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#1200193 - 05/15/09 11:41 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: PianoKitty]  
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Since you've only had this student a short time, you have to admit you need to get to know them both better. I would find a way to go to their house. You could say you always like to know what instrument they're playing on, to see about lighting or whatever. And the kids really like it. Then when you are there, play some piano and try to find out the parents' experience with music when they were young, and currently. Gradually you will learn what their priorities are.

If you really feel the girl loves lessons, and if you think they are concerned with her progress, you could suggest twice weekly lessons.

As for counting, it might be better to use the ta ya system instead of counting. Also, you can put in extra words for long notes. So if you have a three beat note tied to a three beat note, you might sing "sea to the sea ya ya". Or "Take ya Me Out to the Ball ya ya Game ya ya." The latter song is in Faber Level 1.

Last edited by Candywoman; 05/15/09 11:41 PM.
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#1200194 - 05/15/09 11:42 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: eweiss]  
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John v.d.Brook Offline
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This, actually, is a very touchy subject. I hesitate to comment. We have an ongoing discussion in our country over parents rights to raise their children versus the state's right, which is a polite way of saying neighbors butting in. I doubt there's any reasonable doubt that the state needs to step in if starvation, whipping to the point of bleeding, etc., is going on. However, for any lessor form, there is a continuum of gray, and people differ greatly on the subject.

Does a parent have a right to do a lousy job of raising their kids, or do we want to have a "parenting patrol" roaming neighborhoods passing judgments on how we are doing as parents?

We, as teachers, need to tread very carefully. You could end up with a lawsuit on your hands by an irate parent, if you overstep your bounds.

"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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#1200252 - 05/16/09 02:52 AM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents [Re: PianoKitty]  
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Ocean Breeze Offline
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I'd like to chime in and give my two cents. This is a very delicate issue, one of which it's hard to address.

I can speak from experience and give another example that is similar to this.

As previous people mentioned, this may be a cultural issue. In Asia, it is VERY COMMON to physically AND mentally discipline/abuse children. Although it seems like it's mostly mental abuse, stereotypically (I'm not saying EVERYONE), Asians that are old school are known to be very negative & use negative reinforcements. I have to say, if anything, YOU SHOULD THINK TWICE BEFORE REPORTING ABUSE TO THE AUTHORITIES!!! It can destroy families, and seeing that most of the time, no one will testify against the abuser, and the abuser will return home, you can make things worse. Think about it carefully, and until you have enough evidence, I would not take such measures. There is more than what meets the eye.

I personally was hit as a child quite often for not practicing the piano. I was never beaten severely, but I was hit with coat-hangers, back-scratcher, you name it, I was probably hit with it. I had my hair pulled really hard fairly frequently too. However, if my piano teacher ever called the authorities on my family, it would have completely taken everything I had. My family life for the most part was very pleasant - yes, the punishments were "extreme" (by American standards, not by Asian standards), but they were normal for my upbringing and cultural background. I grew up in a predominantly Asian / Mexican neighborhood, and I can honestly say that I don't know anyone who was never physically disciplined and/or mentally abused by their parents. I've heard "horror" stories far worse than mine and the one stated in this thread...

I had a roommate in which her father would constantly mentally abuse her. He would call her by various profanities, and downplay her regularly. She grew up with this negative reinforcement, and yes, it has affected her self-esteem. Not only that, he would also physically discipline her. However, do you think she would want someone to call the authorities on him? The answer is no.

I can only speak for myself, but I can honestly say that in my case, I would not say that I was being "abused." Despite the physical discipline and negative reinforcements, my family was very loving. I never got beaten to the point of bruises, nor do I think that the mental abuse affected my self-esteem. With that being said...

Here are my suggestions:
1. I think the newsletter idea is very good, because it's very indirect. However, many parents who commit these types of things don't even think it's directed at them, or think that it's ineffective.

2. I personally would refrain from talking directly with the dad about how the child is disturbed by his actions, because this can trigger unintended consequences. Basically, if you think that the dad is somewhat reasonable and will be able to realize his mistakes, and that he loves his daughter deep down inside, then yes, you should talk to him. However, if the two things I've listed does not apply - I would be weary of talking about it directly. It took my parents 10+ years to realize that what they did was wrong, and it was ONLY after I grew up, became of age, and gave them a little bit of the taste of their own medicine (i.e. talking back to them - which is pretty much not allowed in Confucian hierarchy).

3. Think about it very carefully before you involve the authorities. If the abuse is severe, I would report it, and by severe, I mean that it's so substantial that there is enough evidence against the guy to be convicted. You have to remember that the kid only has one dad, and albeit it's a crappy dad, but the kid most likely loves the dad. You do not want to take her dad away from her. You might do it under the intentions of "saving her" but there are many unintended consequences for your actions. I know this, because I grew up with it with my peers. The system is not the best in dealing with domestic issues.

