Music lessons can vary greatly depending on the teacher. Some teachers want a lot of parent involvement. Others would prefer the parent to keep their distance. That’s what I used to promote as a music teacher. I didn’t think that parents could do much during the lessons, so I would send them away. “Just drop them off,” goes the conventional music lesson wisdom. The music lesson is between the teacher and the student, so why include the parent? Back then, it felt like hit or miss as to whether my students would practice or how well they actually followed my directions for practicing. I did not understand why some students made progress and others quit.
And then my 7-year-old daughter began taking piano lessons from a friend of mine. I became the parent in this process and I saw how much power I had as a parent. And as I realized how much influence I had over my child’s schedule, over how and when (and if!) she practiced, my views on parental involvement began to change.
What I realized was that when parents see and hear what their children are doing in the lesson, they can more effectively support practicing at home. Teachers only see the student for 30-60 minutes a week. The rest of the 100+ hours of the child’s waking hours are either spent at school or governed by the parent. Whether music teachers like it or not, their influence can be minimal. Parents have a greater impact on how, when, and whether their child practices their instrument. So why not invite them in and show them how to support their child between music lessons?
A second reason to get parents involved is because kids are more likely to quit when they do not feel like they are making progress, and the only way to make progress is to practice consistently at home. I discovered this the hard way when my own students’ progress would stall from inconsistent practicing. Again, a child’s time is governed by parents, so parental participation is vital to a child’s musical progress. I saw this firsthand in my studio. When I invited parents back into the lessons, their child’s musical development soared and I suddenly had students who were eager to play the piano.
A third reason to invite parents back into the music lesson is that most parents are interested and even eager to help. Parents want to support their child’s musical development, but most don’t know what to do. After all, lessons can be costly in terms of money and time. No parent wants to see their child quit music lessons. But without the proper parental support and environmental enrichment, the majority of music students will quit.
If you are a parent who wants to see your child thrive musically, here are some effective and practical ideas for supporting your child before, during, and after their music lessons.[/vc_column_text]
"Before The Lesson"
- Bring all of your child’s music books, practice notebook, pencils, and anything else the teacher requires for every lesson. Use a music bag to corral all the items and pack them the day before so that you can just grab it and go.
- Make sure your child is alert and well. Do they need a snack? Are they well-rested?
- Make sure your child’s hands are clean. Instruments are expensive, so let’s keep dirty and sticky things away from them.
- Get to the lesson on time. Plan accordingly so that you can arrive at the lesson with ease and so that your child is mentally calm and ready to learn.
- Don’t bring a sick child to music lessons. Not only is a sick child not very good at learning, germs can spread easily, especially if your child is playing on a shared instrument like the piano.
- Don’t expect your child to remember everything. You may have to remind them to bring their music or instrument, or visit the restroom to wash their hands.
- Don’t promise your child a reward. If your child needs a reward for participating in a music lesson, you need to figure out why your child is resistant to lessons. Once you figure out why, you can talk to your child’s teacher about possible solutions or consider finding a teacher who is a better fit.
"During the Lesson"
- Be present. Watch and listen.
- Take notes. Here are the things to write down:
- Specific directions on what and how to practice.
- Questions you may have.
- Three things you enjoyed about your child’s playing. This will come in handy later.
- Take videos. This can be very useful for practicing at home, especially if it is a video of the teacher demonstrating how to practice. Talk to your child’s teacher about when it is best to take videos.
- Enjoy the music. It is a gift to listen to music, especially music made by your child. Appreciate these moments when you can sit and enjoy your child as they learn to play an instrument. This time is precious. Savor it.
- Let the teacher lead the lesson. Some teachers want the parent to be in the background silently observing. Others prefer a more hands-on parent. Watch the teacher to see if or when your participation is desired.
- Don’t look at your phone. Your presence is the best gift you can give to your child. Believe me, they know if you are not paying attention.
- Don’t give input during the lesson. Unless the teacher invites your participation, be a quietly supportive parent. You can always write down your comments or questions to address with the teacher afterwards.
"After The Lesson"
- Say how much you enjoyed the lesson.
- Say what you enjoyed about your child’s playing. Since you wrote down three specific things you enjoyed about your child’s playing in your child’s practice notebook, you can refer to them at this time.
- Ask the teacher questions. If you have questions about what occurred in the lesson or how to practice, make sure to ask the teacher right away. If that is not possible because the teacher has another student right afterwards, send an email or text right away with your question.
- Thank the teacher for the lesson. Model this behavior for your child so that they understand that it is a privilege to take music lessons and so that they get into the habit of appreciating the experience of learning music.
- Don’t ask your child if they had fun. Music lessons can be deeply satisfying without actually being “fun” in the way most kids think that “fun” is suppose to be. Learning an instrument takes hard word and focus, and that can be rewarding and positive without necessarily being goofy or crazy fun. Also, asking “Did you have fun?” puts pressure on the child to answer “yes” or else they have disappointed you, and most children really want their parents’ approval. Here is a better question to ask: “What did you enjoy about your lesson?”
- Don’t pepper your child with too many questions. They just focused and worked hard for a long time. Let them have a break.
- Don’t say anything negative about your child. If you are frustrated with your child’s behavior, talk to your child after you have left the lesson. If you are worried about your child’s progress, set up a time to talk to the teacher privately. That way, you can express any concerns or negative feelings without your child being present.
With practice, you will be navigating music lessons like a pro and your child will be thriving musically. Let me know how it goes!