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Hi! My daughter is 8 years old. Not to brag, but she is incredibly smart and sensitive. Perhaps too sensitive. At school she is terrified of any situation in which she might be the center of attention. It could be something as simple as jumping on a trampoline in front of the class, lighting a candle (in her class everyday they a student lights a candle, long story...), reciting something, presenting something to the class.. She has panic of ridicule, of people making fun of her. Now for music class she is supposed to compose a simple 10 second song for the school with 3 notes for the flute, its just an exercise, she plays flute very well and all the kids will do it. However she is, again, terrified and refusing, crying just thinking about it. The school is adorable, her colleagues are sweet kids, there is no bullying or anything of the sort. Her teacher is compassionate.

She also can't deal with frustration. The concept of trying something, failing and improving is very hard for her and it drives me (and her mother) crazy, because it seems she expects to get things absolutely perfect right away and if it doesn't come out right she just sulks and starts this self defeating dramatic loop.

I've started learning the piano 3-4 years ago and sometimes she also plays, mostly picking up melodies from youtube videos (the ones with piano keyboards synesthesia type, cartoon theme songs etc.). She also learned a easy version of In The Hall of The Mountain King on Piano Marvel, playing with both hands. It's very hard for me to help her because she gets all emotional and frustrated as soon as I try to give a simple fingering tip or suggest something.

Me and her mother have thought about getting her piano lessons with a private teacher but she doesn't want to. It doesn't have to be piano, but we have a good piano and the school has a piano teacher for private lessons. She also loves music. I think learning music is a perfect metaphor for the issues at hand, it implies dealing with frustrating problems and also it has some element of performance (playing for others, the teacher etc.) It also allows for emotional expression.

I do not want to be that father who is putting pressure on my kid like some parents who force their kids to take on sports or classical rigorous music training (though I do not condemn these parents and can see the value in such approach). I obviously make no point in that she becomes a great pianist! However, her issues are impacting normal areas of her life like regular tasks at school and her self image. I'm starting to give up on the soft approach because the alternative for me seems to just accept that she will believe she can't do things or that she isn't good enough and just give up on any potentially situation that might put some pressure or require trial error and I can't have that. I've seen adults who went through their childhood avoiding these types of events - with very compassionate parents - and it's not pretty: people develop really serious confidence issues. Sometimes I sense the problem is also too much compassion and understanding (her school is very progressive), I'm more of an old fashion guy in certain things and suspect she needs tough love here, like knowing she just has to do something and thats it. But what do I know.

So some of my questions, particularly to piano teachers and parents of kids who also didn't really wanted piano lessons:
- Is it usual for you to have kids that are reluctant to learn the piano and aren't there because they wanted to, but because their parents put them there?
- Do these kids (or some of them!) change their attitude with time and end up liking the piano? Did it happen to you?
- What do you think of me negotiating with her a trial period? How long should it be? 1 month, 2, 3 months?
- If you where the teacher of such a child, how would you approach her to motivate her? How do you deal with kids who don't really feel like having lessons?
- How and what can I do to help things and not make them worse...
thank you all

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Originally Posted by aguia77
8 yo girl with confidence issues ... She also can't deal with frustration. The concept of trying something, failing and improving is very hard for her and it drives me (and her mother) crazy, because it seems she expects to get things absolutely perfect right away and if it doesn't come out right she just sulks and starts this self defeating dramatic loop.

I am not a teacher, but a piano-playing psychologist. I would advise against your plan to use piano lessons as a way for her to learn to deal with her problems. The thing is, school already provides many such challenges for her, and your plan would just add to those challenges, with the help of a piano teacher, who probably has not had any specific training in how to help students with these psychological problems.

So I would say, let her have fun at the piano and learn pieces from Piano Marvel, and refrain from any suggestions, as that seems to spoil her pleasure. Instead of hiring a piano teacher, try to hire someone - maybe an educational psychologist? - who can help your daughter with her anxiety at school. Or maybe talk to the principle and see if her school can provide those services, or can recommend someone you can hire.


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I am not a teacher, but here is my personal advice and story:

Dont sign her up for lessons; let her play around at home. If she becomes interested in playing, you will know.

