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Since I work in a store, I handle situations somewhat differently than if I worked in my own home. Recently, I've acquired several students, age 4-6. Initially, the parent sat in on lessons, however, it has been over 6 months now, and parents are still making a weekly habit of this. I've suggested kindly that they could sit outside the room (rooms have full glass doors) occasionally, but they have various reasons - my child likes me in there, or they can interpret what goes on in the lesson easier than the child can (I do write everthing in their assignment books). Of course, there are days when two parents are in the room (room is about 5 X 8), and I can't move around the room at all. Recently, one mom brought along her 5 year old child. It's getting out of control, and I'm finding myself now wondering if these parents lack confidence in me. Would they sit in on swim or ballet lessons I wonder? Do they attend school with their children? It's intrusive and IMO affects the relationship I am trying to build with the student. Any suggestions or input is appreciated.


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Extra people in the room are just unacceptable (unruly little sibling). I would send them an email asking them not to do it again.

I find that too many people in the room are distracting as well. However, for a child of four, I would be very glad the parent was there to watch and learn.


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Yes, I only have one new student who is 4, and feel the mom should be there. But for students 6 to 7, it is starting to get on my last nerve after 6 months.


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Yes, I would agree about parent presence for a 4, 5 or even 6 year old, but bringing an unruly sib is totally unacceptable. I've had situations where at the first consult, a toddler is brought screaming and I usually tell the parent we have to reschedule.

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I've got a 7 year old taking lessons, for just about a year. At first the lessons were in the teacher's home. I'd say 90% of the time, I sat in the same room as the lesson. Now the teacher holds lessons in a local music store, and the lesson room is tiny. I thought I'd be sitting outside the room, but the teacher made it obvious that I was welcome to sit in.

I'd rather not sit in, because I find it a bit tedious and I don't want to be a distraction to the teacher or my child. But my child tells me she wants me there. I help A LOT with the practicing at home. In fact, I play the pieces a few times for my daughter and coach her a lot during the practice.

I can only speak for myself, but it is definitely NOT a lack of confidence in the teacher - just helpful for both my daughter and myself to keep her practicing. And I do pick up a few pointers from the teacher on what weak points my daughter needs to be working on for the next lesson.

I am looking forward to the day when my daughter can practice at home without my input. Until then, I guess it's helpful for me to listen in on the lessons.

Do you have parents sitting in on older children's lessons? At the ages of 4-6, it might be expecting a bit much of the child to feel confident without a parent in attendance. Perhaps once the child is 8 or older, then parent's presence isn't needed or wanted by the child.


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I actually require the parents of my 4-6 year old students to stay during lessons. A couple of my new 4-year olds are not comfortable without their mom/dad sitting nearby (usually on the other side of the piano bench). That's okay with me, and I actually appreciate that, since it gives the parents the opportunity to learn the music and I can teach the parents how to practice with their children.

I just took on two new students who had studied at a music school that didn't allow parents inside the rooms, and neither the kids nor the parents had been comfortable with the separation. That's why they looked me up and decided to transfer to my studio.

I have found, through many of my discussions with parents, that they do sit in on all their kids' activities.

Just hang in with it - these kids are really young and still need their parents' support. At some point, they won't, and the parents will probably give you more privacy at that point. The parents of my 8-12 year old group only sit in on lessons about half the time, even though I recommend that they always attend.


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First, let's acknowledge that teaching in a store, or under an administration makes things tricky. It is difficult to assert yourself in these circumstances. Parents have been known to run to the boss over any little thing they don't like. If you use email, be sure that it is a form letter, and it doesn't look like you are singling anyone out. When policies are written down ahead of time, there is less likelyhood that a parent will get upset, hopefully.

With respect to what everyone else has said, I require parents to attend lessons, and to take notes for children 7-ish and younger, depending on the child. I think that if teachers are uncomfortable with this that they perhaps should take only students who start around 7 or 8 years of age.

