Child Pianists Are Like Guide Dogs
If I said to you, "Child pianists are like guide dogs," you'd probably ask for an explanation. My office overlooks streets where guide dogs are trained. A common sight is a trainer with a dog, learning the various skills the dogs must master. I see the dog-trainer teams gather for a rest near their van, which delivers them to the city streets for the training. You can see the dogs close up and I must say I’ve never seen dogs smile quite so much as these happy animals.
As I walked by another team, I saw the trainer gently pull on the dog’s harness and whisper something to the dog. The dog smiled and stopped. The trainer handed the dog a treat. Suddenly it occurred to me, “If only all piano teachers were as patient as these trainers, then all the kids taking piano would be as happy as these animals.”
Piano Is Easy
And patience was the key. You could see that the trainers were very gentle and calm. They never used any negative reinforcement. The proof of this was the smile on the dogs face. The trainers whispered gently to the dogs. That's exactly what I do with children during lessons. And another thing that struck me was the similarity of the smile on the dogs and the children’s faces.
A Sign Of Trust
It was a calm, happy smile of contentment, knowing that they were doing well at whatever their instructor had in mind. You could see the trust between the dog and the trainer. It is the same bond of trust the piano teacher must have with a child. In essence, the child must trust that you will not go too fast and will not be negative.
Imagine the result with the dogs if you were impatient and negative. They would sense it in a second, and would probably be impossible to train or handle in that mood.
Constant Correction Breeds Unease
It’s the same with kids. How do you expect them to do their job calmly and well if they are stressed by the teacher’s behavior and evaluation? A much wiser approach is to simply view the lesson time as an opportunity to interest the child in music, not make a Carnegie Hall star out of them. The teachers of guide dogs are not trying to make Show Dogs out of the animals, they are trying to use kindness to teach the animals the skills they will need.
No Single Piano Lesson Matters
A general rule is that no single piano lesson will make a pianist out of a kid. Not even a thousand lessons will do that. But you can show them that the piano is a fun place to be. The wise piano teacher goes at the pace of the child, even if that is the pace of a snail. That is the only way to gain their undivided attention and personal loyalty.
Use Humor, Not Discipline
Substitute humor for discipline. Find ways to get the child engaged with the piano in their own way. Do you buy a child a toy and then angrily say, "Here's the only way to play with it!" No, you give them the toy and see what their childish brain can make out of it. If they need help, give it to them happily and with a nurturing sense.
Look at the picture of the dog at the top of the page. Do you get the sense that this animal has been rushed, intimidated and forced to form a negative image of themselves? No, they get a little doggie cookie every time they do something well. Every time they fail, they simply and gently do the task again. Keep smiling, kids, so you can lead us blind adults.
Piano Teaching Style
If It’s Fun For The Teacher, It’s Fun For The Kids
Piano Methods and Children’s Personalities
The Backwards Piano Method
Reverse Psychology and Children’s Piano
Help Your Child Enjoy The Piano
Ten Rules for A Pleasant Piano Teaching Atmosphere
If You’re Having Fun, You’re Not Learning
The Difference Between the Worst and Best Piano Teacher
A Piano Teacher’s Emotions
A Pleasant Piano Lesson Atmosphere
The Use of Humor in Piano Lessons
Make Use of Your Student’s Sense of Humor
The Piano Whisperer
Fitting the Piano Method to the Child
Soft Piano vs. Hard Piano
Why I Teach Piano
Advice To A Young Piano Teacher
Teaching Children's Piano
Guilt Is The Wrong Way To Buy Attention
The Piano Teacher’s Tone of Voice
Knowing When To Back Off
Piano Candy: The Case For Bribery
Why Nagging Your Child To Practice Won’t Work
How To Make Your Kids Love The Piano
Teaching Kid’s Piano Is Like Herding Cats
Repeated Victory Will Make You Invincible
Ratio of Talk To Activity in Piano Lessons
On Which Side of the Piano Do You Teach?
Setting the Mood Of Children’s Piano Lessons
Why Kids Succeed At The Piano
The Purpose Of The First Five Piano Lessons
The Real Goal Of Children’s Piano Lessons
The Philosophy Of Piano For Kids
How Simple Should Piano Lessons Be?
Piano Toys You Should Bring To A Lesson
Fun Kid’s Piano
Joyful Piano Lessons
The Invisible Piano Method
A Patient Piano Teacher
Make Beginning Piano Simple
The Reverse Piano Method
Nurture Your Piano Students
Against Disciplinarian Piano Teachers