Piano World Home Page
This is very saddening, and I am going to leave out as much detail as I can to protect the student in question, but I'm really at a loss. There have been no signs of physical abuse, but the 11 year old told me of a parent threatening to put her on sedating drugs or be lobotomized if she went to a counselor, and that she (the child) has had suicidal thoughts. She is a beautiful, sweet child and I just can't sit by after hearing this. There has been other behavior on part of the parents and the child that makes me believe what she is saying is true. Emotional abuse is not really provable, and I'm afraid if I say something then the parents will remove her from my studio and I will be of no help. As it is, they will be moving out of the area and we have talked about continuing lessons on Skype. Of course, I'm not qualified to help her in any way other than encourage her and let her vent.

What would you do?
Oh boy...

While doing my PhD I was somewhat trained on what to do with such situations, but:
1. I was dealing with adults
and
2. I had the university of London behind me and tons of people behind me.

In this case you're alone, which means that you don't have anyone to back you up, unless your community, or state, or something has specific ways to deal with that. The fact that the student is talking to you about her issues is already a plus, and she doesn't understand that there are issues to be dealt! In a little while she might be ready to deal with the problems on her own, by searching for 'real help' outside a piano studio.

I know that it's not much help, but apart from having a close(r) relationship with the student and trying to keep in touch, I'm not sure here's a lot you can do, unless you can report it somewhere (which won't solve much either unfortunately)
Ya, child protection services here are often worse or just as bad in different ways, so I don't think that is a solution. This girl just started lessons with me a few months ago, and I would love to at least keep the lessons going because she really loves them and it would give her some hope outside of her home life.
Originally Posted by Morodiene
but the 11 year old told me of a parent threatening to put her on sedating drugs or be lobotomized if she went to a counselor

What would you do?


For one thing I would assure the child that sedatives and surgery are not up to the whim of a parent. I would also let her know that I'm sad to hear that her parent is threatening her.

I would consider initiating a discussion with the parent. Ask how the child is doing in school, ask if she seems to have problems, does she seem to be happy etc. See if the parent mentions any problems. If the parent brings up problems then you might suggest that family couseling can help with issues especially with pre-teens etc. (Not blaming parent).

Originally Posted by Morodiene
Ya, child protection services here are often worse or just as bad in different ways, so I don't think that is a solution. This girl just started lessons with me a few months ago, and I would love to at least keep the lessons going because she really loves them and it would give her some hope outside of her home life.


You are a positive influence in her life. I would not approach the parent yet. Give this more time, as you say she just started lessons with you a few months ago.
Sometimes kids exaggerate, and also, parents can spout off things they don't really mean, in the heat of an argument, perhaps. Does the student say why her parents get angry with her? Not practicing? Not doing chores or homework?
Originally Posted by Morodiene
but the 11 year old told me that she (the child) has had suicidal thoughts.

What would you do?


You might want to determine how far the suicidal thoughts have gone. Ask how frequently and how recently she has thought of suicide. Ask whether she has made any plans regarding suicide. What you find out will help you determine how serious the threat is.
you are a big asset and a potential life saver.

will write further later.. first do no harm .. let her be with you.

think about it alot.. child protective services can be as bad as the parent.
Some of the typical signs of emotional abuse are fear and anxiety, shyness, lack of eye contact, low self esteem, lack of confidence, difficulty trusting others.... I think if this is a case of emotional abuse, the best thing you can do for her is show that you are non-judgmental and willing to listen if she wants to talk.
Originally Posted by Ann in Kentucky
Originally Posted by Morodiene
but the 11 year old told me of a parent threatening to put her on sedating drugs or be lobotomized if she went to a counselor

What would you do?


For one thing I would assure the child that sedatives and surgery are not up to the whim of a parent. I would also let her know that I'm sad to hear that her parent is threatening her.

I would consider initiating a discussion with the parent. Ask how the child is doing in school, ask if she seems to have problems, does she seem to be happy etc. See if the parent mentions any problems. If the parent brings up problems then you might suggest that family couseling can help with issues especially with pre-teens etc. (Not blaming parent).



These are all good ideas.
Notify the authorities. Let them deal with it.
OMG, rarely have I seen such a plethora of conflicting advice, each thought with a nugget of reason behind it. Morodiene, my heart goes out to you whatever you decide to do.

