Inconsiderate People at Kids Recitals!!!

Updated on June 01, 2015
A.J. asks from Norristown, PA
24 answers

My oldest daughter plays violin and my younger two play piano. They are ages 9, 7, and 5. Over the years for their recitals we have been to many performances, including performances by their teachers and other musicians in the community. Since toddlerhood I've enforced quiet behavior in those situations, and on days when they were younger, and were too tired, hungry, or generally wily to risk it, we did not go, or we cut out early, choosing seats toward back accordingly. But I never felt it was OK to let my kids disrupt a quiet, live concert. However, not ALL parents feel kids should have to be still and quiet for these things, I realize. But it blows my mind, that if they BRING their kids (because they don't HAVE to..) they think it's OK to let them be disruptive.

Case in point. A family that has attended my daughter's last two violin recitals. They have a 9 year old who is a beginner, and her younger siblings who are my younger kids ages. There are other kids there of similar ages, including some Mennonite kids-who of course are practically professional concert level maestros from hours per day of practice and they never make a peep or move a muscle when it's not their turn to play. My kids need a few sharp looks to stop ruffling the paper program etc, but they don't disrupt the concert, same with the other kids there.

This family however thinks it's perfectly OK for their daughter to finish HER song, and then come sit in the audience (why can't she sit up on stage and wait through other kids like everyone else? She's not the youngest participant!) and start playing with barbies out loud. She's NINE. Her younger sibs likewise, are splayed out on the floor WITH TOYS. Playing and talking. They're not expected to sit in chairs or watch AT ALL. The mom is oblivious to people turning to look at them so see where the noise is coming from. Now sometimes it's considered rude to leave right after your kid plays…but in their case: LEAVE RIGHT AFTER YOUR KID PLAYS, PLEASE!!! For god sakes, the Mennonite family has a 2yo, 3yo, 4yo and 5 year old twins sitting quietly!

My heart sank when they came in today, with a big bag of toys once again. Their daughter performed first. This time she stayed up on stage with other musicians during their turns, but she kept talking to the kids next to her, even when they made shush motions and the teacher did too. Her two sibs clattered toys and talked and played in the audience the whole time. The mom thought it was fine. The dad was on his phone and never looked up once.

My daughter played 5th, and I was so ruffled by them I seriously considered saying directly to her kids, "DO NOT TALK WHILE MY DAUGHTER IS PLAYING OR ELSE". I mean c'mon, my daughter (and all the kids) has been working so hard on her songs!!! And maybe I'd scare them more than their own mom does. Of course I didn't have the nerve. I felt somehow I'd be wrong, since they were distracting everyone and no one else was saying anything… I figured if anything I should address the mom instead of the kids, and somehow in a friendly voice, but she obviously felt fine with bringing a bag of loud plastic toys for her kids to enjoy a play date all over the floor during the concert!!!!!..and she obviously had no control over them anyway… At one point my ex who was there cleared his throat angrily and glared at her, and she told the son to quit making explosion sounds, but he of course knew he didn't really have to so it did no good. SIGH. I shot her a dirty look when her kid yelped at his sister and dropped a loud clangy toy during one of my daughter's songs while my ex was taking a video… She pretended not to notice.

So. My question. Would you say anything to these people at next recital or would it be pointless? We weren't the only ones who were giving them dirty looks, but no one else said anything either…I don't mind stepping up but would it be wrong? I guess they have a right to be there if their daughter's a student…If you did say something, what would it be?

**added, as for the dad, his body language said, "I'm having no participation in any of this", and he was on other side of mom from kids, but I'm open to maybe addressing him?

I don't want to ruffle feathers and lose a student for the teacher but sheesh.

