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#1723224 - 07/29/11 06:05 PM How do you deal with bratty students?  
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ILoveMusicTheory Offline
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I have a student who is a seven going on eight year old boy. He has been taking lessons with me for about nine months. He started as an absolute beginner. Even though most average seven year olds pass through the Primer Level (Piano Adventures) in six to seven months, this child is still lagging around page 20 or so.

My issue is not the slow pace, as I believe that he might have a learning disability that has gone unacknowledged and unaddressed by his mother. Going slow is not an issue and he seems content to take a month to learn what other kids finish in a week. The main issue is that he doesn't practice on his own at all. His mom helps him and if she doesn't have time, it's a no go.

Last week, he acted out and slammed his hands on the piano. I said to him, "The next time you do that, lesson is over. I only tell you once."

He cannot get through the song Merrily We Roll Along because his attention drops. He can barely get through Old MacDonald and he actually seems to like that one. His mom is not helping; she basically lets him do whatever he wants, he is allowed to play horribly violent video games that he's obsessed with, and she allows him to watch South Park. When he gets ornery, she claims "oh, he's just having a bad day today."

I'm just not sure what to do with him. He seemed to like me until I actually tried to get him to put some effort into lessons. I'm fairly sure that he's got a learning disability that is being exacerbated by some outside factor, though I'm not sure what. I work regularly with disabled and mentally-challenged students, the difference, however, is that in those cases the parents know and admit their child has a disability.

If any of you have advice from your own experiences as teachers, I'd be very grateful for it.



I'm an independent piano & guitar teacher from Illinois.

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#1723287 - 07/29/11 09:33 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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Originally Posted by ILoveMusicTheory
.......My issue is not the slow pace, as I believe that he might have a learning disability that has gone unacknowledged and unaddressed by his mother. Going slow is not an issue and he seems content to take a month to learn what other kids finish in a week............... His mom is not helping; she basically lets him do whatever he wants, he is allowed to play horribly violent video games that he's obsessed with, and she allows him to watch South Park. When he gets ornery, she claims "oh, he's just having a bad day today.


It could be that the student is anxiety prone and feels most comfortable moving at a snail's pace. As someone who is used to working with that type of student, you no doubt have the required patience to move the child along slowly. Good for you.

What is the mother thinking? Violent video games and South Park? My God. That is unacceptable for a 7 yr old (and I happen to love South Park).

This may be a long shot, but do you know any of the boy's school teachers, or any other school professional that can give you some advice? That's where I usually go for help in these situations.

But without proper parental support, even the best advice can be ineffective.


Piano instruction and performance
#1723312 - 07/29/11 11:09 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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I would sit down and talk with the mother, without the child being present. I'm not sure how you could arrange this, but I think it is necessary.

Let her know how important it is for a young child to have the parent involved in the practice sessions. I don't know many 7 year olds who do everything they're supposed to without being told. This is perfectly normal (be sure to let her know this) and offer suggestions on how she can help him practice. Stay positive and let her know this is how she can get her money's worth in lessons. Without practice, after all, the money is mostly wasted.

You may want to delicately, ask if he has been tested for whatever disability you suspect he has. You may want to broach the subject by first being very generic in your questioning, like: "How is he doing in school? What are his good subjects? What are his weaker subjects? Has the teacher approached you at all about concerns she has? Then let her respond. Hopefully she will let you know that his teacher has noticed behaviors that you personally have suspected. It's better if she tells you rather than you tell her. However if she is not forthcoming or if the teacher hasn't noticed, let her know your experience with working with special needs students and that you suspect there may be an issue (especially if it is in line with problem she has at school). You'll have to be delicate and caring, but suggest that they may want to look into that a bit more.

You never know, the mom might be tearing her hair out and not knowing how to handel her son, but with a diagnosis and education on what his condition may be, she can learn on the best ways of dealing with that.


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#1723377 - 07/30/11 02:25 AM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: Morodiene]  
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
You never know, the mom might be tearing her hair out and not knowing how to handel her son, but with a diagnosis and education on what his condition may be, she can learn on the best ways of dealing with that.

I doubt it. It looks like she's in denial.

Just drop the student. What a nightmare!


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#1723421 - 07/30/11 07:36 AM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: AZNpiano]  
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by Morodiene
You never know, the mom might be tearing her hair out and not knowing how to handel her son, but with a diagnosis and education on what his condition may be, she can learn on the best ways of dealing with that.

