Argumentative Student : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

I have an 8 year old student who has recently started arguing with me when I point out a wrong note or incorrect rhythm. She insists she has done it the correct way, and then continues to do it wrong. When I get her to slow down (and it takes a while) and she realizes she was wrong, she looks like she's about to cry. I think she has some confidence issues, so I sugar-coat the error, telling her everyone makes the same mistake, but then her tears turn to anger and she is "snappy" for the remainder of the lesson. I am guessing she may have very critical parents. Any suggestions on how to tackle this problem. I am at the point where I am letting things that are incorrect slide so as not to upset her. Note, the parent is aware of the problem and doesn't know what to do.

-- Rosalind Johnson (, September 23, 2004


I wonder if this might work: tell her that she is going to be the teacher while you play one of her pieces. Choose something that she knows well and can play accurately. Make an obvious mistake, then when she tells you about it, create a huge scene: "Oh, no! That's horrible! I guess I should give up the piano! I can never forgive myself -- I'm a horrible person!" , etc. Hopefully she will see how ridiculous it is to overreact -- then perhaps you can gently talk to her and find out a way that she can accept correction.

Good luck! Alice Dearden

-- Alice Dearden (, September 26, 2004.

This is a discipline issue.

I'm surprised that the parents haven't straightened it out for you, or told the child that she either behaves or the lessons stop. Now, this could be her way of getting the lessons to stop--sometimes parents just don't get it when a child is no longer enjoying lessons (or perhaps didn't really enjoy them in the first place), and the child is afraid to tell them, particularly if the parents harp on all the time about how much it costs, how they have to drive them, etc. etc. The longer the lessons go on, the more afraid the child is to tell the parents she wants to quit....

Maybe have a heart to heart talk with the child (without the parents), and find out what's really going on. Maybe it's the lessons, maybe it's something else entirely.

But do not let the bad behavior continue.

-- GT (, September 26, 2004.

She has learned that this behavior gets people off of her back. Not to be a psychologist in a piano teaching forum, but my guess isn't that her parents are over critical, but they enable her. When her parents criticize, be it constructive or otherwise, she has learned that this behavior is the way to get them to stop.

Letting mistakes slide to avoid her behavior is probably the worst thing you can do. For one, you have to sacrifice your own integrity to do so, and if you are taking money to teach yet deliberately avoid the teaching, that is theft in a way. (Sorry, not trying to be tactless.) If you enable her behavior, it will only get worse.

My humble advice is to tell the parents exactly what you said here, and if they don't understand it and won't support you, you should probably send her on her way.

If they DO agree to support you, then you need to set some ground rules with her, and do it with the parents present so that she knows you have their backing. When those rules are broken, the lesson is over. No second chances, no time outs. At first it might feel cruel, but if you are steadfast, the problem will be solved for better or worse.

Bottom line - if she isn't coming to her lessons wanting to learn, which implies respect for your knowledge, then just what exactly do you think you're going to teach her?

Best of luck.

-- Steve Brown (, October 01, 2004.

That should read "her paren't are NOT over-critical, but they enable her"

Sorry :)

-- Steve Brown (, October 01, 2004.

I'd like to share some of my experience dealing with 'correcting'. I work at a facility for troubled children. Everyone can imagine how you deal with them everyday with arguments and manipulative behaviours (short: bx). My approach for this kind of bx is trying not to argue with them. In Rosalind case, I'd suggest instead of confronting that she was wrong, try to give her the example ... slowly and also try breakdown the part where she was wrong and walk her through the part where you noticed her wrong. If possible interupt her right away after you notice the mistake or let her to finish the wrong measure at the least. Instead of telling her that she was wrong, the teacher should then play that part, again, slowly and let her try it again. Most likely the teacher would notice why she didn't do it right when it's done slowly. Example: she didn't play her triplets as the piece is written. Point her at that triplet and let the teacher play that part slowly. Ask her whether she can tell the different the way she played and the way the teacher plays. Encourage and praise her when she gets closer to where the piece should be played, like, "Excellent ... you are getting closer to what the piece is written. Do you think you can get it or do you want me to show it again making sure we're on the 'same page'?" Or somethig similiar like that. Often time students will get frustrated after several attempts of trying and so will the teachers. This is a normal situation. If there's still 'nuf time for the student to review, a lil break would help. My teacher (I'd like to teach, too but I still don't have confident myself to do it ... teehee)had a cute way when the lil ones got a lil confused. She (the teacher) would ask them to walk around the piano bench just one round then asked, "Better? shall we continue?" And both of 'em would laugh together. It would relieve the tension, too, though it only takes several seconds to do that (to walk around the bench). If there's not 'nuf time to review I usually wouldn't bother to give that as a homework or practice material at home as this would create more frustration for the students as typically noone at home would be able to help anyway. Rather, I'd assign to perfect the measures that had been learnt previously. If it seems still doesn't show a progress prolly change a different song would be better rather than stick with the same song and both the teacher and the student got frustrated. I mean, after all don't we all want to see our students went thru difficult time successfully? Parents could be another issue, too, especially the ones who expect their kids to do things beyond their abilities. If the money isn't worth of the frustration and the tention by keeping the student, I'd let the student go ... in a proffesional way. It'd be either refer them to a different teacher (assuming that all piano teachers in the area not seeing each other as competitors ... ha!) after communication had been done with that particular teacher or suggest the student to learn a different instrument or other activities like visual arts or sports. Otherwise getting help by sharing experience with other teachers in the area and thru the board like this I think is the best idea before letting the student go as this should be the last thing to do after all things had been tried. I hope this will help. Let us know whether this suggestion works and I'd like some comments.

Happy teaching! Y'all are great.

-- Zenith Tobing (, November 25, 2004.

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