Tuesday, February 8, 2011

SHOULD I MAKE MY CHILD TAKE PIANO LESSONS?

As a piano teacher, I am often asked, “Should I MAKE my child take piano lessons?”

I like to answer the rest of the question with a story about my daughter, Elizabeth.

SOCCER

Elizabeth did not like sports. Elizabeth did not seem to have a natural inclination for sports. I could not convince her to sign up for any sport. I asked myself, “Should I MAKE Elizabeth sign up for something?”

I finally decided that I wanted Elizabeth to know how to play a sport with a team. I recognized that Elizabeth might not be a good candidate for an upper level, competition team. So I signed her up for a neighborhood soccer program. I decided that I would MAKE her do it because this was a life skill that would help her.

Elizabeth was angry and upset. She cried and screamed to convince me that I should not MAKE her take soccer if she did not want to. I explained that she could quit when she had mastered the basics. I had to literally drag her to soccer practices and I bribed her with pizza to get her to kick the ball through the goal.

Eventually Elizabeth found that she liked playing defense and she was pretty good at it. Elizabeth played soccer for quite a few years. She learned the basics, continued to play on the neighborhood team and eventually quit. She never loved sports with a passion but she did find that her experience with soccer was basically a positive life experience.

PIANO

I MAKE all my children take piano lessons. Some of them did not like it. Some of them did not have a natural inclination for music. I had difficulty convincing each of them to sign up.

I finally decided that I wanted each of them to have a basic knowledge of music and the piano. I recognized that most, if not all, of my children would not be concert pianists. So I signed them up with neighborhood piano teachers. I decided that I would MAKE them do it because piano playing is a life skill that would help each child.

Many of my children were angry and upset. They cried and screamed to convince me that I should not MAKE them take piano lessons if they did not want to. I explained that they could quit when they mastered the basics. I literally had to drag my children to piano lessons and I bribed them with their driver’s licenses.

Eventually each child found that they liked piano. Each child found that they could be pretty good at it. Each child has now played for years. Some are better than others but each learned the basics before they quit. Some of them do not love the piano with a passion but each found that learning to play the piano was basically a positive life experience.

BE GREATER

In reality, anyone could survive and be successful in life even if they never learned to play soccer or piano. But I want something more for my piano students and my children.

William Jennings Bryan once said: “The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you.” This is the reason to MAKE your children take piano lessons. So that they can add to their collection of successful experiences and be greater than they would have been otherwise.

So should you MAKE your child take piano lessons? YES!

5 comments:

  1. I am in the same position, but I can't seem to find a way to force the issue. I don't understand this, as I don't have a problem putting my foot down about everything else. I also know that once he's involved in something new, even something he initially balked at (if it's not his idea, he wants nothing to do with it), he loves it. It's what happened when I dragged him to children's plays. He would insist he would hate but but he would love it and want to see the plays again. It's just getting him to try it that's hard.

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  2. Thank you for your thoughts. My children have taken piano for over 5 years each, and we still struggle with lots negativity and resistance sometimes (like this week!). I get tired of the whining and sometimes I am tempted just to let them do what they want. But then I think, if my child really hated math, would I tell them that no more math studies would be required? No. Even if they would never solve another algebraic equation in their adult lives, math is an important life skill that develops higher reasoning. My job as a parent would be to help them figure out a way to make it more manageable. Do we need to sit down and do homework together? Do we need to hire a tutor?

    Music, I think is even more important than math. Music permeates every part of our lives (privately, socially, religiously), and learning an instrument is a skill they can take to adulthood and will bring so much joy to themselves and others. Children who take music lessons have higher IQ's than their non-musical counterparts. Music lessons are also an important life lesson in discipline: Sometimes life is no fun. Sometimes you have to work really hard even if you don't want to. Hard work will eventually yield great rewards, though, so hang in there.

    Also-have you ever met an adult who said, "I quit piano lessons when I was a child and I am so glad I did?" I never have! What do they usually say? They say that they have ALWAYS regretted it, so I just have to cling to the hope that my children will be thankful someday for my insistence.

    So when my children whine, "I hate piano. I want to quit." I respond, "You can quit piano when you move out of my house."--though in reality I probably wouldn't make it drag on THAT long. But I think they're in for several more years of hard work.

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  3. Help. I have been sending my 7 year old daughter to piano every week for about 4 months. She enjoys practicing at home, but progressively, has become more and more difficult to teach in her lessons. The last 4 times I've taken her to lessons, she refuses to play... at all. She will just sit on the piano bench, look at the floor and refuse to talk or play. What do I do??!! I'm totally on board to "make" her do it, but at the end of the day I can't actually make her play the keys. I don't sense that she is refusing to playing to be a bad kid... she is actually a very well behaved child as a whole. She is very bright and is one of the top students in her school classroom. She is and always has been shy, and somehow these lessons are shutting her down. I'm at a loss. I'm ready to let her quit, but my husband insists that she does it. But again, how can I actually MAKE her do it... if she's just sitting there staring at the floor? Also, that said, the teacher is rightfully so, at her wits end as well. She's very kind and encouraging to my daughter, but she doesn't know what to do either.

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  4. Hi there - I am a piano teacher and have dealt with my fair share of kids going through "phases" with piano. If your daughter is practicing at home, that is a sign that she is still interested in piano lessons, and you already have something that alot of parents can't achieve - getting their kids to practice. Perhaps then, it is something during the lessons that is bothering your daughter - have you sat in with her during a lesson? Would you be able to suggest taht to the teacher? You can also have the teacher start the lesson by engaging the child through another subject - i.e. school, friends, a bday party she may be going to, etc., and then use that to ease into the lesson. The teacher also has to make the lesson fun. They have to encourage in way that makes the kid feel special i.e. "I've been waiting all week to hear you play Old MacDonald!" or have some fun with her and say "hey, what's on the floor? I don't see a piano down there. the last time I checked, the piano keys were up here!" In my case, I get kids that bring all kinds of behaviour to the lesson, and you never know what you're going to get til you get them - but one thing I have learned is that as a teacher, we also have to be mentors, and rarely is it just about playing piano. If this doesn'T work out, I would try another teacher, and make sure you meet them first and have a dsicussion about their teaching philosophy. Good luck!

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  5. Thanks so much for the response and thoughts.

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