If You're Having Fun, You're Not Learning
"If you're having fun, you're not learning." That's what a lot of piano teachers think, but they're wrong, from a child's point of view. Such a statement may be true of law school or cramming for an exam in a subject in which you have no interest. Apply it to kids piano and you’re in for a rude awakening.
Anyone involved with teaching children knows that sternness and discipline only work to a degree. Ultimately, you’ll need the cooperation of the person you’re trying to teach.
There are only two ways to gain the cooperation of a child. You can use force or love. If it’s hypothetically a life or death situation, you may be justified in using mental force, but kids piano is not such a situation.
Treat Kids As Equals
There is always the chance that the child will take advantage and goof off. That is a chance worth taking. This is because I have never found a child who didn’t respond positively to being on a somewhat equal footing as an adult, even for a little while.
As my model teachers, I use the fabulous piano teachers I had as a child and as a young professional. When one is a talented young professional pianist, no teacher yells at you or intimidates you. It isn't necessary or productive. There is a spirit of mutual respect that breeds a positive learning atmosphere.
Find Motivation Other Than Force
You may say, “You can’t treat six year olds like professionals. That’s insane.” But you’re wrong. Kids have very developed antennae, and can sense force in a millisecond. You can use hypothetical, theatrical force somewhere in the background, if you only jokingly refer to it in the future.
But as soon as the child sense real force and anger, cooperation stops immediately. You need to train the student to know when you mean business, and be clever enough not to make it odious for the child.
Ratio Of Fun To Force
Maintain a ten to one proportion of collegial cooperation to gentle force. Once you’ve established that force is only used gently and when necessary, like a horse, the child will begin to cooperate with you. Never forget that a child is always ready for learning if they are in a good mood.
You have to be clever enough to offer them the chance to be in that good mood as you teach them. Doing this takes exquisite sensitivity to the child’s reaction to your teaching. The average child becomes interested in the piano by means of series of lesson , not any single lesson.
The child feels they want to be in the room, and therefore they will learn as much as they can that day. I’ve never met a kid that wanted to spend two seconds in a room with an angry piano teacher.