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Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
Liz7 #1782485 11/03/11 03:32 PM
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Aren't parents and teachers supposed to be on the same team? Somehow from this thread I sense teachers don't like us parents. confused

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Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
C.Y. #1782495 11/03/11 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by C.Y.
Aren't parents and teachers supposed to be on the same team? Somehow from this thread I sense teachers don't like us parents. confused


Most parents are fine. There are just some parents' traits that piano teachers will find offensive and/or troublesome. Here are some obvious ones:

1) Don't challenge the teacher's teaching abilities.
2) Don't question the teacher's teaching style in front of the kids.
3) Don't second-guess the teacher's decisions.
4) Don't undermine the teacher, period.

I just spent 20 minutes on the phone today with one parent who is so CLUELESS about what it takes to pass CM advanced level, and she questioned everything I said to her as if I don't know what I'm talking about. Why can't these parents just TRUST ME?????


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Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
Liz7 #1782504 11/03/11 04:01 PM
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I really think its an 80/20 analysis. 20 percent (or less) of the parents cause 80 percent of the problems. Personally, I have no problem with parents watching the lesson and actively encourage it in many cases, but there's a clear distinction. I'm there to teach and that's what I'm paid for. When the parent interrupts, if its really out of hand, you turn to them, point to yourself and say "Teacher" point to them and say "Parent".

OK maybe don't do this in every instance but sometimes therapy is needed. And really, in extreme cases you're doing a parent a favor by clueing them in. That might sound harsh but, after having had parents scream at me on my front porch for no reason, lecture me concerning why their child is a genius, etc. etc. you simply have to accept that some people won't get it and never will.

I think the majority of parents are extremely helpful and I love them. But with the crazy ones, I don't think you're ever going to change the dynamic of a family interaction. Its best to accept that and move on with your life. Just my own two cents.



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Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
C.Y. #1782506 11/03/11 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by C.Y.
Aren't parents and teachers supposed to be on the same team? Somehow from this thread I sense teachers don't like us parents. confused


No we are on the same team! Its just a matter of who is team captain sometimes :-) As far as I'm concerned, I'm blessed with some truly amazing parents and children. They work hard, are positive and supportive.


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Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
pianomcl #1782517 11/03/11 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by pianomcl
Originally Posted by C.Y.
Aren't parents and teachers supposed to be on the same team? Somehow from this thread I sense teachers don't like us parents. confused


No we are on the same team! Its just a matter of who is team captain sometimes :-) As far as I'm concerned, I'm blessed with some truly amazing parents and children. They work hard, are positive and supportive.


I agree here. Remember, C.Y., we are talking about the parent in the OP here and ones like that. These parents undermine what we are trying to do with their child rather than be a team player. It's then about managing that parent who refuses to cooperate, not us refusing to cooperate with them.


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Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
AZNpiano #1782527 11/03/11 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano

2) Don't question the teacher's teaching style in front of the kids.

That is at least close to the MOST destructive thing.

Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
Gary D. #1782529 11/03/11 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by AZNpiano

2) Don't question the teacher's teaching style in front of the kids.

That is at least close to the MOST destructive thing.


I have a feeling this is an age issue. Maybe when I become 45 this problem will just go away.


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Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
AZNpiano #1782537 11/03/11 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by AZNpiano

2) Don't question the teacher's teaching style in front of the kids.

That is at least close to the MOST destructive thing.


I have a feeling this is an age issue. Maybe when I become 45 this problem will just go away.

Don't bet on it. I have experienced some parents who see me as a "servant" or somehow a lesser person since I'm offering a service and they are paying me. It has nothing to do with age, but attitude/respect.


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Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
AZNpiano #1782541 11/03/11 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano

I have a feeling this is an age issue. Maybe when I become 45 this problem will just go away.

Age has a lot to do with it. So does personality type. smile

Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
Morodiene #1782549 11/03/11 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Don't bet on it. I have experienced some parents who see me as a "servant" or somehow a lesser person since I'm offering a service and they are paying me. It has nothing to do with age, but attitude/respect.

