Archived Story

Let the teachers give the lessons

Published 10:39am Saturday, May 4, 2013

QUESTION: How do I motivate my child to keep practicing his musical instrument? He’s losing interest and we’re both frustrated.

ANSWER: I appreciate the personal story of Jim Fay, the author of Love and Logic, who is also an accomplished musician. Jim describes kids who are excited about learning to play an instrument; they see themselves entertaining others, being on stage and hearing the applause. Then, however, comes the daily practice, alone in a room. That’s not what they signed up for; where’s the fun in that? Before long, lots of kids want to quit lessons.

Do you have memories of power struggles that revolved around practicing the piano or violin or clarinet? Can you hear yourself at the beginning of each new musical exercise or selection complaining that “it’s too hard!” Do you remember yearning to quit and your mom or your music teacher telling you that you’d be sorry when you got older that you’d quit too soon?

Jim then shares about his own mother who kept him excited about playing his horn. She didn’t send him to his room to practice alone. He practiced in the kitchen while his mom prepared dinner so that she could interrupt his playing, saying things like, “Stop Jim. That’s great! Play that again. I just love how you did that. That was so beautiful.” She would ooh and aah about his efforts.

Even though she heard his mistakes, she seldom stopped him to correct them. She left the criticism for the teacher and she only raved about how much she loved his good notes. Jim recalls that his practicing didn’t become work. It was a time to show off and it became the best time of his day.

Jim’s mom’s technique can apply to all sorts of different childhood endeavors. Let the teacher or the coach give the instructions and critique the skill. A parent’s gift for a lifetime is enjoying the efforts of our children and being the enthusiastic observer. Parents and grandparents are children’s mirrors. When our children are in our presence, let’s reflect back their strengths, which includes being interested in their interests and cheering on their progress.

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