Mom is getting in the way

September 6, 2005 at 10:58 PM · I have a new student whose mom wants to attend the lesson with her daughter. This is o.k. sometimes, but there are a few problems. First, the room is very small. It is also used for guitar lessons, so there are 2 amps, a stereo, 2 chairs, and a music stand. Usually when I have a violin student (which is what this one is), I close the door, and put the music stand between the stereo and the door, and there is just enough room for both of us. With mom there, there is no room for correct bowing. Also, everytime I ask the daughter a question, she looks to her mom for the answer. Also, the mom talks a lot, and even took up another students time. I appreciate that mom is trying to be supportive, but I'm not sure what to do here. I could understand if the child was under 6, but she is 12. Also, it is not fair that she takes someone elses time. I wouldn't mind falling a little behind, but I teach at a store, and I am there until close. Not only that, but the other students are on time, so they should be able to start on time.

What do I do?

Replies (13)

September 6, 2005 at 11:21 PM · Discuss your issues with the mother, explaining your concerns and difficulties. If mother refuses to oblige, recommend another teacher for her.

September 7, 2005 at 04:42 AM · Practice active rhythm exercises using lots of space: marching, swinging arms with the bow...

or maybe:

"I'm sorry, it's just not working out to let you sit in, the space is simply too limiting for another person."

If she's not willing to budge tell her you need charge more since she's also "learning".

Good Luck! Let us know how it works out.

September 7, 2005 at 05:16 AM · Don't bathe.

September 7, 2005 at 05:17 AM · It may help to have an appealing alternative. Is there a designated place for the parents to wait, perhaps with a comfortable seat, a couple of good magazines, and some chocolates in a dish? (Yeah, wouldn't that be nice.) Could you have a well-placed sign politely explaining the space constraint? I don't know, maybe both of those are really see-through ways of basically telling a parent to get out of the way. Certainly, there is a tactful way of getting the point across. Too bad you weren't able to make your point from the start. It's easier than back-pedalling.

PS, Just read Alan's suggestion. Nature's way, I like it!

September 7, 2005 at 02:57 PM · I think you should kindly and honestly tell her the truth that the room is very small and by her being there you can't teache her daughter correct bowing. And if she has questions may be she could call you later since the next student is waiting. I know it's hard but she will understand. If she is that commited, she wouldn't want her daughter to learn the wrong bowing, I don't think.

September 7, 2005 at 03:57 PM · I have a parent who comes to lessons, as several of them do. Most are quiet...She, on the other hand, spoke for her daughter right from the beginning to the point where the first few lessons I heard nothing from the daughter at all even when I addressed her directly. That is getting better slowly. Very nice people, but this appears to be their m.o.. Daughter is almost 12. I don't have the space problems, but if things had not begun to improve, I would have asked the mother not to come. How about telling this mother who squeezes into the room for lessons, "My more promising students need to have one on one time with me so they can progress as quickly as possible." :0)

September 7, 2005 at 05:26 PM · That's all great advice!! This problem happened before with another prospective student. Her mom talked through most of the lesson, and lots of someone elses too! THe owner of the store I teach at recommends to the parents that want to sit in that it's not a good idea.

An update on the student in question...

SHE QUIT! And right before the lesson I might add. I had a funny feeling that might happen. The previous student also only had 1 lesson. It makes you wonder how those kids ever learned in the first place.

Thanks for all the advice! I'm sure this will happen again.

P.S. I like the not bathing thing!

P.P.S. THere is waiting room for the parents. Mags, but no chocolate :(

September 7, 2005 at 06:02 PM · You are the teacher meaning you are the boss and have control of your teaching destiny. I don't teach violin but teach another activity that parents can watch but never comment or interfere with during a class.

You have to be specific and be willing to set the rules for your lessons, stick to them and be willing to live with the result (and that is in the hands of your student, not the parent because they choose to practice and commit or not).

How you let someone back you into a corner is a question to ask yourself, so it, or something like it doesn't happen again.

Good luck!

September 7, 2005 at 09:32 PM · I think you should just tell the mother to get lost(politely). I know a girl that just graduated high school and had her mommy at every lesson!!! She even came to our string quartet practices and criticised everything about the other players except her own daughter. She knows nothing about music anyway! My teacher told her to not come anymore after the other three of us complained so much. She finally stopped coming for awhile. She was upset, but it was for the best.

September 7, 2005 at 09:51 PM · Just for future reference, have you tried looking at it from the mother's perspective? Some parents are very uncomfortable leaving their children alone with someone whom they hardly know. If you just tell the parent that you want to be alone with the child, it may really turn them off. In my teaching, I have had to work with parents that are "difficult", but if I was completely honest and did not try to displace their authority at all, things always worked out and I gained their confidence.

September 7, 2005 at 11:17 PM · I think that the best thing to do would have been to tell the mother that she could not stay for the lesson because of space limitations. You can avoid discussing her personality or parenting techniques this way.

I've had an experience different from yours. I have an 8 year old student who loved coming to lessons but wouldn't talk to me. Whenever I asked her a question, she would look to her father to answer. He would tell her to respond, but that didn't work. Her parents talked to me about it, and we agreed to try having her father drop her off for her lesson, leave, and come back at the end of the lesson. What a change! She turned into a little chatter box in a nice way.

September 8, 2005 at 10:28 AM · When I went to the Suzuki institute camp this summer, there were a lot of moms going around and bringing their kids to each class, then sitting through the classes with them. I've never had that much parental involvement, I just am dropped off at my lesson. I think sometimes parents want to get too involved in their child's life, and it might not be a very good thing.

September 8, 2005 at 03:04 PM · There is a fine balance for moms who want to be sure that their child is doing thier best and a mom who is interfering and living vicariously through thier child. My daughter is quite stubborn (I can't imagine where she gets it!) and when her flute teacher told me that she was refusing to play during her lesson time, I had to step in and be there for at least a few lessons to insure that she was participating.

I am fortunate right now that all of my students' parents give their student the option of whether Mom stays or not. It is not always the case.

Since you have a space issue, perhaps you could "inadvertently" trip over Mom's toes a few times as you move around the student. Also, if Mom is asking musical questions and running over into another student's time, you could suggest a time for a phone conversation separate from lesson time. If she's just running on about daily life, simply instruct the student to pack up, and usher them out the door at the right time.

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