When Music Practice Becomes A Disaster
We’ve all heard that child play a perfect and flawless piano recital.
Or seen that dad who plays the guitar while his daughter sings.
And that 80 year woman in the retirement home still playing old favorites by memory without missing a note.
“I’M SO JEALOUS” you say in your head.
….and you wonder why YOU can hardly get 10 minutes of peaceful practice in at home with your child before it’s a complete flop. Your child is whining, crying, stomping, and more often than not, telling you she’s NEVER going to play the piano again. (Side note: I once told my mom I was going to burn my violin - true story!)
Has it always been easy for others to do music in their home, just not in yours? Maybe others are more musical and that’s why it has worked for them and not for you and your child?
What’s your next step? Drink that glass of wine and tell your husband you're cutting her loose in the morning?
Everyone has been in your place at some point. You’re not alone. Most, if not all students have had moments of tears and frustrations wondering if they'd be best throwing in the towel.
PSA: You never become good at anything by throwing in the towel.
Instead, let's create a plan of action that is:
- Going to calm the situation
- Going to point out the life lesson
- Going to bring back the joy of music
Because I know full well that’s what you desire for your child in the first place; to have them ENJOY and LOVE music!
Care for Your Emotions
Steep learning curves are going to come alongside anything worth learning. These hills are going to test your patience. You heard me. YOUR patience more than your child's. Staying calm and in control is key. This may mean practicing is done for the day before things escalate. There is always a tomorrow and tomorrow usually means there is another day ready for you and them to face new challenges with renewed strength. It takes time and rest for our children’s minds to process hard things so Mama, do just that and take a break for the day. That "thing" tomorrow will likely not be so hard. I almost guarantee it ;)
There are likely a lot of variables at play when tears come so I always recommend evaluating where your child is at in that frustrating moment.
- How late is it in the day?
- What is your child processing emotionally at the time of practice?
- Are they hungry or thirsty?
- Is there something competing with their attention?
These are all questions worth considering, realizing their bodies and minds are processing so much in those young years. Some situations are easy fixes and some take time.
Life lessons are moments in a child’s life that build character. By not giving up you are teaching them about perseverance, endurance and commitment. What amazing valuable lessons these are for a child!
Can I encourage you to not give up with music mid year or even 3 weeks in? Use the end of the year as a goal. Tell yourself and your child that you will push through 3 months, 6 months or even a year before making any new decisions. This gives time for lessons to be learned, character to be built and ultimately musical strength to happen.
If you’re anything like me, big decisions CANNOT be made in the evenings when I’m tired. Neither should a drastic musical decision be made when you’ve had a bad day of parenting, let alone a bad practice day with your kids! Ride out the wave. Re-evaluate when you and your child have had time to witness some triumphant days of practice.
Remember, the Joy of Music?
Pivot When Necessary
There are options when it comes to re-engaging a child with music after too many weeks or years of discouragement. There’s an old FRIENDS episode (thank you college dorm life!) that keeps coming to mind where one of the characters is moving a couch up the stairs and keeps yelling “PIVOT, PIVOT!”
We can also pivot in music, friends.
Trying something fresh and new is not giving up. You're actually being really, really wise. Here are some ways that many families re-adjust when needed:
~ They find a different genre for their child to play:
- Worship chording
- Jazz music
- Video gaming music books
- Movie soundtracks
~ Violinists take a break to play Fiddle-style
~ Some focus on improvisation or scat singing
~ Some join children’s choirs instead of singing isolated in private voice lessons
~ Some kids join their school chapel or music teams.
~ Some switch to a different instrument.
Just don't throw in the towel with music.
A few years ago I had a pivotal moment with one of my children who was having a really hard time learning how to play the piano. It was a struggle daily for him to play music with two hands, two clefs and just TOO many things going on at once.
Instead of announcing he was going to quit for good we just announced he was going to change instruments to something that suited him better and it was the best decision we could have made with him. He now loves his instrument and it suits his musicianship and personality so much more.
Can I also add that when siblings play different instruments, there’s less fighting and less competition. Win win! (That’s another topic for another blogpost!)
I can guarantee that the child playing that flawless piano recital, the dad playing guitar with his daughter and the 80 year old woman playing classics by memory have been where you have been and felt what you have felt.
The difference? They keep coming back to music day after day with a goal to enjoy music and the process of getting there.
Music is always worth it. Music takes time and is more of a journey than a sprint. And what a beautiful journey it is when a child’s heart, soul and mind are moved deeply by the music they are making.
So Mama, when the musical road gets tough...
stay the course
...and pivot when you need to!