I tell parents that it is best not to have a siblings, or others, in the room. Occasionally the sibling(s) might have to be there due to circumstances, but it isn't fair to the student or the teacher to have this distraction. (I have short essays on these things in print, and give them out at the early lessons.) Goodness knows, I've had people bring all sorts of family members to lessons. The student is constantly darting his/her eyes around to see what's going on. And what to do about dear Grandma who just wants to say cute things to the student while they are playing? You'll look pretty mean throwing her out! Best to write it ahead of time. If the issue is whether or not the store will support you, you might give a copy to the manager in advance so they know about it, too.

There are times when I just need to have the studio free of all distractions, and develop a bond with the student, but usually that is around the age of 8.

There are kids who can work on homework quietly while their sibling takes a lesson, but you don't have this option due to the small space.


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I don't have experience working in a store, but in private lessons, I now make it a stated policy that parents of young children can come along to lessons (just one parent, not the whole family) for the first three lessons. This is until we are all acquainted and the child is comfortable coming into the condo and staying the whole lesson on their own. I inform the parents that students feel less pressure on them when there aren't so many people in the room to perform for. Also, the students often use the parents as a distraction during lessons to get out of focused lesson time. Finally, if there are siblings around in addition, it's almost impossible to have a quiet time of concentration on only piano. If the parent or the student are uncomfortable with this, they are invited to come in once a month to the last 5 minutes of the lesson to see a small "performance" and overview of what has been accomplished. Parents are welcomed to do this as often as necessary, but it's recommended that this is limited, to allow the full 30 minutes to be used each time.

I may have different standards, because I live in a condo, and my youngest students are 6 years old. But I have had to develop this policy based on disasters in the past. If I had a waiting room, as I used to in the church where I worked, that was a preferable setup, by far.


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THanks to all for sharing your experiences. I can understand the first month or so, but with the limited space, it is very difficult to move around, especially when I perform duets with the child. I neglected to mention that often some of the parents do answer for the child, and intervene during instructions, which may be the reason I am feeling distressed. How do you tell the parent to keep a low profile? I've already spoken to one on several occasions, but they still "forget" and get involved. I feel that the student child needs to interact with me, the teacher, for that half hour, not me and the parent.


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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
I neglected to mention that often some of the parents do answer for the child, and intervene during instructions, ......

Maybe mom would prefer to be taking the lesson? I have found some pointed comment such as, "No comments from the peanut gallery, please," to be effective, or say to the student, "I think your mom is more excited about your lesson than you are!"

About parents in lessons: I welcome them, but do stress that they are there to observe so they can help their student with practice, which is great, by the way, but if they have questions, they should be addressed in the first or last 5 minutes of the lesson.


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Absolutely! Since I have tread this minefield so many times, I'll say that it is very difficult to tactfully remind parents not to talk during the lesson. I started saying, at the beginning of the lesson, "We can talk for 5-minute wrap up after the lesson." If that didn't work I might emphasis that I need to have the undivided attention of the student, and please wait until after the lesson to talk to me about the lesson. In my own private studio, I have been bold enough to actually put my hand up as if to say "Please!" You still might send a quick email reminding them that there is no talking during the lesson, but if they have any questions, you'll be happy to talk to them after the lesson. Then, repeat it again when they get there. I've had parents that were near impossible to control. That's something that I would take control of if I were not in your situation. I know you don't have space, but I'll share this for future reference if it helps you. Can you say simply that there is no room in the practice room. Please wait outside; I'll talk to you after the lesson? Then many parents come to the lesson with something to read. Got a magazine to hand them? If you really prefer that they not be in the teaching area, you have to find a way to keep them out while not offending them. plaenty of teachers do this, and I know you can, too, with time.


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Great suggestions, as always, John. I will use that language for the future (please hold questions or comments for the end of the lesson.).


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Lea, thank you so much for the suggestions. I'm afraid it's too late for some parents, but I will keep that in mind for the future. I plan to speak to two of my dads this week to remind them of "etiquette" during lessons. For very young children, I do want the parent there to support the child, or if needed, discipline the child, as well as to see what goes on in the lesson and what is expected between lessons during practice sessions.