***In answer to some questions, I hate to profile, but I did notice demeanor of mom and family. They look well-off. The lessons are not cheap. We sacrifice to afford them. They are all well-dressed and the dad was on latest iPhone. The mom has pricy jewelry and make-up and designer purse and salon hair. The kids have nice clothes. Which is FINE, there are other wealthy students too! The mom does not seem frazzled or self-conscious AT ALL, she seems totally calm like, "I have good foresight, so I brought lots of toys for my darlings". I almost feel like they're trying to be cultured and supportive of the one kid by having the full family attend, but then they bring the toys and don't make the kids watch and the dad stays on the phone so it's a hoax...I'd have more sympathy if the mom seemed overwhelmed or they looked like they couldn't obtain child care for an hour long concert.

As for asking the teacher to handle it, I really hate to do that. She's elderly with a condition where she is unstable on her feet. She's very soft-spoken and busy up on stage accompanying the kids on piano. She's a retired concert violinist and very old-world-ish. There are no emails and stuff, just a paper program upon arrival. No one else seems to have trouble with decent behavior in an obviously civilized setting!!! I'd way rather risk being rude to those people than putting this on the teacher to be honest...

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answers from Asheville on

Oh boy-my pet peeve. As a musician, there's nothing worse than having the work and time you've spent be overshadowed by someone's lack of consideration. I would absolutely say something- in fact, I probably wouldn't have waited this long. I have about zero tolerance for this type of thing.
There is nothing rude about speaking with the mother in a nice, considerate way. She probably has no clue how rude and disrespectful this behavior is, and it's a good lesson for her and her kids to learn. Being a musician isn't just about performing- it's also about being an active and respectful member of the audience and learning all he etiquette that goes with that.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I suggest that to talk with the parents without first talking with the teacher is wrong. To do so is like Going over their head. She is in charge. She needs to know what is going on. For example if you were to talk directly to the mom and the mom takes offense and goes to the teacher, she will already know what is going on and deal with mom's complaint right then.

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answers from Boston on

An integral part of teaching music to kids is teaching them proper concert etiquette. That may involve teaching the parents as well.

Hesitating to talk to the teacher is a mistake. If you don't feel you can approach her, you have to find a new teacher. Your child is not being served by this teacher if she's so ineffective. You are paying money for lessons, but you cannot enjoy the performance, and neither can anyone else.

As a former music teacher and choral director, I can tell you that I would not allow individual kids to leave the stage. I also don't think it's reasonable for everyone, even little ones, to be up there the whole time. So I would work in shifts - put a few kids up there at a time, then let them all leave and bring in the next shift.

But part of the organizing is making the concert enjoyable for all. That means having decent seating (if it's in a room without fixed seating) and decent arrangement of musicians in any ensemble pieces so parents can see their kids.

Organizing also means putting something in the program about insisting that all electronic devices be turned off, except for video cameras. It also means setting up another area, outside the concert area, for fussy babies and toddlers, or for other children who don't have the patience to sit through the entire performance. It means putting a couple of babysitters and toys in that area so that parents can drop off their kids and still hear the other child perform. It means no toys in the concert area other than a stuffed animal and a baby bottle/pacifier. There need to be ushers authorized to keep the toys out of the concert area. But that means sending an email to every parent about what's required in every area: "call time", concert time, ticket info, volunteers needed (to do the program or usher or provide baked goods for afterwards, etc.), concert dress, noise/disturbance issues ("children have worked so hard, parents have devoted time and money, trying to teach the arts means teaching about appreciation and concert etiquette, we need everyone's cooperation, young children are welcome up to their level of ability and patience but otherwise should be removed to the babysitting room out of consideration for everyone, including your own child" etc.).

If the teacher thinks she will lose students (and income) because she's too strict, she should realize she'll lose just as many for not being strict.

What you're describing makes parents and student quit music. It's serving no one.

I would not approach other parents actually - I've seen that backfire with the offenders getting even louder and causing a disturbance. If they're that clueless and rude, it doesn't usually work for you to point it out.

