To Commit or Quit: A Six Part Introspective on Music Lessons

2 - Parents are Selfish

“I think we’re going to take a break from lessons for now”. 

“Well, why?” 

Louise is involved with a lot of other activities. She doesn’t really have time to practice”

Last time, I discussed the hinderance of schoolwork being a factor in a child's diminishing music education.  This week I'll discuss the role activities play into the equation. 

Soccer, Swimming, Girl Scouts, Fencing, Chess Club, Baseball, Basketball.  Glorified play dates for children and adults alike. 

Group activities do of course have their advantages, like team building, strengthening camaraderie at a young age, and showing the importance of working together to achieve goals.  But they also have their disadvantages.  Singling out participants and discrimination because of sex, race, or ability.  The coach or adult coordinator of the group can only do so much as to prevent this, but it’s ultimately up to the children involved.  Case in point, team building, camaraderie, and goal achieving are often times not the reasons why parents sign up their children.  Intentionally. 

In today’s society there is a need of belonging.  If you’re not part of the group, then you’re left out.  Being introverted is a considered a disease, or a disorder.  So much emphasis is placed on the social aspect of being part of the group.  Even more so for the parents, than for their children. 

We see it all the time.  Parents drop their kids off at soccer practice and stick around and talk to each other.  They gossip about their lives, about other people’s lives or where they’re going on vacation or about how much schoolwork and other activities their child is involved.  It’s a contest for them to see whose child is better, who can do more without feeling overwhelmed.  They may even be complaining about how much work is involved with their child’s music lessons.  Something that’s supposed to be “fun”.  They use the plethora of activities their children are involved with as an excuse for why they're not doing well in school.  While they're at one of those activities!  Ironic, isn’t it?  The gossiping has almost become therapeutic for them to some degree.  This is all they know.  It’s almost like they’re acting as teenagers do in the hallways of a high school between classes.  They aren’t doing this intentionally.  Society has forced them into this cookie cutter mold.  “Soccer mom” has become chess mom, volleyball mom, and swimming mom.  Activity mom.  And yes even “band mom”. 

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Socially, there is a big difference between group activities and private music lessons.  There is really no social aspect to private music lessons.  The parents drop their child off at lessons and wait until they’re done, or the teacher comes to the home.  The child has one on one instruction time with the teacher.  It’s very centralized and focused on self-discipline.  The child is expected to learn from the teacher and improve by themselves with little to no help from the parents, who most of the time, know little about or forgot a lot of their music education from when they were children, if they even studied a musical instrument. 

Also, group activities are placed higher up on the list of priorities for parents because most of them don’t require practice or work from week to week and yield instant gratification for children that in turn, make parents happy.  The practice itself is the group activity.  So naturally, if the parents see music as another activity, then they should see it as something that shouldn’t take much work to be good at.  Something that should be relaxing and enjoyable immediately.  It’s often not viewed as educational.   

The other side to this dilemma is that a lot of the times, parents overburden their child with activities.  An article written by Social Psychologist Dr. Susan Newman states that overburdening children can lead to disinterest, family separation, and undo stress and anxiety just to name a few negatives.  You can read the full article here. 

Learning a musical instrument requires learning about musicianship.  Getting to a point where you influence the music by creatively altering it to satisfy your interpretation of it.  That is a sign of truly understanding music education from more of a comprehensive viewpoint. 

A lot of parents don’t look at it this way.  They want something they can be a part of as a group.  They need an event to talk to other parents.  They seem to do it more for themselves than for their child.  It’s as if the activity itself is an afterthought, negating its original purpose.  

We can agree that music is all around us and plays a big part in our lives.  But how important is listening to music while taking lessons?  That’s for next time!