I recently wrote a blog post for violin teachers about their “essential question.” The “essential question” is in essence the real reason for their music teaching. Their core values. It occurred to me that parents need to address this question for themselves as well. If you truly want to improve your child’s music lesson experience you have to be very clear about why you’re doing the music thing at all.
You already know, helping your child be successful in music lessons is no walk in the park. Not only do you have to make sure they are at the lessons every week, take notes, communicate with the teacher, and pay for the lessons, you have to get the little people to practice too! It is a huge commitment on the parent’s part.
In the beginning, you may have thought that you could drop the child off at lessons, pick them up after and listen to them tell you all about the fantastic progress they are making. You might have thought that because your child asked for violin lessons that they would wake up each day eager to practice their instrument or make music just for fun.
That dream was dashed quickly, wasn’t it? Your child is still a child, and does not yet understand the gifts of work, grit, and perseverance. They won’t even brush their teeth without some prodding. You had to get in there and get your hands dirty. You go to lessons, you take the notes, you make videos on your phone so you don’t forget how to do that tricky part in the new piece.
You wake them up early to practice before school or remind them after school. There may be nagging, begging, bribing. No judgement here. You make sure they have had something to eat and drink beforehand so they can’t stall as much.
This is all good. it’s actually great! Thank you for your hard work! Thank you for your investment in your child’s future. You are a rock star.
Just one little thing, why are you doing it? No really, why? Is it because you want them to love music? Is it to teach them hard work? Is it to help them foster creativity? Is it to improve their self-esteem? Is it to help them develop their cognitive skills? Improve in math? Memory? Focus and concentration? (For more possible objectives, see that post I wrote for music teachers, there’s a list near the bottom of the post.)
Do you remember? Or are you not sure? That’s ok. It’s not too late to decide and it can change over the years. Pick a main objective and take an inventory. Does my attitude about lessons and during practice sessions match with my main objective? It might, and it might not.
Connect with your “why” and you will find it much easier to put in the hard work of helping your child be successful. If you are clear about the goal, it will be so much easier to be patient during practice sessions, or genuinely excited about the piece they just “made up.”
It may be helpful to communicate this main objective with your violin teacher. Most teachers want to be the best teacher they can for each individual student, and the more information they have the better they can be.
If creativity is a high priority for you, your teacher may be able to build activities into the lesson to encourage developing creativity. If your teacher doesn’t, that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate those things at home. The goal for most of us isn’t to begin successful career in music, so what is it? When we know the destination, we can make a map and we are more likely to get to the place we’re trying to go. The same is true in your child’s violin journey. If the goal is to foster a healthy sense of self-esteem, constantly berating your child over mistakes probably isn’t serving that goal. Try a more experimental or exploratory approach to the instrument.
If you are having a tough time practicing with your child, or finding the energy to keep going, I urge you to remember why you started this journey in the first place. Connect with your true reasons for starting music lessons, and then stay strong. You’re in the right place. Don’t forget why you’re working so hard. You’re amazing. I really think so.
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