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answers from Austin on

I wonder if there is any way that you could speak to the teacher, about perhaps finding a volunteer (an older student, someone from the local high school orchestra or choir, someone she knows?) who could help during recitals, by maintaining order, establishing rules, etc. Maybe if you told the teacher that while she's on stage, some families are being disrespectful, she might have a solution. It's very possible that the teacher, even if she's elderly and unsteady, might have a way to deal with this. I'd give the teacher a chance to handle this. Toys don't belong at a recital. I'd get the teacher's perspective on it and speak directly to her, not to the offensive family. At least express your concerns. If the teacher is not concerned about it, then perhaps switching teachers and studios is your best option.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I think you should ask the teacher to speak with the family about the behavior and whether or not she should be sitting in the audience and being disruptive. She can talk to them outside of class/not during the recital.

This is not new. We had a father when my SD was in elementary school record his kid and then play it back WITH SOUND during SD's part. And more recently during a movie someone stood up and said, "Whose children are these? I did not spend $10 to babysit." The parents were embarrassed, but took the kids out.

If you really don't want to ask the teacher to handle it, then you need to say something to the parents yourself. "Excuse me, we are trying to pay attention to the other children. Please take your daughter into the hall if she wants to play."

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answers from Chicago on

Where is this program held?

My nieces were held at a church. Could the teacher coordinate some ushers ( volunteer church workers that need volunteer hours) to kindly screen the audience members as they come in?

This way they could kindly say: 'the kids are welcome but the toys stay in the hallway'; 'excuse me mam but your children need to remain quiet/seated/ in the back because other audience members can't hear'......etc

Then it doesn't fall on you or teacher but someone neutral?

Now the un-nice, impatient south side Chicago girl would realize that I paid the same amount of $$ she did, and have just as much right to hear my child play in his/ her entirety as she did. So I would try to sit as far away from her, and if that didn't work I would say, " I remember my children at this much energy..they do so much better in the back of the room where they can really play with their toys and not worrying about distracting others, don't ya think?" or something a long those lines.

It seems that everyone not speaking up is allowing the parents to think this behavior is ok and acceptable.

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answers from Washington DC on

I get where you're coming from. My daughter (14) dances, and her studio has three big shows a year. She's also in orchestra at school, and their concerts are a big deal for the school. It's maddening to see parents or teen audience members on phones (not taking video, just being ON the phone and not looking up) or to have parents literally struggling with younger siblings who are so restless or cranky they had no business being brought. But I've never seen anything as egregious, though, as that bag of toys and kids being allowed to play with a bunch of different toys and whisper (or just talk) with each other right out loud.

Have you observed the mom's demeanor during these recitals at all, or were you more focused on her kids? I wonder if she is a very harried, harassed person who might be doing this because she just has no backup (dad seems checked out from your description) and maybe no one with whom she can leave younger kids so she can just go listen to her child--? I think some families don't get that they would do better to just leave one parent at home with the younger kids while the other parent gets to go and support the performer. There will be a lot more recitals to come, so the parent who stayed home this time can go next time. Tag teaming it, so to speak.

Or maybe one or more of her kids has a developmental issue where they just cannot be quiet or still in these situations and need to occupy their hands--? Sometimes there are things going on with a family that we just can't see.

So maybe figure that the mom is overwhelmed and/or a bit clueless, or just doesn't realize that her kids are loud because they're always loud....She may not even really hear them anymore. I kind of pity her, especially if husband was sitting there with his phone instead of having enough sense to scoop up his own kids and head into a hallway with them to spare his wife and the child who was performing.

I would go, without your kid, and speak with the teacher in a time and place when no one can overhear. "There is one family that regularly attends the recitals and brings toys, and their children are very disruptive and noisy during performances. I and other parents have asked these children to be quieter but it does no good." You can ask the teacher to approach them but since this is the teacher's livelihood, it might not be something the teacher wants to do.

