Do you remember the sweet moments (and frustrating ones) when you child was learning to walk or talk? Parents are the effective teachers at home. Parents also have an important role as “home teachers” as a child learns an instrument.
Listening to music throughout a child’s development is a wonderful connection for child and parent. It is fun, and is an enormous help in instruction and developing personal taste. Attending concerts is an exciting opportunity for parent and child. When children have to learn a skill, they don’t discard as they are learning a new one. They continue to use it while adding new ones to their vocabulary. Ask your student to play something for you or the family that they already know. What a warm wonderful way to give support, encouragement, and contribute to self esteem! Sincere praise of even small accomplishments leads to mastery.
The first year is the hardest. For most children younger than about 12, taking music lessons and learning to play an instrument involves the parent’s commitment. No young child can understand long-term planning. Every child needs the parent’s consistent, loving support to meet those challenges day after day. You may encounter some humps to go over between calm seas. You may even regret that you got started! Hang in there! If things get really rugged, discuss it with me or another of our parents to get some ideas and encouragement.
At first the parent needs to lead as in most child development. Your child is working hard and, at times, really struggling. He or she will get discouraged and frustrated from time to time. You, the adult, are able to take a longer view. As the years go by, the parent very gradually gives the responsibility to the child. By the time your child is 12 or 13, he or she will likely be practicing independently, and when that happens consistently you will have the satisfaction of having given that them a tremendous gift.
Here are some hints:
Make practicing a routine event that happens at the same time every day. In some families breaking it into two short practices, one in the morning after breakfast and one around supper is the best situation. You may notice that I just tied the practice times to another inevitable daily event—“After lunch, we practice.”
Find a special corner of your house where you can keep the things they need—violin, music, our notebook, music stand, music dictionary, electronic tuner, metronome, whatever “gear” you use. You will be spending a lot of time in this space, so make it inviting and special. Rewarding with snazzy equipment makes for some excitement. Perhaps a vase of flowers or some photos of composers and violinists. Perhaps a framed paparazzi shot of your own musician!
Talk to your child about what they hope to do I their practicing. What is their plan? (See “Practicing Plan” on this site.)
Children often dislike changing from one activity to another. A warning can help. “In 10 minutes, it will be time to practice. Find a stopping place in your book/game/puzzle.”
The importance you show about practicing models what it can mean to the student. And practicing together gives you an opportunity to offer undivided attention to your child every day. Your child will take cues from you about the value of practicing.
Make your comments focus on one thing at a time. Pick something that was emphasized in the lesson. If you’re not sure what to focus on, start at the top of this list and work down: (1) playing position, (2) beautiful tone, (3) perfect intonation, (4) vibrato.
Some children get frustrated when they feel that they don’t have any control over the situation. Encourage your child to make a practice plan. They don’t get to choose whether or not to practice, and whether or not to play F# in tune, but can choose which piece they wants to review or play for you that they already know, and whether they would like to do scales at the beginning or end of the practice.
The steps you take with your child will lead them on a path of effort towards mastery. Onwards with our journey together!