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Difficult lesson parents

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  • #21
    Originally posted by mvp View Post

    OP, I don't know how old you are, how "big" your personality is, or how much you need the money, but my advice in both case comes down to two things:

    1. You are the expert, professional riding instructor. Parents don't tell you how to do your job. If they don't like it, they can walk. You don't have to say this, but you do need to know it and live by it.

    2. Kids-- and this pair exemplifies why-- need more adults in their lives who care for them and mentor them than their parents. Adults don't always get it right, even for their own kids. Witness the dad who tears down his daughter's success. She needs someone else who has credibility in her eyes (like the riding teacher) to counter that disparaging stuff.

    In terms of Kid #1-- I tend to "say what I mean, but with humor and without rancor or making anyone wrong," So, for example, Dad disses kid, I might say "Well....Rome wasn't built in a day. This learning to ride thing is a lifetime project. You have to praise the little things or no one will want to try." You didn't look him in the eye and tell him he was a cruel a-hole whose parenting style was deeply flawed, but you did tell the truth (gently) and, if nothing else, you let him know that you'll continue to praise his kid. And keep doing it, no matter what. You might be the only adult who makes the kid feel competent at something.

    In terms of Kid #2. Why are the parents telling you, the pro, the curriculum for your lessons? That's going to get someone hurt some day. I tend to schedule my lessons with enough time for proper horse care. I explain that to the parents and kids up front: Kiddo should know how to care for the horse and should *like* to care for the animal. If either is missing, IMO, they aren't really learning to ride. Again, this comes down to productivity, ethics and safety-- the kid who doesn't learn to read and interact with his animal is going to get hurt, sooner or later. Most parents can get on board with that once I get down to the brass tacks. I mean, we are putting a kid up on a 1,000# flight animal who has a brain the size of an orange. If kiddo doesn't know how to figure out what the horse is thinking because she's familiar with horses' body language and reactions, who is going to be able to save her?

    I hope you can find a way to get some of your rightful authority back and help the kids.
    This, exactly.

    OP you sound young and somewhat inexperienced (which I think you are) but that is unimportant when you are in charge. You need to set the tone for your lessons, and if necessary,have a chat with the parents about the barn's expectations. If necessary, have the head trainer, barn manager, or someone else join you for this conversation if it helps.

    I took lessons and had my kids in lessons at several barns. My favorite was the one with the old "battle ax" trainer. She did not take any lip from parents and she made it quite clear from day one. In fact, I was so tired of having to be "part of the team" at another barn it was a major factor in why we left -- I didn't want to be part of the unhired help for the barn. That's why I was paying them!

    Old battle ax used to keep a roll of duct tape in the arena with her and would tell parents they could either keep their mouths shut, or she would make sure they did. As for the discouraging comments - I would remind parents that riding is a life long skill/sport, unlike so many of the other sports that are available for kids. You are not just trying to teach them "to win" - but to instill good habits so that they can ride forever, if they want.

    So...no negative comments...or see above re: duct tape.

    Comment


    • #22
      Originally posted by S1969 View Post

      OP you sound young and somewhat inexperienced (which I think you are) but that is unimportant when you are in charge. You need to set the tone for your lessons, and if necessary,have a chat with the parents about the barn's expectations. If necessary, have the head trainer, barn manager, or someone else join you for this conversation if it helps.
      OP you need written policies that are handed out and signed when you have them sign the liability release. I've never been to a barn that did not have a policy that the kid arrives early to help tack up and stays after the lesson to help cool down. Usually a time is specified - 15 minutes prior to lesson and 15 minutes after the lesson etc.
      "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederatcy against him."

      Comment


      • #23
        I can't decide whether I want you to slug dad #1 in the throat or keep encouraging timid kid. No wonder she's timid- she has zero self-confidence because dad is always telling her she's not good enough.

