Last month our daughter left her track jacket at the field. Last week she left her running shoes at a cross country race. Yesterday she forgot to bring her saxophone to school.
What is going on?! She is the sweetest, most caring child, a dedicated student, and a responsible member of our family. Is she taking a turn for the worse?
Well, as it turns out, she is… an adolescent. Her brain is undergoing some serious structural changes that are resulting in behaviors that Trevor and I have never previously observed.
If you teach teen students, this scenario probably sounds familiar. Teens are often forgetful and disorganized, and it’s not their fault.
In today’s post, we’re going to outline some piano teaching strategies for your forgetful, disorganized or low-energy teens.
How To Teach Forgetful, Disorganized Teen Piano Students
We expect our young piano students to forget their piano books occasionally. We expect our young piano students to have music bags that look like junk drawers.
But we usually expect more of our teenage piano students. After all, they are getting older and it’s time to start showing some responsibility. But for teenagers, this is often easier said than done.
New research in the area of teen brain development has discovered that during the ages of 11 to 17 the brain is undergoing “pruning”, where many neural pathways developed in childhood are lost. The brain is literally pruning unused neural connections to make things run faster; like an engine upgrade.
This process creates a tumultuous time in the life of teens where they become less organized and more forgetful.
The key to effective teen piano teaching is, therefore, to be understanding of these changes and create an environment that provides for their needs and leads to success. Here are a few suggestions for helping your teen piano students:
1. Don’t Lecture Teens For Forgetfulness Or Disorganization
As frustrating as these behaviors can be, resist the urge to read your teens the riot act. Their brains are working against them. Getting upset with forgetful teens will make them feel inadequate for something that is beyond their control.
2. Continue To Teach Teens Routines
Teaching routines is a part of regular preschool and primer piano lessons. It rarely occurs with teen students, but it should. Forgetful and disorganized teen students need consistent reminders so that they can make lesson routines and home practice a habit. Often teachers are worried about offending the intelligence of their teens with simple reminders and avoid offering assistance with routines. This is a mistake. Teens need reminders delivered in an age-appropriate manner.
3. Do Not Suggest Morning Practice
We are huge proponents of morning practice. If students wake up a little earlier in the morning they are able to practice during a time of day that is quiet and free of distractions. Teens, however, should not practice in the morning. Their brains need every ounce of sleep available. Instead, help your teens find a different, consistent time of day when practice can happen.
4. Be Careful With Facial Expressions And Tone Of Voice
Despite our suggestion of cutting teens some slack, we are not saying you should ignore forgetful and disorganized behavior. We are simply saying that these behaviors should be approached from a place of helpfulness, not frustration.
Interestingly enough, there may be times when you feel like you’re helping your teens but your teens feel like they are being punished. This is because teens are not great at interpreting emotions. They may sense anger where there is no anger at all. You should, therefore, be very careful of your tone of voice, facial expressions, and use of sarcasm when dealing with teen students.
5. Provide Decision-Making Assistance
During the teen years, decision making can be a challenging task. While they may not show it, your teens will appreciate your guidance in selecting repertoire, choosing performance opportunities, and establishing practice routines.
A Tool For Showing Teens That You “Get Them”
If you want to connect with your teen piano students you need to take advantage of every opportunity to let them know that you “get them”. You can accomplish this by providing them with piano repertoire that is designed specifically for teens.
Our newest resource, WunderKeys Intermediate Pop Studies For Piano 1 is the perfect resource for teens.
Your students will become skillful players because they want to practice exercise-based repertoire not because they have to practice exercise-based repertoire. The first 10-15 minutes of their lessons will be transformed from “sit and drill” to “make awesome music” as your teens gain comfort in a variety of key signatures and internalize the fingering patterns and hand shapes needed to become fluent intermediate pianists.