‘He loves their lessons with you, but I just can’t get them to practice,
and don’t want to nag!’
OK; let me refine that a bit …. PERSUADE BABY!!
Let’s take a closer look at that statement.‘He loves their lessons with you, but I just can’t get them to practice, and don’t want to nag!’
Your child loves his teacher. That’s a huge positive. The comment implies that you want your child to succeed in piano. That’s also a huge positive. This is NOT the time to give up when so much is going on in the plus column in the ongoing family drama of piano lessons. Like I said, I’ve heard this refrain from scores of parents over the years.
When a piano teacher hears a statement like this they have many options available to them, especially when the student “likes them”. Many teachers will analyze the many different aspects of the piano lessons to find a solution to this commonly heard difficulty. There are many things a piano teacher will consider using his professional perspective drawing on his education and experience.
I may have a professional perspective, but parents, you have a more powerful and more important perspective; you have a parental perspective. I say this as a teacher; with your perspective you can provide a support that I just cannot provide.
You’re the yin to our yang
The idea of yin and yang is that, taken together, they form a complete unit, a whole. Yet, at the same time they are different. Yin and yang do not overlap or intersect. Teachers cannot effectively work alone. Our Yang cannot do the job alone; at least cannot do it near as effectively.
NOTE: As in all analogies, this one, too, is not perfect in all aspects. But, here are a couple ideas that parents can do to compliment our yang with your yin. Here are some strategies that you can do to persuade your child not only to love their piano lessons and piano teacher but to love the whole learning experience itself, even practicing.
I want to give you two simple points that will help all parents in The Art of Subtle Persuasion and I promise ….. no nagging required.
Yin Number One – LET YOUR CHILD KNOW YOUR DESIRES
I think often what happens is the homes across America, and the world for that matter, is that a child will do something to demonstrate and interest in music. The parent is delighted about the child’s interest in music. I also think most parents have a secret hope that their child is musical. They have a little conversation together. The parent then asks the child if they would like music lessons. The child enthusiastically says, “SURE!!”. And then, I get a phone call.
In all of this little conversation the parent never expresses their personal desire to their child. The child doesn’t know that their parent is as enthusiastic as they are. Tell your child how pleased you are about his love for music and how excited you are about getting him lessons. This is a great bonding moment!! Take the opportunity to unify with your child on your common desire you have together. If you’re a hugging kind of parent maybe a big hug is in order here. If you do, that unity of desire will inform your child that he isn’t taking piano lessons totally on his own. He knows his parent is totally on board and is invested in the endeavor. Young children thrive on knowing they are doing something that please their parents.
I also think it’s important that when you communicate this to your child you communicate it directly into the child’s mind/soul/heart. You want to make sure this communication takes root in your child’s person. I think eye to eye contact is called for in this situation. This is not something frivolous you may shout from the kitchen before meal time, like, “Wash your hands before coming to dinner.”
This shouldn’t be a one time thing, either. In a moment like when a parent must explain to the teacher, “I just can’t get them to practice and I don’t want to nag!!” may be such a moment to reiterate you commitment of your desire for your child’s success. Speaking of your desire for your child’s success repeats the communication that this is an activity that you both want. It is a much stronger statement than saying, “You told me that you wanted piano lessons.” “You told me that you wanted piano lessons.” can easily turn into a “nag” because the whole communication is focused on the child. Speaking of your desire for your child’s success repeats the “we” unity. You are part of this team effort.
I know there’s a lot of discussion that parent’s should not live their desires through their children. I agree with that. That is something to be avoided. I think, though, in reaction to that concept one can go too far in the other direction. That other direction is that the child must make every decision totally on his own accord or it must be looked upon as a parental manipulation and therefore no good. What I’m encouraging is a middle ground where the parent guides, encourages and persuades their child to follow through on a decision that was made together, not through any coercion whatsoever, but through mutual agreement. Since it’s a mutual agreed upon commitment, you, as parent, have input in what your little team does when that initial resolve and enthusiasm wanes.
Notice, our first point is something totally out of the realm of the teacher. This is your yin. My yang comes from a totally different realm where there is no intersection.
Yin Number Two – KNOW YOUR CHILD. Often, with younger students, parents will think a lesson time right after school may be convenient. But, it ends out that the student is tired after being at school all day and really need some time to “recharge” or needs a snack to sharpen their mind up for piano lessons. This is knowledge that cannot be known by the teacher because some children do very well with a piano lesson immediately after school.
Other important things that a teacher doesn’t know.
Is the piano is a area of the home where practice may be accomplished where other family members will feel put upon to “endure”? But (and a very important but) the piano should also be in a place in the home where people can easily gather and music can be readily shared.
When I was a young student my family put our instrument (an electronic organ) in our living room. The organ had headphones and when I practiced other family members could use the living room without me distracting them or they distracting me. This was back in the day when the living room was the center of family activity when we were not all eating. BUT, when the family members wanted me to play having the organ in the living room was the perfect place because it was the most social room of the house. My grandfather lived with us and he would have me play the hymns he loved. When the insurance man would come to explain a new policy, my parents would ask me to play something, especially if I was practicing. When my friends would come over and want me to play baseball they would come through to the living room and I’d play something I was learning. When relatives would come and visit everyone would sit in the living room and invariably someone would ask me to play.
The point here is all social occasions are enhanced through music and it’s great incentive to have young student use their developing skills to share with others. Don’t allow piano to become a lonely activity. Music is to be shared. Nothing can persuade a student to practice than to know he can have all the attention of everyone in the room for those moments he can share music with others.
Again, this is the yin you add to my yang. I cannot provide opportunities at this gratifying a level. I can provide a recital or two per year or an academic setting of a performance class. My opportunities are bronze or, at best, silver. Yours are pure gold.
These two point will add powerful yin to my yang and should go a long way in The Art of Subtle Persuasion …. no nagging required!!