Just as Dora has Boots and Batman has Robin, piano teachers need a sidekick. In this case, our sidekicks are our piano parents. Without them, our students and our studios suffer. Which is why it is absolutely essential to create strong bonds with the people who matter most to our piano students.
Think about the most common piano teaching frustrations; lack of practice, missed lessons, missed payments… each and every one can be greatly eased with strong parent-teacher bonds. But for some reason, these bonds can be difficult to create… for some reason (in North American society anyways) there can be a certain level of discomfort that exists between parents and teachers.
I personally, have no tolerance for uncomfortable situations, so I bust my butt right from the start to break down any awkward barriers to build healthy, positive relationships with my piano parents right from the start. Here’s how:
5 Ways to Build Bonds With Parents
1. Be an Opportunist.
Every single email or phone call is an opportunity. Send back a simple “Thank you” and you’ve just missed a golden chance for some serious PR. For example, I’m in the midst of asking my students to RSVP to our winter recital. Each is writing back with a “yes” or “no”. Some parents elaborate with more, and some don’t. However, I’m not letting a single email go by the wayside without a response that has some sort of nicety and personal comment about their child. Don’t miss these moments for connection when you have a captive audience.
2. Be a Wealth of Information
If you’re like me, many parents of my students do not have a musical background. However, they believe strongly in the importance of music and are keen to give their children every opportunity they may not have been granted. These parents need your guidance and support. Send a monthly newsletter to your piano parents with tips on how non-musicians can still support piano practice at home.
3. Be a Cheerleader
If your student has accomplished something “praise-worthy” be sure to recognize this accomplishment in a way that makes a child feel valued and a parent feel proud. I’m not saying “go overkill” and recognize every single completed piece, but do have some sort of reward program (Student of the Month, My First Gig, Composer of the Month) that says to parents and their children, “Hey! You’re both doing a bang-up job… way to go!”
4. Show You Know
Work to discover each child’s “spark”. What’s their “spark”? It’s that one thing that defines who that child is at that moment in his or her life. If you are able to hone in on what it is that makes each child wonderfully unique, and then let his or her parents know that you see this too, you’ll truly strengthen this connection. Parents are not often told that others also see what it is about their child that they themselves already know and love. It’s fairly rare for another adult to have the opportunities to gain this insight. But you have these opportunities. This can communicated in something be as simple as a genuine chat after the lesson, an “out of the blue” email or a handwritten card in the mail.
5. Be Approachable
Parents can sometimes feel uncomfortable in the company of another adult who a) is in an “authoritative role” and b) who has the opportunity to pass judgement on their child. Tear down these walls by showing them that you truly are both on the same “side”. Make it clear that the well-being of their child is the most important thing to both of you; that the goal of instilling a love of music is all that really matters.
Let down your own guard and allow yourself to joke with the parents, to share in the day-to-day giggles that take place in your studio, and to be casual and non-threatening. Even if you can’t imagine yourself ever being intimidating to anyone… it’s worth working extra hard to be friendly and approachable. Many misunderstandings and miscommunications (that then become what we call “piano teacher headaches”) can be wiped away with the effort to create a connection and even a friendship.
Build Relationships, Build a Stronger Studio
With these 5 tips in mind you can set out to create positive and strong relationships in your piano teaching studio. And with these strong connections come a great deal of loyalty, trust and collaboration… all things that will benefit your piano students immensely.