I doubt it. It looks like she's in denial.

Just drop the student. What a nightmare!


That's what I think too, but it's worth trying, and perhaps if said in a caring and delicate way, she will take it to heart. It's possible that the child's school teacher has already suggested testing and if she hears it from a 3rd party who wasn't in contact with the first teacher she'll listen. It certainly can't hurt to say something at this point (as long as it's done tactfully).


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#1723432 - 07/30/11 08:49 AM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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There are times when we as piano teachers can make a real difference in a student's life- in ways that sometimes go far beyond things musical.

BUT, given the limited amount of time we have with each student each week, our ability to influence children with severe behavioral issues or diagnose learning disabilities is quite limited. There are times when I tenaciously hold on to a student in the hopes that I can turn them around, but there are also situations that I just cannot fix.

And the problem with those situations that I can't fix is that if I continue to work with that student, it usually consumes an inordinate amount of my time and energy, not to mention the anxiety it causes me. All of this works to the detriment of my other students who stand to benefit more from what I have to offer.

Really, only experience helps you to know the difference.

Make a difference where you can, but never feel ashamed or unjustified in letting a student go.


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#1723593 - 07/30/11 03:51 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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yellow pages. No bruising and most people have one.

#1723610 - 07/30/11 04:33 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: Luke in ChiTown]  
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Originally Posted by Luke in ChiTown

And the problem with those situations that I can't fix is that if I continue to work with that student, it usually consumes an inordinate amount of my time and energy, not to mention the anxiety it causes me. All of this works to the detriment of my other students who stand to benefit more from what I have to offer.

I TOTALLY agree with everything you wrote. Problem students leach all my energy and patience, so afterwards I have nothing left to give to my best students.


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#1723809 - 07/30/11 11:20 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: BadOrange]  
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Originally Posted by BadOrange
yellow pages. No bruising and most people have one.
??? Are you actually suggesting that we should hit kids with yellow pages?


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#1724642 - 08/01/11 04:01 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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Wow, thank you so much for this advice! It is amazing. Now I feel like I'm fully armed to deal with this. He's actually here for a lesson right now and he's already messing around as I suspected he would.


I'm an independent piano & guitar teacher from Illinois.

#1724666 - 08/01/11 04:40 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: Morodiene]  
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Well, believe it or not, the boy and his mother just left my Studio. The boy came in, already acting out, whining that he "didn't want to take lessons anymore" and "wanted to quit." I calmly called his bluff and called his mother into a meeting in my soundproofed Studio room and suggested they take a month-long break from lessons.

Thanks to the advice I found here at Piano Forums, it was like a 100 pound weight was lifted off my shoulders!! Seriously I cannot thank you people enough. I used Morodiene's exact words, asking what the child's best subject and what his strengths were. I asked to network with his main elementary school teacher if he returns to lessons, and now a little more about that:

Here's the truth: I will not allow him to return to my Studio until he displays the right enthusiasm and attitude and readiness to learn. I don't care how slow he learns something as long as he has the right attitude while learning it, which for now he doesn't. He's got one month to completely make a turn around or it is no go. There's a 99 percent chance I won't let him back.

After I talked to mom, the three of us spoke together for about ten minutes. He talked about video games most of the time. She made a laundry lists of excuses as to why his attitude is so bad (uh, lady, did you ever think it's because he's spoiled?) I think he was shocked by having lessons taken away: these kids are raised to think that soccer, piano, chess club, etc. are owed to them as a right and not a privilege.

Mom is in 100% total denial that her son may have disability. I've seen this before--there's pretty much nothing I can do on my end. Thanks AZN for reinforcing my decision to end the lesson relationship with them on my terms.

All of you really helped me. I feel good about my decision to shake this student and now I can devote my time and energy to other things.



Originally Posted by Morodiene


You may want to delicately, ask if he has been tested for whatever disability you suspect he has. You may want to broach the subject by first being very generic in your questioning, like: "How is he doing in school? What are his good subjects? What are his weaker subjects? Has the teacher approached you at all about concerns she has? Then let her respond. Hopefully she will let you know that his teacher has noticed behaviors that you personally have suspected. It's better if she tells you rather than you tell her. However if she is not forthcoming or if the teacher hasn't noticed, let her know your experience with working with special needs students and that you suspect there may be an issue (especially if it is in line with problem she has at school). You'll have to be delicate and caring, but suggest that they may want to look into that a bit more.


