We often hear about piano lessons (or fill in the instrument) from the student’s point of view, but how about from the mom’s point of view? The commitment level is equally divided between the child, parent(s), and instructor, to make lessons a success. My last post was an interview with Emily that took lessons from an early age through high school. She now looks back and sees the value in the lessons, even though there were times she had wanted to quit. But what about the parents’ perspective when it’s difficult to commit to their child’s music lessons? Parenting involves making a child do what they don’t wish at times, knowing it’s in their best interest. Emily’s mom also agreed to an interview with me. Here are my questions and her answers.
Question: “What prompted you to sign up your daughter for piano lessons and why did you put importance on lessons?”
Emily’s mom: “Emily seemed to be interested in the piano as she would climb up on the bench and pretend to play.”
Question: “Did it seem like your daughter had natural interest in playing?”
Emily’s mom: “Yes, she seemed to have a very natural touch.”
Question: “If not, how did you “make” her continue lessons through her high school year?”
Emily’s mom: “Through high school, she would get tired of practice and want to quit. I would get frustrated with her and tell her to ‘just quit’, but she would never say the word. I think deep in her mind, she wanted to play but not other than practice! Another thought was she didn’t want to disappoint her mother because I wanted her to learn to play so badly! I knew it would be something she could do for the rest of her life!”.
Emily may be different from some students in that she had a natural interest in playing the piano. When parents call to sign up their child for music lessons but not sure what instrument, I tell them to choose the instrument they seem most interested in. If there isn’t a particular instrument, then piano is the best choice. It has all the elements needed in music to give a strong foundation. Most students can then easily learn another instrument if they wish.
But what about a student that shows no interest in music?
Should a parent still sign him or her up for music lessons? In my opinion, yes! There are several reasons for my answer. The first is how do you know a child will be interested until they’re exposed to it? I grew up in a home where we had a piano. I often wonder if there was no piano, would I have become a pianist? The job of being a parent is to expose your child to everything to discover their passion in life.
Music should be part of a child’s core education.
We make every child learn math, science, history, and English. They are not going to use all these subjects in their career, but they all help develop the brain. Studies have concluded how learning to play an instrument or sing develops a part of the brain that no other subject can, from academics to social skills, confidence, and creativeness.
What if your child hates music lessons right from the start?
All students go through what I call the “beginner’s hump”. It’s never “fun” at first for a beginning student because of the difficulty. I suggest giving a child a time frame of 6-12 months before allowing them to quit. This is about how long it takes for a beginning student to develop a skill. If a child still wishes to quit past the beginning level, it’s possibly not their “cup of tea”.
Another reason for music lessons
Exposing a child to many things in life is not just finding out what they love, but what is NOT in their DNA. I took ballet as a child and knew I could never do it for a career (picture the elephant in a china shop!). But I would not have known that without having taken lessons. Another point to make is you never know if later in life your child will recapture a desire to learn music. I can’t count the times an adult has signed up for lessons saying they took as a child and didn’t like it, but now wish to learn. Because he or she took as a child, it’s easier to pick up again and “re-learn”. My oldest son thanked me when he was in his 30’s for giving him piano lessons when he was a child. It helped him in his own career.
Ways to encourage your child
So how does a parent deal with a child that is begging to quit lessons? There are things that help and can harm their desire to learn music. I first recommend making the idea of taking music lessons to be a fun and positive thing in their life. A child under the age of 8 will gleam from you the way you talk about it. Keep their progress and practice times realistic. I’ve seen parents expect a young child to practice 30-60 minutes every day. That is only going to cause frustration and resentment towards the lessons. Help your child to develop a routine in practicing, much like other things in their schedule (homework, dinner, brushing teeth, going to bed). Motivate your child by giving rewards for practicing or accomplishing assignments in their lessons. The most important part is to be uplifting and encouraging to your child about music lessons!
Hang in there!
So parents don’t give up on your child taking lessons. It will pay off some day! And you never know if your child will be the next Mozart or Beethoven!