I belong to a Toastmasters club in Alpharetta, GA. If you have never heard of it, it is something you might want to check out! It is a club where people go to improve their public speaking skills. A couple of weeks ago, a question was asked to a participant that resonated with me and the work we do as educators. It was “How would you get your child to practice an instrument on a consistent basis?” or something to that effect. Afterwards, a few of us discussed parenting styles and offered suggestions on how to proceed. This question has been on my mind ever since! How do we get our kids to value the work that is involved in mastering a skill?
Today we live in a fast paced world! We can have almost anything we want immediately. Fast food delivers hot meals within minutes, while we are on our smart phones ordering the latest and greatest from an online store. How can we ask our children to wait for gratification when our world is encouraging us to demand what we want NOW? Bluntly put, why wait for a steak dinner when we can go to McDonald’s now?
Experience. The experience one has eating a fast food burger and fries is drastically different than eating a carefully prepared steak with a potato gratin and a side of grilled asparagus. It is like night and day, especially when you have put in the work yourself!
So what do we do? We can help our parents instill the process of going from novice to master in their children by encouraging discipline and practicing the art of taking an instrument. Discipline is simple to know how to do, but difficult to do consistently! Kids excel when routines are put into place:
- Practice the same time everyday
- Create a routine for every rehearsal
- Keep a running record of all days practiced and create a reward at the end of a certain amount!
As far as learning the art of an instrument, well… that takes some time! It helps to know your kids! Just like in a classroom, every child is different.
- Sometimes you can talk to a student in a straight forward manner and sometimes you need to go through the back door. I have a violin student that is more excited about composing then playing violin, so instead of demanding she play throughout the whole lesson, we do some composing, assign different notes and then play it in the violin.
- Get kids excited about their instrument by looking up historical facts that correspond to the time period their instrument was invented or when the piece of music they are playing was written.
- Let your kids know your goals and let them know that you don’t always feel like working or have had set backs, but you know that consistent hard work will pay off.
When we model how to do something, it is an opportunity to show students how we, too, struggle and more importantly, how we push through it. It is important to show kids our vulnerabilities, as well. This will not diminish our capability to lead, rather, it will strengthen it. This is the perfect time to illustrate that perseverance and dedication out gun talent every time! We are all learners and we are working together to find solutions!
Not all parents have an idea of what it takes to master an instrument or why it will benefit their child, but for the parents that do ask our advice, it is an opportunity to educate. Perhaps with a little more knowledge, more parents will see that studying an instrument will require the same discipline that it takes to master any other skill and that in turn will again remind society why music is so valuable to a child’s education!