4. You can try talking to the mom, but usually, that's ineffective too because the mom knows about it, yet lets it happen. Mom is probably in a similar situation.

5. The suggestions about the trophies, rewards, etc. - it will only work temporarily, at best. The kid's dad probably has friends who have sons/daughters that play the piano, and guess what he'll do? Compare. No matter what the teacher says, the dad will not be convinced until *HE* thinks that she is playing well. You can try to tell him that the most important thing about piano is that the student is supposed to ENJOY it, but if you force her to practice and/or not positively encourage her, it will stymie her growth as she would be playing for the wrong reasons. You can also emphasize that piano is important and that you see that he cares a lot for his child (you have to lie on this), but you think that it's integral for the dad to realize that everyone makes mistakes and that the more you make, the more you learn. However, you noticed that the child has very high expectations for herself and is afraid to make mistakes, so he is to ENCOURAGE her. (Notice how you are NOT placing blame on the dad.) If you say it INDIRECTLY like this, without being accusatory, it might work if he is somewhat reasonable. You can also state that you know other parents who physically and/or emotionally discipline their children, but in the end, these things don't work because the child needs confidence to perform, and without positive reinforcement, the child will never build this confidence. The key when saying this is that you're supposed to act like HE doesn't do it, and that you're citing "other" horror stories and putting him as someone equal to you.

In summary, be careful of what you say and how you say it, and think before you take consequential actions.

#1200431 - 05/16/09 12:27 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: PianoKitty]  
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Gary D. Offline
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Originally Posted by PianoKitty

Basically, she is doing very well with piano so far. She does have some problems with keeping a steady 4/4 time, but the times I have tried to work on it with her, she has gotten really upset and said that her dad is going to be very upset with her for not doing well.

I would suggest you re-think your method of teaching rhythm.

There have been discussions of "metric counting" vs. other systems, but for me this is a non-issue.

I simply write in the counts. End of discussino. This words for kids as young as five, probably for some even younger.

The point is that if they are saying the counts, this does not mean that the counting is even—at first.

That's the advantage of counting. It CAN be uneven, at first, with children adjusting the speed or evenness according to what they are able to do and understand at the moment.

I work with parents, and I stress that it is OK for the counts to be uneven, at first. Getting them even is a process. No matter what counting system is used, it is difficult to get fingers moving and pressing keys and then try to keep track of any kind of rhythm at the same time.

Some of my beginners are not even at all, at first. They may not count anything evenly for a few weeks. But they all get there.

So if this little girl is counting, with any system, praise the counting. If it was very uneven last week and is a bit less uneven this week, praise the fact that it is improving. Also, think about letting the child work ahead a bit, and let things be uneven for the newer things, then stress review of older things with more even counting.

She will get there this way, but you will avoid having to tell her that she is not doing it right, not doing it well, failing in some way, and so on. If the father perceives some kind of steady improvement, the child's problem at home may disappear—unless the father really is dangerous, and that's a different matter.

Last edited by Gary D.; 05/16/09 12:27 PM.

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#1200463 - 05/16/09 01:39 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: Gary D.]  
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Ocean Breeze,

That was a very well thought out post. But no one is talking about contacting the police or child protective services here. All I'm saying is pull the dad aside and talk to him.

If this doesn't work ... and it seems likely it won't in this case, at least she tried.

You yourself said it took your parents 10+ years to realize their mistakes. Why wait that long? Talking to dad now may circumvent years of emotional abuse. Remember the movie "Shine?"

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#1200508 - 05/16/09 03:55 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: eweiss]  
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Gary D. Offline
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When a parent is negative, I think the only thing we can do is to try to provide an example of how it does not need to be that way.

I have had older students whose parents were so negative and also so blasted stubborn that I had to plan, with them, how to present anything to the parents.

I had one teen girl who loved to play, loved coming to lessons, obviously liked me. But she hated the idea of playing in front of people. She was unbelievably shy. She just wanted to play for her own enjoyment.

The parents were absolutely dead set on making her perform. I would not go along with them. The parents tore almost everything down I was doing. Eventually they made her quit.

So sometimes we have to actually do what we can to protect kids from their own parents until they are old enough to say: "Good bye!"

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#1201472 - 05/18/09 11:29 AM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: eweiss]  
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bitWrangler Offline
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Originally Posted by eweiss
So the ends justify the means here? And what are the ends? Producing a perfect little pianist who can note read and play technically well? No wonder so many are turned off to learning piano. Turning out good little classical pianists who can play everything correctly and perfectly. It's nauseating and slightly psychotic.

