Random question: seeking advice... any teachers here?

I’ve been a Music teacher on and off for close to 20 years. I taught Clarinet privately as well as at the University where I also lectured for a Music Appreciation course.

I haven’t taught lessons or lectured in over 7 years now after moving states for the real work. My wife’s work is the actual income, unlike a meager teacher’s salary.

But I’m stumped today.

Here’s the story: My son (age 12) is in his second year of playing cello in orchestra. He’s had private lessons for over a year but his teacher is moving and no longer available. I knew from the start that he would not be able to learn from me. It’s a father/son issue.

But I thought I would suck it up and give it a go today because he has a small recital in just 2 weeks.
Well, it was nothing but frustration from the start. A bit of progress but it ended with profanities and slamming doors.

How in the heck do you people do it? How do you teach your children complex concepts over long periods of time? It’s similar to a parent who teaches their child a sport I suppose. Has anyone ever had a parent as a coach?

Maybe it just takes time to learn how to deal with each other in a new setting?

Have you ever tried to help your kids with their homework and experienced frustration? Imagine if you knew all of the answers and how to get them and EVEN how to teach them… but still had the same frustrating outcome. It’s rough.

My father never offered/attempted to help me out in my studies, so I have nothing to fall back on other than my experience with other children and young adults. It seems like the main issue is trust and respect for the teacher. It happens much more naturally when you meet someone with credits to their name and pay them for a service. I think my son’s got the idea that “oh, here’s my old man who’s always on me about something.” :rofl:

And perhaps it is equally on me. Have you ever taught someone and thought… “if this was my child I would smack them?” Well, when it’s your child… I mean, I’ve never hit my son, but you get the idea. :rage:

I guess I need to try to treat him with more respect as well. Easier said than done in the heat of the moment :fire:

Any advice? I know it’s rather specific.

Excuse me writing this one out, but it has been rather cathartic.


No kids, but I’ve been in super similar situations in my professional life.

I’m a data engineer and might have to train coworkers on new and confusing topics. Now, some of these coworkers are very senior to me and have accomplished way more than I have or ever could. Needless to say, their animosity and resistance in participating is palpable and way obvious.

I used to get super frustrated to the point where verbal combat would ensue and we’d end up just trying to one up each other with snide comments and backhanded innuendos. I wanted to quit.

My boss then pulled me aside and said instead of being the teacher, be a tutor. Go into it with the mindset of I’m here to help you do what you already know how to do – we’re equals and I’m just here to support and advance your career (music recital).

It really did help defuse the tension since they didn’t see me as an authority or someone they needed to be defensive around – nonthreatening I guess. I’d imagine playing an instrument is also super moody and creative, meaning you’ve got to be in the right mind space to learn and retain new music (data theory).

I don’t know if any of this helped bud, but just know you’re a pretty amazing Dad and are raising a great kid.


First you are an amazing Dad!
(Caring and thinking about these things makes you great I second guess my “fathering” things almost daily)

I have 2 children 4 and 6 years old. So I am a little bit behind you in that regard. Generally parenting is extremely stressful so you are not alone there. As the kids get older it is getting more and more difficult.

My wife did assistant coach soccer last year for my son. It was incredibly frustrating he would not go out on the field play, listen, run, have fun etc. I feel like my future holds much the same as your story.
Yay spring sports start next month…:frowning_face:

In the long term I think it would be best to hand off the lessons to someone else. For the reason of it being more enjoyable for your son. He knows you very well and can pick up on your frustrations, even if you try to hide them, inevitably things escalate.

But never one to give up, setting some ground rules helps. Maybe simple things like time to start/stop. Pre talking about the lesson. Sounds odd but, coming up with a “safe” word for each of you to keep the other in check before things escalate. And discussing what happened before agreeing to go forward.

My Dad coached a few sports when I was a kid. It was a source of contention for us. He is a good man and father. I know now, and even then, he was doing things for me and wanted to be involved in my life. I couldn’t still help at the time feeling mad about the decisions he made who to put in which position when to sub out etc. Looking back at it now I am not sure what he could have done different and some of that is on me, well kid me, adult us are in a good place :slight_smile:

Professionally I fall somewhat on the other side of @ajoflo, I listen to other people, often know the answer, but really try to let people talk. Say what they have to say rather then giving them the answer, though sometimes nudging them. I have found I can help them better that way or sometimes be surprised to hear what they say which leads to some great things. At the very least I have found some level of mutual respect is earned.

Good luck whatever your decisions are!


My son is half as old as yours and I’m teaching him everything at home due to the ongoing pandemic. It’s hard, and I wish I had good advice but I don’t have much besides that I try my best to not let his reactions effect how I’m going to feel and express myself to him. I’m not great at that, but I also expect that a 12 year old is going to want even more freedom from their parents and to find out how to be themselves.

I wish you the best of luck and I’ll be reading for tips here, too.


Not a teacher and my son is now old enough to marry but I had a talk with him when he was around your son’s age which somehow made him more autonomous and responsible. So here is my advice along the same line:

Share with him what you wrote above and ask him what he’d do if he was in your place.


Lots of good advice here. I appreciate the comments.


We had another lesson today. I went about it completely differently. I didn’t even tell him I wanted to give him another lesson. Here’s what I did. I told him I wanted him to teach ME how to play the first two measures.

So he showed me the finger positions for the first two measures and I went about it. I practiced it just like I would tell him to practice. I think he was a bit amazed when I was able to play the first two measures perfectly (including bowings) after just a few minutes.

I didn’t keep going, I just said “okay, now it’s your turn to practice some.”

It was a lot of fun. And I did let him teach me a thing or two about holding the bow and finger position.

When it was his turn, he seemed to naturally practice slowly and in tempo with a good tone. I don’t know how much progress we made on the etude, but our relationship at the music stand was much better. Plus, I got him to practice some without even asking :slight_smile:


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