Parents beating the kids (over lessons)?


Connie Sunday said: Apr 19, 2006
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

Good morning:

Nearly all my interactions with my students are good, but occasionally there is this really troublesome event. I don’t write much about the happy interactions, because they are the norm. This one isn’t.

One child (I won’t be specific) had a leg that hurt, and couldn’t sit down. I asked them what was wrong and they said “mommie hit me.” Both children in the family take violin from me, they both appear to be very unhappy and forced into doing it. No matter how much fun I try to build into the lessons, candy, pencils, stickers, games—they’re just not happy little people.

The parents lied to me about viewing a tape I sent home with them. Mom said she watched it, but dad came in, and said they did not. And they’re always either 20 minutes late, or call an hour before or at the lesson time, to cancel. (Doing this is my particular pet peeve).

Last night, I had rearranged my schedule and agreed to give them a makeup on my day off, and they were again 20 minutes late. I didn’t plan on doing this, but when they finally came in, I told them I would not be able to teach them due to the lateness. I followed up with a polite but assertive letter. I’m hoping they’ll quit.

This sort of thing gives me nightmares. I fear that the parents are beating the kids (they’re from a different culture and both are high ranking academics). Their tiny little children—one is 7 1/2 but still tiny—are not enjoying lessons and, I fear, are getting beaten for not cooperating. Children can dig their heels in sometimes. And these people are going to be going back to their home country for two months this summer. They except their progeny to be in youth symphony in the Fall—which is what I suggested, before they told me they’d be gone for most of the summer.

Nightmares because of thinking the children are getting beaten, because they’re clearly unhappy, and because of concerns for my own financial status—if I fire everyone, what will become of me? But these kids are the primary concern.

My posiiton is, if a child really doesn’t like lessons, they shouldn’t be forced to take them—do you agree?

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:

said: Apr 19, 2006
 32 posts

What a scary thing to deal with! I can’t say that I have had students with evidence of physical abuse (perhaps you should call department of social services?), but I do have a few who are clearly unhappy about taking violin lessons. I see it more as a phase that kids go through; what younger child would be happy about having to practice when their friends get to go outside and play?? But as they get older, I feel like these children start to take ownership of their music and become proud of their accomplishments. I begged my mom to let me quit EVERY DAY in 3rd and 4th grade—and now I am so thankful that she still dragged me to lessons and sat down to practice with me every day!! I owe my passion for this profession to my mother—without her and my teacher’s patience, I would not be enjoying this wonderful career as a Suzuki teacher.

Grace said: Apr 19, 2006
110 posts

Sometimes you just have to let students go. The physical abuse is a tricky situation since you haven’t directly witnessed anything, but at least the parents have clearly shown you that they do not value your lesson time by the cancellations and lateness. It’s one thing if the child is going through some phase where he/she doesn’t want to practice but the parent is still committed and values the lesson. It’s another thing if BOTH the child and the parents don’t value the lesson…

I had to let a student go 2 years ago. This girl (4th grader) was not practicing at all, making zero progress every week. The mom would never come into lesson with her because she was running errands instead, sometimes leaving the girl to sit through my next lessons for 30-45 minutes after her lesson was over. The final straw was that the girl began calling me to tell me her family had some sort of conflict and couldn’t come to lesson, and then she would tell her mom that I called HER to cancel the lesson! Well, this happened about 3 times, and of course her mom was getting upset that I was charging them for lessons I had supposedly cancelled, so when we figured out the girl was lying to BOTH of us, that was it! I gave them some other teachers’ numbers, but I told the mom that unless their family was going to become more serious about music lessons, it wasn’t going to fix anything to just sign up with a new teacher…

But the main point is that I didn’t realize until she was gone how much of a drain her lesson was on me each week! After she quit, I had SO much more energy and joy in teaching all the rest of my students. It’s a different mindset from being a public school teacher where you are there to teach everyone. I have accepted that I’m not going to reach every kid out there because my studio size is very limited. I wouldn’t worry about going out of business; as you said, these cases are not the “norm”. There are many wonderful students and families out there who are waiting to get into lessons. The money is NOT worth the psychological price you pay!

said: Apr 19, 2006
 1 posts

I am not a teacher but a parent. My understanding is that teachers as well as doctors as mandatory reporters. If you think these children are being physically abused you should make a report to social services.

said: Apr 20, 2006
 18 posts

Child abuse was a topic we recently looked at in my psychology class. Ekirjner is right about school teachers and health care professionals being required to report signs of abuse in most states. The American Humane Association and Child Help USA have a wealth of information on their websites:

Mariam said: Apr 20, 2006
Mariam GregorianViolin
Ashburn, VA
34 posts

Gosh, what a tough situation. I agree that suspected abuse should be reported to the authorites, but you might need to have more concrete evidence. Unfortunately, there’s probably not much you can do.

It both saddens and angers me to see parents taking something as wonderful as music and turning it into an opportunity to breed negativity. You are probably right that the kids don’t enjoy violin. I don’t think I would either with parents like that! The teacher can only do so much. Mshikibu, it sounds like you have been positively heroic in your attempts to bring joy to their music making. I hope you don’t blame yourself in any way.

The most bizarre family I ever worked with was during my first year of teaching. I was working with a 6 year old little boy, and he needed many reminders to have good posture (as just about everyone does!). The father told me that the problem was that the devil was making the child lazy, disrespectful, and sinful, and that the issue of poor posture was indicative of a character defect in the child. He was also not allowed to take a bow (even when performing), as bowing was “prideful”. There were other equally unsettling comments that he made at other times. Do I believe that he was abusing his son? Well, I saw first hand the emotional abuse. I would not have been a bit surprised to find that he was physically abusive as well. I don’t think that there was anything I could have done, but it still haunts me to this day.

Cynthia Faisst said: Apr 20, 2006
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

If you are not sure about your own judgement you can usually call a child abuse hot line number in your community.

Tell them what you know to the best of your ability. They are trained to determine whether you are describing something that needs to be looked into. They will look into the situation if it seems warrented.

Most reports to child services are about neglect or ignorance. Your social services social worker will start with an inquiry which includes educating parents about safe pracitices and determine whether they need aditional services or family assistance.

Something done proactively is better than waiting till something really truely tragic happens. There are many complex reasons why parents have difficulty and professional social worker is trained to recognize these things and iniciate approapriate remedies.

If you would like to learn more about the issue of child abuse they may even have some

Ms. Cynthia
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

You must log in to post comments.

A note about the discussion forum: Public discussion forum posts are viewable by anyone. Anyone can read the forums, but you must create an account with your email address to post. Private forums are viewable by anyone that is a part of that private forum's group. Discussion forum posts are the opinion of the poster and do not constitute endorsement by or official position of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Inc.

Please do not use the discussion forums to advertise products or services