Thank you for this!!



I'm an independent piano & guitar teacher from Illinois.

#1724702 - 08/01/11 06:05 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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I'm glad you were able to resolve the situation. The collective wisdom of people here can be very helpful!

Can I just make an observation? I didn't notice whether you have always had your name and studio details in your signature line (I only just noticed them now), but with all the very specific detail you have been providing about this student I'm feeling uncomfortable. Maybe it's unlikely he or his mother will ever find this forum. But if they do, it will be obvious who you're talking about - on a public internet forum.


Du holde Kunst...
#1724723 - 08/01/11 06:41 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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eh it wouldn't matter. They've gone unnamed so that lil tiff is a dead end.

As for what they think who cares. It's universally unspoken.

Was the right thing to do to ditch the kid. Odds are he prolly screams with some kind of high sonic noise until he gets whatever he's faking about.

And if a kid can't practice on his own with the means, he isn't taking the subject at hand even halfheartedly seriously.

Last edited by dewar; 08/01/11 06:41 PM.
#1724730 - 08/01/11 06:58 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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Yeah, I'm sure this mom is so into his music education that she's snooping around on piano teacher online forums...lol!

I'm so glad you did it and feel great about it!


~Stanny~

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#1724737 - 08/01/11 07:07 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: Stanny]  
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Originally Posted by Stanny
Yeah, I'm sure this mom is so into his music education that she's snooping around on piano teacher online forums...lol!

I'm so glad you did it and feel great about it!
I'm glad she did it, too, as I said. I was just making a point about this being a public forum. If you google the OP's name and "piano" (as any one of her students, potential students or their parents might), one of first 10 hits is "How do you deal with bratty students?", this thread. If she's fine with that, that's ok. I wouldn't be, and that's why I mentioned it.


Du holde Kunst...
#1724759 - 08/01/11 07:46 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: currawong]  
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Currawong, your point is important. We always have to assume that people we are teaching may be reading this forum. Suppose, for instance, that I write negatively about a student whose parents would never come here. It does not mean that other parents might not visit.

Even when I mention a student by age, I don't give enough facts for anyone to realize that I am talking about any student in particular.

It is one thing to vent here, and we all do it sometimes. But for our own protection, it is best to stick to details in private conversations! wink


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#1724764 - 08/01/11 07:55 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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What if the title were changed to something like "uncooperative students"?

#1724797 - 08/01/11 08:42 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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Hi! I'm new here and this forum is great!

This thread made me laugh because I've had a couple of difficult students who don't stay on task, don't practice, don't seem to actually want to take piano lessons, etc. Oddly, I think some parents don't care that they're not progressing and it becomes glorified babysitting. I think, "Wouldn't you rather pay $10 an hour for a babysitter than $50?"

As much as I think, "Hey, you should be happy because you are getting paid", I just can't stand those situations and am happy to let those students go at the first opportunity. I did stay with a difficult student who has ADD because he did seem at least interested and I know his mom tries very hard with him. He is very challenging and she appreciated me because I "knew his number". When he was off his meds though, it was horrible. He suddenly couldn't play songs he had played fine before and would say, "I can't do it! It's too hard!" I've witnessed him shutting down in social situations when he gets overstimulated. It was interesting though because one day when I came over, he was having a meltdown over his homework and went back to it with ease after his piano lesson.

It helped a lot to give him mini goals. Sometimes there were little rewards for one song at a time. Other times I had to get him through one measure at a time and then his anxiety would subside as he realized he could do it. I told him, "Just the first measure and that's it!" So he played that fine and I said, "OK, just the next measure." I did that repeatedly and he started to laugh because he knew I was tricking him into playing the whole song. He then played it again without complaint when he realized he could do it.

Years ago there is no way I would have put up with it, but now that I have four children, I feel like I have more tools to deal with teaching kids and most stuff just rolls off my back.


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#1724804 - 08/01/11 08:55 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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Hi All,

I changed my signature and profile to make myself anonymous, thanks Currawong for pointing that out!!

I feel confident that I treated my "bratty" student with respect and dignity. He's going to face severe problems that grow directly from his parent's refusal to discipline him. I've seen this sort of laissez faire upbringing result in drug addiction, criminal behavior, and even juvenile prison. He's already constantly angry for an eight year old and has no idea why.

