Since starting lessons back up this fall, I’ve had many different kinds of students come through my doors. Some return students and some new students. Some are very dedicated and some have more of a free spirit. All personalities are welcome in my studio and I work with each of them. I have noticed a trend lately and that is that the students that do the best in performance and make the most effort, are the students who’s parents are encouraging them. Let me explain.
Music lessons can sometimes become that extracurricular activity that parents want their child to experience but do not realize how much work it really takes. With just a few things, I believe, parents can really help encourage and motivate their kids to meet their full potential in music lessons.
- Be a good listener.
Music is a great way to teach children self-expression. What is so unique about private lessons is it is solely and completely the child’s responsibility. Obviously the teacher is there to guide and support and the parents are there as well, but for the most part, the child has an opportunity to meet an expectation of playing through a particular piece, or pieces. They are expressing themselves whether it be expressing their own creativity or what they learned from their assignments. This makes it very special. To help your child gain confidence in how they are carrying out the responsibility comes from someone genuiely listening to them. This obviously takes time and effort on the parents part. It is not fun to listen to “Old McDonald” for the 50th time. But it is so important. Even if it means saying to the child “Why don’t you play through your pieces for me” and literally listening intently to each one; or a parent may ask “Can you tell me what you learned in your lesson today?”. This ould make the difference in how well your child does in music lessons for the rest of his or her life.
2) Set aside time for the child to practice
Music takes discipline. It is not as fun as playing soccer and winning the game. It is a long journey of discovery and yes, hard, hard work. It is fun but sometimes it is not. I hate to say it, but that’s probably one of the most important lessons about music. It is a very enjoyable thing but at times you have to grit your teeth and mentally put your back into it, if you will. With that being said, practice is essential to all music lessons. And parents will have to be the instructor when the teacher is not there. Some kids may love to practice and remember to do so but not all students will. We as adults need to remember what it was like to be a kid. Playing outside may be the child’s first choice but unfortunately they will not get anywhere if they let the child make all the decisions. (I know I’m entering shaky ground here so please don’t take offense!) If a parent sets aside practice time each day (yes I said each day) for practicing their instrument, and the child knows that expectation is there, there is no question that the student/child will improve. No doubt. They are not only exercising their musical skill but their discipline as well! You really are helping your child by making them practice. (All of my students parents are great so I’m not pointing any fingers here!) 🙂
3) Sit in on the lesson
If possible and mostly if needed. In some cases, this does not always work out with younger siblings or whatever but for younger students it can really help keep the child accountable and help the parent understand what is going on. The teacher is not the one making sure the child practices that week (assuming a parent is doing that already) therefore, it makes it more difficult to see how these concepts are being processed throughout the week. Not only will the parent be able to reinforce what the teacher was explaining or trying to teach during the lesson, but it will help the parent musically as well! At a certain point, it may be distracting for the teacher or student, but for beginners or for student’s with less confidence it can really be a comfort to them.
4) Praise! Praise! Praise!
We all know kids thrive with positive reinforcement. I think sometimes parents feel like they can’t praise their kid when they do well because “Well, I’m their mom or dad so it’s expected.” But it truly makes a difference even when you do not realize it! In fact, the older they get, the more it means to them. I have seen more teen and adult students affected by their parents praise and proud words than any of the younger students! Sure, they probably are embarrassed but the fact that you are impressed with them will boost their confidence. Again, playing music is a very individual thing which creates more pressure than most activties. You cannot blame a “slip” or “mistake” on anyone else but yourself. It is not the same as a team sport! (which I believe are extremely good for kids too!) This is why praise is so important! I always try to tell each of my students at the end of their lesson “Great job today!” or “I can tell you worked really hard at practicing this week so I’m proud of you”. Those kinds of words coming from their parents will boost their confidence even more!
5) Play/sing/listen to different kinds of music at home.
I was recently listening to a podcast about music within the family and one of the ideas they had was to create an atmosphere in the home that would foster creative music. When I was young we used to sing together as a family while my mom played the guitar. I didn’t know it at the time but this really gave me an interest in music and also created a kinship with my family while making it together! It could be something as simple as getting together in the living room and singing a song together or listening to pandora while cooking. I stress DIFFERENT KINDS OF MUSIC because you don’t want to box anyone in! Do not just listen to your regular music station. Throw in some Big Band Music or soft Jazz. Listen to the classical music station on the way to school. And dare I say it, but listen to bluegrass or watch an opera on youtube together! It all has a time and a place. The purpose is to show different styles and skills.
When trying to find a place for the keyboard or piano, put it in the living room where everyone can here the practicing going on. Don’t hide it in a secluded room somewhere! (My dad used to get so tired of hearing me play but you know what, I got used to playing in front of people quickly!) Music is meant to be enjoyed by many not few. Music was entertainment back in the day. We have to figure out a way to bring that back! Parents can help their child and their families by simply integrating it in their daily routine. You may not realize it but listening to it, making it together, and regularly making it apart of their life cultivates a love for music. Hey, you never know, you may even learn something yourself!!
Most of my parents do all of this already. I thought it might be helpful to some that are newer to music lessons, or may be thinking about signing up, and to be an encouragement to those that do these 5 things already. You are helping your child more than you know! I can see it during their lesson when their eyes light up after playing through a difficult piece they have been working on for a while. When they say things like “Daddy told me to make sure I am actually practicing during my practice time” or “My PawPaw played the guitar with me while I was playing”, these are all awesome signs of parents and family members that are on board and supportive of music lessons. My hats off to you parents because I know you have the harder job! Keep it up!