How to Not Make Your Kids Hate Music
You love music, and you understand the benefits it will have in your child's development. You want them to appreciate the sounds they hear around them every day. You want your child to enjoy their music lessons, and have a skill that will bring them enjoyment for the rest of their lives. But how?
It's simple, really. Make sure they practice.
Now, I know what you're going to say. You're thinking, "the reason my kids are starting to hate their music lessons is because they have to practice." But stick with me, here.
We've come a long way in finding creative ways to get children to succeed in their music lessons. The piano teachers who rap on children's fingers with rulers when they make a mistake have been left in the 1950's (we hope). Still, somewhere along the line, we've started putting the cart before the horse. The way to get your child to enjoy music is not to wait around for them to love it, and then put them in music lessons, hoping that they will practice happily for many years (they won't). It's to put them in those lessons, have a practice plan and a schedule (read "Five Tips to make Practicing More Fun"), and then watch their love for music grow.
The secret is this: we love what we're good at. It sounds almost narcissistic, but is it? Think of the board games you love, or the sports you love to play. It's probably because on some level, or at some point in your life, you enjoyed success in it. And success is addictive. When we feel like we're getting better at something, we want to continue.
Obviously, you should not choose an instrument for your child arbitrarily (see our post "How to Choose a Musical Instrument For My Child"), nor should you start music lessons before they're ready (read "The Best Age to Start Music Lessons" for more information on that), and you definitely shouldn't force them to play an instrument that they don't seem to like, or have no affinity for. But once you've settled into music lessons, and the honeymoon period of finding the lessons super fun and new has ended (because it almost always does a few months in), don't give up when the going gets tough. This is the time to dig in, get back into that practice routine, and dust off the tried and true practice games. The results are almost always that your child will start to love music again, and practicing will start to come more easily.
See, most musicians don't love practicing because it's fun (mostly, it's not). But we do it because we love improving! What an amazing life lesson to teach your child. I had a parent say to me recently, "This is the first time my daughter has had to push through something difficult and has come out the other end. And she's starting to really enjoy playing again." Practicing teaches us so many things, but one of the best lessons we learn is the satisfaction we can get from improving a skill. Getting better at something by doing hard work feels great.
So, when you are struggling to get your child to practice, just remember the long-term goal. Success feels good. And your child will love music because of their success in it, not the other way around.
Rebecca Lane is the director, founder, and owner of Upper Beaches Music School. She teaches at the school on Saturdays, but most days you can find her chasing after her three young children, one of whom is in the Suzuki violin program at UBMS.