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

4 - Children Don’t Know Any Better 

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

“Well, why?” 

“Well, Michael’s not practicing.  He just doesn't want to do it anymore.

Last time, I touched upon how important it is to expose your child to music outside of the lesson to help maintain their interest.  Now on to the final reason.  And it isn't going to be pretty.  Let's call this the 600 pound gorilla in the room.

This is probably the single most important reason everyone overlooks so pay very close attention: 

 “Children don’t know any better”.   

Hurts doesn't it?  But it’s true and you needed to hear it.  They don’t know any better and they never will.  Sure, children are perceptive, and smart in finding the simplest answers to be the correct ones.   However, they lack the judgment that teenagers and adults have.  This is what separates a child from an adult.  Parents forget this.  

If you want the answer as to why Michael isn't practicing, it's because he's seven.  Children don't practice not because they don't have interest, but because they don't have patience. 

In general children do want to become better.  Even if your child does practice every day, it’s because they like playing music.  They don’t understand the long-term effects of it or the process of educational development.  Almost every child I’ve taught wants to be good at music.  So this tells me that they understand the result; they just don’t understand the process.  Parents who don’t know that education is a process, not a single event, often echo this lack of understanding. This is misinterpreted into the desire to quit lessons all together. 

Parents do your job and fill in the gaps.  Be involved with your child’s lessons and practice time.   Ask questions.  Ask them what they’re learning and have them show you what they’re learning.  Encourage your children and force them (if needed) to practice every day.  Show them that there are consequences for not practicing.  Take away their iPad until they put in some practice time.  If even after all of this, they STILL don’t practice, take pride in the fact that they’re learning during the time of the lesson.  They may not be retaining the information, but music can be therapeutic.  This could be the only source of music education they ever have in life.  Take advantage of it.  The light will turn on eventually. 

So when should Michael call it quits?  When he realizes how much work it takes to be a musician.  When he can quantify how much practice he REALLY needs to, not only improve from week to week, but to achieve long term goals.  If this is in line with his kind of thinking, then he’ll start to work…or stop completely.  There is no gray area here.  None of my high school aged students practice less than 45 minutes to an hour a day.  They’re doing it because they want to at this point.  Essentially, Michael will decide for himself when it is time to stop when he’s old enough to reason. 

Parents are quick to ending lessons because they don’t want to force their kids to practice and they feel it’s a waste of money.  They feel that it’s agonizing and that it’s damaging the child/parent relationship.  It’s not…this is what parenting is all about.  If you want your child to practice, ending their lessons is NOT the answer.  The only thing that Michael will learn from ending lessons is that it’s OK to quit. 

Don’t cater to what your child WANTS today.  Cater to what they will NEED tomorrow. 

Well, there are the four reasons.  Stay tuned for my four solutions next time!