There may be some value in at least approaching the parents, as so far you have only one side to the story. You are not really in a position to be 'diagnosing' problems, unless you also have specialist training in this. Children can and do commit suicide - if this has been mentioned, then doing nothing doesn't seem like an option.

This is all so much easier when social services are reasonable. Do you have real reason not to trust them, or is it they have a bad press locally? Only bad stories hit the headlines.
My conflicted musings on an important matter...

1. You can give this girl the phone number of a crisis hotline for young people, and the name of a school system counselor, and explain about each. Tell her you or your kids/siblings/etc. have used such avenues yourself (even if you're lying), and make it clear that these are valuable lifelines in our society, and can be very important and healthy for us all. They exist for a reason. Stress to this girl that life can be hard, and we are do better when we share our hurts with someone we trust.


2. I would *not* speak to the parents, from what you have described. Speak to them and your piano relationship with this child will cease more quickly than if you involved outside authorities.

3. Conversely, if one of the parents seems decent, and there is a chance the girl is melodramatic in her speech, you might indeed share your concerns with said parent.

4. I believe most jurisdictions in N. America make it incumbent on teachers to report things like this to outside authorities. IOW, taking action is part of your job. Independent piano teachers arguably fall in a grey area of responsibility, but many choose to observe the concept.

5. Trust your gut, and don't wait long for these issues simply to outgrow themselves.

Morodiene, in the medical community, we do NOT take any suicidal thoughts or ideations lightly ! Teens/pre-teens can be dramatic and emotionally unstable, but I would not easily dismiss what she has told you (not implying that you have!)

You can always call a crisis hotline yourself and explain what she has confided in you- they can help determine whether or not this is just mindless talk or if she's seriously thought about it as a way out.

I would act on this. It's always after the fact that people lament not having foreseen the awful consequence.

I definitely do NOT take what she said lightly. As I said, I have seen other signs of this in her actions to believe every word she has said.

A good friend of mine worked in the FL school system and told me that the child protection services here are awful and not a good option for her. I feel that the parents would definitely pull her out of lessons and thus deprive her of the one enjoyment she has if I confronted them. She is home-schooled, having been bullied in the public schools. Unfortunately, it seems the same thing is happening at home. She says that she does her school work and her chores, but her mother accused her of not doing it, thus the whole argument yesterday about no longer taking lessons.

I must say as a side note, I'm VERY glad I have a 30 day cancellation policy, otherwise I would never see this student again! However, the mother told the daughter *she* would have to pay back the money for lessons this month, even though the mother is the one who entered into the contract.

After sleeping on it and reading what others have said, I really think the best thing I can do for this child is to give her hope. She loves music and I'd hate to do something to cause her to lose that. The idea of a suicide hotline though is excellent and I will track down information to give to her should she need it.

I also feel I need to keep my relationship with the parents business only. However, I feel I need to share with the mother especially how talented her daughter is and how much I'd love to continue working with her to develop her abilities.
Morodiene, it sounds like a good plan and I trust your judgment. Here is a link to a suicide hotline: http://suicidehotlines.com/

When I googled "suicide hotline" a site also came up for my city. So if you google it you may find a local number too.
With homeschooling you have the additional situation of a parent not necessarily knowing how to govern student behaviour. Schools themselves have a problem and resort to threats such as withdrawal of grades, suspension, detention, homework as punishment, and in the old days things such as standing in a corner facing the wall or wearing a dunce cap. That's why part of teacher training consists of educational psychology and behaviour management. Kids who have been homeschooled from the start usually work in a self-disciplined manner. There is a rule of thumb among homeschooling parents that for every year a child has been schooled, it takes one month to settle into homeschooling. Thus for someone in grade 9 this would be almost the entire first year, i.e. a possibly difficult year for all concerned.

The role of a homeschooling parent can be stressful and demanding. The parent may not have adequate parenting skills let alone being able to deal with teaching at home. Thus these various threats (which I'd find scary as a child of any age). Having the child pay the lessons back may be a misguided way of "teaching responsibility" for example.

