Part of the reason I started this blog was to help parents teach their own children how to play the piano. There are many reasons why parents may want to do this - to save money, to spend quality time with their children, or to give them an opportunity to learn while they wait for an opening in a piano studio.  The dynamic you have with your child will be very different than the standard teacher/student relationship, and this can make for a wonderful experience, or a very frustrating one.  I hope that the following guidelines will help you create happy memories with your child. 

Establish a sense of professionalism - Many of my posts, specifically those regarding policy and contracts, won’t apply to the Parent Teacher, but it is still important to set a proper tone when teaching your own children. Before you begin lessons, sit down with them and discuss your goals for each other. Why do they want to learn the piano? Why do you want to teach them? Determine a set time for their lessons that will work for both of you. Will you meet weekly? Every other week? Help them feel that the lessons you give them are “official” and important to you. 

Make lessons a priority – Just as you would if you were teaching a non-family member student, make sure you have child care for any other siblings during your child’s lessons. Don’t answer the door or phone, and give them your full attention. 

Commit to being the teacher – I tell my children, in the gentlest way possible, that during their lessons, I am not their mom, I am their teacher. They don’t get to complain or whine to me during their lessons. I know they don’t whine to their school teachers, just as my studio students don’t whine to me. If they have concerns, they can talk to me about them, but not whine about them. I expect that they treat me with respect and listen to what I ask them to do without arguing. Often they forget, and I give them another gentle reminder by saying, “I am your teacher, and I know what you need to do to succeed.” 

Be consistent – This is the hardest one for me. It is so easy to say, “I’ll give you your lesson tomorrow, I have too much going on today.” When I let this happen, one day turns into a week and before I know it, it has been a month since I gave my child a lesson. Don’t let this happen. Set a certain time during the week and do your best to stick to that time. 

Give them space – As tempting as it can be, don’t be a “kitchen teacher.” I am guilty of this. My children will be practicing, and while I’m cooking or cleaning, I’ll call out from the kitchen, “that note is supposed to be sharp!” or “that rhythm is wrong!”  Give them space to work through their errors on their own. This not only teaches them to problem solve and understand the concepts better, it also helps them develop the independence they will need when they are older and you aren’t around to help them with every note. 

Attend concerts and recitals together – Nothing motivates me more than seeing other pianists perform. Almost every time I attend a recital or concert I go home determined to practice more. Not only does listening to other pianists motivate musicians to work  harder, it trains their musical ears and matures their musicality. 

Provide opportunities to perform – Invite family members and friends over for mini recitals, or encourage your child to participate in talent shows. You will be amazed at their increased practicing and excitement levels as they prepare to perform.  In fact, anytime you notice a slump in their motivation you should plan a family recital. This will also help them with performance anxiety as they get older. 

Most of all, don't be too hard on yourself, or your child - Not every lesson will go as smoothly as you would like. That's okay! Try to remember that you are sharing the joy of music with your child, something that will bring them so much satisfaction in their lives. It isn't worth losing your patience over an unproductive lesson. Your child may have a hard time associated good thoughts with the piano if his/her lessons are always a time of stress. Just relax and try to have fun. Good luck! 


Julie Jewell
07/10/2011 13:00

Wish I'd had this advise when I was teaching my own children.

Lisa Tanner
07/15/2011 14:19

I am so excited that you are doing this! I have been wanting to start teaching my own kids,(until they can come to you, of course:)) but didn't know where to start. Keep up the good advise, and we will see how it goes!

08/03/2011 07:17

Well-written article with some good advice! I'm at the tail end of having taught my own children. It's been good. A couple of months ago I blogged a summary of what worked for us - some of it is the same as what you say, some is different. If you're interested, here is the link: http://ladonasmusicstudio.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/teaching-your-own-children/

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