance the Piano*Cat


So sorry to hear! I must've missed your post a while back....Piano Cat was quite unique, sitting on laps like that at the piano....
Posted by: DadAgain

Re: Paging: Piano Dad - 10/18/12 11:14 PM

Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Alas, Piano*Cat passed away about a year and a half ago...


I dont have a cat - but until recently our dog (Xena the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel) may have been a contender for "Piano*dog". She sleeps for approximately 22 hours a day (being an old dog) - and manages to ignore almost all manner of noises coming from the Piano, but she DID have a habit of waking up and coming to investigate whenever I played the slow movement of Beethovens Pathetique... No other piece of music seemed to get her attention - but any time I started playing the Beethoven she'd wander into the room approach the bench and see whats going on.

I have no idea whether there's something deep in this particular work that has an effect on a canine amygdala, or whether I had subconsciously got into a pattern of playing that just before feeding her and the association had somehow stuck - but I'm sure it was something truly remarkable as I'm almost sure she could identify that piece distinctly from others!

Alas this behaviour has stopped (I dont play the Beethoven so often any more and I think the dog may be a little hard of hearing these days anyway) - so my chances of a creative piece of research resulting in a PhD in Psychology have no doubt passed.


[sorry - completely off-topic!]