When I homeschooled I was part of an organization and thus had the support of other parents as well as a number of former teachers and one school principal. There was emotional support, ideas on handling various problems in intelligent ways, and even the kids got to know each other so that they were not isolated. Of course a troubled (abusive) family might seek isolation even from such a group. On the other hand, perhaps there is some need for parenting support/guidance as well as guidance in this challenging parent-teacher role.

Offered just in case it has any bearing.
Thanks Ann and keystring! These things are very helpful. I spoke with a psychologist friend of mine just now and he confirmed that lessons should be a safe house for her. I shouldn't bring up things unless the students wishes to talk, but to just give her the lessons that she loves and try to keep them going.

I do feel like the parents want to isolate the children (there are younger siblings) as they seem to move around the country a lot. Every week it seems the daughter comes in telling me that they're moving to various places around the country/world next. All of those challenges with homeschooling aside, the child is feeling very hurt by her mother's words and it is the mother who is the adult here, therefore she needs to recognize that her words and actions are not acceptable. However, that is going to be the battle for this student to figure out. If I get involved I can't prove anything and would only serve to isolate the child further and deprive her of the lessons she loves.
Hi

While it may complicate things, I would think that your student would appreciate knowing that she could reach you outside of lesson times if she is in great difficulty and doesn't know what else to do. Sounds like she is fairly isolated. And she is only 11.

Forstergirl
Originally Posted by Morodiene
A good friend of mine worked in the FL school system and told me that the child protection services here are awful and not a good option for her.

She is home-schooled, having been bullied in the public schools.


You may not be aware that these two go together.

Many homeschoolers (not all, but a disproportionate number I've run into recently) have extremely negative attitudes toward child protective services, regardless how good or bad they may be locally. It is a religious moral issue to them and you have no chance of a rational conversation.

I'm not suggesting it's time to call CPS, but someday there could be a time when you have a duty to do so, and you should not start with such a bias towards them.
TimR, I thought Morodiene was saying her student is homeschooled, not her friend who gave her advice about CPS.
Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
TimR, I thought Morodiene was saying her student is homeschooled, not her friend who gave her advice about CPS.


Correct. My friend, who taught in the public school system here in the area said that about CPS when I discussed this with her.
Originally Posted by Morodiene
She says that she does her school work and her chores, but her mother accused her of not doing it, thus the whole argument yesterday about no longer taking lessons.


Morodiene, I don't think you explained to us this story wrinkle about possibly ceasing lessons. What's the deal? Was daughter threatened with no more piano lessons because Mom claimed she had not done her chores and schoolwork? Are there mother/daughter issues alongside the emotional abuse, or is Pop part of the problem too? Is he off winning the bread, or an engaged parent?

I like your idea of letting both parents know what a fine student their daughter is, and how much the two of you are accomplishing at the keyboard.
It's hard to know if what the 11 year old tells you is true or not and I agree with those who say to let her enjoy her lessons as a safe place.

One more idea for you: let the student know that she can talk to her pediatrician about this. She might tell her parents that she hasn't been feeling well and ask to be taken to the doctor. If she can't get time alone with the pediatrician (best choice), she can bring it up right in front of her Mom. The doc should know what to do at that point.
Presumably the child's parents are paying for the piano lessons, which she loves, transporting her to and from the lessons, possibly have purchased a piano for her to practice on? If so, strange behaviour for abusive parents...just a thought.
Originally Posted by Morodiene
This is very saddening, and I am going to leave out as much detail as I can to protect the student in question, but I'm really at a loss. There have been no signs of physical abuse, but the 11 year old told me of a parent threatening to put her on sedating drugs or be lobotomized if she went to a counselor, and that she (the child) has had suicidal thoughts. She is a beautiful, sweet child and I just can't sit by after hearing this. There has been other behavior on part of the parents and the child that makes me believe what she is saying is true. Emotional abuse is not really provable, and I'm afraid if I say something then the parents will remove her from my studio and I will be of no help. As it is, they will be moving out of the area and we have talked about continuing lessons on Skype. Of course, I'm not qualified to help her in any way other than encourage her and let her vent.

What would you do?

Here's what I would do: I would think about it a lot, and it would eat my up inside.

There are CRAZY people in this world, and some of them, too many, are parents. This puts us in a helpless position, because any attempt to help can be seen as an attack, which just makes crazier people crazier. And then they take it out on their kids.

