Joy O., Alabama
I have a student who comes with his grandmother as coach. She pays for his lessons, but he lives with mom and stepdad. Mom was coming as coach at first, but now it’s grandma. At first this worked fine, and he was making progress. Lately I find that the student consistently doesn’t practice, doesn’t watch videos, and is generally unprepared.
They are often late to the lesson. Yesterday they came 40 minutes late. The other student had played, learned a new piece, and had already taken notes. I dismissed the other student and gave this student ten minutes. Grandma was berating the boy for not practicing. This week’s excuse was day camp all week. Every week there is a new reason why he couldn’t or didn’t practice.
I’ve listened to Request vs. Requirement audio training. I’m ready to let them know they can either change or leave. I actually offered a make up time slot for tomorrow afternoon, and I invited mom to come along for this lesson.
Just writing this down makes it so clear to me that I can’t let this continue. I’m sure the other family in the group is tired of hearing the excuses and the grandma tell the boy off and complain about her daughter, his mom. I want to say, “Generally I find that when students stop practicing, I can expect they will stop lessons soon. Is that what you think is going to happen here?” I really do want to be non-emotional but also completely firm that I will not accept this any more.
What specifically would you suggest I say to them?
Leeanne I., Australia
I think when it’s not working for you any more, it’s time to let them go. If the student is adamant they want to continue, you can give them a time frame, say a month, to pull their socks up. They may just be going through a valley, so make sure that isn’t the case. 40 minutes late to class is totally unacceptable.
Deb K., South Dakota
I find that when there is consistent behavior like this, it is only a matter of time before they quit. I had one family that consistently didn’t show for lessons. We had several discussions about it and they promised to do better. I would send text reminders of the time and one day they didn’t show up again. I game them an ultimatum to either respect my time or I wouldn’t give any further lessons. They promptly quit. There is no easy answer but the best thing is to expect respect and give respect.
Joy O., Alabama
I was able to talk with the student as well as his mother and grandmother. Mom and Grandma really want him to continue, but he gave mixed responses about whether he wants to. I told them all, clearly, that if he comes to class without the playlist marked, showing that he has practiced, that I will send them home without a lesson. I also talked him through what he can do if he needs help with playing a piece during the week, and I encouraged his mom to sit with him while he practices.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
An important question is, are Mom and Grandma on board with seeing the benefit of a long-term relationship with piano lessons, and are they presenting it to the student as an extra activity or a non-optional part of his education? If the latter, berating him is obviously not a good strategy for communicating so.
Several comments here are really more about managing relationships, expectations, and requirements than about the curriculum content and the playlist. The ‘Big 3’ conversations – as I call them – are your best resources (Request as distinct from Requirement, Long-Term Relationships, and Claiming Territory). These are absolute gems in our training. I recommend revisiting these on a regular basis. They can completely transform your experience!