Yes, BUT: when you are old enough to be the PARENT of most of the parents, you get less crap. Trust me on that! wink

That's one of the few perks of becoming an old f***. laugh

Last edited by Gary D.; 11/03/11 05:07 PM.
Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
Morodiene #1782553 11/03/11 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene

Don't bet on it. I have experienced some parents who see me as a "servant" or somehow a lesser person since I'm offering a service and they are paying me. It has nothing to do with age, but attitude/respect.


Yea this is annoying. Same category as people who ask "Why do you care if I practice? I'm paying you for the lessons." I think piano teachers are sort of like personal trainers . . . part of what you're paying for us to kick you in the pants when needed.

I also think some people underestimate the skills and context of a piano teacher. This probably sounds stubborn to some, but the fact is that when you work with hundreds of students over many years you simply know what will work and what won't. I never want people to take me on faith, and its always good to learn and work on your teaching approach, but when a parent or a student questions your every move it can get tiresome very quickly.



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Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
Gary D. #1782598 11/03/11 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
The issue of parents in the room is complicated. We have had many discussion about that issue here, and often the decision about how to work with parents says as much about the personality of the teacher as it does about the nature of the parents.

True, but isn't your *personal* experience mostly limited to what you have seen, as a parent, in lessons?


Actually, no. I'm pretty active in the local music community here, and I know most of the teachers. That extends my understanding well beyond my own limited personal experience with my son's small number of teachers. But I take your point, nonetheless. We all have our blind spots, of course, and open discussion here sometimes reminds me of my own.

I think what started me wondering about his thread was that quote I put up. That nugget suggested to me a parent well within the norm of behavior out there. Yet a chunk of the thread evolved as just another groaning session about nasty controlling parents. C.Y. rather delicately made the same point as I did.

The OP has the genuine personal experience here, and she asked for advice on how to handle the situation. That's fine. But her comment about the parent in question having a mental illness sure doesn't predispose toward having a level headed discussion on an internet forum. And when the thread evolves back toward general parent pissing, that gets a bit dispiriting.

I'm sure many a teacher "out there," and many a teacher "in here," would have been unable to work with me. That's fine. It's part of my point that the teacher must find their own comfort zone, retaining only the students whose behavior is acceptable, and whose families don't drive him or her crazy.That zone may not fully match the zone that other teachers find comfortable.

But my antennae always go up when the OP uses very strong language, language that I find a bit excessive and potentially full of hyperbole. When you begin from the presumption that someone is heck on earth, and mentally unstable to boot, what's the point of talking about it. Just get rid of the family. Case closed.

Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
Liz7 #1782842 11/04/11 01:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
The issue of parents in the room is complicated. We have had many discussion about that issue here, and often the decision about how to work with parents says as much about the personality of the teacher as it does about the nature of the parents.

True, but isn't your *personal* experience mostly limited to what you have seen, as a parent, in lessons?


Actually, no. I'm pretty active in the local music community here, and I know most of the teachers. That extends my understanding well beyond my own limited personal experience with my son's small number of teachers.


Knowing a lot of teachers & knowing what they actually are "thinking" can be two very different things! Unless you are a "mind reader"!!!! grin

I think if the FIRST interview is well explained about the direction that the teacher & the parent(student should be asked if they agree with the direction too) then the stage is usually set. But if both sides have not clearly made their case for the direction in the beginning, then that's when issues of direction will and can get fuzzy.

I do enjoy the "respect" we teachers get. Shouldn't maybe admit this, but being put up on a pedestial is rather a nice place to be!!!! ... but has a lot of responsibilty that goes along with being placed there. We have an obligation to get that student to their destination & who better to know that direction than the teacher.

I would like to see parents come into the lesson now & then just to check up on me. Without announcing you are coming to sit in on the lesson is always a good thing for parents to do occasionally I think. Trust the teacher, but visit without any announcement once in a while. That would be a good "parent" practice (pun intended) grin

But back to the "parent" thing, there are parents who have issues, but don't punish the child by removing them from your teaching (if you can help it) because the parent is a bit crazy! That was my initial point.


