how do you gently “Fire” a family?

Nora Hamerman said: Oct 7, 2014
Nora Hamerman
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Voice
Reston, VA
4 posts

I have been teaching piano to a family with two little girls, now aged 6 and 7, for a couple of years and they are literally going backwards. i have a waiting list in my studio and would like to move on. The older child can no longer remember pieces she played last spring even though they did take lessons for much of the summer. Both parents are overloaded with work. They keep saying they plan to buy a grand piano to replace their old spinet that has keys that don’t play, but nothing happens, although I have suggested that they buy an upright and upgrade in the future or even a good digital to tide them over. The girls practice only a few times a week and do not regularly listen to the recordings. In short, they are totally out of sync with the Suzuki method. I would like to give them a one month ultimatum: daily practice, even if very short at first; no missed individual lessons or group lessons (has to take priority over other obligations); daily listening to recordings; a plan to get an instrument that the girls can play without distress. But how to do this? Conversations don’t seem to make a dent, the mother agrees and then nothing happens. Should I write a letter with my demands and set a deadline? I like these folks, just don’t think their family can handle Suzuki. (Both parents are employed by their parents, and I sense that there is unbearable pressure from that quarter right now.) I could certainly refer them to a traditional teacher but most around here don’t take students that young.

If any of you have experience with this, please let me know. I am afraid that if I put something in writing the tone will be unpleasant and I don’t want that.

Nora Hamerman

Mengwei Shen said: Oct 7, 2014
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
221 posts

The discussion in this thread may be useful for you:

Heather Figi said: Oct 8, 2014
 96 posts

Great question and very important that we handle as professionally as possible.

1- Do you have studio policies that you can reference? I have pledges that everyone signs at the beginning of the year and one of the many reasons I do this is in case any one of the parties is not holding up their agreement it gives me something to point to.

2- Honesty—Pray to find the right words to be graceful and authentic in your communications. It does no party a favor not to be clear that the expectations are not being committed to and this undermines the success of the children. I would send an email asking the parent(s) to call you when they have a moment because you would like to discuss their families enrollment in your studio

3- Character development for you: From a spiritualist perspective, nothing is personal and everything is here to help us grow and develop into our ever expanding version of our highest self. This is clearly not a good fit and you can even frame it like that: the family wants apples (a very low commitment practice program) and you offer oranges (a program that needs a high practice commitment.) I doubt that the ultimatum will work with what they have already demonstrated but it would be worth a try. They seem to be saying with all their actions that they have reached maxed capacity as a family and that your program is not in alignment with where their family is at.

Heather Figi said: Oct 8, 2014
 96 posts

I forgot to mention what I feel is also important—expressing empathy and being other oriented. Chances are this family may have challenges in other areas of their life. I wish you the best.

Also, I had this situation come up for me recently and received advice here. It was very helpful. Here is the link to that discussion:

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