        Have a word with mom about it. If it doesn't improve I'd tell him that you would be happy to sign him up for a lesson if he would like.

        dad #2. Eh, just tell them that she needs to be there 15 minutes early to work with the WS on grooming and tacking up, end of story. If they walk they walk and you won't miss them. Sounds like dad is bored at the barn, but in this day and age there's really no excuse for being bored. Anybody can kill an hour playing on their phone and browsing the internet. Or could you suggest he drop-off/pick-up instead?

        Comment


        • #24
          Originally posted by Gray Horse H/J View Post

          Books and magazines is a good idea! I'm sure I still have some educational books from when I was a kid. Not the same as learning hands on, but better than nothing!
          I had a student at my last WS position, she wanted to go to Vet school and needed some horse experience even though she wanted to stay in small animal. Anyway... there are LOTS of great materials online you can print out... parts of the horse, parts of the hoof, I'm sure there are tack ID images too you could use.
          Maybe add some material from handouts as 'homework' that you can discuss during lessons... ie 'point to the stirrup bar' "where on the horse is the ___"

          I also pick up horse books for a lil girl I know who loves horses... I get them cheap at Salvation Army. Books like Summer Pony have lots of valuable info regarding horse husbandry woven into the story.
          Yo/Yousolong April 23rd, 1985- April 15th, 2014

          http://notesfromadogwalker.com/2012/...m-a-sanctuary/

          Comment


          • #25
            Originally posted by Ruth0552 View Post
            I can't decide whether I want you to slug dad #1 in the throat or keep encouraging timid kid. No wonder she's timid- she has zero self-confidence because dad is always telling her she's not good enough.

            Have a word with mom about it. If it doesn't improve I'd tell him that you would be happy to sign him up for a lesson if he would like.

            dad #2. Eh, just tell them that she needs to be there 15 minutes early to work with the WS on grooming and tacking up, end of story. If they walk they walk and you won't miss them. Sounds like dad is bored at the barn, but in this day and age there's really no excuse for being bored. Anybody can kill an hour playing on their phone and browsing the internet. Or could you suggest he drop-off/pick-up instead?
            You could even couch it in a compliment... 'Student has progressed so far, she's at a stage now that she's ready to learn the husbandry side, like tacking up, so she needs to be here pre-lesson 15 minutes early to keep progressing'

            You could even create certificates that establish the development of the rider/horsewoman/man... Student has mastered ___ type recognition 'awards' that help the parents see that the kid IS 'doing something', even if it looks less worthwhile cause it's not riding.

            For mean dad... counter balance his nasty with your kind praise and encouraging.
            Yo/Yousolong April 23rd, 1985- April 15th, 2014

            http://notesfromadogwalker.com/2012/...m-a-sanctuary/

            Comment


            • #26
              Parent #1 - people parent differently, and there isn't really anything you can do about this. He's hard on the kid, lots of parents are. You can express your concerns, but there's a pretty high chance it won't be received well. I like the idea of just having witty (not rude) retorts to his ridiculousness, and continue praising the kid.


              Parent #2 - I'd have a lesson structure and requirements set out, explained in detail, and let the dad choose to continue to be a jerk or grow up. Period. It isn't a discussion, time paid for is time they get. Paying for a 30 minute lesson isn't paying for you to have the horse tacked up beforehand. When I offered beginner lessons, it was always made very clear that tacking up and untacking were part of the hour or half hour lesson time if my assistance was needed. So if they only rode 5 minutes because they didn't want to pay for an hour for a beginner, so be it. Every other sport starts with the basics. That's our basics.
              "The best of any breed is the thoroughbred horse..." - GHM

              www.mmeqcenter.com

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              • #27
                Lots of good suggestions here, OP. Going forward, you might work the horse grooming/tacking into the curriculum for new students. For example, "Yes, lessons here are 30 minutes long. However, we require the first 2 or 3 lessons to be one hour long to allow the student to learn to groom/tack/untack."

                I feel so badly for the first student. I wonder how much of that negative talk she's hearing regarding the rest of her life (school, etc.).

                Comment


                • #28
                  I have no solutions but I do have a story about a kid in a similar situation.

