It's an age-old debate. As an adult and a parent, you clearly recognize the value of musical training early in life.
However, your child does not have the same perspective. Your daughter is more interested in soccer, and your son wants to play basketball.
You're not against your kids participating in healthy athletic activities. Exercise is good for them. Nonetheless, you know that it would be beneficial for your kids to learn to play a musical instrument at a relatively young age.
Understand a Lack of Internal Motivation
Until they reach their early teen years, the vast majority of kids have little internal motivation. That is, they tend to not have the capacity to do something simply for the personal satisfaction that it gives.
This is one of the reasons why parents and children may butt heads over subjects like music lessons. The same holds true with doing chores. You prefer for your child to keep her room clean so that she learns to pick up after herself and discovers the pleasure of having a neat and orderly room.
She would rather spend her time playing soccer or a video game. How many times have you fought with your child over a similar situation?
The good news here is that you are the parent. It's your job to help your child discover a sense of discipline and direction. Sometimes, that means doing things, like ensuring that she cleans her room, that she might prefer not to do.
When it comes to music lessons, you as the parent understand that learning an instrument can bring enormous benefits to your child such as:
- Regulating mood;
- Enhanced brain development;
- Improved spatial-temporal skills;
- Better self-esteem;
- Enhanced social skills; and
- Learning discipline, teamwork and goal-setting.
Those are the kinds of outcomes that any parent would naturally want for their child. However, your child cannot understand these outcomes with their limited life experience.
Accordingly, while it is not recommended to approach the idea of music lessons from a position of "force," it may be worthwhile to provide your child with some choices.
Allow Your Child to Own Some of the Decision
Your son is determined to play basketball. It's a sport that all of his friends are playing, so it's no surprise that he wants to do the same.
Since your son is really motivated to play basketball, let that be part of his weekly schedule. At the same time, let him know that his choice to play a sport needs to be balanced with another activity, like learning a musical instrument.
Although piano generally is regarded as the best instrument to start with, you don't necessarily have to choose piano. Maybe your son is interested in the guitar, the violin or the saxophone. Accordingly, let him choose which instrument he wants to play, but make it known that he has to choose one and make lessons and practice a regular part of his weekly schedule.
Avoid Common Mistakes
Parents in general are well intentioned and want what is best for their child. However, they sometimes make mistakes, like encouraging a child to try music lessons while not making music a priority in the household.
Here are some common mistakes parents make when they want their child to start learning an instrument:
- Music isn't played during family activities: Some families turn up the volume on their favorite music when doing chores or making breakfast. They have a sing-along in the car on their way to run errands, and they play some classical music when it's time to study or get ready for bed. Basically, this family has a unique soundtrack, demonstrating how important music is to the enjoyment of life. If you are not regularly playing a variety of music for your kids, then your insistence that they study music may seem to come out of left field.
- They don't play an instrument themselves: Children, especially little ones, love to copy what their parents do. It's pretty hard to expect your child to work toward mastering a musical instrument when you are not doing the same. Now might be the perfect time to enroll in piano lessons for yourself.
- Practice sessions aren't scheduled: It's a mistake to let kids practice an instrument whenever they feel like it or whenever the parent happens to remember that the child needs to practice. Instead, set aside a little time each day for practice. Make it a daily habit, and it will go more easily.
- Making the child practice alone: Some kids who are sent to their room or another isolated space to practice feel lonely and dejected. As an alternative, have the child practice somewhere in the house where others can see, hear and participate. If possible, practice with your child to make it a family effort.
- Waiting too long: Some parents don't think of starting music lessons until their children are older, like 10 or 12. However, even the youngest toddler is capable of beginning to understand and play music. Let your little ones play with a xylophone or shake some bells. When she's a little older, she'll be more likely to want to play an instrument.
- Being too critical: Offer interest and encouragement as often as you can. You definitely don't want to dismiss or ignore your child's efforts. Give measured praise for your child's hard work and progress as this will encourage them to continue.
Tips for Encouraging a Child to Stick with Music Lessons
If you want to ensure that your child sticks with music lessons over the long haul, then it is a good idea to provide regular encouragement.
For instance, you can find ways to make practice sessions easier. If your child is complaining about practicing, then delve into the "why" behind the complaints. Does practice time seem too long? Perhaps it is worthwhile to break it down into two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions. Does your child hate to have people listening in on his practice? It may be wise to consider letting them choose a different time and place for practice so that others are less likely to overhear them. Does your child hate to play alone in their room? Then bring practice out in the living room where everyone can participate.
Many parents further find it helpful to provide incentives. As an example, tell your child that she can play 30 minutes of her favorite video game when she completes 30 minutes of practice. This is a fair bargain, and you can tailor the terms to suit your child's particular preferences and interests.
You also may want to tailor your approach to the lessons and practice time based on your child's age. Younger children love having your attention, so be certain to ask about what they are learning and to participate in practice session. On the other hand, older kids may want to be more independent, preferring to practice out of sight and hearing of others. Give them as much space as you can.
Sometimes, kids have difficulty finding their motivation to practice because they just are not enjoying their instrument very much. This is actually totally normal for kids as they grow and develop curiosity about other things. Along with your child, examine what it is that they don't like about the instrument that they are learning. Is there another instrument that they wish they could play instead? Did your daughter used to love the violin but now she wants to try vocal lessons?
These are all a natural part of growing up. If your child's interest in an alternative instrument remains strong over the next couple of months, then it's probably time to consider making a change.
Prodigies Provides an Early Introduction to Playing Instruments
Even the smallest child loves to make noise with bells, shakers, xylophones and other instruments. With the video programs and supporting materials from Prodigies, it is possible for any child to begin grasping the fundamentals of music at a young age. Let them play their own songs, and make certain that you participate in the lessons as well. This will encourage their interest and give them a lifetime of music to enjoy.