How do I manage the behavior of younger kids settling into the group environment?

You can prevent potential behavior problems up front, by observing the behavior of younger students at the intro lesson.

At that point you can decide if they’ll be able to handle moving on to being in a group environment.

In the first few group lessons, try to set behavioral expectations for the student to prevent any disruptive habits from continuing.

If a student is unable or unwilling to behave, you have the choice to keep trying to manage their behavior OR manage them out of the studio.


Daniel: This actually came up in the group as well. In the last 48 hours, someone posted a question where she mentioned that she’d started the groups … It might have been Melissa. I can’t remember … that she’d started the groups. They went pretty well, but she did have concerns about a younger student. Couple thoughts here right off the bat, high-level to low-level tactical stuff. First off, high-level. Five- and six-year-olds, it’s one thing when you’re converting a student over who has been with you prior to a conversion, like you had, Eric. It’s one thing to take those kids and put them in the group now, because obviously, you don’t want to fire … You have the student. You don’t want to fire them if they’re not a good fit. I’ve seen this happen a lot over the course of two years as I’ve worked with people on conversion, studio conversion. What I will say is that now I’m very careful when evaluating a six-year-old, and especially a five-year-old, and I’m just observing them very closely in that intro lesson to make sure that they’re going to fit in well. From a high-level perspective, I want people to play good defense, to play goalie, if you will, in your studio when considering bringing kids in. I was uncomfortable teaching even five- and six-year-olds 10 years ago. Now there’s rarely a six-year-old that I’ll turn away, and I will take a lot of five-year-olds. I even last year took a very mature four-year-old … two, actually, if you count my son. That from a high-level perspective, bringing new people in, have those glasses on. Be looking at the world through those glasses. That’s the first thing. In terms of the specific question, behaviorally managing the younger ones, Eric, can you tell me … I’m going to unmute you, Can you tell me some of the behavior things that he was doing that alarmed you?

Eric: The six-year-old, he had been taking lessons with me for about a month, and yesterday was his first group. He was like, “Why are the walls painted this color?” and “Why are the buttons like this?” and “What does this button do?” That’s just how he was when we were working one-on-one. That was one thing, but then getting him to just settle, settle into the environment, every little thing was a distraction.

Daniel: Okay, and you did see that behavior in the one-to-one lessons? That’s interesting.

Eric: Yeah.

Daniel: Okay. Here’s what I’ll say. Again, first … I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this first part. Again, that would be a warning sign for me before that child started. Probably would test that out, but here’s the thing. I’m just going to go there. That first or second group is really critical for new kids because they are learning from me what the expectation is. If I get the sense that a kid is going to be super chatty, or they don’t take the cues from me that they’re supposed to keep their voice down when they talk … Even if you watch the observations, you’ll hear that I’m kind of talking in that library voice, and the kids are talking back to me in that library voice. Every once in a while, I’ll get that kid that they just don’t pick up that social cue, and they’re talking to me full volume. I will allow that for a little bit, but then I will in that first lesson start saying, “Hey, could you talk a little softer?” or something like that, because again, not trying to distract the other children. I know that there are other teachers, especially teachers who have been teaching this method a lot longer, that maybe they have … They don’t mind that. Personally, my comfort level, I want everyone kind of keeping that level of quiet in the room. But past that, if I see any kind of behavior from the child that I just don’t want, I’m not afraid to do this because I know one of two things is going to happen. Either this kid is going to fall in line with how I plan on running the group and respecting the people around him and respecting the time that he’s doing … is there and what he’s supposed to be doing, he’s either going to go to that behavior or he’s not going to be in my studio for very long. When I have that mindset, I don’t mind to get really stern with that kid, even in their first lesson. I don’t care. I want that kid to have a good experience of the music, but there is a sense that he’s learning music in the context of the format that I have set up for him. It works really well. I have the confidence to see all kinds of different kids come in. I’ve seen very rowdy kids come in and take that cue and be fine after one lesson, but I’ve seen kids who buck against that and they want to … Month or two in, they are still trying to push my buttons or misbehaving, doing things knowingly that I’ve asked them a half dozen or a dozen times not to do. I will just escalate that sternness towards them until they either voluntarily quit or I ask them to leave. That kid’s either going to fall in line within a couple of lessons or I … I mean, I’m not going to tell you how to run your studio, but in my studio, if that kid is either too immature … I don’t say it in a snarky way, but if the kid is just too young to be able to have some self-discipline, or with an older child, if they are just deliberately not doing what I say, then I’m going to manage them out. Let me stop talking for just a second and ask if you have a follow-up question to that, because in some ways I have answered your question, but in other ways I haven’t, because you were asking … I think perhaps you were asking kind of a tactical question. “How do I do that?” Go ahead.

Eric: The follow-up question that comes to mind is would you ever have the direct conversation with the child saying, “I really like you,” along these lines of “I really like you, but this is the hour that we have to do piano. If you’re not able to fall in line, essentially, then you’re not going to be able to continue coming here”?

Daniel: I probably have said it, not quite that way. I don’t think I’ve ever said, “You can’t continue to come.” To me, that’s for the parent. I realize in the moment you’re just … You’re kind of thinking on the spot here. I realize that. I’m not criticizing your words, but … I mean, I can think of one girl that I wasn’t sure she was going to last. Again, I just got stern with her. I was the harder version of myself. When I see that they are pulling themselves in line, that’s when I will become the more entertaining character of myself that I play for the kids, that … the goofy guy that … but until I can see that they can keep themselves together, I don’t bring that out for that particular child. My point is, to answer the question, I had a version of that conversation with her. I’m trying to remember what it would’ve been like. Something along the lines of … It’s usually never more than a sentence or two at a time, like, “Hey, listen, you can’t do that. I’ve asked you a half dozen times. You’ve got to stop pushing buttons. You’ve got to stop going over to the organ sound or the fireworks sound on this keyboard, okay?” Sometimes I’ll just stand … I’ll stand by her keyboard and kind of mildly glare at her if she’s just kind of staring up the ceiling, like, “What are you doing?” Again, kids take the hint or they don’t.

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