Last edited by Diane...; 11/04/11 01:40 AM.

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Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
Piano*Dad #1782860 11/04/11 02:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
[
I'm pretty active in the local music community here, and I know most of the teachers. That extends my understanding well beyond my own limited personal experience with my son's small number of teachers.

Yes, your experience goes beyond that, but I honestly believe that those of us who teach piano, day in and day out, go through minor nightmares that don't completely come across second-hand. We can talk about them to you, and I'm sure you will listen, but sometimes the frustration is nearly unbearable and never fully describable. Obviously we get through it, or we would not continue, but it can really be rough.

Now, it is also true that frequently we do not know have a clue about what is really true in forums. People join, post, present situations, and we usually get only one side. There are people I know well here, and when they say that parent X or parent Y is a grade-A pain in the butt, I believe them.

However, I also understand the need for people to blow off steam here. I generally talk very little about parents or students that I deal with, personally, because I never know who may be visiting this forum, which is open to anyone.

I do know that I have been driven to my own breaking point in the past, and many times I did not see it coming. It would be very simple if the students who are most impossible to work with were paired with impossible parents, or vice versa, but so many times we have students we really like, who really show promise, and their parents are NUTS. They really are. And we have fantastic parents who are struggling with very real problems with their kids. Often we like some of these kids, but in the end it is impossible to work with them because they simply will not agree to certain minimum, common-sense rules.

Each of us is ineffective at dealing with different kinds of situations. I have a temper, so if I need to be assertive, all I have to do is to be sure not to get TOO out of control, focus the natural power I have, and I win confrontations. If winning means saying, "I'm through with you, here is your money back, there's the door, leave," I'll do it.

(I don't recommend this behavior to other people!)

My weakness, and I'll bet I share this with a good number of teachers here, is that it is very difficult for me to be "hard" with people who appeal to my "better nature" and appear to be hurting, finanically, emotionally, etc. And those people sometimes get away with much more than they should before I make a decision to terminate lessons.
Originally Posted by Piano*Dad

The OP has the genuine personal experience here, and she asked for advice on how to handle the situation. That's fine, though her comment about the parent in question having a mental illness sure doesn't predispose toward a level headed discussion on an internet forum. But when the thread evolves back toward general parent pissing, that gets a bit dispiriting.

My impression was that the OP was talking about only one parent, so I am quite willing, for now, to at least accept the possibility that this parent may be as hard to deal with as was presented. And if that is not so, I will tell you that *I* have dealt with a few parents who were such unbelievably maddening control freaks that only a saint could deal with it. This does not say that most or even many parents are impossible to deal with, nor does it suggest that there are not just as many teachers who are equally controlling and unreasonable.
Originally Posted by Piano*Dad

But my antennae always go up when the OP uses very strong language, language that I find a bit excessive and potentially full of hyperbole. When you begin from the presumption that someone is heck on earth, and mentally unstable to boot, what's the point of talking about it. Just get rid of the family. Case closed.

Case closed if you don't give a d*** about the student. Case not closed if you really like the student. You can still get rid of the family, but you also slam the door on a kid who will have countless other doors slammed on him because of psycho dad or mom. If you really like the kid, especially if the kid shows great promise as a musician, it's never easy.

In fact, it can be heart-breaking.

Now, if the OP is misrepresenting the situation, the family in question will benefit by changing teachers.

Last edited by Gary D.; 11/04/11 02:41 AM.
Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
Liz7 #1782937 11/04/11 07:35 AM
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With people like this you have to use different tactics. Part of teaching involves effective communication with the parents, no matter what they're like, and some are harder to figure out than others.

If you have degrees, mention them often. If you've studied with big names (or even not big names, but how would she know the difference) drop their name in a conversation whenever possible, and eventually just refer to their first name so they know how close you are/were with this expert. Tell them about how this expert taught you, what they said, etc. with regards to whatever the situation is. Calling upon other authorities and your knowledge gleaned from them will help in their minds to see that you really do know what you're talking about. By now you probably know what objections this parent will raise before you even talk with them, so prepare a little ahead of time and have your 'ammunition' ready.

