Showing Respect

said: Dec 15, 2006
 55 posts

My last post lead me to another thought about respect in general. I am very frustrated by the lack of respect shown by some of the parents in my studio. They are not out and out disrespectful, however, they are allowing their children to behave disrespectfully. I teach in my home. My studio is in my rec room therefore we have family things in the studio. There is a large built-in bookshelf with my teaching supplies/music, and family books and videos. I have a separate bookshelf at the other end of the room where observers sit, with special books and toys the children are allowed to play with. Now, my children have been brought up that you just don’t touch anything at someone elses house unless you are invited to do so. It really drives me crazy to come into my studio and find that a young student has taken several videos off the shelf and the parent just sits there watching! My requests to put the videos away are usually ignored and the younger sibling flat out says No! I am hesitant to simply take the video away from the child because it would be by force, make a scene and I am not sure how the parent would react, especially when nothing is being treated badly. I simply don’t appreciate that they have helped themselves to something that is not theirs.
When children spill crayons the parents allow them to walk all over the crayons without cleaning them up. Plus, I guess the danger of teaching at home is the invation of privacy. My house has a cathedral entrance. When you enter you either go up to our mail living area, or down to the basement where the studio is. When I first began at home I had a board across the top of the stairs to prevent our friendly dog from running down to greet everyone. Well, the dog is used to all the people now, my cat actually broke the board (he tried to jump over and didn’t succeed) and my family got tired of climbing over it. So, the board came down and now, twice a week I have the same children wandering around my house. The mom will find them, tell them it is my home and they need to be respectful and make them go downstairs but yet week after week it is the same thing.

How do others deal with these issues? Are they things you just “suck up” because they go with the territory?

said: Dec 15, 2006
 5 posts

I would suggest starting with the students and even the younger siblings and let the parents start to take the hint from that. This may be a more roundabout method than what you might ideally wish for, but you are teaching a very important lesson that will last the children the rest of their life: respect. Hey, someone has to do it!

Try the following:

  1. Keep a consistent, zero-tolerance policy. The very instant that a child behaves in a way you don’t like (spilling crayons, taking a video, talking back), quietly but firmly tell them (in an authoritative tone) that “this is not something we do/ how we talk to each other” etc. “in this house.” It is very important to catch them in the act and immediately respond. Set very clear boundaries so they know exactly what they are not allowed to do, and more importantly, what they ARE allowed to do. For example, if you must have crayons, put them in a bucket and explain that they are only allowed to have one crayon out at a time. If they don’t follow the rules, tell them firmly one more time, and if they still don’t obey, take away the crayons and tell them they can try again next week.

When you take away the video, tell them that “this is not something that I allow students to touch in this house.” Then give them a toy that they are allowed to play with instead. If they complain, tell them they have a choice: they can either pick a toy or they can sit quietly on their mom’s lap or next to their parent for the rest of the lesson. Don’t yell or scold, just be very firm and follow through. If the sibling is really too young to understand this (2 or younger), physically pick him and up and hand him over to the parent, asking the parent to please take control of him so you can focus on the student’s lesson.

Oh, and by no means should you ever let a student or sibling wander around your house! If you see them start to head for the door/doorway, immediately say: “Stay in here please. You are not allowed to go in there.” Say this firmly and sternly. If they still go through the door, now turn to the parent and tell them to control their child. Repeat that you do not allow students to go in any other rooms of the house.

  1. No less importantly, minimize the opportunities for the child to misbehave. Try to always be present when the student is there. If you need to leave to go to the bathroom or find something, first tell the child that you need him to “play quietly for a few minutes while I’m gone. Can you do that for me?” Then praise him when you return with a thank you and a big smile. Limit the number of toys in the room. If crayons are a problem, don’t have crayons. If find that picture books are nice quiet distractions. Get rid of the noisy toys, or put them in another room. Try to set up the student for success. If the student starts to drop things and create a racket, ask them firmly to please play quietly. If the racket continues, take away that particular toy. Don’t be afraid to assert authority in your own house. The child will respect you for it and everyone will be happier.

I discovered this in a somewhat backwards way, but it really helps to think of training a child in respect with the same methods and attitude that you would use to train a puppy! Especially in regards to minimizing their chances for getting in trouble. (It is also quite reasonable to get rid of all of your toys and ask the child or parent to bring something to entertain the child while he is not having a lesson. You can even put that in your school policy). This is also true for catching a child “in the act” of misbehaving and immediately correcting him, then giving him something to do instead. In other words, everyone knows it doesn’t do much good to yell at a puppy for chewing your favorite shoe long after he finished chewing it, but if you catch him in the act, tell him “no!” firmly, take it away, and give him something that is his to chew on instead, he learns what is his to chew and what isn’t. I guess it works even better if you reward him for stopping the misbehavior- for dropping the shoe- so you might try to find an equivalent reward for a child stopping his misbehavior (e.g., during a younger student’s lesson, I make the act of being able to sit down an immediate reward for good behavior). Just a thought.

