We really appreciated Sara Marie Brenner’s post, To Do or Not to Do: For Parents, the dos and don’ts of private music lessons. If you haven’t read it, you can check out the full article here. Below are some of our favorite points paraphrased and expanded on. Let us know what points really hit home with you!
How to support your child’s musical journey…
- Make it clear that music lessons are a long-term process. Both you and your child should avoid framing this as an activity you are “trying out”. That would be like planting a seed in March and then just “trying out” gardening until May. Hang in there, and the fruit of your labors will come.
- Focus on the quality of practice, not the quantity. Life is busy, kids’ attention spans are short—make sure to get the most out of each minute of practicing by putting the most effort possible in. See Less is More for more ideas for quality practice.
- Be physically present when you are practicing with your child. The worst memories people (including professional musicians) usually have of their parents and practicing is being yelled corrections from an adjacent room. Make the time to literally be there for your child and the quality and tenor of practice will dramatically improve.
- Put the Suzuki CD on every day! If this isn’t easy for you, investigate why and see if you can find a way to make it easier. Do you need to set up an in home stereo system? Upload the music to your phone? Put speakers in the kitchen? This can be the easiest part of practice, so it’s worth putting the time in to find a way to make it work. If you’ve listened to your CD a zillion times and your kid needs some variety, buy the CD that goes with the next few books and mix that in. For more on the power of listening, read here and here.
- Be your child’s cheerleader. Music lessons are hard and music teachers can be demanding. Your most important role is to let your child know that you have unconditional love for them and unsurpassable belief in their potential.
- Don’t threaten that you will stop lessons if they don’t practice. There are very few children (statistically insignificant) who have developed the ability to consistently carry through with long-term goals on their own. It is your job as a parent to help teach them this skill. There may come a time when your child truly doesn’t have an interest in playing their instrument any longer, but this is something that can best be determined with serious, compassionate conversations with your child and their teacher, not with threats.
- Don’t correct your child during a lesson. It is very important to enforce the concept of “one teacher at a time” and respect the relationship between your child and their teacher. If you have a concern that was not addressed in the lesson, ask the teacher about it directly.
- Don’t except your child to be grateful for your sacrifices. Gratitude for the ability to play and enjoy music will come much later, along with adult maturity—don’t expect it from anyone under the age of 18.