A lot of articles focus on whether a young child is ready for piano lessons. But, did you know that it isn’t just the child that needs to be ready for the lessons?
As parents, we are busy. Between work, managing kids homework & extra-curricular activities for the kids & ourselves, it can be a surprise when it comes to piano lessons.
“What do you mean I have to be involved? Don’t they go to lessons & you take care of the rest?”
When your children are very young, your involvement is what helps make lessons a success.
The Big Ask
When my children were younger I taught them piano. But the deal was that while I would teach, my husband would take care of practice during the week. It wasn’t the easiest of transitions during the week.
Young children need a lot of reminders. Even when it comes to routine tasks.
- Brush their teeth
- Clean up toys at the end of the day
- Put on a hoodie/sweater before heading outside
- Eating over the plate
Just like setting any other routine in your day, piano practice takes time to set up as a routine.
Your child’s piano teacher will do everything possible to set them up for success during the week.
But they aren’t in your home the 6 days in between lessons.
On behalf of all independent music teachers out there, this is the big ask we all have.
If your child is young enough to need your help with homework, you need to be involved with practice during the week.
The 5 Big Questions
Before signing up your child for music lessons, think about whether you are ready to join the amazing group of piano parents.
Are you ready to …
- Set a regular time to be at the piano?
- If you child is very young, sit with him or her as they practice?
- Encourage your child as they explore the piano?
- Ask questions that help your child problem solve when they get stuck?
- Praise them as you see & hear breakthroughs during the week?
While many parents already have a full schedule driving their children between multiple extra-curricular activities, piano lessons (or any other instrumental lessons) are a little different.
As a piano teacher, I only see my students between 30 – 60 minutes a week. However, learning piano is a mix of physical & intellectual that needs regular practice in order for students of any age to really make noticeable progress.
Remember back when your child was first learning to walk & talk.
It was an exciting & frustrating time. Not only was your child getting into everything (or perhaps that was just our twins), but he or she was desperately trying to help those around them understand all the million thoughts running through their head.
Now imagine your child only got to practice those skills 30 – 60 minutes a week. And that was not broken up into small practice sessions, but one large practice session.
I think we would all agree any child would struggle under those conditions.
As a parent, I get it. We have so many things we already make sure our children get done.
But, don’t worry. Scheduling practice does not need to be a burden.
- Make sure your child gets to the piano the day after lessons.
- Make practice a regular part of the routine (like brushing teeth, but more fun).
- Follow the other “big asks”.
This is all part about determining if not just your child, but you are ready for lessons & the responsibilities that come with that.
Practice Time With Your Child
There is a practical aspect to this.
If your child is very young, they probably cannot read. If they cannot read, they have no way of remembering what the teacher did with them during lesson. Especially since attention spans are so short at this age.
The majority of piano teachers send home a practice page. It could be written out, a digital PDF, or an online platform that includes signing in to see what your child should accomplish.
When a child is very young, we rely on parents to read those notes so practice can be a success at home.
But, there is another practical aspect to this.
Our children grow up fast. And, soon enough they will want to be doing their own thing.
I know when we are in the midst of everything it can be hard to remember that.
It does not seem that long ago that my kids would snuggle on the Lazy-boy with me as I read them a story before naptime. Fast forward several years & now my kids come home wanting to go to friends’ homes instead of reading a book on the couch with their mom.
Piano practice can be that time when you & your child connect through music.
Instead of everyone going their separate directions once they get home.
Encourage. Ask questions. Praise.
While the previous two asks may seem like just more work, the last 3 are the best part. I promise.
Let’s go back to the example of a child learning to walk & talk.
The 2 main things that many parents do to help their child are:
- Encourage them through each stage.
- Praise them for their efforts … even if it was not perfect.
Piano practice is no different.
It is going to be filled with mistakes, near misses, unintelligible sounds & at times frustration.
But, it will also be filled with milestones (big & small), surprising discoveries, amazing sounds, & laughter.
At the beginning of learning anything new, your child will need encouragement.
Listening to yourself as you play an instrument is a skill that takes time to develop.
You need to be that positive “ear” for your child.
Encourage your child as you hear what their effort is leading to.
Maybe he or she has not mastered the whole song, but that section that has been a real bear to learn? Success!
One of the best skills we can teach our children is to problem solve. However, this is not something that just magically appear one day. It also takes guided practice.
When you child gets stuck, & he or she will, ask questions.
Start with questions you child will know the answer to or can easily find the answer to.
Build on the success of those initial questions to go deeper into what your child is trying to accomplish.
For example, your child says “I can’t play this song!”
- Which section of the song are you working on right now?
- What is something you can tell me about this section?
- If your child does not know this, where can you both find information on the page to get you started.
- What is something that is the same as another song you are playing?
- Help your child look for anything similar between a familiar song & the current song.
Usually asking your child to give you little bits of information at a time can ‘unstick’ your child.
Plus, what child does not relish the opportunity to teach their parent?
If you & your child are really truly stuck, send an email or call your piano teacher for guidance before the next lesson.
The last part of the trifecta is praise. There is a caveat though.
Specific praise encourages a child to continue learning.
General praise sounds insincere.
“I am very proud how you went back to the basics when you felt frustrated.”
Which would make you want to keep playing?
Notice that the first specific praise did not focus on a perfect end result. Chances are the child still needs to work on the section to full master it.
What the specific praise did focus on was the process the child went through to move forward.
When we use general praise like, “Sounds great!”, our children can assume their success was a fluke.
Even worse is when we say something sounds great when it really does not.
Are You Ready for Lessons?
While you will not necessarily be sitting in on lessons & playing an active role in practice times forever, part of being a piano parent is embracing your new role.
Ready for lessons as a parent means:
- Scheduling regular practice times
- Being a part of each practice session (with very young students)
- Asking questions
- Giving specific praise
Are you ready?
To learn how to support your child during week, click below!