As a music teacher, I can only offer lessons to kids who really want them, and the kids I teach include people with autism, mental retardation, and partial deafness. Lessons with me often influences these children's lives in a happy way, but I can't begin to address what's going on with this boy and his mother's total denial means that she's not willing to address the problem either.

Anyway, kudos to all the parents out there who make boundaries for their children, even though it can be hard to say "no" to a cute little face. You're on the right track!





Last edited by ILoveMusicTheory; 08/01/11 08:58 PM.

I'm an independent piano & guitar teacher from Illinois.

#1724845 - 08/01/11 10:05 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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Originally Posted by ILoveMusicTheory
...thanks Currawong for pointing that out!!
And thanks for understanding. smile



Du holde Kunst...
#1724890 - 08/01/11 11:33 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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If you're not American, you don't.

Chinese and Russian teachers are known for cursing or abusing their students..

#1724892 - 08/01/11 11:38 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: slerk]  
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Originally Posted by slerk
If you're not American, you don't.
(Clarification needed)If you're not American you don't what?


Du holde Kunst...
#1724912 - 08/02/11 12:17 AM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: AZNpiano]  
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by BadOrange
yellow pages. No bruising and most people have one.
??? Are you actually suggesting that we should hit kids with yellow pages?


i'm suggesting you handle it with such disregard for safety that it somehow hits the child on the head preferably. Yes , that is what I am suggesting. Your word against his. And he is a kid with a wild imagination. His parents won't think anything of it. The only problem is that the yellow pages is being discontinued in many states. Perhaps a rather large music anthology.

#1725288 - 08/02/11 03:42 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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I think he meant if you aren't American, you don't deal with bratty students. American culture is awfully tolerant of such behavior and being so litigious, we hesitate to act on it.


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#1725303 - 08/02/11 03:57 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: slerk]  
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Originally Posted by slerk
If you're not American, you don't.

Chinese and Russian teachers are known for cursing or abusing their students..


same with the Japanese or the old fashioned American teachers

Getting beat around the head (well, maybe not physically) at every lesson is a good way to keep your student working hard (and I know from experience from being a student) !!

#1725307 - 08/02/11 04:03 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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I always am aware that others are reading this forum. Part of me was thinking it might be a GOOD idea if she recognized her son in this thread, but doubted she cares enough to even research it.


~Stanny~

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Member: MTNA, NGPT, ASMTA, NAMTA
#1725800 - 08/03/11 11:29 AM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: slerk]  
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Originally Posted by slerk
If you're not American, you don't.

Chinese and Russian teachers are known for cursing or abusing their students..


Honestly, some calmly-delivered corporal punishment would have helped my bratty student. Imagine a Chinese, Japanese, or Russian teacher slapping him upside the head . . . the parents would have cried "abuse!" and gotten lawyers involved.

One of the reasons parenting in America is so impossible is because you're labeled as an "abuser" for spanking a child if it misbehaves. It's ridiculous.

That's why I had to dismiss the "bratty student" from my roster. Being in America ties my hands--no one, including his parents, is allowed to discipline this child properly. At any rate, he's seven and it's too late, his behaviors are pretty much cemented. Spoiled kids are almost always angry and expect to be pampered and indulged well into adulthood. It's a recipe for future mischief. And now my tax dollars will fund his prison stay 10 or so years from now, if he even waits that long, yippee.


I'm an independent piano & guitar teacher from Illinois.

#1725828 - 08/03/11 12:08 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: slerk]  
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Originally Posted by slerk
Chinese and Russian teachers are known for cursing or abusing their students..

Thanks for the stereotype!

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#1726009 - 08/03/11 04:11 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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I'm Welsh.

Welsh piano teachers beat up kids, then send them down coal mines.

That's the secret of *my* success as a piano teacher. <droll sarcasm>

laugh


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#1726048 - 08/03/11 05:04 PM Re: How do you deal with bratty students? [Re: ILoveMusicTheory]  
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San Jose, CA
If I had only known it was too late for me, at seven years of age. But perhaps it would be too discouraging if we did know as much about our future lives as our piano teachers know.

Just for the sake of discussion, it does seem to me that there is a middle ground for guiding the behavior of the young, short of beating and reform school.

Still, I'll admit that my niece was headed south by seven, and has continued straight down from then until now. I hate to allow it, but maybe the OP has a point. A very dark one.


Clef

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