September 30


The Stories We Tell Ourselves

We all walk around with narratives in our minds. Stories about the world. How it works, why it works, what makes sense.

Some call this concept our "worldview."

One former student and her mom from a few years ago come to mind every time I think about this concept.

She enrolled her five-year-old daughter in lessons, and things were going fine at first. But, when I bumped into her in the hallway one day, I could predict what was coming next.

Me: So, how are things going?

Mom: Oh, good! But...she is still pretty young, so I don't know...maybe I should have waited until she was older to get started.

As predicted, I received the email about a month later. That mom feels like she's not getting out of it what she should, and they'll revisit piano when she's older.

Which would make sense if she wasn't making progress. But...she was making progress, according to her teacher. Just not the way mom was expecting it.

I warned mom that when students stop, it's extraordinarily rare they ever come back. I proposed a teacher change with a free first lesson to see if that would turn things around. Mom agreed.

So, they took a lesson with another teacher. It went well, and we thought they would be back next week.

But before the next lesson arrived, I received another email.

The new teacher is wonderful, but we're going to stop lessons for now. We'll be back, though.

I don't normally do this. But, I wanted to see what would happen.

I offered mom an entire month of free lessons so they could have ample opportunity to try the new teacher. A $170 value. 

Her response was surprising.

That's very sweet of you. I reminded her about piano this morning and she said she didn't want to go. She said she would take them when she's older but doesn't want to right now. I'm sorry. I do think she will return to it when she's able to focus on abstract concepts, which she's not able to right now. I should have realized that.

The stories we tell ourselves.

There's nothing wrong with this scenario. Students stop all the time for a variety of reasons. But, much of the time it comes down to the stories parents tell themselves about how music and lessons work.

Narratives that are so strong, it doesn't matter what the professionals who have worked with hundreds of students have to say.

In this case, the narrative was that the child began lessons too young (which had no basis in reality).

And that she would try it again when she's older. Which, when her daughter said she would try again, my sense was that mom felt like she was "off the hook."

Because daughter spoke to her narrative, she felt better about quitting lessons.

And who knows, they may be back again one day. But, from our collective century of experience, it's unlikely.

Narratives are a powerful thing. And they're usually created from our own experiences. Which is why awareness is so powerful.

Otherwise, when our narratives control us, they can take us places we never intended.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Never miss a blog post!

For parents, students, and anyone else who believes that music can and should be a meaningful part of everyone's life.

About Jonathan Roberts

I am the founder and director of the South Shore Piano School, and I have been teaching the piano for nearly 20 years. My work centers around bringing music to the lives of kids, parents, and adults in an enriching, meaningful way. At the South Shore Piano School, my incredible colleagues and I accomplish this through skill-based teaching, community, and an innovative, people-first business model. You can read more about me here.


You may also like

The Curse of Flexibility
Lost Dog!
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}