“What do I do when my child doesn’t want to practice? ”
Piano teachers hear this question a lot. I think it implies a more fundamental question: What is the nature of a child’s wants and desires?
The answer to this question can lead to two different parenting approaches: One approach holds that every moment and decision of a child’s day must be scheduled and controlled. The other approach says that a child should be allowed to do however he or she feels on the whim of the moment.
I disagree with both approaches, because I think they both deny the fundamental nature of what a child is. A child is a potential adult, but not a fully formed adult. A child is in the process of forming values, learning his or her likes and dislikes, and forming a full psychology.
So what does this mean?
A child’s values and psychology aren’t completely formed. This means that a child’s decisions and emotions will often be at variance with his long-term self interest. For example, a child might want to eat sweets and candy all day. Or she might love the piano but not feel like practicing because it requires too much effort. In such cases, the parent is obligated to reduce the number of sweets, or encourage or even mandate practice.
On the other hand, a child’s values and psychology aren’t completely plastic. Although he isn’t an adult, he does have some nascent values and psychology. To deny this fact, or thwart early attempts at self-discovery is to invite serious problems down the road.
For example, if a child has a clear preference for drawing or some other activity, and yet you deny this in favor of hours of daily piano practice, you’re heading for disaster. In a case such as this, an “I don’t want to practice” isn’t an out of context whim, but rather the correct response to a value contradiction imposed from the outside.
The answer then to “What do I do if my child doesn’t want to practice?” is: “It depends.” If your child has other interests, and has had piano imposed from the beginning, you should consider letting her explore. If your child enjoys practicing in general but needs a day off, then let her chill out. If your child loves music but won’t practice because of the effort involved, it could be time to find some creative motivation or be a strict parent. If your child doesn’t want to do anything, it might be time to look for someone more qualified than a piano teacher for advice.Want to learn piano but don't know where to start? I've taught hundreds of happy students! Click here for my free beginner lesson course.
From my few years of teaching, I have found that the students who thrive the most are the one’s whose parents are involved with the process. This is not really a surprise or amazing new info…just an observation. This is a hard conversation to have with parents, I try to approach it by giving regular progress reports as a teacher. This makes the parents feel included in their child’s education. I think sometimes parents might feel like they can’t help because they don’t understand music. It is important for teachers to bridge that gap a little
awesome info about piano my friend, keep posting..
Hello Admin and contributors.
I would largely agree with what has been said to date. However, I have born witness to a common sitiuation where the child’s parent seems more intent on the child in question learning Piano than the child actually wanting to learn. Personally, I find this destructive behaviour on the part of the parent. I would agree it’s every parents responsibility to nurture and encourage their offspring to do whatever the child shows aptitude towards, – whether it’s playing a musical instrument or otherwise, but to force the will of an adult onto a child? – No! – and this usually happens because the parent has failed in their musical endevours during childhood and now they (in their own mind) think it’s right and fitting their child doesn’t make a similar mistake, even at the cost of the unwilling child being unhappy. Ive seen this many times throughout my long career as a Piano teacher. In such instances when it’s perfectly clear the child has absolutely no interest whatsoever in playing Piano I sit the parent down and tell them a few home truths.
– Ive really enjoyed reading many of your articles this evening. It makes a refreshing change to find a good website with intelligent discussion.
Keep up the good work. I look forward to visiting again soon.
Best regards to all.
Hey Guys, I am new to this blogging business but will try and add something of use!
I have been a piano player and teacher for 15 years, and often found that near the end all enjoyment had gone from teaching.
What had been once been fresh and fun was so routine and i really stopped liking it to the point i wasnt sure i wanted to teach.
The turning point came for me , and keeping the students intereste was introducing an exciting new dimension;
1 week out of every month i would inspire the pupils with modern or different styles of music: They loved it! and it kept it fresh for me learning about all new types!
As well as doing the staple courses for piano, it allowed for creativity from students and me!
If anyone else, student or tutor is suffering a similar fate i suggest looking on a site like youtube for inspiration :
For example this video is a great one for getting ideas:
Hope my first post has been of interest and look forward to blogging more!
