Have you ever taught one of those piano lessons where things were humming along smoothly and then WHAM… the mood of the student beside you changed in an instant? Have you ever had a once-happy child all of a sudden became a gloomy raincloud of uncooperative frowns?
Teaching small children can be a guessing game. You can never really be sure what thought just popped into their heads, what memories triggered a response, or what emotions crept into their minds. Because it’s rare for young children to verbalizing their feelings, teachers are often left baffled… while attempting to somehow return to “happy land”!
I am a firm believer that there is an underlying reason behind every behavior. If teachers can understand their piano students (even just a little bit!) then they’re better able to adapt their lessons to the individuality of a student. In doing so, teachers will spend less time dealing with behavior issues and more time teaching piano. Yay!
Today we’re sharing 10 reasons why your piano student’s mood changed mid-lesson. I know you could probably add another 90 reasons to this list to make it an “even 100” 😉 … but most behaviors seem to stem from one of the following:
10 Reasons Why Your Piano Student’s Mood Just Changed
If “doom and gloom” is suddenly sitting on your piano bench, do a quick check-in on the potential reasons below. Does something match up? Once you find your reason then you can begin to work on a solution (and can hopefully prevent this mood-change in future lessons).
- Your student is feeling inadequate. Most kids aim to please. They desperately want to impress you and seek out your approval. So, when something seemingly difficult arises, they can get anxious that their abilities won’t produce the desired result. The introduction of new concepts, a challenging piece, a change in lesson routines or even benign questions such as, “How did your piano practice go this week?” can cause feelings of inadequacy.
- Your student is hungry or tired (or both). Some kids are more sensitive to outside factors than others. While many can “power through” a lesson with nothing but a few fishy crackers in the car on the way to lessons, others completely droop. Busy days at school with no time to “debrief at home” before lessons can cause a sudden crash in lesson time.
- Your student is hurt. Some children are really sensitive and take everything at face value. Jokes, sarcasm and tone of voice can be completely lost on them. A comment made in jest, with nothing but good intentions, can sometimes be misinterpreted by a young child who hasn’t yet learned to understand indirect humor.
- Your student feels powerless. Some children respond very well to being led, while others prefer to feel as though they are in the driver’s seat. Most children like to know they have choices, and if the option for choice is taken away or not offered, they can shut down.
- Your student doesn’t know how to tell you what they want. Some children don’t yet have the verbal skills to tell you what they want or what they need. They may not understand something you just taught them, but will still nod “yes” when you check in on their understanding. This confusion and frustration can compound and become a large problem without you realizing it has even started in the first place. Check out our 8 ways to check for understanding here.
- Your student feels disconnected. Children crave connections; they want to know all about you and they want you to know all about them. They delight in getting to know bits about your life and they love to share their stories. A feeling of disconnect happens when lesson time is lacking a personal connection, leaving your students wondering if you have an interest in what they find important.
- Your student’s life is complicated. Unfortunately, some children are dealing with some pretty “big stuff” in their lives. In these cases, a student can suddenly shut down for no apparent reason. Always stay connected with piano parents to gain any necessary insights into these kinds of situations.
- Your student is not getting his own way. If you’re a parent… you’re familiar with this kind of anger 😉 Some children tenaciously hold onto their own agenda and, if it is not followed, they respond with anger or frustration. These children are very adverse to authority and are quick to anger when restrictions are placed on them.
- Your student is anxious. Lots of children have anxiety and it often has nothing to do with the task at hand. Some children worry about what’s happening at home while they’re away, some children worry about what might happen on the car ride home, and some children worry about a piece they haven’t yet played. Anxiety manifests itself in a variety of ways, but difficult behavior is one of them.
- Your student isn’t having fun. You can quickly find yourself with uncooperative, unresponsive students if lessons aren’t enjoyable, if their music is not motivating, if their lesson materials aren’t engaging or if they’re sitting on the bench for the entire lesson.
If your student’s mood change is due to boredom, then check out Teach Piano Today’s PianoGameClub. With 4 new hilarious, off-the-bench games delivered to its members each and every month, boredom will be banished from your studio. Check it out here.
The Good News About Mood Changes?
Once you’ve discovered what your student is feeling, you can then begin to investigate the “why”. From then on, piano lessons becomes much easier. With a few tweaks to your lesson delivery you’ll soon have a happy, cheerful piano student back on track.
We recently asked our Facebook Group “What is your “Grouch Busting” tip?”. The responses shared were amazing… so we’ll ask the same question here! Share in the comments below – what do YOU do to “turn it around” when a student has gone from glad to sad?