So be ready with some suggestions. Does the teacher send e-mails or letters to families with recital details, what to wear, dates and times etc.? That e-mail or letter could include a new paragraph saying, "We welcome younger siblings coming to hear the performances; however, we ask that parents quickly and quietly remove children who become noisy. We invite parents who must remove children to take them into the hallway" (or whatever).

I would also add a very strong message that the teacher requests that all cell phones, tablets and other devices be turned completely off during the entire performance - not just set on "vibrate" or whatever, but totally turned of and put away. This gets announced at all our school events because they say that devices interfere with the school's cordless microphone system. I would suggest that the teacher both write it and announce it at the start of each recital.

If parents say they just must have their devices on to use to film their kids, well, I've been at events where people were told, if you plan to film with a camera, phone, tablet, etc. you must do it from behind everyone who is seated, so the glow of your screen does not distract others sitting behind you.

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answers from Minneapolis on

You're paying for your children's lessons and experiences. For whatever reason, if you're not willing to bring a legitimate concern (and I agree you do have one!) to the teacher or director, I would start seeking out a new program. And be sure to find out the performance policies/how well they are enforced up front before signing up someplace else. If your kids are really passionately attached to the particular teacher, and/or if the kids aren't bothered by the rude family's background noise, you may want to opt to bite your tongue and accept its just part of a package deal.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Absolutely you should ask them to be quiet. I understand it's difficult and we've all been in positions with our kids when they are disruptive, but the bottom line is, you're there to hear your kid and if someone is inhibiting that, ask them nicely to be quiet.

I would approach them a song or two before your kids are coming on and say to the parents that you are having trouble hearing and could you please help your kids stay a little quieter.

Now, all that being said, it probably won't help. But, I would consider getting the teacher involved too. I understand why you're hesitant, but if she's that "old school" that she wouldn't tolerate that behavior anyway, she's probably just oblivious to it since she's on stage. She can always talk to them prior to the next performance. I'm sure she has a way to approach it that won't throw you under the bus.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Who is in charge of this thing? I can't believe the teacher/director wouldn't have said something by now.
I hope you're not paying a lot of money for these lessons/performances, because it sounds like they are very poorly run. Our music and band teachers NEVER would have tolerated this. There was always a reminder about etiquette at the beginning of every performance (turn off your phones, remove crying babies, etc.) and I know for a fact they would have said something (discreetly of course) if anyone was being disruptive.
I'd be looking for another program if I felt I had to manage the audience myself.

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answers from Washington DC on

oh my, this is really beyond the pale. but it's really not up to you to speak to them. surely there's an organizing body of somebodies somewhere to whom you can go and ask that sensible parameters be set up and enforced. doesn't someone help the teacher with all the practicalities?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Have you talked to the teacher about this? I would suggest that the teacher either talk to the mom directly or to include "audience etiquette" in the recital program. I know our teacher gives a little talk at the beginning of the recital about audience etiquette, such as turning off cell phones and taking young children to the "cry room" to watch the recital. Maybe the mom is clueless, maybe the kids are special needs, or maybe she just doesn't care.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I would approach the teacher. You don't have to ask her to do the feather ruffling, but you can ask her if she'd rather do it than you doing it.

I completely get what your issue is. My daughter is a long time piano student and also a concert band student (middle school). Her brother comes to support her (just like she would go watch him do sports or whatever). And behave appropriately for the setting. Granted, he is older, but when she was in 2nd grade having a recital, he was still only 10. Sitting through a church service weekly (IN the service, not some off to the side "children's service" apart from what the adults have) goes a long way to teaching proper etiquette for events such as musical performances.

Our middle school band director begins each concert (he hates having to do it, but he does it, for whatever good it does...which apparently isn't much) with a brief informational statement about appropriate concert etiquette. No flash bulbs, no applause until the end of the piece, no leaving the auditorium until the band is finished (each grade's band is only on stage for like 12 minutes.... whatever it is can wait until they are done). But still people get up in the middle of a 180 second piece of music and leave by the side doors, letting in all sorts of lights from the exterior and of course the loud door shutting... even when it's been announced that they are PROFESSIONALLY RECORDING the students. People just don't care. Everything is about *me* today. Nobody seems to give a rip about anybody else.