And the most pathetic thing about all of it is it's ALL about the parent and not the child. It's what the parent wants. Sick sheeyet. cursing

Originally Posted by eweiss
Yeah. I did. But Guest, there's a difference. The father was talking to his 7 year old daughter. I am talking to adults here on this board.

I felt angry about what this father was doing to his daughter and expressed it.

I hate it when adults misuse their power. And in this case, it seems to be just that.

Funny, how some defend the abuser instead of the victim. Actually, it's not funny. It's very, very sad.

OK, so first, yes, I was referring to your language when I spoke of the irony. While you may defend it by saying that you are communicating with adults, the point is that one can choose to speak with respect to anyone, and when you justify not doing so for whatever reason, then it's ironic when you rail against someone else for doing the same thing (however different the reasoning).

Second, your top reply ("and the most pathetic thing ...") actually is quite perfect in that it really exemplifies why I replied in the first place. Many folks on this forum have an interesting tendency to take the barest slivers of information and then base some pretty broad brushed characterizations based on those slivers. So in this case, my reply simply points out that some of the positive attributes that PK mentioned about the daughter could very well be at least partially attributable to the parents. Somehow they gets turned into "it's all about the parent and not the child". One single sentence saying that kids want to play but sometimes parents make them do things other than goof off, gets turned into abusive parenting. Sheesh.

So my point is, we have hearsay based on someones recollections of a conversation with a 7 year old. The OP has already formed some judgments and then purposefully or not, automatically biased folks coming into this thread by the simple naming of it. From this some are ready to condemn the parents and start tossing around words like "over bearing", "mean", "reptilian" and "abusive". Now good ole dad may very well be all those things, he may also be a caring dad who simply has high expectations for his kids, I have no idea. It just seems out of place to automatically gloom onto one side and to start spouting off with colorful slang about the person based on the information given.

#1201481 - 05/18/09 11:43 AM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: bitWrangler]  
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Well put, BitWrangler. I don't think anyone here advocates abusing children, but since we are not the OP, we really can't know. I also don't think the OP can know at this point. My husband's parents were accused of abusing the kids, but they were just disciplining them. It was the youngest who didn't like getting in trouble for what he did and cried wolf on them and thus he was not disciplined for fear of the cops and the state taking over. No child wants to get in trouble, but they certainly do need boundaries. It's just when those boundaries are enforced through venting anger by the parent or no reason at all on the part of the child where it becomes abuse. It's a tough call on a forum, and a delicate situation that I don't think anyone can say definitively here.

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#1203148 - 05/20/09 11:28 PM Re: What do you do about overbearing, mean parents? [Re: Morodiene]  
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John v.d.B and Ocean Breeze have supplied perspectives that are insightful and valuable.

From an earlier post by the OP: "One time when I wrote a "reminder" in her notebook about it, so she could remember to count out loud 1-2-3-4 while practicing, she started crying and shaking!" From my point of view this was no drama-queen stunt. It was thoroughly genuine.

There is a wonderful DVD movie called "Akeelah and the Bee" (a national spelling bee competition in the USA). The final competitor against Akeelah is an Asian boy whose father drives him relentlessly. Please watch the film if you can (I borrowed it from my local library). The thing that drives the father to drive the son is *fear of the shame of being less than the best*. I bet anything that PianoKitty will see her student's father in the Asian father in the film, and watching the film might give her some insight as to what makes her student's father tick (as well as demonstrate why he would not be effectively approachable in the ways that the western commentators in this thread are suggesting).

The oriental culture is saturated with a deathly fear of "losing face". The repeated questions from the student's father about his daughter's progress in relation to the other students is a major clue about this. This fear is so thoroughly and deeply ingrained that it CANNOT be eradicated superficially, easily or quickly. You have no idea how powerful a factor this fear was in why the Chinese were so slow to deal publicly with the S.A.R.S outbreak, and how hard they tried to keep under wraps information that they thought would reflect negatively on them (I read a book about this by a Chinese doctor/researcher working in China who shared the inside story). Look at the attitude of the Chinese in the Beijing Olympics, too. In the west, we have at least some sort of notion that presenting the truth to be faced and dealing with it is the best way to respond to an adverse situation. This 'humility before the truth' that we prefer is diametrically and radically opposed to the notion of "losing face". The idea that one poster had of trying to avoid a 10+ year period of parental realization by doing something soon that is apprently direct and not all that difficult simply fails to appreciate the depth of the real state of affairs in the person of the father.

One cannot blame the father for this. It is the way his person has been formed by his culture. But neither is there any way to deal with it in western culture that is fast and easy. Please, if you can, watch "Akeelah and the Bee", and you'll see what I am talking about (and while you do so, keep in mind that even this is Hollywood's characterization of that kind of disposition within the time limits of a DVD-length movie). [FWIW, my wife is Chinese, so I have insight from personal experience as well.]

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