                  20 ish years ago we had a 4-H kid in our club that worked really hard training her horse. She was a barrel racer. Her horse was well taken care. She was a very nice respectful kid and had a nice respectful horse. Her father would push her to the max. He would holler at her that she wasn't there to place. She was there to WIN. She had a great run but another horse was faster at the county fair. She came in second at the fair to a horse that had a lot of professional training. I met her walking later that day at the show grounds in tears. "nothing I ever do is ever good enough for that man". She changed that day. She changed from a great loving life kid to a hateful teenager. I must add that she was always respectful to me. She turned into a heavy partier. She snuck out at night to run around to drinking parties, etc. She still took great care of her horse but the rest of her life turned in to a mess. She died 6 months later on New Years eve from alcohol poisoning. She had the skills and talent to go far. A very sad end to a promising life.

                  I'm not saying everybody should get a ribbon. I'm just saying parents needs to be supportive of their kids efforts. Parents cannot control how good somebody else does on any given day but they can tell a kid how good they did on their accomplishments. Personal bests are important mile stones.

                  I intentionally did not use her name. Still brings tears to my eyes that a father could be so cruel that a kid thought that drinking excessively was the answer. May she rest in peace.

                  Comment


                  • #29
                    I am going to say something that I know is absolute, complete blasphemy.
                    For the second student, why not simply quote the father a price for a 30 minute riding lesson with the horse tacked and untacked for the student? Yes, tacking and untacking is part of the basics and rewarding for most of us horse lovers. However, perhaps the only way that she can be around horses at all is for 30 minutes a week.
                    If she turns out to be horse crazy, then when she can drive herself to and from the barn she will learn to tack and untack her horse. For now, why not just charge her father for the time?

                    Comment


                    • #30
                      Originally posted by Casey09 View Post
                      I am going to say something that I know is absolute, complete blasphemy.
                      For the second student, why not simply quote the father a price for a 30 minute riding lesson with the horse tacked and untacked for the student? Yes, tacking and untacking is part of the basics and rewarding for most of us horse lovers. However, perhaps the only way that she can be around horses at all is for 30 minutes a week.
                      If she turns out to be horse crazy, then when she can drive herself to and from the barn she will learn to tack and untack her horse. For now, why not just charge her father for the time?
                      It's not blasphemy haha it's been suggested a few times on the thread. Because time is money, either the daughter "pays" in her labour by showing up early/staying later to tack/untack, or dad takes a hit in the pocket book.

                      Let me apologize in advance.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #31
                        I have read everyone's posts and appreciate all the feedback.

                        I can't change policies or lesson prices - it's not my barn. I'm a boarder and a part time instructor.

                        Someone mentioned I come off as young and inexperienced. I am 33, so not young, but I'll admit to being less experienced with teaching. Not with horses or riding, I've been riding since I was 10. But with kids and parents, sure. I don't have kids, didn't go to school to learn to teach or anything. My kid experience is from the barn. I think I'm good with kids, but yeah these 2 parents are the only difficult parents I have experience with.

                        I have some some ideas for getting kid 2 more involved in learning the non-riding stuff. Thanks again!

                        Comment


                        • #32
                          I'm only going to comment on Dad #1 because I think the problem is more complex with some dysfunctional family dynamics going on. I'm not sure you could talk to Mom and Dad and the situation would resolve itself. Dad sounds like a bully and maybe mom is an enabler too afraid to stand up to him.

                          i would continue to praise the girl and use the Rome wasn't built in a day" approach that a previous poster had suggested. I would also incorporate some "life lessons" about believing in yourself when you have alone time with her. Maybe confide some of your fears when you were her age and how you learned to overcome them.

                          i doubt you can change Dad but if you are a positive role model, it may be helpful to see not everyone berates her. You may be one of those teachers that she looks back with fondness when she's an adult.
                          http://thepitchforkchronicles.com

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                          • #33
                            Have you looped in your boss (head trainer) on these issues and if so, what have did she/he suggested?

