This post is first in a series about working with grade school students as they learn and practice their musical instrument.
How do we work successfully with the development of our grade school age music students, both as teachers and parents?
I meet people every week who tell me they wish they hadn’t stopped playing an instrument when they were younger.
Usually they stopped playing during the middle or high school years. This is when life gets busy and it’s hard to keep going with the instrument unless it’s a big priority in the family or there is a good social outlet for music by that age (more on that in a future article!)
If we value learning music as a part of our family’s culture and as an activity we want our children to grow up with long term the groundwork for being able to, and wanting to, stick with it long term is built for most students during the grade school years.
Working with the developmental stage our children and students are at as they approach the instrument is so important.
Without keeping this in mind we can get into all kinds of power struggles and difficulties that might be avoided with a little more perspective about what children at this age need.
The Center for Parenting Education has a great article outlining the basic developmental skills being developed at this age (read the article HERE).
The article has great suggestions about how to encourage emotional and cognitive development at this age. I’m going to share some of them below with my own thoughts about how they apply to studying a music instrument. (The headlines in bold below come from the article).
When we keep our children’s development in mind as we practice and work with these big tasks they are learning at this age, we are much more likely to be successful long term!
Praising them for trying to do things
Research shows that when we praise our children for their effort on a task they will work harder on such tasks in the future. Praising for “talent” or how smart they are really has the opposite effect. As parents we help students this age best when we notice the effort they are putting in and encourage it. Even if there is just a little bit of initiative and they are willing to keep trying when something isn’t easy right away, this is huge. Praise the effort!