I have no advise. Just empathy for the situation you are in. frown
Slightly OT, some five years ago my nieces eldest daughter was eleven years old, she and her younger sibling had enjoyed the benefit of doting parents, no expense spared, from birth...and still do.

One day my niece was late dropping the children off at their school, the eldest girls excuse to her teacher for being late was that her mother had thrown a chair at her which had hit her head!!.

My niece was busy in her office when the Social Service people arrived to say the girl had been taken into temporary care until the matter had been verified...guilty until proven innocent.

The girl eventually admitted the had made the story up to avoid detention for being late, but the Social Service people still took some convincing, there being no sign of injury to the girls head being the deciding factor.

The girl is now a normal, seemingly well adjusted, sixteen year old teenager, we'll never know why she did that, she doesn't know herself.
Originally Posted by bluebilly
guilty until proven innocent.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of abuse cases go unnoticed and/or un-notified to authorities. If we as a society were to err, shouldn't we err on the side that advocates for children? Even if the child in question is telling blatant lies and gross exaggerations, when the truth is revealed, wouldn't the child be the one in deep trouble, at least to her parents?
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by bluebilly
guilty until proven innocent.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of abuse cases go unnoticed and/or un-notified to authorities. If we as a society were to err, shouldn't we err on the side that advocates for children?


Precisely.

This thread has unfortunately trashed an entire profession of dedicated overworked and underpaid people on the basis of a couple anecdotes.

Yes, it can happen that a child is temporarily removed from innocent parents. But there is considerable oversight and these children are quickkly returned.

It is not a case of the parent being guilty until proven otherwise, but of the child deserving protection until proven otherwise.

These workers see the worst parents every day, children with broken bones, burns, sexual abuse, everything; when things turn ugly they can only hope police will arrive on time.

And they see mistaken or deliberately false allegations every day, too, and learn to get past them and on to the real work as quickly as they can.

Home schoolers are a special case. Piano teachers probably see a lot of them. Lessons are a natural addition to the home curriculum, and these kids are available during the day. My point was that for some homeschoolers, you can expect an irrational overreaction twards CPS. And if you get any information about CPS from a homeschooler, it will be negative even though they've never had any personal contact. They get a lot of newsletters with horror stories.

Originally Posted by TimR
My point was that for some homeschoolers, you can expect an irrational overreaction twards CPS. And if you get any information about CPS from a homeschooler, it will be negative even though they've never had any personal contact.

TimR, how extensive is your contact with homeschoolers? I don't know if there is a big difference between the United States and Canada. My experience spans 10 years. There are two general populations: the religious type that homeschools because of religous values - a rather liberal-minded type that homeschools for a variety of reasons. When homeschoolers network, they can access educational resources such as museum programs; art, music, gymnastic, language programs open to groups, etc. In those 10 years I never ran into attitudes toward the CPS or other agencies. However, 15 - 20 years back homeschooling was not as accepted by the authorities, and some sought to frighten parents into re-enrolling their children by citing non-existent laws. One tactic was to tell parents that if their children did not attend school then the children would be removed from their parents. If that is still happening where you are, then I can see that kind of reaction. That's not irrational hostility in this case. In fact, I remember when I got that kind of phone call. This was a fact and not a strange attitude toward CPS. I would not expect that to be happening now, at least over here.
Originally Posted by bluebilly
Slightly OT, some five years ago my nieces eldest daughter was eleven years old, she and her younger sibling had enjoyed the benefit of doting parents, no expense spared, from birth...and still do.

One day my niece was late dropping the children off at their school, the eldest girls excuse to her teacher for being late was that her mother had thrown a chair at her which had hit her head!!.

My niece was busy in her office when the Social Service people arrived to say the girl had been taken into temporary care until the matter had been verified...guilty until proven innocent.

The girl eventually admitted the had made the story up to avoid detention for being late, but the Social Service people still took some convincing, there being no sign of injury to the girls head being the deciding factor.

The girl is now a normal, seemingly well adjusted, sixteen year old teenager, we'll never know why she did that, she doesn't know herself.