But I would speak first to the music teacher, unless there is someone else coordinating the recital (perhaps there are other teachers and their students sharing this recital venue/event?), in which case I'd speak to that person. Explain your issue, and ask if they would be upset if you spoke to the family. Surely something can be said (privately) to them before the next recital, about proper etiquette respecting other students. If nothing else, the teacher can address the child themselves. Often, kids (if they are brought up well) enjoy telling their parents how to behave!
"Mom, Ms. blah blah says that little kids should be watching the performance, not in the floor playing."

I wish you luck, but I don't expect anything much to change. People are just rude.
__Eta: Just saw Jenna's suggestion. That is great advice. Ask the teacher to print concert etiquette and hand it out to both students and parents the week before the event. Then take yours with you. You know good and well that family will ignore what it says, but when they start to head into rude territory, you can whip out your copy and point to the appropriate rule they are ignoring. You can even take a highlighter with you and highlight the one that they need to read right in the moment!

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answers from Chicago on

To me, this is something that the teacher should address directly with the student and her family. You can propose that she talk to all families about proper recital behavior, which includes proper audience behavior.

I supposed you could speak to the mom and let her know that her kids playing with toys is distracting to you during the recital. I wouldn't mention that it's rude, even though it is. No parent wants to be told that their little darlings are acting like entitled brats.

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answers from Phoenix on

Pointless to say anything to them directly but maybe to whoever is in charge? I don't have musical kids so I don't know how these things work.

I do have to say I can't STAND the loud kids in movies. That is my biggest pet peeve and absolutely hate it. I've also just noticed in general that moms (and dads) these days tend to just let their kids run wild no matter what is going on around them. Even at our church events. When my kids were small they were in a playpen, not running wild around everyone's tables. It's like that is unthought-of now days. So annoying, I get it.

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answers from Los Angeles on

If the same woman is causing problems every single recital, you need to do something about it. She clearly isn't going to change the behavior on your own. So it's up to you to decide whether you want to try to handle it yourself or ask the teacher to handle it.

1. If you handle it yourself, focus on the facts and not your perceptions. Kindly tell her that the noise her children make while playing is very distracting, both to the audience and to the performers. Remind her that if her children cannot sit quietly in their seats, they should not attend the performance. Offer to have her wait outside with them and go get her from the hall when her daughter is about to perform (even give her your seat for the few minutes that her daughter is on stage if that means she doesn't get stuck in the back). Explain how much you sacrifice for the lessons and how important it is for you to enjoy the recital. DO NOT mention that you think she is well off and the lessons aren't a sacrifice for her, as you really don't know for sure. DO NOT discuss her oldest child's behavior on stage following her song, as the mother is not in a position to quiet/shush her if the daughter is on stage and the mom is in the audience. If the oldest is back playing with toys, then it's ok to mention that too.

2. If you talk to the teacher, kindly explain to her how the same family is always disruptive. Ask her to speak with them now, since the concert if fresh in their mind, and to have a reminder chat with them just before the next recital. If you have her do it outside of the recital time itself, she can speak to them privately and avoid embarrassing them in front of the other students/families. It also will enable her to do so while comfortable and not force her on her feet or to speak in a louder voice.

I'm sorry you have to deal with them.

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answers from Boston on

I think u have to tell the teacher to send a notice w instructions the week before the show. These people suck. Agree w u completely.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

I tend to prefer the direct approach and would have said something along the lines of," Will you please keep your kids quiet while the other kids are performing? It's incredibly distracting to them to have to play over someone talking, not to mention that it's just plain rude."

