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Overly affectionate pupils


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#1 zwhe

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Posted 17 November 2019 - 15:28

I have a 10 year old pupil who  has started telling me how much she loves me and hugging me. She's not terribly mature for her age, but I am finding it a little uncomfortable and not sure if I should just continue trying to steer her back on to the lesson, or say something to her/her parents. She may be feeling a little needy at the moment, but hasn't disclosed anything, so I don't really know what I should do.


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#2 elemimele

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Posted 17 November 2019 - 16:04

Have a chat with the parents. There may be good reasons, it may be normal behaviour for the child, they may not be surprised, it may be something they're working on, but it's better they're in the loop, and able to advise you on what is most appropriate for their child. And if they are surprised and had no idea, it's even more useful that they know and can offer some input on what to do.


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#3 Aquarelle

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Posted 17 November 2019 - 16:22

Perhaps accept the hug, disengage yourself gently but quickly with a big smile and divert her attention to something else.  If  this is a greeting hug it should be fairly easy to pass over quickly  and get her involved in something else.  If it happens in the  course of the lesson try to keep  the child sideways on rather than in front of you. Is it piano? if so you can perhaps s do some duets so that she feels close without it becoming invasive. Give her your full attention with lots of smiles so that she feels safe and above all not rejected but try to move around a bit - get a bit of speed and movement into the lesson.

 

I'm not sure about speaking to the parents just yet  unless you are pretty sure about how they will react. As elimimele says they might be able to advise, They might be able to tell you if she behaves like this with others. But they might be a bit shocked and the last thing that would be right for the child is to make her feel guilty or ashamed about her own actions. There could also be the possibility that there is some sort of instability at home which they wouldn't want to come out into the open - for good or bad reasons.

 

The society in which I function is one in which touching and hugging is much more easily accepted than in some countries so it probably wouldn't be much of a problem here unless the child  simultaneously showed other signs which could be interpreted as affective deprivation, insecurity, ill treatment or anything else. It  may just be a phase that she is going through and may well resolve  its self. If you do feel it necessary to speak to the parents i would think through very carefull how you approach it.


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#4 Misterioso

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Posted 17 November 2019 - 23:47

I'm not sure about speaking to the parents just yet  unless you are pretty sure about how they will react. As elimimele says they might be able to advise, They might be able to tell you if she behaves like this with others. But they might be a bit shocked and the last thing that would be right for the child is to make her feel guilty or ashamed about her own actions. There could also be the possibility that there is some sort of instability at home which they wouldn't want to come out into the open - for good or bad reasons.

 

That was my gut reaction too. The child may be feeling she's not getting the attention she needs at home and is seeking it from you instead. There could be any number of reasons: new sibling, sickness in the family, elderly grandparents needing time and care, parents over-busy with work - or it could even be that she doesn't find it easy to make friends with her peers and is looking for approachable adults instead. You don't say how long you have been teaching her, and if this behaviour from her is new, but if it is you could maybe gently try probing. Even a cheerful "how was school today?" might offer you some clues, and that might better suggest a course of action - if one is needed - than second-guessing the situation now.


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#5 thara96

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Posted 18 November 2019 - 00:19

Distraction techniques may work. In any case, being careful is best! 


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#6 ten left thumbs

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Posted 18 November 2019 - 11:22

My gut reaction would absolutely be to speak to the parents first. The only reason I would be thinking, don't speak to the parents, would be, if, if, if the child had disclosed abuse to me, or I suspected it. As that doesn't seem to be the case here, I can see no reason not to speak to parents first. They may be able to shed light.

 

A young child seeking hugs from a teacher can be normal. At age 10, that's getting unusual. Telling you how much they love you, that is unusual. Sounds like it's distracting from the focus of the lesson - which is meant to be music. Beginning to fall into the category of 'inappropriate behaviour'. 

 

There is also the issue of protecting yourself from an unfounded allegation.


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#7 Maizie

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Posted 18 November 2019 - 11:43

It may be a distraction technique.  Maybe it's a way to divert mummy's attention when she wants you to tidy your room; in which case, maybe it'll work on zwhe when you don't want her wondering how much practice you have(n't) done, or you're about to be asked to do something you find tricky!!


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#8 BadStrad

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Posted 18 November 2019 - 11:48

At age 10, that's getting unusual. Telling you how much they love you, that is unusual.

When teaching in a school I had a pupil (11 going on 12 but very young for her age) who did this. She would run across the playground, grab me and tell me she loved me. I have no idea why she singled me out. I am not a "cuddly" person. Perhaps she was seeking a "rock" to cling to as I suspect she found the move to secondary school difficult? Perhaps she was from a super affectionate family? I was newly qualified and didn't know who to speak to about it, so I didn't speak to the parents. Whatever the reason she grew out of it as the year progressed. I think in the OP's situation I might ask the kid a few questions as Misterioso suggests and then decide whether to mention it to the parents.

Other thoughts - Perhaps the child in the OP is picking up on stress from her school teacher and or parents/guardians regarding the SAT tests taken in year six and finds Zwhe an oasis of calm in the midst of that madness. Also, it's not outside the realms of possibility that the girl is heading into puberty and is reacting to the hormonal surges.
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#9 jenny

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Posted 18 November 2019 - 12:01

I would definitely contact the parents, but I would word things very carefully. I also get hugs, but being told that the pupil loves you seems quite extreme. It could be that this is normal behaviour for this child and the last thing you'd want to do is to alarm the parents. 