Bluebilly that reminds me of a situation growing up. My elderly grandmother lived with us and in her 80's she was hospitalized. A nurse asked my mom how grandma got bruises on her arms. Mom said "That's from where I beat her." (Really not funny, but Mom thought it was). As it turned out the nurse just glared accusingly at mom.

BTW elderly folks on coumadin can bruise VERY easily...so they probably figured that out.
Originally Posted by bluebilly
Presumably the child's parents are paying for the piano lessons, which she loves, transporting her to and from the lessons, possibly have purchased a piano for her to practice on? If so, strange behaviour for abusive parents...just a thought.


Actually, she is a voice student. And her mother told her that she (the 11 year old) would have to pay for the last month's of lessons, also as a punishment. I know very well what abusive behavior looks like. I'm sure her parents are doing their best, but when they feel out of control, they lash out by taking away what they know the child loves in order to 'reign them in'.

Some other posters have implied that the student was lying. From what I've seen about her, she displays typical behavior of an abused child: somewhat shy, very reserved emotionally, extremely mature for her age, and her home life from what she has told me seems very scattered and inconsistent (not consistent in showing up for lessons or lesson payments), the mother avoids me by not answering my phone calls or emails and then has the child respond to me, things like that. So it's not just the student's word for it, but all the evidence put together. That on top of the fact that when a child is crying hysterically and telling you she wants to kill herself, you don't dismiss that as crocodile tears.
Originally Posted by keystring

TimR, how extensive is your contact with homeschoolers? I don't know if there is a big difference between the United States and Canada. My experience spans 10 years.


I suspect there are vast cultural and regulatory differences between the US and Canada.

In the US regulation is state by state. A large number of states either have no requirement or require only notifications. A handful require notification and some test scores. Only six (of fifty) require an approved curriculum.

My impression is that homeschooling has expanded dramatically over the past ten years in the US. Certainly the attitudes of the people I have contact with have changed dramatically. Of course that's a small population, but it's caused me to do a bit of research. 20 years ago I used to run into people who like you say had liberal attitudes and homeschooled for various reasons - now it's mostly for religious and political reasons, and these tend to be towards the extreme conservative ends of both. (They no longer take kids out of "public" schools, they remove them from "government brainwashing.") Some of them still do an excellent job but I have concerns about the long term trends. Hopefully the ones you run into are more moderate.
Originally Posted by TimR
Some of them still do an excellent job but I have concerns about the long term trends. Hopefully the ones you run into are more moderate.

My children are now in their mid-twenties, so I haven't stayed on top of it since they entered and graduated from high school. There was a lot of positive feedback by the high school on their experience with homeschoolers entering the system for the first time. Our own decision came when I found my five year old wandering the streets two blocks from the school rather than the kindergarten where I had placed him, the teacher unaware that one of her pupils was missing and unapologetic. We got a copy of the curriculum guidelines and met those objectives so that at any time the boys could enter school and have the same academic background as their peers.

In the middle of this the province had an "educational reform" where grade 13 disappeared, and every subject was effectively brought down one grade. Thus the grade 9 kids were doing math that the year before kids were doing in grade 10, i.e. squeezing two grades into one year. Teachers admitted that the "university stream" math. should be avoided since it was close to an impossibility. We were spared that since our guys were a head anyway. We were spared teacher strikes, turmoil, and politics happening at the time. Those only hit us once the boys entered school and we had to join teachers and parents fighting to keep the programs open. I got to do a lot of tutoring as schooled kids tried to cope with the reforms. (Sorry about the digression, folks.)
Morodiene, in your safe studio you are literally giving this young girl a voice. That is profound. You might even offer to see her twice a week instead of just once, and call it a scholarship. Keep yourself part of the sphere of influence, if at all possible.

We're with you.
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by bluebilly
Presumably the child's parents are paying for the piano lessons, which she loves, transporting her to and from the lessons, possibly have purchased a piano for her to practice on? If so, strange behaviour for abusive parents...just a thought.


Actually, she is a voice student. And her mother told her that she (the 11 year old) would have to pay for the last month's of lessons, also as a punishment. I know very well what abusive behavior looks like. I'm sure her parents are doing their best, but when they feel out of control, they lash out by taking away what they know the child loves in order to 'reign them in'.

