It may seem like I shouldn’t have to say this, but the term “practice” implies an effort to play the current piece “right”. Practicing mistakes, while not completely impeding progress, certainly slows it down. Therefore, students need to be very sure of how to “play it right”. Your child’s teacher has a goal for “playing it right” with a balance of not being afraid to “play it wrong” in the process. The reason for this reflects why we are The By Ear Musician Studio and NOT “Johnson’s Academy of Music Instruction”. Even the most confident student, adult or child, enters into music lessons with a fear of failure. Sometimes, this is reflected by an outright refusal to play at home! Parents might react to this with confusion and fear of their child’s failure that further stirs up doubt in their child’s heart. It is important to share this with your teacher. Don’t feel badly about it, and don’t blame the teacher, either! For reasons that cannot always be understood, some children have very high expectations of themselves. I’ve had students freeze up, cry, berate themselves, jerk away from the keyboard as if it is suddenly too hot to touch; however they choose to express disappointment in themselves and their fear of their teacher’s disappointment – we’ve seen it. We respond with comfort, encouragement, and reassurance that we are not disappointed in them, that their lesson is a safe place to fail, and that they will eventually “get it right”.
To summarize, practice requires consistent effort to persevere through developmental and personality issues. Perseverance requires support from the family by adequately reflecting the value of the effort and protecting “play at home” time. If you have concerns, please communicate them to your child’s teacher, we are happy to help! And now for some specifics:
How to encourage “playing at home”
“I can do it myself!” Well, even if they can’t (yet), your child not only wants to succeed alone but also needs to know that you think they can! So, look at how you are interacting with music for yourself – what is your child seeing? More importantly, what is your child hearing? Let your child “overhear” you talking about what you hear them play. Find something awesome to say J
Should you bribe your child? Generally, I don’t believe bribing is a good idea. Playing music should not involve the normal “control” issues inherent in the parent-child relationship. Look for ways to reflect the value toward their “play at home” time. Are you rushed and therefore “hurrying” your child to fit in “10 minutes, that’s better than nothing”? Try this: “I can’t wait to hear what you learned today at your lesson.” Smile and say something positive; maybe you could hear a little while you waited and it sounded “awesome”. Even if you are a musician yourself, don’t directly offer to help your child. This may cause them to freeze up around you, thinking that you are always listening for something to “correct”. We are naturally concerned about our children “getting along” with their academics, and music instruction has been shown to support that. But we believe music instruction should also involve the heart.
Where is their “playing” area? Is it in an awkward corner that the child doesn’t want to be in? Is it cluttered with things so that it feels like an area where things “carelessly” collect, waiting to be put away? These visual images speak to the child. Create, if you can, an area of honor, of beauty…well lit, organized with a specific place for their books and class journal. A table nearby with flowers, or some object of value.