I think we piano teachers can often be modest about our experience and pedigree, and that can sometimes come across as we are just doing this for fun or we aren't skilled craftsmen. Not excusing their behavior by any means, but you kind of have to fight fire with fire.

And having a good, strong policy that you can refer to helps as well to avoid any arguments. For example, if the parent likes to take advantage of your kindness by calling the day of a lesson and saying, "We're not coming because we're going shopping, can we reschedule?" then you can quote your policy back to them and state this does not count as an excused absence and won't be rescheduled. You'll be glad to see them next week at their regular lesson time. I know your question wasn't about missing lessons, but this is an example of how your policy can work for you. Sometimes you have to have clauses in there to protect yourself against just one parent. Squeaky wheel gets the grease and all.


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Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
pianomcl #1782945 11/04/11 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by pianomcl
Originally Posted by Morodiene

Don't bet on it. I have experienced some parents who see me as a "servant" or somehow a lesser person since I'm offering a service and they are paying me. It has nothing to do with age, but attitude/respect.


Yea this is annoying. Same category as people who ask "Why do you care if I practice? I'm paying you for the lessons." I think piano teachers are sort of like personal trainers . . . part of what you're paying for us to kick you in the pants when needed.

I also think some people underestimate the skills and context of a piano teacher. This probably sounds stubborn to some, but the fact is that when you work with hundreds of students over many years you simply know what will work and what won't. I never want people to take me on faith, and its always good to learn and work on your teaching approach, but when a parent or a student questions your every move it can get tiresome very quickly.



Precisely! It would be nice to be trusted, after all, they are paying us to be the expert here. But if someone seems to question me or my abilities, I step up to the challenge and explain to them exactly why I'm doing what I do. Often that will quell any objections and will instill some faith in the future.

Perhaps this parent left other teachers because they didn't believe those people knew what they were doing...or perhaps they really didn't know and the parent feels they got jipped, and so now they are micromanaging in efforts to make sure their child learns something? Sometimes there's more to it than just what's on the surface. Whenever I'm dealing with someone who wants to control things I understand that it could be done from fear. If you always display a sense of control, that you know what you're doing, calmly explaining why things are the way they are, this can go a long way towards calming their fears and thus giving them the OK to back off and trust you more.


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Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
Morodiene #1783032 11/04/11 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
If you have degrees, mention them often. If you've studied with big names (or even not big names, but how would she know the difference) drop their name in a conversation whenever possible, and eventually just refer to their first name so they know how close you are/were with this expert. Tell them about how this expert taught you, what they said, etc. with regards to whatever the situation is. Calling upon other authorities and your knowledge gleaned from them will help in their minds to see that you really do know what you're talking about.


I already do that to impress the clueless parents. Unfortunately, I have to do it with caution, because one of the big-shot names I mention also teaches locally and has students lining out the door.

One of these clueless parents also has adult onset dotage, so she conveniently forgets all the important stuff I've said to her.


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Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
Liz7 #1783039 11/04/11 10:20 AM
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I would like to address only one particular thing. I have no doubts that there are unreasonable parents or students who have their particular quirks and attitudes. But there is one thing, when it occurs, that could have a remedy. That is the fact that parents signing their child up for music lessons often come into a field they know nothing about. Some things are just basic manners. But misperceptions can also come in, and if nobody ever says anything, can what is obvious to you ever be known? Like, a parent may think it is their role to suggest what you teach because they (think they) know their child's tastes, or because they think they have hired you to do what they want you to do with the child. Or other things. IF you have made it clear what roles and expectations are, then it's probably attitude. But if you haven't, then what should be obvious maybe isn't obvious. I work with customers all the time who have never worked with a professional, and have learned never to take "logical" things for granted. It seems that you have to explain the simplest things.

I am also wondering whether people perceive "roles" and then act out those roles (which they see wrongly). I just had a flashback to when I was tutoring at the students' home. One parent would call his child away to do an errand for him/her mid-lesson, and if answering the door would walk by, flip the door open and walk past, so that I came in to see a retreating back (no greeting). But later on this same parent studied with me, and then I was treated with a high level of respect. We were the same people but we played different roles. I have not stopped being intrigued by this.

Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
Liz7 #1783064 11/04/11 11:08 AM
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Bottom line "You have to BE a piano teacher to understand what it's REALLY like to BE a piano teacher." So as much as you can know what it's like to have children, you first have to HAVE children to KNOW what it's really like!!!! And go thru the experiences of it for real. Talk all you want about knowing, or knowing some piano teacher, but you first have to get into "piano teachers" shoes to really know!!

One time I encountered a freaky situation where I'm sure there was "crazy" issues with the mom. This mom wanted ever piece played without error. I think that is asking too much of a child to expect "every" time to play without error, pause, note perfection, etc.(that's just one of many other demands this mother had) . . you get the picture.

So the student plays at the recital on a "strange" piano, in front of "strange" people, & at a "strange" location. The younger sibling played his pieces perfect (like the mother wanted) but . . . the older sibiling made a "slight" error in his whole performance! I mean extremely "slight"! The mother ignored the child & told him to call a neighbour to pick him up as she was totally humiliated at his performance. This child of 9 years old, telephoned a neighbour to get a ride home as his mother simply "left" the child alone at the recital hall, & she just left with the younger sibling! At one of his lessons, this 9 year old tells me he is seeing a psychiatrist on top of all that! He's having panic attack issues.

Then this same parent calls me up, saying she is cancelling both her children's piano lessons, & announces that SHE would like to take one of those spots because she decided she wants piano lessons for HERSELF!!!!! And she wants me to teach HER!!!!

CRAZY, simply CRAZY!!!!

Guess I could share another story where the parent threw all her daughter's music outside in the snow (misic got ruined) (parent did this on a regular basis and then turned around and made the child buy brand new piano books with her allowance.) The parent threw out any music because her daughter left the music on TOP of the piano instead of "inside" the piano bench. Reason I found out from the student, is "MY" books I leant her never got back to me.

I should write a book!

That's just one category of my "CRAZY" piano teacher experiences! I have more, lots more!!!!

Last edited by Diane...; 11/04/11 12:03 PM.

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Re: Controlling parent who will not let up, need support
Morodiene #1783084 11/04/11 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Precisely! It would be nice to be trusted, after all, they are paying us to be the expert here. But if someone seems to question me or my abilities, I step up to the challenge and explain to them exactly why I'm doing what I do. Often that will quell any objections and will instill some faith in the future.

Perhaps this parent left other teachers because they didn't believe those people knew what they were doing...or perhaps they really didn't know and the parent feels they got jipped, and so now they are micromanaging in efforts to make sure their child learns something? Sometimes there's more to it than just what's on the surface. Whenever I'm dealing with someone who wants to control things I understand that it could be done from fear. If you always display a sense of control, that you know what you're doing, calmly explaining why things are the way they are, this can go a long way towards calming their fears and thus giving them the OK to back off and trust you more.


Thanks for your post, for two reasons.

First, it is not clear at all why the parent behaves the way she does. Maybe it’s a reaction of what she has experienced with previous teachers. Maybe she truly understands her child better than teachers do. Maybe she does have mental illnesses. But we do not know.

Piano teachers see each of the students 30 minutes or 60 minutes a week. Parents spend 100 times that number with their children. How much does a piano teacher know each of the students? How much does a teacher know each parent? Without much knowledge about who these people are and what goes on in their lives, I’d be careful making judgments.

It’s probably more productive helping each other out of tight spots such as the OP is in, without focusing on pinning blames on anyone.

Second, trusting the teaching is a good thing, but only if a teacher is worth trusting. Trust is not a given, it’s earned. A parent sending own child to a teacher is an indication that the parent is willing to trust the teacher, but complete trust may not happen for a while, even a long while. Communications and an open mind help building the trust.

It is clear from many posts on this forum (some parents write about their doubts with teachers, some teachers write about parents questioning their teaching) that sometimes the parent is right. In such cases it would be a big mistake for parents to totally trust the teacher.

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