Some other posters have implied that the student was lying. From what I've seen about her, she displays typical behavior of an abused child: somewhat shy, very reserved emotionally, extremely mature for her age, and her home life from what she has told me seems very scattered and inconsistent (not consistent in showing up for lessons or lesson payments), the mother avoids me by not answering my phone calls or emails and then has the child respond to me, things like that. So it's not just the student's word for it, but all the evidence put together. That on top of the fact that when a child is crying hysterically and telling you she wants to kill herself, you don't dismiss that as crocodile tears.


I am NOT saying that your instincts are wrong. You know the girl, and it does sound like there are a lot of signs that something is wrong.

Still, I felt that I should say that your description of her temperament (shy, emotionally reserved, mature for her age, scattered home life) sounds a lot like me as a child, and I can only describe my parents as loving. I am still close to them. I was just one of those kids who struggled socially and was way too sensitive from a very young age, crying at pretty music and the like. But I was the oldest of five children, and a somewhat serious, responsible type of child, so all of it just came together. Also, my parents are pretty scatter-brained, a trait I have unfortunately inherited from them. We were not infrequently forgetting about piano lessons or just tardy.

Which is to say, sometimes something is going on, and sometimes it isn't. I think there's enough information in this thread to help you make a good decision, but ultimately, you're the one who is best equipped to make it. I did like the advice of suggesting the girl talk to a crisis hotline or a school counselor, someone better suited to dealing with things like this than a piano teacher.

Also, if her parents are ending her lessons, how would you feel about teaching her for free over Skype? Otherwise, your influence over her may end, and if she really cares about piano, she may feel even more isolated and hopeless. Not to say you have to, but it may be something to consider.
Originally Posted by Peter K. Mose
Morodiene, in your safe studio you are literally giving this young girl a voice. That is profound. You might even offer to see her twice a week instead of just once, and call it a scholarship. Keep yourself part of the sphere of influence, if at all possible.

We're with you.


+1
Originally Posted by Minniemay
Originally Posted by Peter K. Mose
Morodiene, in your safe studio you are literally giving this young girl a voice. That is profound. You might even offer to see her twice a week instead of just once, and call it a scholarship. Keep yourself part of the sphere of influence, if at all possible.

We're with you.


+1


+1
The public schools usually have clear guidelines for teachers when suspecting child abuse. These guidelines may also work well for private teachers. You might be able to find out by calling the school district or the child's school. Even though the social services may not be as good as one hopes for, they are still more experienced dealing with such issues than individual teachers. It's not a regular teacher's responsibility, nor in his/her training, to prove abuse and to be the counselor for the kid. If you feel strongly that there is abuse, you should report. Others (school psychologists, police, whoever is appropriate in this case) should follow up.
"...You can always call a crisis hotline yourself and explain what she has confided in you- they can help determine whether or not this is just mindless talk or if she's seriously thought about it as a way out..."

"...I would act on this. It's always after the fact that people lament not having foreseen the awful consequence..."


Being in the Deep South, besides the legal authorities people often turn to clergy for advice in situations of doubt. Even if you are not a member yourself, it's a resource you can probably utilize, and many of these guys do have some training in the practical aspects.

I can well understand how you can feel loath to take any of the suboptimal choices you see. Maybe there are more options than you are aware of; for example, some sort of mentoring program, or an outreach for at-risk kids.

A child who speaks openly about killing herself is at risk, and really needs to--- at least--- be evaluated by a person trained in how to help. I'm loath to offer much advice, but if she mentions this again, you might ask if she has thought of how she intends to make this happen, and in what way she imagines things would be better afterward, if she did. And possibly, ask if she could think of anything besides this she might do that could improve things in her life.

Her answers to these questions (if she has any) would help the trained professional you turn to, to figure out what's going on and how best to help.

If I, personally, heard a person speaking about ending his life and was willing to ask these few probing questions, I would also feel I needed to add my encouragement, and to urge the person to put these thoughts away from himself. Even to take one little step away is healthier.

But, I don't really remember what the world looks like to a person of such a young age, nor have I the special training. That it why I think it is most important at the present for you to get advice... and not just to ask a website.

Well... best of luck.
Originally Posted by bluebilly
Presumably the child's parents are paying for the piano lessons, which she loves, transporting her to and from the lessons, possibly have purchased a piano for her to practice on? If so, strange behaviour for abusive parents...just a thought.