The story:
My parents signed my sister up for lessons when she had no interest in playing the piano. She wanted to play tennis, scuba dive and mountain-climb. The result? She not only was not interested, she grew to hate the piano. Practice became screaming fights. When she was allowed to quit, she vowed to never play again. Many decades later, she hasn’t.

Let your daughter find something that really interests her, not what interests you. It might be art, it might be sky diving…. But it will give her joy.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Originally Posted by Animisha
talk to the principle

Of course, I meant the principal! laugh


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A couple months ago, I had a family of transfer students to teach piano.
One nine year old girl was closed off to me the first couple lessons for some reason.
Then she got more comfortable with lessons. She played well and learned fast.
Time for recital, and she had a mask on with covid precautions. Their choice.
She played well. A couple weeks after the recital, after I was done teaching her in her home and teaching a sibling. I heard her cry like crazy on and on. I was told later by the mom she has separation anxiety to her mom if she's away from her and she's seen a therapist who said she has to flow out of it.
The mom told me she was crying at the recital, which I couldn't hear or tell which surprised me.
This incident of crying was her going to class for a dance recital. Crying went on for 20 minutes.
I was really shocked. She is so sweet. And now we have no problems in our lessons, but she does have a lack of confidence in things you give. Which is strange because she is a fast learner. She played a hymn perfectly and I said you could do that in church if you ever had the chance. She was not happy about that thought and said would never do it.
So, I would say fear of whatever, we just proceed cautiously.
I was never a good public speaker and playing in public. But it's repetition. Gradually you get more comfortable if you do the work, try to relax and don't be too hard on yourself and you will grow.
We never know what it's like to play live until we start and deal with nerves in front of people.

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Originally Posted by Animisha
. . .

I am not a teacher, but a piano-playing psychologist. I would advise against your plan to use piano lessons as a way for her to learn to deal with her problems. The thing is, school already provides many such challenges for her, and your plan would just add to those challenges, with the help of a piano teacher, who probably has not had any specific training in how to help students with these psychological problems.

So I would say, let her have fun at the piano and learn pieces from Piano Marvel, and refrain from any suggestions, as that seems to spoil her pleasure. Instead of hiring a piano teacher, try to hire someone - maybe an educational psychologist? - who can help your daughter with her anxiety at school. Or maybe talk to the principle and see if her school can provide those services, or can recommend someone you can hire.

I'm not a psychologist, but reading the original post led me to similar conclusions:

(a) . . . This situation is outside Piano World's scope of expertise.

And as two "FWIW" idea:

(b) When someone's normal set of daily tasks is right at the limit of their abilities to handle challenges, adding more tasks is not likely to be
appreciated, or helpful.

(c) You're conflicted in your own ideas about parenting. You don't want to put pressure on your kid, but maybe just this once it's the right thing to do?

Quote
I do not want to be that father who is putting pressure on my kid like some parents who force their kids to take on sports or classical rigorous music training (though I do not condemn these parents and can see the value in such approach). I obviously make no point in that she becomes a great pianist! However, her issues are impacting normal areas of her life like regular tasks at school and her self image. I'm starting to give up on the soft approach because the alternative for me seems to just accept that she will believe she can't do things or that she isn't good enough and just give up on any potentially situation that might put some pressure or require trial error and I can't have that. I've seen adults who went through their childhood avoiding these types of events - with very compassionate parents - and it's not pretty: people develop really serious confidence issues. Sometimes I sense the problem is also too much compassion and understanding (her school is very progressive), I'm more of an old fashion guy in certain things and suspect she needs tough love here, like knowing she just has to do something and thats it. But what do I know.

As a previous reply says, forcing her to take lessons (especially if the program includes public performance) may just increase her anxiety, and make her hate piano (and hate music, God forbid!) on top of that. Your idea of "tough love" may feel like torture to this very sensitive (for whatever reason) young person:

. . . Proceed with great caution.

But, as I said, this situation is outside my bailiwick.

Last edited by Charles Cohen; 06/29/22 10:29 PM.

