By Julia Kossuth
As the school year gets underway and both old and new faces begin to arrive in the studio each week, the individual—yet ever changing—dynamic with each student and their teacher begins to set in. One situation that tends to occur at least a few times with every new set of students is this: Mom or Dad wants to sit in the lesson, every week.
Now let me say this: parent involvement is CRUCIAL to success in learning any instrument. However, having a parent sit in each lesson has not always proved beneficial in my experience, especially for beginning or young students.
There is the parent who is over-involved in the lesson—always instructing the student in better manners, to do this or that again and do it better; they are well-intentioned, but it tends to disrupt the flow of the lesson and the natural learning process that takes place in lessons. It can also stress out the student (or me!) by having competing authorities.
Then there is the quiet parent who simply prefers to be inside rather than in their car or running errands, etc. I completely understand why they do this, and it often is not a problem. However, particularly with my youngest students, this becomes an opportunity for the child to play the “I can’t do it” card and (mis)behave in ways they certainly wouldn’t if it were just the student and me in the room.
The main difficulty with having the parent in the room is figuring out boundaries—how firm can you be with the child when their parent is right there and not addressing the behavioral issue? Do you wait for the parent to step in? Are they trying to give you space to be the teacher? How do you let the child know what proper lesson etiquette is?
I’ve found a few different approaches that work. First, being upfront from the beginning with the parent: “We will get in the routine of lessons soon; perhaps Allen will be more comfortable with just us two next week,” or “This was a good first lesson; maybe Katie will do better next week with just her and me in the lesson”. Often parents completely understand and agree.
I’ve also chosen to wait and see if lessons smooth out; if mom or dad is reading a book or otherwise occupied, then lessons work essentially as if the parent isn’t there. After a few weeks there’s been established a sense of what is appropriate and expected during a lesson.
Regardless of where the parent ends up during the lesson, I do make a point to keep them very informed about what their child is specifically working on, what they should be listening for (counting, ahem), and any praise or concerns I might have for their child.
What about in your studios? Do you have any policies regarding parents in lessons? Any tips and tricks that you’ve used to help lessons go smoothly?