Abusive parents generally behave non-rationally.

One characteristic is that they tend to display completely different behaviour to outsiders and to insiders, and from one moment to the next. The same person who proudly polishes the family car in the street, bragging to the neighbour about their child's achievements, will - ten minutes later, and behind closed doors - put an axe through the family's refrigerator or a child's bed, or indeed the piano, blaming the mother or the child for their rage/action with some twisted excuse for logic.

Unfortunately for the child concerned, it's impossible to meet all the demands of an emotionally abusive parent. Abusive parents are seeking an outlet for their malady, so if the child meets the demands already made, the parent will just invent a new demand that hasn't been met. It's not about the child, it's about the parent, but the child doesn't know that.

There may be one parent that is the main abuser, while the other parent tries to do nice things for the child (sometimes 'out of sight' of the abuser) but effectively consents to the abuse by not doing anything about it.

The best thing for the child is to have an adult who is normal to turn to. This has many advantages for the child. It's an escape, it soothes, it provides the child with a representation of normality that they do not otherwise have (incredibly important for their long-term well-being), and it's a place of safety when things get seriously bad.

The thing an abusive parent fears most is loss of power and control, and public humiliation, through exposure. I'd be very wary of any form of exposure unless there is a certainty of follow through e.g. children's services.

[In my home, the consenting parent bought a £30 piano, and the abusive parent wielded the axe. In my case, the intervention was by my headmistress, who approached local childrens' services.]


Originally Posted by Eglantine
Abusive parents generally behave non-rationally.

One characteristic is that they tend to display completely different behaviour to outsiders and to insiders, and from one moment to the next.

Yes. My mother paid for the piano and lessons, occasionally made me practice, and made derisive comments whenever I did.

Quote
The best thing for the child is to have an adult who is normal to turn to. This has many advantages for the child. It's an escape, it soothes, it provides the child with a representation of normality that they do not otherwise have (incredibly important for their long-term well-being), and it's a place of safety when things get seriously bad.

I agree here also. Sympathetic and understanding teachers were a lifeline for me. I used to wish they would kidnap me and take me home with them. I also spent as much time as I could at friends' houses where things were calm, clean, and safe. I'm still grateful to those parents who put up with my almost constant presence underfoot (and eventually, an insatiable teen-aged appetite as well).

There are many grey-area situations like mine, where teachers & neighbors considered calling childrens' services, but never quite did, probably for lack of persuasive evidence. We were an upper middle class family, us kids attended an exclusive private school, my mother was a minor local celebrity, and I was never hit hard enough to leave visible bruises. What could they tell the authorities?
Tangleweeds, I completely agree about the importance of school and teachers... For many kids, school is the last place they want to be, but for abused kids it's often their only refuge from the 'home' nightmare (particularly where the abusive parent forbids any kind of outside-school contact with other children). My headmistress described my father as a "bloody-minded nightmare", and she was a nice Oxbridge-educated woman who never used extreme language, and never saw other than his 'nicer' public face. She pulled out the stops for me, including through her own contacts and social services to find me a foster family, when she realised what was happening. I owe her a lot.

It's a pity that in this case there is no school/teachers for the child in this case.



Originally Posted by Peter K. Mose
Morodiene, in your safe studio you are literally giving this young girl a voice. That is profound. You might even offer to see her twice a week instead of just once, and call it a scholarship. Keep yourself part of the sphere of influence, if at all possible.

We're with you.


Actually, I do see her twice a week. She is a rare talent and so I had suggested that early on. Usually they keep up with it.

I called up the mother yesterday just to talk and open up the lines of communication between us. I told her that her daughter had told me that she was told to quit voice because she wasn't keeping up with her school work and chores. I told her that I have had students in the past where music becomes all-consuming for them and that I agree 100% that school and chores need to be a priority and backed her up on that. But I also let her know how talented her daughter is (she said that she never sings for her, which is common for kids to be afraid to sing for their parents), and that to stop lesson would be such a shame. She was delighted to hear that her daughter was talented and mentioned that she does fell overwhelmed about home schooling. I suggested that she contact her church to see if anyone there knows of a homeschooling co-op in the area to help her out. I also recommended against entering her daughter into pageants which she had been thinking about doing, as I find them to be pretty destructive to children who are developing artists.

