Today I started a new piano student. She is a cute little 2 1/2 year old. She is a squirmy little thing but more than capable of learning to play. By today being her first lesson, she got squirming and tearful because she did not want to sit and play piano for too much of her time. This is a normal reaction for a typical 2 1/2 year old. The fact that I am a teacher who teaches rules and appropriate behavior does not mix well with her parents non-discipline attitude.
As she squirmed around, I attempted to hold her down until I felt letting her have a moment to play was in order. Her father looked on and on occasion attempted to insist that she play but to no avail. She scampered around my living room playing with pens and what not and then I placed her back at the piano.
At some point, the tears and screaming kicked in. Her father immediately picked her up and held her while she cried. I did what I normally do, I told her it was okay for her to cry, but she would have to come back to the piano when she was done. We tried having her dad play. Harmonie stepped away from her school work to draw with her. That calmed her down. I sat with her father and explained the different ways to practice with her. She quietly drew circles with Harmonie. Then I got an idea, I had her and Harmonie sit at the piano. Harmonie played, then she played. Eureka! Accomplishment!
Her father, young and inexperienced at this sort of thing, asked me did I think they should wait a few more months until she starts school and then try again? I informed him that whether they waited or not would not make a difference. I let him know that we would be in the same position in a few months. Teaching piano to a 2 year old takes patience, not just on the part of the teacher but also on the part of the parents. The teacher and parents have to be in alliance with each other. There has to be rules and discipline. Waiting for preschool to teach her how to follow directions and follow rules would not be enough. He mentioned that he and his wife in his opinion may not be very strict on discipline and following rules. In lies the problem, I thought to myself. I explained to him that we have to be a team. He has to practice with her at home and teach her how to follow the rules and be disciplined with her piano lessons. If he did this at home, her piano lessons would go more smoothly. I gave him rules and tips on how to handle lessons at home and he appeared to understand. I sent him on his way, with his cute little angel, and gave her plenty of praise for the things she did well today. I believe he can handle this. I warned him that it would take some patience, but it was more than doable.
I think sometimes parents get so concerned about whether or not the teacher is upset about the behavior that they chicken out and run from lessons, not for the child’s sake but for their own. I reassured him that she was fine and normal. I let him know that a little crying and screaming was no big deal to me because it is normal behavior that will change with time. He appeared to be on board. I hope I eased his mind and doubts that she is ready. She really is a cute little girl. I think with some time, patience and hard work she will pick up the piano and some life skills along the way. And who knows, maybe her dad will too. This is their first child. He will have plenty of battles of having to make decisions as a parent and not as someone who hates to see his child cry. I told him that this was simply a part of being a parent. Kids have to learn how to follow rules and directions. They have household rules that have to be followed. A school will have rules. Society has rules. All parents need to remember that their kids will get older someday and no longer live under their protection. That is what you should be planning for as a parent. Guide your children well. They have to live in a society on their own someday.
Do you think I gave this father good advice? What else should I have told him?