. Charles
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Piano teacher here. If you commence piano lessons for your daughter that she doesn't accept, lord help all of you, the studio teacher included. I would never take on a child I thought truly did not want to pursue lessons.

But a couple of other random thoughts:
1. Why not consider a flute teacher instead? She already plays the flute, and very well.
2. If piano is what you prefer for her, I'd recommend a private teacher who is in no way related to this school - because your daughter needs safety and privacy for her music-making, and she won't get that with a school-based teacher.
3. Whatever the instrument, wait until your daughter is willing to try lessons. That may be another year or two down the road, or it may be longer. That's ok.
4. But when she agrees to try lesssons, the commitment should not be for 1 month, nor 2 months, nor 3 months: it needs to be a full academic year. It will take her that long to bond with her private teacher, and to work through some of her anxieties.
5. You will need to interview several studio teachers, and ultimately let your daughter have final approval. She should not work with your piano teacher, if you have one.

Good luck.

Last edited by Peter K. Mose; 06/29/22 10:45 PM.
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True. My parents didn't force me. So after I did 2 years of classical piano lessons (weekly) - and had to stop because my body seriously couldn't handle getting up that early in the morning (before the sun is up). And my parents didn't have other times for getting me to lessons at other times anyway. I didn't stop with music though (after stopping formal lessons). Nobody forced me. Like many people out there, we just like it a lot, and like piano. So basically kept tinkering and learning.

I can understand that forcing is not always good. It's a tough one. Because - there really are cases out there, where a child that got forced (and doesn't like it during the moment) - actually even thanks parents or who-ever that they got 'forced'. That is - it's not always straight forward. When somebody is forced and pushed, even if they don't like it, it can get 'something' into them, and toughen them up for later - and they may even be thankful for it. Although - I also know it's touchy ----- a touchy issue, because these days, we also see the conversations about mental well-being etc.

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Not a teacher myself. I came from a non-musical family. In my younger days I was a slow learner. Nothing I got my hands on made a lot of progress. The only things my mom pushed was academic skills since nobody at home knew much about piano, flute, violin playing or became a professional musician.

Many people in my family circle took music lessons. Some passed conservatory exams but are only comfortable playing in front of their private teachers. Others got enrolled in group lessons with Suzuki or Yamaha. 2 boys who were in Suzuki are comfortable playing in front of a small crowd. Another who was in Yamaha didn't do well in his year-end recital and quit soon after. In my high school days I took up violin and made some progress. I actually enjoyed playing as a group for the parents in the 2 concerts during the school year. Back in those days we didn't have Internet so no downloading sheet music. Most students would just practice the teacher's assigned repertoire and not go to a music store to find other pieces to play as a hobby.

My mom was a teacher. She assumes the only way to learn anything is through a teacher. Today there are online options available. If your daughter enjoys music and like to learn a few songs, you can get her to sign up to an online learning program like Piano Marvel. She learn pieces at her own pace. There is no pressure she needs to complete a piece in 3 days or a week. Someone who completed a song well is rewarded with stars & trophies. Nobody would be able to play a song 100% the first try unless she watches an online demo over & over before touching the piano.

Not everybody feel comfortable playing in front of an audience. I played with a music group before the pandemic lockdown so I'm comfortable performing. When I see a piano in public, I can sit down and play a few easy songs even with some wrong notes. When your daughter is learning piano through a computer, she can put headphones on so nobody can hear her mistakes and repeat a song over and over until it's perfect.

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Is it possible that she is highly intelligent?
Do you think she doesn't want to have lessons, or do you think she is too frightened by the idea?
If it's anxiety, maybe you can have lessons for yourself at home for a while when your daughter is home too, without saying anything about lessons to her. Then she can see the teacher and get to know him or her without any pressure, because the teacher is there for you, not for her. After a while you can ask her again if she want lessons.

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Aguia, you wrote that you’ve been thinking of getting your daughter piano lessons in spite of the fact she doesn’t want them. I’m a psychotherapist, not a piano teacher, and offer these thoughts with respect for you and your desire to provide the best for her. The description you give of your daughter is indicates severe chronic anxiety. I’m sure like most parents you want the world for her; it’s a matter of how to facilitate that and not try to force her into a pre-conceived box. And as you say, you don’t want to make things worse.