All in all, we had a very good conversation, and she agreed to let her continue lessons with me. They will not be moving from the area for at least another year, and she was fine with doing Skype lessons while I'm back in WI over the summer. I'm glad that we were finally able to talk, and hopefully I have alleviated some of the anxiety that the mom has and will no longer use lessons as a means of manipulation. I also understand her frustration with home schooling and sometimes just being able to tell someone how you feel is huge.
This post, for some reason reminds me of the time my very own teacher was able to label my very first depressive episode. I turned 18, and I guess I was lucky because legally I was an adult, so I had a bit more autonomy. I didn't have issues at home but it took a while for my parents to understand my 'craziness.'I rolled up to lessons, apparently looking very tired, and my teacher cared enough to call me after a lesson to ask what was wrong and I sobbed and told him about what kind of a terrible person I was. I was glad that he was there to listen and direct me to the right help (doctors and the like).

It's good you talked to the mother morodiene. It's also good that you are there for the girl. Sounds like a good resolution. The world needs to be full of caring teachers like you.
Originally Posted by Morodiene

All in all, we had a very good conversation, and she agreed to let her continue lessons with me. They will not be moving from the area for at least another year, and she was fine with doing Skype lessons while I'm back in WI over the summer. I'm glad that we were finally able to talk, and hopefully I have alleviated some of the anxiety that the mom has and will no longer use lessons as a means of manipulation. I also understand her frustration with home schooling and sometimes just being able to tell someone how you feel is huge.


Hi Morodiene, Thanks for updating us. All-in-all, doesn't sound like an abusive situation, possibly a difficult one. In a home-schooling situation, I can easily imagine things getting very tense between mother and daughter, and reasonable discipline (or just attempts to instil responsibility and a work ethic) may come across as quite unreasonable - when told through the eyes of a child, who just needs to let off steam - and who may not have many outlets.

Just as well she has piano lessons!

Edit: But I don't mean to say that it was wrong of you to suspect. Your radar is on. It is quite OK to have suspicions, when something strikes you as abnormal.
Your latest update is certainly a positive one, Morodiene. And with the "instant news and instant solutions" flavor of an Internet discussion board, there's a temptation for us all to smile now and move on to the next PW teaching dilemma.

But of course your vignette remains a deep concern, and doesn't get fixed with one phone chat: a mom may indeed by hurting, but our worries are more about a scared and perhaps desperate little girl.

Our thoughts remain with you and that voice student, as your teaching evolves with her.
Originally Posted by Peter K. Mose
Your latest update is certainly a positive one, Morodiene. And with the "instant news and instant solutions" flavor of an Internet discussion board, there's a temptation for us all to smile now and move on to the next PW teaching dilemma.

But of course your vignette remains a deep concern, and doesn't get fixed with one phone chat: a mom may indeed by hurting, but our worries are more about a scared and perhaps desperate little girl.

Our thoughts remain with you and that voice student, as your teaching evolves with her.


Thank you. This is far from resolved for this girl, I'm sure. But now I have opened the lines of communication with the mom and the child still gets to have her lessons, so it's a step in the right direction. Perhaps at some point the student will make a stand for herself, but that's not my call. All I can do is be a safe place for her.
Sometimes these reactions are just a way of blowing off steam and one has to be careful to jump to any conclusions based on a few discussions with the student. On the other hand, if it is a chronic situation, I would be suspicious that there was something more to it.

My experience has been that often people are so reluctant to deal with an abuse case, that they readily turn the other cheek and assume the child is the problem. I am not suggesting that one should immediately suspect it, but to not close the eyes to it either. In a normal home situation, there will be up and down days. This is to be expected in a family and at that age for a child. But in a bad situation, there will be no ups. Not just for a couple weeks, but there simply are no up days. It's impossible when living in an abusive environment. I am speaking from the view point of having been a child in such a situation.

Be encouraging and, as many others said, to give her a safe place and show that you are prepared to listen if she wants to talk. Trust is especially important. Whether there is abuse or not, stressed kids need a trusted person to talk to.
© Piano World Piano & Digital Piano Forums