Every Parents Dream
This is hardly a parent that doesn’t share the desire that their children have music in their life. I find that intentions are usually good ones and ones of genuine concern and desire that their children have a complete experience in life that includes learning music, in many cases, learning how to play the piano. The problem arises when we ask the question, “when is the fine line between encouragement and forcing a child to play the piano?” That’s not an easy question to answer but one that deserves some attention.
The reason I find this question so important is because there are so many adults and parents that I speak to that retain a negative experience in regards to their own parents forcing and pressuring them to learn the piano when they were kids. I have a huge problem with this for many reasons but mainly for the fact that because of those actions of pressure, a wonderful experience of learning an instrument and playing the piano has become a traumatic memory that they will carry around for the rest of their lives. This is a tragedy since music is one of the most wonderful gifts imaginable and the last thing that learning the piano should do is create bad memories.
How Do We Know?
It is no secret that most kids need some form of encouragement in order to do anything. Unless it’s video games or dessert, we have to offer a friendly and encouraging push. But the question is how do we tell the difference between encouraging and genuinely offering a slight push to keep the child on track? I will try to answer that question based on the experiences I’ve had with families and please feel free to add your own thoughts in a comment below. We could all learn how to better deal with this difficult topic.
In my experience, a child, any child, is not typically going to be super excited about practicing or learning anything. That’s just the reality for most of us. Yes, some kids have almost an innate desire to learn and study but let’s face it, that rarely happens. The more typical case is that we, as parents have to push and encourage ou kids to do their homework, go to school and learn the things that are required of them.
With the piano, since it is an elective subject that they commonly learn outside of school, I think the push factor can be a little less while still remaining encouraging. Telling them to sit down for an hour at the piano to practice is not the way to go. Instead, small 10-minute sessions, I find, work much better and allow a child to not associate sitting at the piano to practice as a big chore.
Keeping a piano practice chart and offering small rewards for a full weeks practice is also a great way to encourage children. If however, after a few months of piano lessons, you see that they are still dreading sitting at the piano, I think it is okay to take a break and come back to the talk of lessons the following year. This is the critical point that you don’t want to push beyond and where a lot of people develop that resentment towards learning the piano.
Is Piano the Best Instrument to Learn First?
Another comment I hear often is that parents want their child to take piano lessons because they feel that piano is the best instrument to start with. Although I am partial to the piano, I am not necessarily sure this is entirely true. While the piano does offer the possibility to more easily become familiar with harmony and sight reading more than one line of music, the myth that it is the best way to start learning music is just that, a myth.
The truth is that a child can have a great musical education while beginning to learn just about any instrument, it doesn’t have to be the piano. It can be the guitar, violin, cello or clarinet. So, in my opinion, if a child is resisting the piano, ask if they would be interested in a different instrument altogether. You may be surprised at how interested they are in music, just not specifically the piano.