All parents face the day their child wants to quit lessons. And if your child is currently begging to stop taking lessons, let me first offer encouragement: all kids go through this. Your child isn’t abnormal. In fact, if your child never gets tired of doing anything it’s abnormal!
And second, your child will be incredibly grateful if you push through this. I’ve never talked to any adult who is glad they quit music lessons. Every single one says they regret not learning how to play better. So it may be hard now, but if you make it through this it’ll be worth it.
But what do you DO? Here are a few things to try.
Changing the Practice Time
Most likely your child wants to quit because they don’t like practicing. The first thing you want to figure out is why they don’t like to practice. Sit down with your child (at a good time) and ask a few questions:
- Do they hate the songs they’re playing?
- Do they not like playing the songs repeatedly?
- Do they not like being left out of something else?
- Is it too hard or they can’t understand it?
Depending on their response, here’s a few fixes:
They hate the songs they’re playing
There is SO much music out there. If they hate all the songs they’re playing, change the songs! Talk to their teacher about the songs they’re playing and about what songs your child wants to learn. There’s no reason to constantly play songs they hate. You wouldn’t want to learn songs you hate, and neither do they. Now sometimes there are songs that will be very helpful for your child to learn, but this is few and far between.
They don’t like playing the songs repeatedly
This might actually be the 3rd or 4th problem, but if they really don’t like practicing, there are ways to help them out. Kids have a hard time thinking long term, so while you can see that they will be glad they didn’t quit, they need some help in the here and now. Growing up my parents always used prizes to help motivate me. It was as simple as a penny per song we played (yeah, we had no idea how cheap that was!) to a bowl of our favorite “sugar” cereal that we weren’t allowed to have otherwise, or even extra time playing video games. The best prizes are the ones that they only get when they practice the piano.
They feel like they’re losing out on something fun
This is usually a pretty easy one to solve: change the practice time. It may seem like no big deal to you for them to miss _____________(insert activity here), but it could be a really big deal for them. No one wants to miss out on something fun. Alternatively, it could be that their sibling playing video games while they’re practicing is difficult for them. If you can’t change the practice time, try changing the other activity.
It’s too hard
Every parent wants their child to be challenged, after all, that’s how they learn and grow. But if the learning curve is too steep, it can be too frustrating for your child to handle. Everyone is different in this regard. Some children can handle far more then others; just like some adults can handle far more.
There’s two approaches to this problem that seem to work. First, take smaller, baby steps. Talk to your teacher about how your child is feeling frustrated by the level of music and see if they can take a bit slower pace. This doesn’t mean your child is slower than others. It could be the teacher just started them on a faster track.
Second, and in my opinion the best, is setting small goals that are achievable. The most popular ones are either a time goal or a quantity goal. A time goal is just that: set a timer for 5 minutes, and tell them they’ll need to play this song for 5 minutes as best they can. A quantity goal is setting a certain number of measures (or amount of the song) to learn that day. If you put both of these together – play a certain number of measures for a certain amount of time – you and they will be shocked at how quickly they progress over the difficulty.
Bottom line: get involved. Your child wants to spend time with you. Getting involved in their practice time, not as a hovering parent but as an encouraging force, can mean the difference between them being able to play the piano or joining the ranks of adults who say “I wish I had stuck with it”.