Teaching your kids to play the piano or another instrument is intimidating to many parents, but it shouldn’t be. In order to be successful at teaching kids you must build a positive learning environment. The parent-child relationship first and foremost is the most important. Here are ways of keeping calm when kids push your buttons during lessons.
The Importance of Keeping Calm During Lessons
Keeping calm and keeping the love on is the most important thing you can do when giving your kids music lessons of any kind. No one learns well when there is tension in the air. Kids are no different. If you start yelling or getting frustrated that negative energy will be contagious. The child’s demeanor will change. They will become unhappy, uncertain, and difficult to teach.
If lessons are presented in a calm manner the opposite will happen. The child will be positive and upbeat (pun intended). Seriously though, the kid doing lessons will have a mindset ready to learn and absorb new information.
Set the Ground Rules Before You Start Lessons
Before setting out to do lessons talk to your kids about the expectations and stick to it! Figure out what you are okay putting up with and what you aren’t. Make sure your kids know the consequences of not meeting your expectations.
Now, I’m not talking about if they don’t become the next Mozart you will disown them or even that they have to play everything perfectly in order for them to get to continue lessons. The types of things that need to be established are what do they need to do so you don’t lose your crap while trying to teach them.
When I was growing up I went to a piano teacher outside our home, however, my dad is a gifted musician and former music educator. Despite teaching piano, he believed strongly that my brother and I would do better being taught by someone else.
My oldest was four when I started my music studio. Like my dad, I had always vowed I would never teach my kids to play, believing they would be better off learning from someone else.
My daughter turned to me and asked to be one of my students. Immediately the red flag went up and I was going to object. But in that instant sitting at the dinner table, my husband looked at me and agreed with her, asking why I couldn’t teach her. I had no answer.
Looking at them both, I said I would try it on one condition, that if any tension occurred between us the lessons were over. Our relationship was more important to me than being her piano teacher.
The Art of Keeping Calm When Your Kids Push Your Buttons (and They Will)
Kids are great button pushers. Anyone else find that to be true? They love to test the limits and see just what they can get away with. Sometimes it’s your sanity. Other times it’s just a desire for a little quirky fun. But don’t let your kids get under your skin. There is an art to keeping calm even when your kids don’t want you to.
If you teach other people’s kids they won’t know how to get under your skin. Your own kids will. They know what makes you tick, and what ticks you off.
When kids start pushing that one button that makes a parent crazy, hold on, there are a few things that can be done to keep from losing it.
When Children Don’t Listen
One of the most frustrating things as a parent is when your kids don’t listen. They are in dreamland or just want to goof around. There is a task to be done, but don’t count on it happening anytime in this millennia. When they check out, redirect them. Find a fun piano or music game to play. This will break the lesson up a little and hopefully help them focus when you are ready to continue in the books.
Take a dance break. Depending on the child’s age getting them up off the bench dancing to music is just as important as the workbook. It will foster a love for music by keeping it fun and lighthearted. Now a 10-year-old may not appreciate this as much as a 5-year-old, but the expectations should be different depending on the child’s age anyway.
This is my biggest nemesis and the one I find the most difficult to deal with personally. If my kids want to push my buttons they will do it by comping an attitude. So I have had to find ways of keeping calm even when they throw me a monster attitude.
Usually when attitudes flair it’s out of frustration. They are struggling to master a concept or song and don’t like how things are going. Don’t take it personally if things flair in these moments. Instead, offer them a choice. Continue now without the attitude or come back to the lesson in a little while when they have settled down.
Relationship First, Lesson Second
The most important part of motherhood is the relationship with your kids. Kids bond with their moms from birth and even in the womb. So moms are a primary teacher in a child’s life. As they grow and mature, that relationship grows too. When taking on a teaching role like piano, flute, or any music lessons that relationship should come first.
But how do you keep it first? It can seem like a daunting task but there are a couple of ways to keep the love on while teaching your child. Those are to keep a slightly professional take on lessons. Even though you aren’t necessarily a professional teacher for other students, keeping things professional will help you step out of the “mom” role for that half hour.
Another way to keep the mother-child relationship first goes back to what I mentioned earlier. Set your expectations and be clear about them. Not only should the expectations be clear but the consequences for breaking those expectations. The child taking lessons should know at what point the lesson will end and even what it will take before they will be sent to a different teacher. Yes, you read that right. There may come a point for your relationship with your child you should send them to a professional piano teacher. You know your limit. Set it and stick to it.
The Positive Learning Environment Through the Parent/Child Lessons
Setting up a positive learning environment should be your number one goal with lessons. Notice I didn’t say your goal should be to create rockstar musicians or have your kids playing everything perfectly. Creating a way for them to learn and grow will lead to those results. Here are some keys to creating a positive learning environment they can grow in and build your relationship.
- Keeping calm (yes, the overall theme of this article, but it’s SO important!)
- Keep it fun by playing games
- Use technology (every kid loves electronics these days)
- Keep the love on
- Reward them for good work
- Maintain a level of professionalism
- For young kids, let them get up and down from the piano with moving activities
- Use books appropriate for their age
- Keep it free from distractions
- Stay positive
Consequences of Breaking the Expectations
Once you have set the standards for the lessons, make sure the consequences are in place and enforce them. This doesn’t have to be drastic punishments by any means.
When things go south during lessons with my kids I have a policy where I walk away. This has happened a few times because she didn’t like that I was making her do a song for another week or because we just weren’t connecting. So when things escalated and I saw the potential for a strain in our relationship I got up and walked away, telling her we would continue at a later time. We always came back to it, but we would both have level heads.
Another thing, although it should be a last resort, is telling them that they will have to go to another teacher. This is a warning I’ve given only a couple of times over the past several years and when I do things change pretty quick. My daughter wants me to teach her, but she knows I will only do so if it won’t ruin “us”. So the idea of going to another teacher shapes her up pretty quick. But if you are going to do this, make sure you are willing to follow through with it should the behavior not change.
Just be sure not to make idle threats and keep the “typical” mom things like losing a stuffed animal out of the lesson. Yes, you have the advantage of knowing your kids, but treat them like a piano teacher you hired would. They wouldn’t take toys and things away. So don’t use those methods either.
You Know YOUR Child Better Than Anyone
Don’t forget: YOU know YOUR child better than anyone. That is the beauty of teaching your own kids. If you take them to another piano teacher it will take that teacher a few lessons to figure out what makes your child tick. They will need some time to figure out your child’s likes and dislikes. It won’t happen the first lesson.
On the other hand, you have spent years with this little one and know what they need. You know how they operate. Use that to your advantage.
If your son won’t sit still for a half hour lesson wait until he is a little older or incorporate several off the bench activities. Maybe your daughter is really shy around other people so giving her a solid start before making her work with someone else will break her out of her shell.
Keeping Calm and Building a Lifetime Bond
When a parent keeps calm it builds a bond that will last a lifetime. Remember your favorite teacher from school. I bet you can and you remember why he or she was your favorite. If we can build that kind of relationship and admiration for a complete stranger, why wouldn’t we want that with our own children? I would love to be remembered by my kids as one of their favorite teachers. There’s no shame in that.
Keeping calm and maintaining a positive learning environment will foster the ability to teach your kids. Building that bond that will make them want no other teachers than you. Let that soak in a minute. They will want you. Not in a cocky prideful way. But because they love, respect, and value what you are doing.
So when strife, attitudes, or anything else shows its ugly head nip it right away. Demand respect in the situation of teaching them by how you approach the lesson and the rewards will be beyond belief. Show your love for them while not allowing negativity. It is possible to teach your own kids and is one of the best things you can do if done correctly.