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Originally Posted by Lea's Muse-ic
....but if they have any questions, you'll be happy to talk to them after the lesson.

Actually, that's not fair to you. They're paying you for lesson time, not for time after the lesson, so do the discussions on their dime, but no interruptions, please!


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Just tell them the more they interrupt the more it will cost them because the child will learn slower ...

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The main issues I have with it involve the interjections - I always try to give the student adequate time to reach their own conclusions before I prompt them, and the parents will very often think that if they chime in from the other side of the room with a slightly different way of phrasing it, then this will help. Of course, all it serves to do is to confuse the child, and place additional pressure on them.

It is really important to take the opportunity right at the start of the very first lesson to explain to the parent that their role is to observe and nothing else -" ....so no prompting, please, even if you think they're taking ages to answer!"

If you forget to do this - you might find yourself leaving it to the point where you're really ticked off, and then your request for silence will likely come across in overly aggressive manner.

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At the beginning of the lesson - to the parent:

"I would like to try an experiment. Let's see how Susy does for the next month's lessons all by herself while you wait in the lounge. I'll make sure that everything is written in her book for what she needs to practice this week."

I also like the idea of once a month a little performance and evaluation with the parent that last 10 minutes of that lesson.

You are in charge of your lessons.



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lilylady, that's also a great idea.

Ben, I agree. I really like my parents, so, fortunately, I haven't reached the anger stage yet, but I am definitely frustrated. They don't give the student the chance to think through the questions asked--like you said. They want to "speed up the lesson" because the child is "taking too long". It's pretty frustrating.

John, no, it's not fair, b/c I have back to back lessons, so I can't keep the next student waiting. I include questions within the lesson time, unless I have a break in between.


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My answer would be this:

1.) Is the parent any longer able to help their child at home with practicing?

If not then there is no longer any reason for the parent to sit in.

UNLESS ...

2.) The child is very shy or unruly and having the parent there to either support or enforce proper behaviour can be helpful.


If the child is obviously embarassed the parent is there, I politely inform the parent it is healthier for the student to develop their relationship with their teacher one on one and that having the parent in the studio can severely alter the way the student behaves such as ...

1.) The student could be terrified of making mistakes if their parent is strict or teases them in an unhealthy manner.

2.) The parent is just out of control and interrupts the lesson to 'correct' their child on things that just are not as important as other things the teacher is working on.

In summary, it isn't necessary for the parent to be in the studio in many cases and in some cases , having the parent there could be detrimental to the development of the student.

For very young children, having the parent there is almost always acceptable AND advisable. The parent will most likely need to pay attention to help their child at home with practicing.

For the people who are shocked the parent brought along her other child, why shouldn't the parent be allowed to do such a thing? Take this as an opportunity to try to gain a new student and inform the parent that it will be best if the child sits and pays attention to the lesson. Unless you have a daycare set up in your studio, you gotta suck it up and let the child attend the lessson.

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Originally Posted by Ben Crosland
The main issues I have with it involve the interjections - I always try to give the student adequate time to reach their own conclusions before I prompt them, and the parents will very often think that if they chime in from the other side of the room with a slightly different way of phrasing it, then this will help. Of course, all it serves to do is to confuse the child, and place additional pressure on them.

It is really important to take the opportunity right at the start of the very first lesson to explain to the parent that their role is to observe and nothing else -" ....so no prompting, please, even if you think they're taking ages to answer!"

If you forget to do this - you might find yourself leaving it to the point where you're really ticked off, and then your request for silence will likely come across in overly aggressive manner.


Oh God I hate when parents do this ... I once had a father who literally sat directly next to his child, closer to her than I was sitting. He would get mad and try to 'correct' everything she was doing.

And he got frustrated at ME for not 'pointing out all her mistakes' the moment she made them.

"Excuse me sir, your child is 5 years old and she is trying the best she can, please stfu or never come back to my studio again" is what I wanted to say!

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