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#10 Aquarelle

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Posted 18 November 2019 - 14:17

We are treading on very, very sensitive ground. Small children do "fall in love" sometimes. If they happen to fall in love with a teacher of the same ### you could find yourself in a whirlpool of reactions and complications if you talk to parents about it. I am speaking from experience and would simply say that this situation may possibly  be part of the growing up process of a child not yet conscious of such things as  sx-ual orientation. It could, of course, be nothing of the sort but there remains that bombshell of a possibility.

 

At around the same age I was taken, along with other little girls to a number of pantomimes. The other little girls  identified with Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White etc. I didn't. I identified with the prince in question. I had this vague feeling that there was something not quite "normal." about this. It got worse when I fell for a real person. If my parents had known I dread to think what the outcome would have been. I kept my inner life to myself until I was old enought to manage it. I would be inclined not to take this child's behaviour too much to heart, to handle it with the kind of tact that will lead her later on either to forget and out grow the whole thing or to look back with thankfulness that she was never embarassed  or threatened by open discussion with her parents.


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#11 mel2

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Posted 18 November 2019 - 14:40

Regarding the "love" thing, I think the currency for that has become devalued now - it's something people say to wind up a phone call, so probably best not to read too much into it.

It could just be that she's seen people on television doing the hug thing and thinks that that's what's normally done. (Which sometimes, it is - something not all of us are comfortable with.)
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#12 Aquarelle

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Posted 18 November 2019 - 15:18

Yes, that's one of the problems with this sort of situation. It could be everything - or nothing at all.


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#13 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 18 November 2019 - 15:39

A thorny situation to be sure.  As a male teacher with mostly female students, I feel as if I have to be very, very careful.  If this were my student, I would try to have either one of their parents sitting on on lessons, or have my wife (or mother-in-law) around during lessons.

 

I always encourage parents of minors to sit in on lessons.  I have both a nice comfortable couch and a recliner in the studio where they can sit discretely.  (They often sleep! :lol:)

 

When it's really little children that want to hug me, I just let them.  They often just do it without asking - no concept of consent at those ages.

 

Sometimes older children and teenagers will come down with a case of puppy love.  When that happens, I take it as a compliment but I also take care to have my wife or mother-in-law around when I'm teaching (if a parent is not sitting in).  If they want to hug, I politely explain that I don't enjoy hugging, but that I would gladly shake their hand.  Older children should be developing concepts of consent and bodily autonomy.

 

I had one teenage student that made a bit of a game out of trying to get me to hug her.  She did not have a crush on me., she just wanted a hug.  She hugs pretty much everyone.  Some people are like that.  (I'm not!)  I did finally give her a hug (a congratulatory hug) under very controlled circumstances: at her highschool graduation party, in the presence of my wife and both of the girl's parents.  Then she was happy.

 

The most troublesome is when an adult student develops a crush.  Thankfully I'm ugly so that doesn't happen very often!


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#14 zwhe

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Posted 18 November 2019 - 19:45

We are treading on very, very sensitive ground. Small children do "fall in love" sometimes. If they happen to fall in love with a teacher of the same ### you could find yourself in a whirlpool of reactions and complications if you talk to parents about it. I am speaking from experience and would simply say that this situation may possibly  be part of the growing up process of a child not yet conscious of such things as  sx-ual orientation. It could, of course, be nothing of the sort but there remains that bombshell of a possibility.

 

At around the same age I was taken, along with other little girls to a number of pantomimes. The other little girls  identified with Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White etc. I didn't. I identified with the prince in question. I had this vague feeling that there was something not quite "normal." about this. It got worse when I fell for a real person. If my parents had known I dread to think what the outcome would have been. I kept my inner life to myself until I was old enought to manage it. I would be inclined not to take this child's behaviour too much to heart, to handle it with the kind of tact that will lead her later on either to forget and out grow the whole thing or to look back with thankfulness that she was never embarassed  or threatened by open discussion with her parents.

I'd never even thought of that - she seems so young compared to other girls of her age. Its not just words - she drew me a picture of a heart with an arrow and our initials! 

I think (and hope!) the thought about exam stress may be more likely as she has recently done the 11+.

I might keep 're-directing' until after Christmas and see how she is then. If she's still doing it, then I may have to find a way of talking to her about boundaries.


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#15 Boogaloo

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Posted 18 November 2019 - 22:39

I've read all of these posts with interest and I'm afraid that, although I understand the reasons people have given for their thoughts, mine would be different to most and would carefully consider safeguarding needs. At the end of the day we cannot be too careful and we must ensure that we protect ourselves as well as our students. Hugs could easily be misinterpreted by both children and parents. It's not even worth considering doing even though sometimes we might feel as though we want to. I would gently and carefully say that I'm glad she enjoys her lessons with me but that hugs and "lovey" language aren't appropriate in a music lesson (obviously using sensitive and sensible wording) as she's come to learn about how to play an instrument. I would also mention it to the parents so that they are clear that the hugs have been instigated by their daughter. I would let them know that I've had a brief chat about the fact that it's not appropriate behaviour and I would also let them know that I don't feel comfortable with it. The latter would obviously be out of earshot of the pupil. I would also take care to document it just in case there were ever any false accusations. I know this sounds "heavy" but if things even got a bit skewed then whole livelihoods could be lost in these sort of circumstances. At the end of the day nothing has been disclosed by the girl and so speaking with her parents would be a normal course of action.


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