In my career as a piano teacher, it has become very apparent that ALL music students (and musicians in general!) hit a difficult, trying point from time to time, where they feel the urge to give up. Usually this happens right before they progress to the next level of playing!
I like to think of these tough spots as “waves” to ride. Rather than encouraging my piano students to quit when they are feeling this way, I prefer to help them learn to ride the waves. It is not always an easy process!
If your child is complaining that they “hate” piano lessons, or that they want to quit, it may be your first instinct to say “forget it” and quit lessons. No caring parent enjoys the idea of their child having difficulties, so this is normal! That doesn’t mean that you should immediately react by allowing your child to quit lessons. Before you do that, examine the reasons why they are saying they dislike them!
If the reason is just because they’ve hit a point where suddenly it is becoming more difficult, this is absolutely not a good reason to quit your piano lessons! It is your job to show your child that “you do not give up when the going gets rough” or, as Dory from Finding Nemo says, “just keep swimming!“ You can say this to them, but children mainly learn by experience, and while they might not exactly LOVE the experience at first, you must help them to have it.
Remember – this may be the first time in their life that your child has experienced a challenge. If you allow your child to quit at will, you are basically showing them that it is OK to turn their back on anything that poses a challenge in life.
Rather than encouraging negative behavior that reinforces your child’s fear of making mistakes or not improving, it is important for you to practice ESP: Encouragement, Support and Praise.
- Show interest in what they are learning
- Ask them to have a pretend concert for you
- Ask them to teach you what they learned in their lesson
- Ask your music teacher to bring songs the child really likes (a favorite song, or a TV theme)
- during difficult times, remind your child that there is light at the end of the tunnel
- if you know how to play the instrument, practice together
- remind your child never to say “i can’t” but instead say “i think i can”
- offer small rewards (candy, an ice cream cone, a special treat, a hug!) when they try their best
- reward your child when they have conquered something difficult!
- “I knew you could do it!”
Many parents allow the child to make the decision whether or not to continue their piano lessons, and this is a mistake. It is YOUR job -not your child’s- to decide whether or not it is worth quitting or discontinuing music lessons, and this is not a decision that should be taken lightly.
The way you teach a child to react when they are faced with difficulties in life can set up the way they handle challenges in the future.
One of the most valuable lessons you can teach your child from a young age is that with hard work, comes rewards and that they are not going to always have someone there to do the work for them.
While piano lessons might not be the only way, they are one way, and one way that can be extremely fun!