                            I understand you don't have the authority to change things as the assistant, but if you haven't discussed this all with your boss, that needs to be your priority. The horses have to be cared for, and if students are coming/going without doing that, then the barn owner is paying someone else to do it with no return. That would be a concern for me from a money flow standpoint. Or, if they're the type of WS that doesn't really get paid, that's still labor and time that could be better spent doing/learning something else, not tacking/untacking horses for free.

                            If you haven't, then have a discussion with whoever is in charge and see what they, as the barn authority, are willing to do. Especially regarding changing pricing structure for extra services, in this case, tacking/untacking the horse. Plus, if it's a barn-wide policy change, you don't have to worry about being the "bad guy" in that instance. There should be an official pricing chart listing any additional services which is included when someone signs up for lessons - for the existing clients, give them a 30-day notice of any fee increases or changes. That gives them time to plan for alternate transportation to/from the barn for the child, or to determine whether or not they can swing additional fees.
                            Last edited by GoneAway; Jul. 17, 2017, 03:01 PM.
                            War Horse Blog

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                            • #34
                              You've gotten lots of good insight here. Is it possible for you to talk to the barn owner about how lesson times are presented? Where I taught/currently ride, lessons are either 30 minute privates or 1hr groups, but ALL new students are informed that they are to show up 30 minutes prior to their lesson to tack up and expect to stay 30 minutes after their lesson to put the horse away. It's in writing in the pamphlets, and on the website, and is just "how things are". It sounds like you are in a tough position to make change with Dad #2 if you can't point to barn policy to back you up.

                              Dad #1...let's hope he suffers some sort of accident that removes his vocal chords. :/

                              ETA: If students need someone to tack/untack their horse, full care is an option but they are charged appropriately...and it's not something they can do for every lesson. It's more of a one-off if the client has a tight schedule that day or something.

                              Comment


                              • #35
                                Originally posted by mkevent View Post
                                i would continue to praise the girl and use the Rome wasn't built in a day" approach that a previous poster had suggested. I would also incorporate some "life lessons" about believing in yourself when you have alone time with her. Maybe confide some of your fears when you were her age and how you learned to overcome them.
                                Agreed! Had a student where the father was totally overbearing - not to the point of Dad #1, but he just wouldn't let this kid do anything for herself and always talked about what she couldn't do vs. how far she'd come (kiddo has a physical disability that makes things tougher, but she is TOTALLY CAPABLE). I finally got to the point where I would only address the kid, even if the dad was the one saying she needed something. ex: Dad says kiddo needs someone to bridle her horse. I ask kiddo, "hey there, do you need me to help you?" Kiddo usually declines help.
                                I also made the point of taking her aside and telling her that I was always there to help, but I believed her to be totally capapble.

                                Sometimes, all you can do is empower the kid and let them know that you - the expert teacher - believe in them.
                                Last edited by CPL713; Jul. 19, 2017, 12:15 PM.

                                Comment


                                • #36
                                  Originally posted by Gray Horse H/J View Post
                                  He brings her exactly at her lesson time, and wants to leave EXACTLY 30 mins later. This means I have to have her pony ready to go when she gets there, and basically just grab it from her as she gets off and shuttles her out the door. He wants her to ride for the full 30 mins, so I can't use any lesson time to teach horsemanship/horse care stuff.
                                  ???? This would not fly at any barn I ever rode at as a kid, or have worked in as an adult. Growing up I took 1 hour group lessons, but that did NOT include tacking/untacking time. You were expected to show up half an hour before your lesson, go get your horse, groom and tack up, and spend about the same amount of time putting the horse away after. Your horse was NOT ready for you, and no one took it from you after either. You didn't show up on time? You lost riding time getting ready.

                                  I get that this program may not be your design, but it is definitely catering to this type of client. Why is someone getting the horse ready for them? Why are you taking it from the kid after? What would happen if they showed up and the horse wasn't ready? "Sorry, sir, our students have to get their own horses tacked/untacked. Better get your kid in the barn and get cracking."

