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Piano Lessons: The parent/teacher relationship– striking the right balance (Humor)

The relationship between the piano teacher and parent is a work in progress. Nothing should be taken for granted.

Here are various case scenarios and categories:

I. The Arm chair teacher-parent, aka the back seat driver equivalent

Description: Parent sits in during the entire lesson providing an unsolicited running commentary on child’s playing.

He/she will bellow out note corrections and beat reinforcements. (This parent will often hand the teacher a recommended curriculum with a detailed list of repertoire)

On occasion he/she will come to the piano and red-line or circle notes that were incorrectly played.

Teacher’s jaw is dropped, and she’s nearly stunned into silence.

Remedy to restore teacher/parent equilibrium:

Remand parent to observer status with a follow-up e-mail defining clear-cut boundaries during piano lessons.

II. The Stage Parent, Type A

Stays for the complete lesson and often comes ten minutes early to shower teacher with plans for child’s future debut in Carnegie Hall.

(This starstruck parent’s son or daughter are usually in the 5-7-year old range)

Teacher remedy:

Give parent a gentle dose of reality and devise a daily, thoughtful practicing schedule.

III. The Stage Parent, Type B

Parent brings a two and a half-year old child for lessons and insists he’s a budding “genius.”

Usually such a child, raised on Baby Einstein videos, sits at the piano for 25 seconds and slips out of sight.

Attention span verges between 0 and .1%

In addition, the child will often need a diaper change and a warm bottle of milk while displaying his musical prowess.

Recommended course of action:

Kindly tell parent to return with the prospective student in 5 or so years.

IV. The Never on Time Parent

Lessons are always delayed by at least 10 to 20 minutes due to 1) a last minute stop at the gas pump, 2) a major traffic jam, or 4) a misunderstanding about which parent was supposed to pick up the child from school.

A Common remedy:

Don’t go overtime to compensate for lateness. Stick to the schedule.

V. The Sports Jock parent

This is usually a dad who charges into the studio 15 minutes before the lesson officially ends, and rushes child off to the baseball diamond leaving a pile of music behind. The student is usually clad in uniform and cleats so teacher knows something’s up. The same might occur if the child is in soccer attire or wears a football helmet to his lesson.

How to manage the problem:

Make sure the music is taken and not left on the piano rack.

VI. The Disappearing Parent

He/she turns up on the doorstep with child for the very first lesson and then disappears into the woodwork. Most of these parents are over-scheduled and under-involved.

In all too many cases, the son or daughter of a “disappearing parent” will be picked up 30-45 minutes late. (There’s usually a waiting car parked somewhere down the block and student must use cell-to-cell communication or text messaging to ascertain vehicle location)


Invite the parent in to sample a few lessons, and reinforce the need to fetch child at the precise conclusion of class.

VII The Fun-loving Parent

Wants the child to have “fun” during every waking moment of his life and can’t seem to utter one sentence without the “f” word.

The prime complaint of the fun-loving parent is that his/her child is not “having fun” taking lessons or practicing. He’s “bored” to tears with his pieces and everything else.

Recommended course of action to restore harmony to the parent/teacher relationship:

Tell parent that piano playing is “fun” when right notes are mastered, phrasing is improved, and a piece ripens with daily, thoughtful practicing.

If mom or dad can’t comprehend the lingo, then refer fun-loving parent to a fun-loving teacher.

VIII. The Always Complaining Parent, aka The Hypercritical Mom or Dad

Feels child is not “clicking” with the teacher, and has already sampled three or more instructors who walked the plank under threat and intimidation. In general the child of the blowing-off-steam parent rarely practices and spends most of his time zoned out on the Internet or fidgeting with his Game Boy.

Teacher Remedy:

Provide a last-ditch effort daily practicing chart and ask parent to videotape child playing his pieces during the week. Urge the parent(s) to watch the video with teacher for insight into how to make learning more productive and meaningful.

If this measure fails, refer student on to the next teacher in a parade of never-ending instructors.

IX. The “I forgot my checkbook” parent

This is the traditional “late-paying” parent who fails to bring cash or a check on the first lesson of each calendar month, despite repeated e-mailed and snail mail reminders.

By proxy, the child of the forgetful parent will also not deliver the fees when due.

How to handle:

Reinforce written lesson policy about fee structure and payment. Otherwise post a $25 penalty on charges in arrears after 7 days.

X. The Bartering Parent

Wants to exchange the following for “free” lessons: five dozen boxes of peanut butter swirl Girl Scout Cookies, two cases of Fancy Feast Cat Food; four passes to Disneyland, three Chuck e Cheese’s Gift Cards and a subscription to Netflix.

Recommended course of action:

Tell parent that lesson fees are not transferable.

XI. The Cellular Parent

This one is perpetually on call waiting and is set up only for message taking. Teacher will therefore never reach the cellular mom or dad directly, even in dire emergencies (as when child forgets all his music) The cellular parent is basically unavailable and uninvolved in piano lessons. Either mother or father are backed up with unreturned calls and incoming texts. The only connection a Cell parent has to music is via the ring tone which is usually raucous rap.

How to deal with this mess:

Forget it!

XII. The Non-existent parent

He/she has never been seen or heard from. For some unexplained reason, child turns up on the doorstep one day with required music and starts piano instruction. More often than not this is a drop-off student, who’s car-pooled with another, and was referred by a friend of mom who has arranged the lessons. Payments are on time, but a face is never put to the signature on the check.

Remedy: None

Who cares? The child comes prepared with all his music; has made steady progress and brings required fees each month.


7 thoughts on “Piano Lessons: The parent/teacher relationship– striking the right balance (Humor)”

  1. Laughed to tears – thank you! I had all above among the parents in my long experience of working as a teacher.


  2. Hi Shirley, This was great and I have experienced almost all of the parent types from time to time. It is all good to know that I am not the only one dealing with all of these personalities! The best one was the Stage Parent Type A. I laughed cause I had this exact situation a couple of years ago and the family left me and I was quite relieved. Seeing all the types in print gives me some consolation knowing I am not alone in this! Sincerely, Fran


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