The Role Of Parents, Part One: Parents Attend Music Lessons

A parent discussing whether they should attend a student's music lesson with the student's teacher.

Part One: Parents Attend Music Lessons

BY MEGHAN VANCE • December 11, 2023

Every music teacher has stories about the worst parents they’ve worked with. A great majority of these parents are “helicopter parents.” Yet teachers also complain of parents who are not engaged enough with their student’s education. It can be challenging for parents to find the median between too much and not enough. How can parents know when to sit in on their student’s lesson?


The most important factor when determining if you should attend your student’s lesson is you. While most teachers are happy to have parents sit in during lessons, there are parent temperaments that aren’t suited for this. Ask yourself four honest questions:

Distracted parent on cell phone still chooses to attend a music lesson
  1. Can you be attentive?
    • Students of inattentive parents usually get one of two wrong impressions: that their parent doesn’t really care about the lesson, or worse, that the parent doesn’t really care about them. While it’s fine to bring in a book or check your emails, it isn’t a good idea to sleep, answer phone calls, or check out. Your student has spent the majority of their life with you; they can tell if you didn’t absorb anything.
  2. Can you be patient?
    • As much as possible, parents should try not to interrupt their student’s attention during lessons. Students make the best progress when they focus on what they’re doing and on what the teacher is saying. Try to ask questions at either the beginning or end of the lessons.
  3. Can you be non-judgmental?
    • Students of judgmental parents are often tense or tearful during lessons. They spend the lesson waiting for the reprimand or disappointed huff of a parent. In this state, they find music lessons torturous. Their courage to attempt new or difficult tasks diminishes, and every failed attempt or small mistake serves as a reminder that they aren’t good enough.
  4. Can you be discreet?
    • Some conversations should be had without the student present. A parent’s confidence is similar to a self-fulfilling prophecy: if the student thinks their parent is confident in their ability, then the student is confident too. Parents should generally express concerns about their student’s ability or worries about student struggles to the teacher later and in confidence.

Gary McPherson, in his article “The Role Of Parents In Children’s Musical Development,” suggests that studies show high-achieving young musicians do not necessarily have musician parents, but do “have parents who actively supported their child’s practice, especially during the initial stages of instruction. For example, parents would either sit in on lessons and/or actively seek regular feedback from their child’s teacher.”


The second-most important factor when determining if you should attend your student’s lesson is your student. Most students will adjust to a parent’s presence within three months. However, some students find it very difficult to focus with a parent present. Ask yourself four more questions:

A parent considers their young child at a keyboard before choosing to attend their music lesson.
  1. Does your student give their full attention to the teacher while you’re present?
    • Even if you’re not being interruptive or judgmental, your student may choose to make you their main focus. With young students, this can be a form of temper-tantrum: the student expresses their desire to avoid work by being “cute” – petulant or entertaining or needy – whatever will divert the adults’ attention without punishment. Other students simply need as few distractions as possible in order to function well.
  2. Does your student tense up under your attention?
    • For musicians, tenseness often leads to injury. If your student is regularly tense while you are in the lesson, it may be best to wait outside.
  3. Does your student resent you?
    • Every parent-child relationship has bad days. During these days (or phases), consider not attending lessons. Your presence is more likely to lead to a tense unfocused student, and in extreme cases, the student may try to do badly in order to embarrass or spite you.
  4. Does your student make good progress and remain emotionally stable?
    • As your student progresses it’s appropriate to attend lessons less frequently. Keep asking this question. Even as your student becomes a teenager and young adult, your simple presence in lessons can be a reminder that you care for them and support their endeavors.
A child who is progressing each time their parent chooses to attend an online music lesson.

As your student learns, parents can learn about how their student learns and what motivates them. PBS reminds parents to “Tune into how your child learns.” They write, “By paying attention to how your child learns, you may be able to pique his interest and explain tough topics….” Barbie Wong, speaker for the Davidson Institute, reminds parents that as students grow and change, so must parents: “ Practice is an evolving process and thus you must keep learning to help children at each stage of their musical development.”

In next week’s article, we’ll look more closely at how often parents should attend lessons.