                                  I don't think it should be part of their 30 minute lesson--that should be reserved for riding. But grooming and tacking should be expected for a rider that has been at it long enough to be W/T/C and crossrails. Even when it wasn't directly my job, back when I worked at a busy show and lesson barn as a stable hand I used to keep an eye on all the kids tacking up. They were pretty proficient--all past the stage where they needed a helper--but I was always around if someone couldn't find the right bridle or horsie was being a pill about taking the bit or something like that. If you have someone knowledgeable in the barn while kids are tacking, it shouldn't be an issue to have students doing it themselves prior to the lesson.

                                  Side note--if these lessons are back to back, how are you getting the horse ready when they don't show up to do it? Or who is in the barn tacking horses for you? If you are paying someone to tack and untack horses, can't you have them teaching the lesson kids to do it instead?

                                  Comment


                                  • #37
                                    Parent # 1 just makes my heart sore. Awful for that child.

                                    Parent # 2 is actually a relatively easy solution. If a conversation doesn't solve the problem (which it may - some parents are just clueless and don't realize tacking/untacking is part of the process and needs extra time), then I would just have a naked pony standing in the arena when they arrive with tack/brushes etc. and having the child groom and tack up. It takes as long as it takes. Portion out the last 10 mins or so for untacking. When mom or dad inevitably gets angry because their child is now only getting 10 mins of riding in, just tell them it is a non-negotiable portion of the lesson and that if they are only willing to devote 30 mins to the barn, they should be prepared for 20 of those minutes to be devoted to horse care. They'll get with the program or get out of it.

                                    Comment


                                    • #38
                                      I have a different perspective on Dad #1. People often parent very similarly to how they were parented. Very few people take parenting classes--most people draw their parenting skills from how they were raised. Some might study parenting books, but not too many parenting books address how to be a supportive sports parent. Anyway, jerk or not, most parents aren't terrible parents on purpose and it's a rare parent that wouldn't LIKE to be a better parent.

                                      What other people have said is still helpful, it's just that knowing this perspective might help you slowly change the tide instead of simply making this dad defensive. I think it is important to explain that in horseback riding, winning ribbons at the lower levels is not a good measurement of success. The goal of showing is to practice your skills in a more difficult setting and to learn sportsmanship. It's also inspiring and motivating (and fun) to put yourself out there among other children at a similar level.

                                      I would also emphasize that the important skills that you ARE focusing on (if not blue ribbons) are things like strong basics, as well as a sense of confidence. Confidence is an incredibly important asset in riding, so learning to maintain a positive attitude and a clear head is essential. There's nothing better for destroying a good attitude or a clear head in a kid than to get them worked up about the ribbons.

                                      Lastly, I personally wouldn't be above mentioning to this dad that sportsmanship is a huge part of showing, and that having "sour grapes" about whatever ribbons were or weren't won is not proper show ring etiquette.

                                      Comment


                                      • #39
                                        Originally posted by kashmere View Post
                                        Parent # 1 just makes my heart sore. Awful for that child.

                                        Parent # 2 is actually a relatively easy solution. If a conversation doesn't solve the problem (which it may - some parents are just clueless and don't realize tacking/untacking is part of the process and needs extra time), then I would just have a naked pony standing in the arena when they arrive with tack/brushes etc. and having the child groom and tack up. It takes as long as it takes. Portion out the last 10 mins or so for untacking. When mom or dad inevitably gets angry because their child is now only getting 10 mins of riding in, just tell them it is a non-negotiable portion of the lesson and that if they are only willing to devote 30 mins to the barn, they should be prepared for 20 of those minutes to be devoted to horse care. They'll get with the program or get out of it.
                                        That is exactly what I would suggest.
                                        No matter where you go, there you are

                                        Comment


                                        • #40
                                          Be careful assuming two biological parents are in the home when one parent always brings the child. There can be complicated family dynamics, definitions and strained custody agreements going on.

                                          Get an idea that OP works in a lesson factory type barn with instructors sharing barn owned schoolies with carefully timed lessons scheduled by the BO stacked throughout the day. Some of the suggestions offered just won't work in this environment.

                                          There's reasons the burnout rate is so high in beginner level instructors working for entry level lesson barns.
                                          When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                          The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

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