Many teachers respond to this desire by working hard to make lessons more pleasurable for students. This certainly makes sense to a degree, since lessons that become drudgery are hard to continue and succeed at over the long term. However, the single-minded pursuit of fun may not be the best reason for, or approach to, piano lessons. Lessons should be comprised of real learning, leavened with fun aspects. There need not be a dichotomy or conflict between learning and fun. It’s just a matter of approach, on the part of both the parents and teacher
A child only needs the correct inspiration, this is in my opinion the most powerful tool for a child’s education.
If they have nothing to aspire toward they will not want to put any energy into learning anything. Without the correct stimulation this way the child will only put a huge firewall up and not want to budge. Music should always be fun and enjoyable!
A child only needs inspiration, a lack of inspiration is in my opinion the most powerful tool for a child’s education.
If they have nothing to aspire toward they will not want to put any energy into learning anything.
Very interesting post, and as a teacher, this is something I think about quite often. I’ve actually written a blog about the same subject, but offer a few more solutions as oppposed to an analysis of this situation. Thanks for your insight, and I hope you’ll find my blog useful as well! http://sean-martinez.com/2011/12/ginger-ale-and-crackers-for-musical-bellyaching/
I found a good website that has a cool program children will love and motivate them to want to practice. http://www.newtempopiano.com
This is a great topic. Most children find it boring and uninteresting when an unknown song is given or assigned during piano lessons.
However, once they start knowing a portion of the song and they will find it enjoyable to move on and practice more.
It is very much like an elementary student was assigned an AR book that is a beyond their level and they will find it uninteresting to read initially. The key is to be patience with the student and work with a few measures at a time. Also, find assignments or songs that are interesting and known to the student.
I think there are a lot of factors involved here. A child does need direction and opportunity but their age determines much of what they do and what they continue to do. Thinking back to my early years of musical experience I remember my Father coming home from work and asking me to play for him. He would then comment on how I was improving. Maybe even what I was working on that was new. His interest in my playing was a great “boost” for me to have interest in it also and I worked harder because of it.
Our brains are capable of learning bits and pieces and assemblying them later to make use of them. The parts of music do not need to be learned in the order they will evetually be played as a performance. Practice can be laborious, to be sure. However, repetition is the law of learning. Making a game of it or changing the focus of the practice session from amount of time practicing to amount of a song learned and playable. As soon as a line or so is learned then on to something else. Also, I have discovered that three shorter sessions of practice a day are far more productive than long sessions, especially for younger students. Even now I use short rapid repetition on troublesome parts to get them corrected before moving on. Leaving as little time between repetitions as possible. With students I would have them play a difficult measure several times over by asking them; “Let’s see how many times you can play this measure in one minute and I will time you.” This often worked because it changed their focus from the difficulty of the measure to a contest against time. Kids liked that and it always seem to help. I focus on the final product and fun it will be to play it well. Getting students to focus on being able to play it well rather than the laborious process to get there sometimes helps. Most important is the love portrayed by the teacher for the student and their success. Always comment on something they have done well even it is only a measure or the timing was right On! Now lets see how many more of the right notes we can get. One last thought. Most of my students enjoyed their music lessons more when I played with them. They would work harder during the week just to be able to play well enough so we could play together. It needs to be fun! It will be if it is more of a joint effort, that is teacher and student together, instead of teacher versus student. My best to you.
I agree that a flexible approach is necessary as each child has different needs and desires. In my view, the fundamental ingredients to successful progression in learning to play the piano are motivation, aspiration and fun.
The old adage … you can bring a horse to water … but you can’t make it drink has a lot of relevancy from the point of view that many children ‘go through the motions’ in piano lessons and do enough to avoid being told off by their teacher or parents, which means that their rate of learning is a fraction of what it could be if they were highly motivated.
Choosing music that they like and making lessons ‘fun’ can massively improve the rate of learning. Showing inspirational piano videos e.g. http://www.decplaypiano.com/inspiring-piano-videos can also help with their motivation.