Congratulations, you’ve become a piano parent!andnbsp; You may not be standing on the sidelines yelling, but you play just as much of a role in how successful your child will be in lesson.
What Do Piano Parents Do?
Being a piano parent is a pretty awesome role!
You are the parent that:
- Cheers when your child completes a song or has a breakthrough.
- Helps your child learn time management through a practice routine.
- Supports your child as they learn how to verbally and musically express ideas, emotions, stories, etc.
- Guides your child through navigating the practice page.
- Encourages your child to ask questions when they are unsure.
- Steps in as the ‘student’ when your child needs to talk something out.
- Lets your child know how proud you are of them.
Notice that some of this happens during lesson.andnbsp; But, most of it happens during the week.
Your Role In Between Lessons
Piano parents play a huge role in success between lessons.andnbsp; Because your child’s teacher is not involved in what happens in between lessons, that responsibility falls to you and your child.andnbsp; The younger your child, the more that responsibility falls to you, as the parent. While there are differences from other extracurricular activities, there are plenty of similarities!
Why do they forget?
My children are growing up fast, but there are still many thing they need to be reminded of.andnbsp; “Did you brush your teeth?” “Did you pack your lunch?”andnbsp;
Even if my children have been doing something on their own for years, there are times they forget.andnbsp;
Anything new needs continual reminders by us, as parents, to ensure our children follow through on their responsibilities.andnbsp; Even though there are moments we would just like to take a break from ‘adulting’.andnbsp;
Thankfully the older our children get, the more responsibility we can give them. But, that does not change the fact that they still need encouragement, a listening ear, and the occasional reminder. After all, we all forget sometimes!
While many parents already have a full schedule driving their children between multiple extracurricular 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 regular physical and intellectual practice in order for students of any age to really make noticeable progress.
Remember back when your child was first learning to walk and talk.
It was an exciting and frustrating time. Not only was your child getting into everything (or perhaps that was just our twins), but they were 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 it was only one large practice session instead of broken up into small practice sessions. 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 doesn’t 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).
- Sit with your child if needed or they ask.
This is all part about determining if not just your child, but you are ready for lessons and the responsibilities that come with that.
Practice Time With Your Child
There is a couple of practical aspects to this.
If your child is very young, they probably cannot read. If they cannot read, they have no way of reviewing 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, teachers rely on parents to read those notes so practice can be a success at home.
Also, 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 doesn’t seem that long ago that my kids would snuggle on the Lazy-boy with me as I read them a story before nap time. Fast forward several years and now my kids come home wanting to go to friends’ homes instead of reading a book on the couch with their Mom.
The Parent Trifecta
Let’s go back to the example of a child learning to walk and 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 wasn’t perfect.
Piano practice is no different.
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!
#2: Ask Questions
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, guide them to ask questions. Since it takes time to master this skill, you’ll 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 and the current song.
Usually asking your child to give you little bits of information at a time can ‘unstick’ your child. Plus, what child doesn’t relish the opportunity to teach their parent?
If you and 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?
When we use general praise like, “Sounds great!”, our children can assume their success was a fluke. Even worse is when when we say something sounds great when it didn’t. Chances are your child knows it wasn’t their best.
Notice that the first specific praise did not focus on a perfect end result. Chances are your child still needs to work on the section to full master it.
What the specific praise did focus on was the process your child went through to move forward. Using this type of praise shows you are listening and watching.
Specific praise that focuses on the process is the type of praise used in our Must Love Music online piano studio! Over a decade of teaching has shown just how powerful this type of praise is. And, how much further students push themselves when they see the small steps of progress.
A Team Effort
Piano lessons are not just a relationship between student and teacher. It is a team effort between younger student, teacher and parent.
As a piano parents you play such a large part of this team effort because you:
- Have lots of experience helping your child through different stages of life,
- Control, to a much great extent than anyone else, the weekly schedule,
- Are the adult who supports your child during the week (the piano teacher does not have this option),
- Can be the ‘go-between’ when there is a miscommunication between your child and their teacher,
- Know your child better than anyone else.
Advice For Non-Musical Piano Parents
Perhaps you don’t consider yourself a musical person. “I have never played piano. How am I supposed to support my child?”
Neither of my parents learnt how to play a musical instrument. And, yet they had a daughter who was determined to learn how to play piano. Supporting my piano learning became more natural for them over time. But, there was a learning curve that they went through.
While my parents weren’t able to help me read the music, what I remember the most about their support was:
- Praise and comments on my hard work,
- Ensuring our piano was regularly tuned so I had a great instrument to play on,
- Making it possible for me to share my piano playing with others.
One summer, they even enrolled me in a weekly long immersive organ course. Turns out that I wasn’t interested in pursuing organ afterwards. Even though I was blown away by my instructor playing “Flight of The Bumblebee” using just the foot pedals. Wow! But, I did have a much great understanding of keyboard instruments afterwards that had a positive, lasting impact on my piano playing.
Use the trifecta section for specific ideas on how you can support your child, even with little to no musical experience.
Your Role As A Piano Parent
Much like becoming a parent for the first time, piano parents go through the same highs and lows as they figure out how this “piano practice thing” works.
The good news is that the best piano parents are doing many of the things you already do! Provide encouragement and support to the best of your ability.
What questions do you have the role parents play with piano lessons?
Let me know in the comments below!
If a supportive approach that provides support to you as a piano parent to piano lessons looks good to you, click to set up an interview to join our online piano studio!