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answers from Austin on

People like this never think the rules of behaviors are for them. They think they are parenting the way they need to.

Infuriating yes.
I concur to have the teacher, announcer, whoever go over expectations of behaviors, maybe on the handout sent to inform everyone about this concert. Maybe offer to help with this info sheet...but it is Obviously these people are oblivious.

Another option? See if you can find volunteers from the community, or buddy up with another group to offer free onsite baby sitting during these performances.

Our elementary school PTA asked the high school honor society if they would be willing to watch some of the children while PTA back to school night was being hosted. It was great.

They had a staff member from the elementary school there also to oversee the whole thing. .

FYI, this is going to happen for years to come, even at somber events, these same parents are going to continue to have their children there, distracting everyone.. They are clueless and selfish.

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answers from Miami on

Added after your additional comments:

Oh my. I'm sorry to hear this. Honestly, my best advice is to get another teacher. Nothing you could say to the parents will help. Nothing is going to change.

So sorry - I'm sure this isn't what you want to hear...

Did I miss something? I looked twice. Where's the part about you talking to the teacher? She is supposed to be in control of her students. Why isn't she dealing with this?

Honestly, as a musician who is involved with several choirs - a children's choir, two adult choirs AND a voice studio - I do not put up with this kind of stuff. I manage the process (quality control, if you will) as well as perform. For the voice studio, I tell everyone what is expected. For the children's choir, I have talked to parents loving yet firmly, that they must control their kids. I had one kid who tried to run into the parking lot with cars driving out there. Holy Toledo! I didn't enjoy having to talk to this mother about the FACT that her strong-willed child needed to be supervised, but I had to.

Stop worrying about ruffling feathers. Ask the teacher to put the child at the beginning and ask the family to go ahead and leave so that the other families can enjoy their own children's performances. If the teacher refuses, for heaven's sake, go find another teacher and studio.

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answers from Las Vegas on

How about getting the teacher's advice as to how you might handle it.. she actually might suggest that she be the one to talk to the other people... OR she may say, ok you do it.. I definitely think that is rude and have been at concerts where for whatever reason, some parents think it's cute for their children to run all around.. I have even been to restaurants with a former friend who thought that allowing her son to crawl under the table was cute.. I thought it was dirty and disruptive... I just think some people are truly clueless.. you are paying for your child's lesson and deserve the respect of that other family.. definitely ask the teacher how one might approach it.. it can't be the first time this sort of thing has happened in her career..

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answers from Anchorage on

I would ask the teacher to make an announcement at the beginning reminding parents to keep their kids quiet and seated during the entire performance and to please take any disruptive children out.

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answers from Washington DC on

So when my daughter has a dance competition, my boys and their other dance brothers often bring their ipads and play games while their sisters aren't dancing. They turn the brightness level low and remain quiet - but those are normally 8-10 hour days. So they NEED something other than dance to focus on at some point.

At recitals, the time is much less, and they are expected to watch and be polite the whole time. Plus people aren't running in and out like at competitions, there is no real "break" except for intermission. If people are being rude, the director has no problem to quickly recite the rules and ask those that are having difficulty to spend some time in the lobby. Plain and simply.

Either that or I would bluntly ask them to stop making noise, as politely as possible.


answers from Columbia on

It's the teacher's responsibility to ensure that all of the students are behaving themselves during the recital. I would speak with her and kindly ask her to make an general announcement at the beginning of the recital, which specifically requires all students to remain in their seats and quiet during the duration of the performance out of respect for their fellow students.

I will say this: It may very well be that this little girl has some type of disability or delay which causes her to be unable to remain quietly seated. It seems rather odd that a 9 year old would not pick up on the non-verbal cues of others to sit quietly and watch some of the other kids play their instruments. That she is completely oblivious makes me wonder if there isn't something else going on of which you might be unaware. I totally understand that you're feeling annoyed, but do be gracious and merciful and consider other causes as a possibility.

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