Melissa said: Dec 16, 2006
 151 posts

I am also at the same point that you are in. I now have it written in my policy how students/family/friends need to behave when they are in my studio.
I also have parent ed private lessons before their child starts to take lessons. I explain how the pianos should be treated as well as respect for the my things in the studio at these lessons to the parent.
Of course, children are children and even with doing this I still have some high maintenance ones, where I would take the suggestions of Spinning String.
Hope this helps!

said: Dec 16, 2006
 7 posts

I have a feeling subtelty is lost on what appears to be your one or two problem families! Here’s my idea—can you invest in two baby gates? One to go across the steps to your main living area and one to guard your supplies and videos? These would just be in place while the problem families are in your house and could be removed while the respectful families are present for lessons. Same idea with the crayons—get them out for the families you can trust to not ruin your furnishings, put them away for the ones you can’t.

said: Dec 17, 2006
 38 posts

Earlier this year, students wandering my house became a huge problem. I had kids in and out of my kitchen up and down my stairs, and one child who even started throwing things off the upstairs loft into the studio area. I had parents bringing food for younger siblings, and my studio area was often covered with crumbs whent hey left- I even once had a mom bring an entire box of cereal for the four year old to eat! Some parents even went so far as to tell the younger kids that they could just go upstairs and play with my kids and their babysitter.

Well, as you can imagine, I had enough. In my poilicy sheet this year, I put that students, parents and siblings must remain in the studio area, and then listed areas that were off limits- the kitchen/living area, and the upstiars. I listed that my babysitter cannot and will not be made responsible for younger sibs of students, and that food is not allowed in the house. I sat down with every parent at the beginning of the school year, and explained it, and everyone seemed fine with the new rules.

I have had few problems since, although I have no problems with telling a student or sibling that they can’t be in the living room, up the stairs, etc, or that a parent needs to keep another child quiet while I am teaching.

Laura said: Dec 19, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

I’m sadly feeling my age as I lament about this topic. Kids these days…!!!

In all seriousness, though, I firmly believe—from personal experience both as a current teacher and a former kid—that today’s children lack the basic behaviour we used to have instilled in us. Perhaps there are modern cultural factors, overstimulation from 21st Century life, underparenting, modern media influences, more informality in general, etc. Who really knows why. (I posed a similar question a while back in another thread and there were some great replies.)

But the bottom line is, kids seem to lack inhibition. It simply doesn’t occur to them that they should ask before touching someone else’s things, or going into certain areas of someone’s home. (I’ve had kids going out of their way to enter CLOSED bedroom doors on their way in and out of their lessons!). Gone are the days of polite reservation when entering a different environment. Kids seem, on average, more out-of-control.

(Or is it just me who feels this??)

While some parents don’t seem to respond at all, other parents do their best, but sometimes this isn’t enough—you can really feel their frustration as they resort to yelling at their kids to very little response. The kids who behave at least comfortably well seem to be more of the exception, but upon closer inspection it seems like many of them seem to “have it together” more as a family, with more deliberate parenting approaches. More power to them—as a parent myself, I think we have to be hypervigilant against what is shaping our kids these days. It’s a tougher world for parents. Gone are the days in which kids seemed to raise themselves and turn out just fine.

Some kids behave badly in certain ways because no one has ever stopped them. Or they learn from the example of their peers, who also have never been stopped. And they are not accustomed to complying when someone DOES try to stop them. The healthy respect for authority figures and caregivers is not there. Plain and simple. It’s quite a large-scope, multi-faceted thing if you think about it.

While we can’t realistically hope to change an entire trend of behavior, I believe the best way we can deal with it in our own homes is to follow the excellent ideas already mentioned: that is, establish clear expectations and rules, communicate them, and establish clear consequences (either to the kids or parents, or both) when any of those lines are crossed. Have a zero-tolerance policy.

You know the well-known advice about how kids crave discipline, even if they don’t realize it. There is a certain comfort level to having a clear and predicatable way of doing things, particularly one that is fair and reasonable.

Good luck to everyone involved, both teachers and parents (myself included!)

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