Thoughts on Practicing… the Parental Role

At the outset of lessons, make it clear to your child, in an enthusiastic manner, that music training is a long-term process – just like school. In life, things that are valuable to us require hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

Set aside a specific time each day for practice. Routine is very important.

Each child has their own unique learning style, level of skill and ability, and pace at which they learn, so avoid making comparisons to others. Anticipate ups and downs in attitude and progress, along with a number of “growing pain” periods.

Seriously contemplate how to help your child. Knowing when to help, when to be supportive, and when to withdraw, is a parental art form in itself. Our ultimate goal as parents is to give our children the ability to help themselves and become self-sufficient.

Stress that quality, not quantity, of practice is what results in real progress.

“Music comes to the child more naturally, when there is music in his mother’s or father’s speaking voice,” said violin educator Shinichi Suzuki. Be pleasant and encouraging about your child’s practicing. Naturally, there will be occasions when you will need to be firm. But, remember, have “music in your voice”. Become their coach and guide and their most enthusiastic supporter.

When you help your child, be at their side—not at the other end of the room or in the next room. Teach them to treat the practice session with the same respect they give to their lesson.

During a crisis, always talk it out with your child in an atmosphere of mutual respect. If the issue is serious, you may want to discuss it with myself first. Allow your child to participate in the final decision so that they feel that their voice has been heard. Teach them to interact constructively in group decision making.

A sense of humor is a powerful tool with which to resolve disagreements about practicing.

Always let your child feel you are proud of their achievements, even when they are small.

Never belittle your child’s efforts.

Don’t despair at temporary lapses in practice. Your child will make progress in the lesson itself, although less rapidly.

Don’t threaten to stop their lessons if your child isn’t practicing. Our goal is to resolve issues of non-practice and threatening to stop lessons is not constructive.

Don’t criticize your child in the presence of others, especially myself. I have skillfully built up a good relationship with your child, and embarrassment or “loss of face” will undermine this relationship. Please speak to me privately about problems you may be experiencing.

Your financial investment in your child’s music lessons will pay its dividends through the skills they acquire over the years, not by the amount of their daily practice, nor in how much they play for you or your guests. Remember you are giving your child a musical education for their artistic self-expression and so that they develop a life-long love of music. Don’t expect a “child” to be grateful for your sacrifices. Gratitude will come as your child matures and realizes the gift of music that they have been given.

To discuss how to best support your child in the study of music, contact Helga Murray.