You’ve spent a small fortune on music lessons for your child, but they seem totally uninterested. It happens. There are things you can do that will help them continue with lessons though, so don’t give up yet! The worst thing you can do is throw in the towel at the first sign that your child isn’t enjoying the lessons. By letting them quit, you’re teaching them that as soon as life gets difficult, boring, or uninteresting it’s okay to just give up.
You know that life isn’t easy, and you know giving up is not a good lesson to learn. Here are 8 ideas on how to encourage kids to continue and actually enjoy their lessons.
1. Listen to The Type of Music They Are Playing
You should take a direct approach to your child’s music lessons. Although it’s obvious you should listen to your child play, you should also listen to the type of music they are learning. If they are learning classical music, you should listen to classical music throughout the day. Get into it! You may find it rewarding in and of itself.
Studies show that families that listen to classical music have kids that are less likely to quit piano lessons. Although this study was done on piano students, the idea can carry over to any instrument. For example, if your child is a trumpet player, listen to trumpet music. Listening to the type of music they are working on will show them that they are supported and that the music they like is shared by the whole family. You child will start to enjoy the music more as well, which will motivate them to learn more of it.
Please, please, please… Encourage your child! Learning an instrument shouldn’t be something that is dreaded. Students should feel like they are progressing, and they should get told this often by their parents. Try complimenting them not only on how well they played, but also because they practiced well. Complimenting the process and not the result is a great way to encourage practice. “I love how you practiced today without me asking.” or “You did a great job not giving up on that hard passage!” This is how students really get better. They work hard. Talent can’t take anyone very far at all. No practice equals no progress. So give your child compliments about their playing, but also their practice and the process. You’ll notice a big change.
3. Start Taking Lessons Yourself
You want to support your child and their lessons? Take lessons yourself! By taking lessons, you’ll make music a family activity. Your child will see that music lessons are valuable because you value them. Some of the most effective lessons are those you teach your child by example.
A word of caution though. Taking lessons yourself can actually backfire. If you want this technique to be effective, you need to actually value the lessons. If you end up taking lessons and not taking it seriously, this can backfire and show your child that they were right. Lessons aren’t important to you, so why should they be important to them?
Here’s a little advice. Practice daily. It should come without saying, but you won’t get any better without daily practice. If you’re like most adults, this will be hard for you. You likely go to work all day and then when you get home you want to relax. That’s totally understandable, but if you aren’t going to fit in 30 minutes or so for practice, don’t even attempt taking lessons. Most adults start and then quit after a few lessons. By quitting, you’re teaching your child a lesson that will stick with them. You’re showing them that you didn’t care about music enough, so you quit. That means your child can as well. If you don’t trust yourself enough to take the lessons seriously, it’s best to skip this step.
4. Have Them Perform More
How often does your child perform? Have they ever performed? For some reason performances are rare and special instead of being commonplace. This is one reason that a lot of students lose interest in their music lessons. They have nothing to prepare for. If you never get to use the music you’re learning, why on earth are you learning? There’s no incentive to get better because no one will ever hear you.
Your teacher can often get your child in more performances. You just need to ask them. There are often local competitions, recitals, or music groups they can participate that meet often.
Beyond your teacher, however, you should be actively looking for people your child should perform for. Plan actual events in which they can perform for friends and family. You don’t have to plan a new event, the performance can just be a part of an event you are already holding or going to. Having grandparents over for dinner? Time to perform! Having friends over? Time to perform! If at all possible, make sure the performance is planned. Performing just because people are over is fine, it’s better than nothing, but a better way to go about it is to give your child as much notice as possible. That way they actually feel like they need to practice for it. If your child has ever performed, you’ve likely noticed that practice happens a lot more often near a performance. Give your child as many of these opportunities as possible.
5. Practice Better and More Often
If they aren’t progressing much, it’s likely not the teacher’s fault that the student is losing interest. Your child just needs to practice more, or perhaps just more efficiently. If your child is practicing efficiently, and often, they will progress regardless of who their teacher is. That’s just the way it is. Progress is exciting. If your child isn’t progressing, they are much more likely to lose interest. One way to make sure they are practicing the right amount of time is to sit there with them during their practice. Even if you don’t know what they should be doing during practice, you can sit there with them and make sure it gets done.
An even better way to make sure they are getting the practice they need is to sit in on your child’s lessons. This way you’ll know what the teacher wanted them to practice during the week.
6. Be Less Involved
This one may see counter-intuitive, but depending on what kind of parent you are, and depending on what kind of child you have, maybe removing yourself from the whole process a little may be helpful. Kids crave autonomy. You need to help them feel like they have ownership of something. They need to feel like they are directing their practice.
This may seem like odd advice considering this whole article has been telling you how to get more involved. Are you already extremely involved in the lessons? Maybe you’re being a little overbearing. Some kids need this direct attention, but others would thrive without any help. If you’re doing it right, your child will eventually love music lessons and practice on their own. Crazy idea right? It will happen though. When your child takes the initiative to start practice on their own, you’ll find that’s when the real progress happens. Sometimes it just takes a bit of a push from you as a parent, but other times it takes stepping back and letting your child figure it out for themselves.
Do lessons and practice time turn into a fight? Do you find yourself snapping or yelling at your child because they are complaining about practicing? You know this isn’t helpful. In these cases you really need to take a step back and remove yourself from the situation. Maybe talk to a grandparent, your spouse, or an older sibling, and have them take over reminding your child to practice. If you are going to make it into a fight, it’s best not to do it at all. Every time your child thinks about their instrument they’ll associate it with the fights they are having with you.
7. Have Lessons More Often
Who said lessons have to be once a week? Some of the best practice and encouragement your child can get is during their lessons. Lessons are often only once a week because of budget, but you may consider having lessons more often. Twice a week is obviously a good place to start, but honestly there is no downside to having lessons as often as possible, other than your wallet of course.
Your child may not be able to finish a week’s worth of material by each lesson, but that’s okay. The teacher should realize that even if a lesson is just 100% practicing with the student, it’s the best practice they’ll ever get. More of this can’t be bad.
8. Change Teachers
I hesitate to include this because I think too often parents attribute the problems, and loss of interest in lessons, with the teacher. For the most part this isn’t the issue. Most teachers do a great job, and if you think your teacher is doing pretty well, I would look inwardly first and start doing everything listed in this article.
Sometimes kids just need change. Even if the teacher is great, maybe they just need a different approach to lessons. Try to take a break with your current teacher just for a few weeks while you try out a new teacher with a different approach. See if your child reacts well to the teacher and if there is chemistry. Is your child excited about lessons again after a lesson or two? It may be that they just needed something a little different.
It’s also possible that your child will be excited for a lesson or two because the teacher is new, but when they get used to the teacher the same problem comes back. Keep this in mind. Severing relationships with a current teacher may not be the best way to go.
Is it ok to just quit lessons? I personally think that there are a lot of options you should exhaust before you even think about quitting. Think about it for a second. What will you be teaching your child by letting them quit lessons? When life gets hard, or I don’t like what I’m doing, I can give up. We know that’s not a good lesson to learn. So why teach it to your kids? Honestly, it’s probably better to not start music lessons at all if they are just going to quit in a few years.
So don’t let it come to that!
What do you think? How have you helped your child or student stay interested in music lessons?