\"\"
Piano Forum logo

Is it okay to dismiss 2 out of 3 clients in the same family? (Read 2448 times)

Offline cellokeys

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Is it okay to dismiss 2 out of 3 clients in the same family?
« on: March 27, 2014, 10:56:44 AM »
Hello! I haven't been teaching piano for very long, and it's been a learning process for me. I was hoping to get some advice from those of you who have been doing this much longer than I have.

I have 3 clients in the same family. The eldest is a wonderful student, and I find it a great joy teaching him and seeing his progress. The other two simply don't want to learn, and I feel more like a babysitter than a piano teacher. I have tried many different approaches with them, but the best I manage is to grab their attention for one lesson and the next is right back to them being unwilling. Even though it will greatly affect my income (I don't have a massive client base yet), I want to tell the mother that she shouldn't waste her money on the younger two children... perhaps they will be more interested in the future? I don't want her to get the impression that I think less of the other two children... they are lovely, and that isn't the case at all.

There is another factor bothering me about this particular "family of clients." I explained before the first lesson that learning to play the piano takes a combined effort of the student, the teacher AND the parent. I even had a contract that we all signed! I emphasised how important it was for the parent to come to be an active part in lessons, coming to the lesson area for mini-recitals for example.  With the eldest student (the enthusiastic one), we do duets ever other lesson. The mother has started refusing to come down for them saying, "I can hear you from upstairs." When he finished his first book, he took it to her and said, "look Mum! I completed the book!" She said, "yeah, yeah, that's good," without even looking. I do feel like an overpriced babysitter, and I feel very bad for the one who is visibly disappointed by his mother's lack of interest in his accomplishments. Any suggestions how to approach these topics and try to find a resolution?

Offline Bob

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 16052
Re: Is it okay to dismiss 2 out of 3 clients in the same family?
«Reply #1 on: March 27, 2014, 11:36:54 AM »
What about charging more?  How much more would it cost to make you feel ok?

Two of three might cause issues among the students themselves.  The parents are going to wonder.

I'd pass on asking much of the parents.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline cellokeys

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Re: Is it okay to dismiss 2 out of 3 clients in the same family?
«Reply #2 on: March 27, 2014, 11:54:03 AM »
Thanks Bob... charging more never occurred to me!

What about asking the students themselves if they even want to learn to play piano? Has anyone ever asked the child directly and had them reply no?

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3242
Re: Is it okay to dismiss 2 out of 3 clients in the same family?
«Reply #3 on: March 27, 2014, 12:50:32 PM »
You are apparently a traveling teacher?  You go to their house?

Many teachers make that work, and I think it was even the norm when I was growing up.

But it can be very problematic for keeping a professional role relationship.  I think you have to work extra hard on that.  I see that as maybe part of the problem here for both the mother and a couple of the kids. 
Tim

Offline quantum

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5737
Re: Is it okay to dismiss 2 out of 3 clients in the same family?
«Reply #4 on: March 27, 2014, 04:46:11 PM »
What about asking the students themselves if they even want to learn to play piano?

Certainly a good idea.  In fact, this question is part of my initial interview with the student and parents.  If the answer is no, or the demeanor or body language of the student screams no, then such student is not accepted into my studio.  Sometimes a parent will want to interject their own answer for the student, but I don't accept that.  The student must out of their own free will express a personal intention to study the instrument. 

It may also be helpful to rephrase the question to allow for a more elaborate response, such as: why do you want to learn to play piano? 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline cellokeys

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Re: Is it okay to dismiss 2 out of 3 clients in the same family?
«Reply #5 on: March 27, 2014, 10:29:02 PM »
Timothy42b, yes, I do travel to the students. My family lives in a 2 bedroom, tiny flat with no dedicated music room, so having students here means confining my husband and 2-year-old son to one of the bedrooms... it's not ideal, so I decided to travel to the students even though it puts me at a disadvantage in terms of controlling the environment. You are quite right about that being part of the problem.

Quantum, thanks so much for your input. I definitely think rephrasing to an open-ended question is the way forward!