You might think of the anxiety she suffers from (for whatever reason) as an obstacle in her path to fulfilment and it’s clearly excruciating for her, impacting all areas of her life, you say. Please believe me, the solution is not “tough love” or piano lessons she doesn’t want. A psychotherapist or psychologist who has training and experience in working with childhood anxiety (training in EMDR would be especially helpful) would be able to help her overcome this deep problem. There is not an easy fix and that’s their area of expertise. You acknowledge “what do I know?” Sending an anxious child who doesn’t want piano lessons to a piano teacher (because there seems to be a metaphor in there and you have a good piano) is a bit like needing a plumber and calling an IT specialist. I do hope you can get her the help she needs so she can blossom into the lovely happy girl she has the potential to be.

PS One other thought, is that right now it sounds like she enjoys tinkering at the piano. I can imagine if she had lessons, it would be just another arena for her to get anxious about (and she knows that). Her interest in piano is apparently different from your interest in piano. It sounds like you and your wife are high achievers (and good for you for that). Maybe you could let her see that you admire her ability to just have fun with piano, no striving, just playing around without any input from anyone. Let it be a refuge for her (but still get her appropriate help!). I wish her the very best.


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@aguia77 - send you a DM here on PW.
Had some thoughts & observations to share that I thought best expressed that way.


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Originally Posted by aguia77
So some of my questions, particularly to piano teachers and parents of kids who also didn't really wanted piano lessons:
- Is it usual for you to have kids that are reluctant to learn the piano and aren't there because they wanted to, but because their parents put them there?

Hi aguia77. I'm an independent teacher, working both from home and at a music studio in a neighboring community. Let me give you a couple examples why I think it's not a good idea to enroll reluctant children in music lessons.

A while back, there was a studio family who got their four children all lined up with various teachers, with the children's lessons on the same day and all at the same time or close to the same time. The family wanted the ultimate in convenience, and they got it.

Less than a year later, the mom withdrew all the kids at the same time. Why? Because it had been her hope that the children would grow to love music, but they only loved sports. The family spent a lot of money trying to fulfill the mother's dream for them before she tired of the practice battles and realized the futility of trying to get her children to love what she had once loved.

Another family I knew inquired about lessons at my home studio in December one year, and we'd planned to begin in January of the following year. A week or so before the first lesson, the mom wrote me to say her son was ambivalent and not sure he wanted to take piano lessons after all.

I told her I didn't think that was cause for concern -- it was probably more hesitation about the unknown than anything, and that I thought it would probably resolve once he began lessons.

I was wrong. He exhibited nervous laughter fairly regularly, he never did want to practice at home, his mom frequently sent me emails asking, "Is he making progress?", etc. They pulled him out after 11 months. I am quite sure it was a relief to all of us when he quit. I should never have taken him on in the first place when he was showing ambivalence even before the get-go.

Live and learn.

After the above experiences, I do not recommend that children take lessons when they don't want them.

Originally Posted by aguia77
- Do these kids (or some of them!) change their attitude with time and end up liking the piano? Did it happen to you?
- What do you think of me negotiating with her a trial period? How long should it be? 1 month, 2, 3 months?
- If you where the teacher of such a child, how would you approach her to motivate her? How do you deal with kids who don't really feel like having lessons?

If your daughter doesn't want lessons, I wouldn't advise negotiating anything or simply signing her up and hoping for the best. Taking music lessons isn't a necessary life skill one must develop. Let her build her confidence in areas that are essential in life -- learning service to others and stick-to-it-iveness in performing essential household tasks, for example. Service starts in the family and can branch out from there as she matures.


Originally Posted by aguia77
- How and what can I do to help things and not make them worse...

Decide you won't pursue music lessons for her unless and until she says she wants them. I wouldn't even ask her periodically, what do you think about taking lessons now? She's old enough to figure out if she has a thirst for knowledge beyond what she picks up on her own with her spontaneous playing. She can then approach you with an "I want a piano [or flute, or whatever] teacher to show me more."

