difficult student

Rose Lander said: Apr 2, 2015
57 posts

I have a twelve year old boy I have taught for over 3 years. he is talented musically. he is playing the Vivaldi allegro currently. unfortunately he has a severe case of ADD which his father (divorced from his mom) refuses treatment. he is further handicapped by his dad’s active discouragement. he will not allow him to practice when his son is with him on weekends. even though my student loves playing in our local orchestra, his dad forced him to quit. his mom is super dedicated, so that my student keeps getting very mixed messages. he has always been a difficult child to teach because he is easily distracted, does not concentrate well, and needs to be noodling, plucking the strings and talking constantly. his lessons are very erratic, sometimes productive, but oftentimes he is totally unprepared, and even more troubling, refuses to listen to my suggestions.(sporatic)
any insights, strategies would be most welcome.
rose lander

Lyn Manton Krueger said: Apr 3, 2015
Lyn Manton KruegerPiano
Dillon, CO
2 posts

Violin lessons may be one of the only consistent, confidence-building, stable activities this young man has. Being caught in the cross-fire of a divorced family is challenging. The young adolescent is walking into a developmental period hormonally, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And then to exacerbate a difficult time with the parents’ issues taking precedence over the health and well-being of the child. Tough. I imagine you have tried to discuss the importance of consistency and their mutual support with both parents, to no avail. Is it possible that Mom and son can schedule daily practice sessions together, since Dad is not interested or capable of being the home teacher? The fact that the boy is still interested in playing gives you an opening to jointly creatively solve some of his struggles. Perhaps he has some ideas as to how to make the situation more productive for him as a musician. Do you play duets together? Does he go to summer camps? What is his favorite genre of music? Can he divide his practice into two sessions/day, first thing in the morning and then before dinner? Does he have an I-Pod to download his music and listen as he is settling into bed at night? Can he speak with his parents and maturely work with them to problem-solve the conflicts? At some point, he needs to take ownership of his passion, and it seems this may be his opportunity to become an emancipated, more self-directed musician, with your ongoing support and feedback. Think about how to set him up to be successful with smaller attainable daily, weekly, monthly, and annual defined goals. And good for you for caring!

Monique Dowgwillo said: Apr 17, 2015
 1 posts

Hello Rose,

I have ADD students and it helps me to really take over the lesson as if they were young students; being as short and clear as possible, giving them no chance to start talking (wich they will do anyway after playing a few notes).

Also focussing on just one (new) piece with a goal in the near future
helped me. One of my students never got the whole Vivaldi right because she was playing in orchestra, playing tango, playing with her sister, doing some grouplesson music etc. ending up with nothing really finished except the grouppieces. She really loves playing and is actually playing well, but finishing longer or difficult pieces is really hard. That’s why I choose pieces not to long and not to difficult.

Having such a difficult familielife doesn’t help ofcourse, but as long as óne parent is supportive there is hope for the boy and I’m sure your and the mother’s efforts together will make it possible for him to grow into a beautifull and happy man.

It’s a lot of energie for us but it’s really really worth it!

Good Luck!

Patricia said: Apr 18, 2015
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
60 posts

Hum….. If i had a student with these problems….. I would talk to the Dad….but not to tell him what he is doing wrong. Find out what kind of music he likes, did he ever play in a garage band? What does he do for a living. You have to see things from his perspective….he probably sees classical violin lessons as his wifes hobby….of which he is divorced from now….so he has no reason to try and enjoy it. Depending on what i would find out….. Perhaps a redirection in lesson….the student is 12 years old- right? I have an electric violin…… I have allowed some students to try it out. (They usually tell me…it weighs heavier then their real one….and feels thicker under their fingers…..). I would not try and get the child to talk to his parents….. He already feels like he is in the middle……
If the Dad is wondful, opens up and starts to talk….. You have to figure out how you can help him enjoy the process. Good Luck.

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