Do one of of these descriptions sound like you?
You signed your child up for music lessons because they have begging you for years to play an instrument.
Or, you play(ed) and instrument and couldn’t wait to get your own child started too.
Maybe, you always wished you could have taken lessons as a child and are excited to provide the opportunity to your children.
then reality sets in . . .
After the honeymoon phase is over, you realize that this is hard .
Making time to do anything everyday with our kids can be a challenge. When my kids were young, brushing teeth and combing hair could sometimes become an epic battle (who knew these things were such torture!?)
Developing the discipline to play an instrument? That is a whole other level.
We are choosing to do something hard everyday – in order to achieve an end goal that children can’t really grasp. It certainly seems less important to their well being than teeth brushing and that makes it easier to quit when the going gets tough.
When everything is going well studying music is invigorating, exciting and a fun process to be involved in.
When things get tough what can we do as parents to help our children be successful in music lessons?
Here are 15 Ways you can help your child succeed:
- Make a long term commitment. Studies show this is more important than any other factor in music students long term success.
- Believe they CAN do it. Suzuki teacher Alice Joy Lewis says that families she sees be successful are the ones that believe their child absolutely CAN learn to play well.
- Find the best teacher you can. A good teacher will help coach you through the rough patches and has the tools to help you turn things around when it’s feeling hard.
- Buy or rent the best instrument you can afford. Playing on a bad instrument is like trying to run in bad shoes. If it’s really hard to make a beautiful sound, playing the instrument is not that motivating!
- Find out what motivates your child and do that thing. When your child gains more skills on the instrument the music they learn will be their motivation. At first they need help to want to practice. Figure out what motivates them and do that thing a lot
- Be Encouraging. Don’t point out the 10 things your child is doing wrong. They likely know they are not Joshua Bell yet, encourage them with something they are doing well. Even if that thing is simply how hard they are working or concentrating. Children do more of what we praise – use that to your advantage.
- Help Build ownership. If practice = an adult tells me what to do, children tend to dislike it. Coach them through practice while also letting them feel like they are making some decisions. Ask questions. Give them two acceptable choices of what to practice next. Let practice become something that is for them.
- Find time in each day’s schedule for your child to practice. Children are not good at time management. They will need your help to find time to practice.
- Don’t give up! Sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes our kids fight us on practice. Don’t give up. This is really normal. Your child can do it (see #2)
- Go to live concerts. Seeing performers play music live is so motivating! Many communities have free or inexpensive events to attend if you seek them out. Ask your teacher for recommendations.
- Connect your child to a social outlet for their music. Working on something hard, alone in a practice room is not the point of music. Play with and for other students. Join an orchestra when your child is ready. Attend a group class or simply invite a friend over who plays an instrument for a musical play date.
- Be your child’s biggest fan. We cheer when toddlers learn to walk (even though they hobble around and fall all the time). Cheer on any and all progress. Make sure your child knows you are their biggest fan no matter what.
- Make listening to music part of your family culture. When children are surrounded by music in their lives they are much more successful. Just like when we are learning a language immersion is the best way to pick it up quickly.
- Connect to other parents. Whether it’s in online groups, other parents in your studio or a friend whose child also studies music – connecting with other parents on the same journey can make us feel less alone and we can learn from each other what works best.
- Do something every day. Literally everyday. Play something, listen to music. What we do daily becomes part of who we are. What we do once in a while can be hard to follow through on. A daily habit is makes a huge difference.
What would you add to this list that has helped you or your child succeed in music lessons?
Here are some other articles on practice you might enjoy reading:
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