Best wishes to you.

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Reading this thread, I got an intense bad feeling. Poor child. I won't add anything because I don't want to get banned from here but.. nevermind.


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Originally Posted by aguia77
- How and what can I do to help things and not make them worse...
thank you all
Honestly, I agree with other posters here who feel that your daughter needs professional help. Enlist the help of a child psychologist or therapist.

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Originally Posted by aguia77
...She also can't deal with frustration. The concept of trying something, failing and improving is very hard for her ...

...her issues are impacting normal areas of her life like regular tasks at school and her self image.


She's 8. You express frustration with her issues.
I solidly agree that she needs help with her anxiety. Sources of referral could be her school or your pediatrician or other medical provider. If you have health insurance they might be able to direct you to appropriate care. A good therapist will work with the family as well.


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Regardless, I think you should try to talk to her and have a discussion (or multiple) about the causes behind her anxiety, common ways to work on it, and so on. Simply getting a piano teacher and hoping it will resolve itself probably won't work. Gradually increasing her level of comfort with stressful situations could be useful. Such as asking her to play for you, then to play for a friend, a small group, and so on.

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I am a piano teacher and I have the impression that the Term “forcing" is used too fast in modern pedagogy. Of course you shouldn‘t force kids physically to play the piano or to let them play the piano when they really shout out loud they don’t want to.

But often the refusal of children is just a feeling of unsaftey and fear of the unknown. They don’t know wether they will like and enjoy playing the piano so they will reject it in the first place. But we shouldn’t forget: Even if we want to treat children as equal, we must realize, they can’t oversee things the way parents can. And your observation that piano lessons would exactly address the issues you mentioned is right: Performance anxiety, fast frustration, Lack of Self-Confidence.

So I would suggest that you address your thoughts respectfully and tell your daughter that you will make a trial period. And after the trial period you have to evaluate if your daughter‘s opinion changed, if it is still worth to ”force” her, thus to try longer or if you come to the result that you need to try something else.

Your daughters opinion matters- but in the end you as parents are responsible for decisions that affect your daughter.

And yes, of course, with success comes motivation and children‘s opinion can change. But never forget, children change moods and preferences daily that doesn‘t mean that you have to give in immediately even if one day your daughter hates the piano one day. Only if this antipathy lasts longer you should consider to give in.

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One other way to get some enthusiasm or motivation - if any - is to allow the daughter to see people playing certain sorts of music that she likes (on the piano) ..... or to see if the daughter actually likes music in the first place ----- as in taking as much time as is needed to monitor the situation ----- does the person like to listen to music, sing, etc. This is assuming the individual had exposure to music. Just music - regardless of what sort it is ----- such as sesame street music, or wiggles, or anything.

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Originally Posted by RepertoireHunter
. . . And your observation that piano lessons would exactly address the issues you mentioned is right: Performance anxiety, fast frustration, Lack of Self-Confidence. . . .

It's pretty clear that someone with those three issues, would be more challenged by piano lesson, than someone without those issues.

What's not clear -- to me -- is that _taking_ piano lessons will _reduce_ performance anxiety, fast frustration, and lack of self-confidence.

. . . The lessons might just make things worse.

In the drum circle community, which is loaded (in beginner classes) with adults who never drummed before, "playing correctly" is not given much weight. But at intermediate and advanced levels, there are higher expectations -- as a teacher once said:

. . . "This is a traditional rhythm, and you should play it right, not some other way."

In my choir (which sings classical choral music pretty well), the director tries _really hard_ to avoid identifying an individual who's singing something wrong. She's forced to do it occasionally, but usually leaves it as "Well, second sopranos in the third row, work it out."

But piano -- at least, classical piano taught as I've known it -- really expects _correct execution_:

. . . the right notes, at the right time, at the right volume.

So the student's "performance anxiety" is well-founded. A teacher who uses a "no corrections, only praise" policy may be able to make progress, if the student has underlying musical sense, and can relax enough to absorb instruction-by-example. But not all teachers are like that, and neither are all students.


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