Thanks everyone! This is all very helpful... I don't know any other piano teachers, so it's great to hear other teacher's opinions of how they would approach the situation. 

Offline awesom_o

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2634
Re: Is it okay to dismiss 2 out of 3 clients in the same family?
«Reply #6 on: March 27, 2014, 11:11:54 PM »
The younger two children may be too young to learn very much piano.

Don't worry! Keep the piano portion of their lessons short, and spend the rest of the time on basic skills of rhythm and singing. Get their whole bodies involved in the music-making! Your job is to show them how joyful and rewarding it is to make music! Eventually they will want to spend more time at the piano!

Give the older child a slightly longer lesson, as he will have more material to work on.

How old are the kids?

I teach a family with a similar situation, 3 kids, I drive to their house, oldest is making the best progress, youngest are harder work for me. I use the Suzuki method for this age group, and find it works very well. The younger two are doing well now though! You just have to be patient!

It's great you are doing duets with them!

Do you play cello as well? I am also a cellist!

Offline cabbynum

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 725
Re: Is it okay to dismiss 2 out of 3 clients in the same family?
«Reply #7 on: March 27, 2014, 11:40:15 PM »
Hello! I haven't been teaching piano for very long, and it's been a learning process for me. I was hoping to get some advice from those of you who have been doing this much longer than I have.

I have 3 clients in the same family. The eldest is a wonderful student, and I find it a great joy teaching him and seeing his progress. The other two simply don't want to learn, and I feel more like a babysitter than a piano teacher. I have tried many different approaches with them, but the best I manage is to grab their attention for one lesson and the next is right back to them being unwilling. Even though it will greatly affect my income (I don't have a massive client base yet), I want to tell the mother that she shouldn't waste her money on the younger two children... perhaps they will be more interested in the future? I don't want her to get the impression that I think less of the other two children... they are lovely, and that isn't the case at all.

There is another factor bothering me about this particular "family of clients." I explained before the first lesson that learning to play the piano takes a combined effort of the student, the teacher AND the parent. I even had a contract that we all signed! I emphasised how important it was for the parent to come to be an active part in lessons, coming to the lesson area for mini-recitals for example.  With the eldest student (the enthusiastic one), we do duets ever other lesson. The mother has started refusing to come down for them saying, "I can hear you from upstairs." When he finished his first book, he took it to her and said, "look Mum! I completed the book!" She said, "yeah, yeah, that's good," without even looking. I do feel like an overpriced babysitter, and I feel very bad for the one who is visibly disappointed by his mother's lack of interest in his accomplishments. Any suggestions how to approach these topics and try to find a resolution?

I had a similar situation for a while before the family ended up dismissing me to go back to my boss, their old teacher.
Oldest was great, younger two hates it and I asked them flat out once "do you enjoy piano? Do you like playing it?" Both said nope.

That helped a lot. I then gave them only songs they liked and had them get their whole bodies into it. It worked for a while but their dad didn't trust me as a teacher because I look so young. So whatever.

Don't drop the two younger ones. Simply talk to the parents about "borrowing" time from the younger two students lesson and adding it onto the older one.
If you are teaching them for 30 minutes each
Do 20 for the younger two, probably all they can handle anyway, then give 50 to the oldest.

I'm about to start this with a family of two kids. The youngest is just a nightmare at times and can't pay attention for 30 minutes anyway. And the older one is getting into big enough repertoire that 30 minutes just doesn't cut it.
Currently Working on
Liszt Sonata B minor
Dante Sonata
Vallee d'Obermann
Invocation

Offline Bob

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 16052
Re: Is it okay to dismiss 2 out of 3 clients in the same family?
«Reply #8 on: March 28, 2014, 12:00:01 AM »
Or I suppose... Give up on them.  Let them play whatever they want.  Take their money.


Charging for ease of working with a student sounds interesting.  No practice?  Highest price.  Lots of practice, lots of progress?  Lowest price.  Set the lowest price for what you normally would.  Highest price for no practice would be what you can tolerate (and live with if the student is 'advertising' your teaching skills).
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."