Question: What do you say to parents who want to stay for lessons and interrupt your style of teaching? I clearly state that parents stay in the next room!
Any piano teacher who has been teaching for more than…well, 30 seconds…knows that no matter how clearly your piano studio policy may be worded, you will always have clients who suddenly feign illiteracy. You can bold, underline, italicize, highlight, headline…surround it with the cutest of musical borders…it just doesn’t seem to matter. However, the issue of parents sitting in on piano lessons is, fortunately, an easy fix.
Let me introduce you to my waiting area.
First things first. If you are going to expect your piano students’ parents to not sit in on lessons you need to provide them with an attractive alternative. Some parents are happy to wait in their car… but for those who crave a deeper connection with your piano studio (or who would rather not wile away the half hour in their tiny Prius) you will need a waiting area. Unfortunately, this means more square footage of your home is taken up by business use, but if you want parents to stay out of the piano lesson room you need to offer them a place to go instead.
It’s All in the Approach
Secondly, establish boundaries from the get-go. If it’s a first piano lesson, be clear by saying “…and Mom can wait out here for you until you are done!” (cue the welcoming gesture towards your waiting room). If you’ve been struggling with an avid sitter-inner for awhile then try saying to the student “…and today is a special day! You get to come in all by yourself!” (cue the firmly shut studio door). Once the “all by yourself” lesson is over, send an email that night to the parent mentioning how wonderfully focused and productive the lesson was that day, and suggest that you try it the same way next week to keep that momentum going.
It’s Watching Day!
Wean parents away from sitting in on lessons by having a scheduled “watching day”. My daughter’s ballet teacher does this, and it’s a clever way to take the sting out of her “No parents allowed” policy. Allow the parent to sit in on the piano lesson on these designated days. Make a big deal about watching days. Mark them on your studio calendar. Hang up a poster. Make it quite clear that these days are the exception. And have fun on watching day! Teach them to play a fun mother daughter/son duet (Heart And Soul anyone?), surprise them by having your student perform an original composition dedicated to Mom etc. etc. Make it an event, and they’ll appreciate the gesture.
So You’re Going to be Difficult Are You?
Of course some parents will still think that the above need not apply to them. In this case, a face-to-face, heart-to-heart is in order. Ask their child to head into the studio to warm-up and have a frank chat outside the studio room with the parent. Voice your concerns about why it isn’t working for you to have them in the lesson room. Be genuine and polite, and emphasize why it is affecting their child’s piano education. Don’t be afraid to be the authority. You are, after all, the one they are paying to obtain your expertise.
If this still doesn’t work I’m venturing to guess that you are also having issues in other areas of your piano studio policy with this particular parent… and I extend my condolences whole-heartedly!