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Need advice teaching a difficult 6 year old

Posted: 06 Feb 2017, 10:51
by vickywin
I recently got a new 6 year old student and I've noticed that lessons have begun to become rather difficult lately. She's a bright kid and picks up things very quickly but sadly I've noticed a growing trend where she simply says "no" to anything I instruct her to do during the lesson.

My lessons are fun with varied activities (note naming, colouring activities, games, clapping to rhythms etc.) so she's not stuck at the piano bench for 30 minutes. But lately no matter what I suggest, she says no purely because I suggested it. I've noticed she has fun with many activities we do but seems to be the sort who never wants to let it show.

Yesterday evening was particularly bad - she just said "no I don't want to do it" (she was learning the first few notes of bass clef) and folded her arms and pouted, continued to say no to everything despite my suggestions of offering a game first or trying another piece/activity and coming back to this. Ultimately I had to be firm and gave her a choice of choosing one of three things to do, and told her doing nothing was not an option.

I keep the parent updated on how the lesson is progressing, and I have a structured assignment sheet that encourages the student to practice something everyday - a spot for a little sticker for each weekday. So far I have not brought her behaviour up as an issue with the parent but am strongly considering talking about it next lesson. The student is not a bad kid - she just seems a bit bratty during lessons (I don't know what she's like at home) and likes to say no for no's sake.

I'd like to know if there are any techniques I can use to handle kids like these. I like my lessons to be fun, and I am a kind teacher who prefers to nudge with positive encouragement rather than be strict. At the same time, I can't have every lesson with her be an uphill battle either.

I have no experience teaching a child like this (still a new teacher!) so I'm taking everything as a learning experience. I'd love to know if there's anything I can do to improve my lessons and discourage the child from acting this way. I'd appreciate any advice - thanks in advance!

Re: Need advice teaching a difficult 6 year old

Posted: 06 Feb 2017, 16:46
by Gill the Piano
This is exactly why I don't teach! Does she WANT to learn or is mummy making her do it? I would never have dared say NO to my teacher - I had too much respect, tinged with a tiny bit of the fear that all teachers used to inspire. Could you use pride - say';Oh, is it too hard for you? My (fictitious) 4 year old pupil Hernia can play it really well...'
Colin will be along soon - I bet he'll have a solution/suggestion for you.

Re: Need advice teaching a difficult 6 year old

Posted: 06 Feb 2017, 18:22
by Colin Nicholson
Hi Vicky
Got the T shirt! (or used to wear it!)
I feel for you, and I know what you are going through. Sometimes no immediate solution.
Sometimes kids start a taj too early for "proper" lessons, and I feel bass clef may be a touch early.
Best to just stick with Treble clef for now/ games etc/ right hand only. little tunes etc.

I see you provide stickers for good progress, that's good.
It might be a suggestion to ONLY award a sticker when she shows willing.
"Sorry my dear, no sticker today, because you refused to do this, and said no" (words to that effect)
On the star chart, don't hesitate to put a X where a star should be.

If you give your pupil a star no matter what, then they are being rewarded for saying "No" and lack of practise.
Kids usually twig on!

Also, you MUST have the parent in the lessons at that age/ difficulty - they don't play up as much, and you should see a difference. Have a chat with them first over the phone (not with kid there).

Myself, after 10 consecutive stars, they get a small paper "Good progress" certificate (about 6 to choose from)!!
That is another incentive. Send me an email of PM if you want to see them.

Make sure you have a separate sheet of paper or card for stars.... kids love to see them accumulate, and regularly count them (even in front of me) awaiting their next star and after 10th, the magic certificate. They HATE to see a dirty X in the middle.... trust me, that works. Always explain what the star was for (don't just hand it to them), and if they don't deserve one, say why.... and explain to the parents aswell.

As Gill says, does she want to learn? (Though bass clef at that age is a tricky one)

Don't forget, although you want to make the lessons fun, they are there to learn.

perhaps have a word with the Mum/ Dad.... and get them to sit in for a while.
If she doesn't settle, just let her go. It's not your fault.

You must tell the Mum about her refusing to do things - attitude already eh? !!
I use Me and My Piano (Harewood & Waterman) Book 1 for young beginners (Faber). Try that book - lots of colour/ puzzles/ and mostly right hand to start, and they learn music using a "rainbow" style (not rhymes just yet) ......
Aged 6 is a tricky age, best when they are about 7.5 approaching 8.

Personally, I wouldn't compare Joe Bloggs to your pupil - parents often don't like comparisons, and it may make the kid cry. However, if you have a similar aged pupil, try and change a lesson so they accidentally walk in and hear their playing! (as the lesson is being finished off).... parents and pupils often then see how good others are without you having to state the obvious. I would just treat her as an individual for now.

Hope that helps.


Re: Need advice teaching a difficult 6 year old

Posted: 07 Feb 2017, 18:29
by Gill the Piano
Colin Nicholson wrote:
Personally, I wouldn't compare Joe Bloggs to your pupil - parents often don't like comparisons, and it may make the kid cry.
:roll: :twisted: :mrgreen: And that's why I don't teach... :lol: