The words we use when speaking to our piano students are incredibly powerful. Children are impressionable and can take everything you say to heart. The wrong verbal approach to a piano student’s struggles (even if delivered with the best of intentions) can create a sense of hopelessness. And piano students who feel hopeless aren’t very likely to remain piano students for long.
So, in today’s post we’re going to help you keep your piano studio jam-packed with optimistic kids who laugh in the face of musical challenges, by sharing the DOs and DON’Ts to follow when talking to struggling piano students.
6 Tips For Talking To Struggling Piano Students
We will all encounter a student who struggles at some point. Often these times of frustration are temporary, but they do have the potential to push a particularly sensitive child over the edge. To get them over the hump and onward to success, keep these 6 tips in mind.
1. Don’t pretend the struggle isn’t real
When a piano student is stuck in a rut, they know it. Attempting to convince them that the rut isn’t real or isn’t particularly deep will make them feel frustrated and confused. Pretending everything is fine gives them the impression that they will not get the help they need to make their feelings of frustration and confusion go away.
2. Do let them know that they aren’t struggling alone
Few things are worse than thinking you are the only one with a problem… so let your struggling piano students know that they aren’t the only one that has experienced a hiccup on the bench. Every student will experience struggles. If you want to retain them you need to share stories of your own struggles and those experienced by other students. If they know they are not alone, and if they know that other students have overcome the same obstacles, they will be more willing to put in the effort to succeed at the piano.
3. Don’t dwell on excuses
Struggling piano students may have a very good excuse for their challenges… but it’s no use dwelling on these excuses. While you can be empathetic to their situations, a quick acknowledgement of the excuse, followed by the offering of proactive strategies will let struggling students focus on moving forward rather dwelling on the problems of the present. Excuses are the gateway to giving up… help your students avoid them at all cost.
4. Do reference an area where they don’t struggle
Piano students, especially young ones, can make a single struggle feel like a thousand. They fixate on the one thing they can’t do perfectly while ignoring a plethora of other capable abilities. When a student is struggling on the piano bench be sure to follow up with an acknowledgement of things that they do particularly well. And better yet, if you can remind them of a skill that once was a challenge and has now been mastered, you’ll give your struggling piano students hope that they can get over their current hurdle.
5. Don’t talk about moving backward
Nobody enjoys moving backward, so if you have struggling piano students, communicate the idea of lateral movement. Let them know that more time or additional material at their current level will help them eliminate their current struggles. It’s certainly not the end of the world if you have to review past material, but if you can present your students with new material from different sources (but at the same level or a lower level) you will be more able to keep their pride in tact.
6. Do offer them a plan for remediation
Finally, and most importantly, offer your piano students an immediate plan of action. Acknowledge that things are hard and let them know that you will help them fix the problem. Young piano students need hope delivered from someone in the driver’s seat. Avoid saying, “You need to do this,” or “You need to do that,” and instead use phrases like, “I am going to help you by doing this…” or “We can overcome this challenge by doing that.”
More Strategies For Struggling Piano Students
If you have a student who is struggling with note reading, struggling with piano practice, or struggling with recital preparation, check out the 3 posts shared below for specific strategies to address each of these issues.