Can piano teachers teach their own children?
Some of you may be laughing hysterically... No!
Others say, absolutely... Yes!
Years ago I was having lunch with my piano teacher from University (Robin Wood). I had young children at the time (a girl and a boy) and he was amazed that I was teaching them piano. He had tried to teach his kids and it wasn’t successful. He was a passionate and patient man and I was surprised that it hadn’t worked out for him.
Looking back I realize that there is an element of luck (like the right personality combination) and there are some things that can give it a better chance for success.
If you are contemplating teaching your own kids here are a few suggestions:
Create a set time for the lesson as though your child were any other student
Write out clear, weekly, practice notes
After around age 7 don’t say anything during their daily practice. NOTHING. It will help if they can practice on a digital piano with headphones so you can’t hear it. You can remind them a couple of times a week to read their practice notes and you can be a Mom (or Dad) and create a regular practice schedule for them, but what they do during that time is for them to discover.
Create long term goals with them. My children’s goal was a yearly RCM piano exam. Each year after the exam they could sign up for another year or try something else musical (like choir, violin, etc.). When the weather turned nice and piano was becoming a slog, I reminded them that after their exam they could stop. That got them through the spring and except for one year they took all their exams
What happened that one year? Around age 11 (they were 2 years apart but age 11 was the magic age) they said, NO. They didn’t want to do piano anymore. I was heartbroken but a deal is a deal. My daughter started violin and my son was already in choir and he kept that going. After 6 months my daughter asked to start piano again. For my son it was about 4 weeks. They chose to come back because they missed it! After that it became part of their lives. Christine got her music degree and owns a music school, Jason took his grade 10 piano and went on to become an engineer (robotics). I am very proud of them both and they both still have music in their life.
Be extra patient with your own kids. They will think you were born playing the piano and that you don’t understand how hard it is for them
Let them choose most of their pieces. Let them play what they listen to on YouTube or hear with their video games.
Sometimes PLAY piano with them. No learning. Just jamming. One of you play some vi-ii-V-I chords (think Heart and Soul or PlayPianoChordsToday) and the other one plays any note in the C scale. Be creative with them. Remember NO learning, just PLAYing :-)
Be aware of your own musical goals and make sure you are fostering their musical goals and not yours.
Sandwich their lesson in between two other students and have your child come in the same door the other students arrive at
Create a chart that they can check off when they finish their practice. Put it on the fridge for all to see.
What if you tried and it just doesn’t gel?
Hire a senior student to teach your child or another favourite teacher
You know it’s not working if you hear yourself say “you know people actually pay me to do this and they don’t talk back.”
Be kind to yourself. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding another instrument, choir, dance or karate. Find out their hearts desire, not yours, and support it 100%
Piano teachers can teach their own children and whether you choose to or not, your child will grow up in a house full of music. They will absorb it and benefit from it just by being around live music. If it doesn’t work right now that doesn’t mean forever. Be patient and continue to show your children the joy that music brings to you. That’s the best gift of all!