Piano Teaching Q&A: Piano Teaching Mama

Each week we will be featuring questions asked by our readers, and will do our best to answer them and to give some ideas πŸ™‚ 

One thing that came up the other day while at lunch with some piano friends was the question of whether it works to teach your own children piano lessons. It is an interesting subject, so I thought I’d open it up to our readers!

As a mom who is a piano teacher, this topic has come to my mind quite often, as I am sure it has for many of you readers who are also parents. It is quite the debate in my mind:

On the one hand, I have put in so many hundreds and thousands of hours in my own piano study and have achieved a college degree in piano performance, and I have taught for so many years and gained much experience – why not use all of this education and experience to bless my own family? Since my husband and I are both pianists, and both of our families are full of musicians, chances are that our kids will be quite musical. Think of all the money we could save on piano lessons! Think of the ease in scheduling lessons, the avoided hassle of finding the right teachers and driving children to all those lessons (not to mention the saved time that would be spent driving to all these lessons!), week after week after week. Think about how hard it really could be to find a teacher who I really feel could give my children a wonderful music education, when I, myself, have all the training and requirements I’d be looking for!

But on the other hand, what if my children just don’t respond to me in the role of piano teacher? What if it’s hard to separate between the two roles? What if, by taking lessons from their mother, my children are missing out on a wonderful teacher who could be an amazing mentor in their life? What if we get lazy and put off lessons, and thus lack the structure of normal piano lessons?

So much to think about. I really haven’t come to a conclusion yet. I may not be able to figure it out until my son is older. I do think that a lot of it may have to do with the personality of the child. For example, I used to teach my little sister and little brother. My sister responded fine to my teaching. My brother, on the other hand, would sit on the piano bench with his hands covering his ears, refusing to listen to me (thanks Josh!). (Luckily they both moved on to other teachers and both turned into fine pianists!) 

One of my former piano teachers once told me about teaching her own children. She actually had them walk out the front door and walk around to the studio entrance for their lessons. Once they walked in that door, she was their teacher. After the lesson they would walk back outside and into the front door, where she would greet them as their mother.

Ok, readers: what do you think? Any readers out there who currently are teaching their own children? Any who have children taking from someone else? Ready, discuss!

If you have a question you’d like to ask us, leave it in a comment or submit it here.
Jennifer Boster

10 Responses to “Piano Teaching Q&A: Piano Teaching Mama

  • I love that story about walking out and walking back in! I've thought about the same thing–wearing a distinctly (but figuratively) different hat as a teacher than as a parent, and I think it could work with younger children, but your kids might not find the game as fun when they get older! And I agree that having another adult mentor could be a really positive experience–we all love our piano teachers!

  • Thank you for this post! My husband and I are expecting our first baby in October — and I've already had these questions come to mind. I'm very interested to see what others have to say!
    (and I would love to hear how you balance motherhood and teaching — which is another big question in my head at this point! πŸ™‚
    Thanks!

  • I have been teaching piano for 7 years. My mother is the only teacher I have ever had. I think she is a fantastic teacher and I have learned everything I know from her. However, I never felt very disciplined with my practicing. She would assign me songs and when I felt I had practiced them enough to pass them off, I would approach her for a lesson. This worked alright, however, I did not progress as quickly as I believe I would have with a different teacher. If lessons are free, there's not that drive to get your moneys worth.

    I loved having my mother as a teacher, but I think I would have liked the experience with another teacher to see if I would have practiced and progressed quicker.

  • Thanks for the great comments!

    Yes Jenny, that is a HUGE consideration in my mind – because I so look up to my own piano teachers and it is wonderful to have other great adult mentors in your life as you grow up.

    Anya, I am thinking that we will spend some time very soon just focusing on balancing teaching & family, this seems to be a very important topic to a lot of our readers.

    Savannah – thanks for your input! Yes that is one thing I would worry about with teaching my own kids, that it wouldn't be as disciplined as with another teacher. I think to make it work you'd have to make sure to keep to a regular lesson time and be very diligent in your practicing. It's a lot to think about!

  • As qualified as I think I might be to teach my own children, in the many times I have encountered this situation with others, I have just never seen it work!

    My child (21 months) is already enrolled in a music class with another teacher, and I plan to continue putting him with other teachers as he grows and moves into private lessons. I will of course be a second teacher at home as he practices, which can be just as valuable.

  • I have talked to a lot of teachers about this and I think that when you teach your own children lessons you miss out on a lot. You miss out on watching your child learn from another person. You might find out that they respond better to a certain kind of teaching that you never tried. You also miss out on watching another teacher teach. I'm always trying to observe other teachers to learn new things.

    You don't get to experience the joy of watching your child show off what they have accomplished that week with their practicing to their teacher. One parent said to me that their favorite part of coming to lessons was that they got to watch their child learn for 30 minutes every week. They just got to watch and marvel at their child. I think when you take on both the role of the teacher and the practicing parent that becomes tricky. Now I've heard of people who have their spouses be the practicing parent and it works for some people, but I think I would miss the bond that is created by working towards a goal with my child and having another adult praise that hard work and be pleased with my child. I think a great amount of self esteem comes when other adults praise them for their hard work. But that's just me.

  • Wonderful comments! Bonnie, I love the concept of being the second teacher at home to help them practice. Even if you are not your child's primary piano teacher, you definitely can teach them so much. And Jentry, awesome points! I think you are right about missing out on the role of practicing parent.

    What I would love, when my son is old enough to take lessons, is if I lived close to one of you amazing teachers, and we could do a little student swap! πŸ™‚

  • I have taught 3 of my children piano, but when one was struggling with motivation or listening to my advice I swapped with my friend who teaches (I taught her child and she taught mine for a while). Having an outside motivator was really beneficial. For my younger children -giving them the privilege of "staying up late" for some alone time practicing with mom has been a great motivator as well. I think the "best" situation really depends on your child's personality.

  • Thanks for the comment, Heidi! It's good to hear from a mother who has taught her own children. I agree, I think it will depend a LOT on the personality!

  • So I'm late to comment on this one, but since my opinion seems to differ from most here, why not post it? lol
    My son is now almost four and I have started lessons with him. He came to me one day right after a student left and said, "Mommy, I want to be the piano lesson. I'll sit here; you sit there and talk to me." So, I did – and that was our first lesson.
    My reasoning is that he is not old enough for me to pay another teacher to teach him, but I'm ready to start nurturing his interest and making good use of developing his dexterity as young as possible. I will continue to teach him unless it's no longer "working" and then I'll have him take from a great teacher in the area whom I've taken lessons from. But, honestly, I'm planning to have him start a second instrument (probably violin) in a couple years and can't afford to pay for piano and violin lessons. That way he will have another teacher, but it will be for a different instrument. πŸ™‚ So that's the plan…we'll see how it goes!