At a piano lesson recently, one of my students, about 12 years old, told me he had powers. I was understandably skeptical. He insisted he was a wizard and chasing a monster that only he could see. I cast doubt that he was really a wizard, he told me he’d prove it. He proceeded to cast a spell on me, complete with closed eyes, whispered chanting, and hand motions. I asked him what that was, and he said to prove he was a wizard he cast a spell that would give me a stomachache that night, guaranteed.
The stomachache didn’t happen, but I wrestled with what to do when I saw him next. He would certainly ask me if the stomachache happened. If I tell him his spell didn’t work because there’s no such thing as magic (nicely, of course) I might do irreparable damage to him. But if I let him continue his “childish fantasy” and pretend that I had the stomachache “Oh, it was an awful stomachache I promise I’ll believe you next time!” would I not also be doing harm?
What’s the guideline here? He sincerely believed he was a wizard. As a piano teacher, is it my role to teach him that magic doesn’t exist, or is it more valuable to his development to just let him get through this phase on his own time and humor him for the duration of these fantasies? Has anyone gone through anything similar?
I wouldn’t do anything to support him in his belief, nor would I take it upon myself to prove to him that he’s full of shit. He might need this belief at this time, might be powerless in his real life. I’d hate to be the one to tear away what might be a security blanket for him. I wouldn’t try to hide my incredulity either - just wouldn’t push for “the truth.”
Talk to the parents. Let them know that, while you believe music is an integral part of a comprehensive education, maybe they should enroll their kid in “not being an asstard” lessons before pursuing the piano too much further.
The lad seems to have a rich fantasy life and it would be a shame to rob him of its charms.
Tell him that his stomach ache spell worked well. Too well in fact. Not only did you have bad stomach aches while out on the train that night you had a violent attack of diarrhoea. You had an accident in the carriage and the police were called. They became extremely angry when they found that it was a spell that caused the problem and they called in the Wizard Squad. Usually for a first offence the Wizard Squad only tear off a few of the guilty party’s fingers. But since that will be happening in the next few days no point wasting more time on piano lessons.
So see you around. Oh, and if the Wizard Squad decide to kill you I’ll come to your funeral. Bye.
Tell the kid that you got no stomach ache. You might ask about his favorite books & whether he’s considered writing. But teaching music is your main responsibility–let’s hope he hasn’t been neglecting piano practice for music practice.
When I read about a child believing in foolishness, I imagined a neighbor four-year-old looking forward to Santa. I’d play along with* that.*
If he asks I would say right away that I knew your spell wouldn’t work on my because it is not nice to give someone a stomach ache and spells that are not good can’t work on me. Then I would ask about why he would chose such spell instead of something good such as a great night sleep with great dreams (and which would he rather have done to him, and how would he feel about a wizard that does harm to others in terms of being friends with them). Then I would relate his spells to the music, ask if he wanted to make his spells more powerful by using music (making music for a spell towards a person for their good - only their good as music is not meant to harm). In this i would guide not only his learning, but the energy he puts into the magic, in other words think towards the good of others, not to harm, that is a valuable lesson opportunity I would not waste to prove a point to a child.
Maybe he should think about continuing to study magic. If he wants to get real good he need to learn about the history of magic, the theory of magic and get trained in safe and proper use of sorcery, wizardry and mysticism.
Sorry, but 12yo is too old to believe in such nonsense. If the kid was so brazen as to actually try to cast “spell” on his piano teacher, I imagine the people in this kid’s orbit (mainly, his parents) are already entertaining the idea that he is a wizard.
I’d say tell him the truth. But do it nicely like you said.
ETA: Hurting the kid’s feelings with a dose of reality is not doing “irreparable damage”, it’s doing him a favor. They’re called growing pains for a reason.
Not your role and none of your business. If I discovered that my kid’s piano teacher was taking it on himself to tell the kid what to believe in or not believe in, I’d be well pissed off. Even if the teacher’s beliefs agreed with mine.
‘Humour him by pretending you had a stomachache’ and ‘tell him there’s no such thing as magic’ aren’t your only options. You can just tell him you didn’t get a stomachache, now play the Scarlatti.
If he asks if you got a stomachache, look at him real close and say “What do you think?”
If he takes this as confirmation that he has powers, I’d let him him laugh or clap or whatever, and then I’d say real quiet and serious-like, “You know, it’s not nice to hurt people. Especially people who are trying to help you. If you were a real wizard, you’d know that.” Your tone might take the wind out of his sails and get him to drop the cutesy act.
Assuming that he’s a normal 12-year-old, that’s all this is. It’s his way of hanging on to “cute” before he transforms into a hideous teenager.
I’m all for encouraging rich fantasy life in children, but it should be socially appropriate.
Thank you for the suggestions, everyone. I keep leaning towards telling him yes I did, now play Scarlatti, as some have advised. I want to end the situation as quickly as possible. You’re right, I’m there to teach. If he really believes he is, I would think he has practice in ignoring any dissenting opinions. Let me just say yes! And let him find out the truth on his own. We all have fantasies that we’ve eventually dropped as time has gone on. Besides, I’d step lightly if indeed there is something going on at home and this is his way of escaping. But I don’t want to be the one that causes him to doubt his reality. Let someone else do it. Then again, at 12 years of age, he might be old enough to tell that i’m patronizing him, especially if others in his orbit have shot his fantasy down, and I’m the only one that has accepted it.