Young Child Who Will Not Practice
I need some advice concerning one of my young students. She is one of my favorite students. She has been with me for a year, and has done wonderful for the most part. She catches on real easily and carries out the pieces slowly and carefully. And she enjoys singing along. She wants to continue lessons, but her mom says that piano has become a source of frustration in their home. SN, my student, doesn’t seem to want to practice or let her mom, CN, assist her when she does practice. It has become a negative experience for them at home. Do you have any advice for this situation? I would really like to keep this student. She is in level 2 and currently in private lessons.
Ginny B., California
I had this happen with a 5 year old that I was teaching as a private student. Practice time became a source of contention at home though this student was well behaved in my studio and enjoyed lessons. The mom was determined to stick with lessons remembering the long term relationship conversation at the FIS. We discussed placing her in a shared lesson with another young student and her mom was willing to give it a go. It has worked beautifully….no more struggling to practice. She plays all the time at home now. Her mom is amazed at the difference.
You might consider finding a piano partner for her.
Robin T., Tennessee
I would really sit down with her and the mom and ask her directly, “so, what is this I hear about you not wanting to practice?” and see what she says. Also, “why don’t you want your mom to help you?” There can be a number of issues going on here, one of them may be the mom! A
lso, that age is NOTORIOUS for wanting to do things on their own which may be some of what is happening. I actually have two sisters, one is about 5 years older than the younger one. Marie comes to class always unprepared and Julie (the older) is prepared. When I started asking Marie what was going on she said, “NO one will help me!” and Julie quickly spoke up and said, “mom says I can’t help you anymore because you get an attitude”. So, I asked Marie if she got an attitude and she agreed yes… because she wants to do it on her own like Julie. We discussed ways that she could get help without having to ask for it like watching the video or listening to the audio recordings… and if those all fail, then ask for help and BE NICE to those helping you.
Also, I would start introducing some practice games into the mix. I have done the “hangman” game where you give the parent a “phrase” and every time the student plays something correctly, they get to guess a letter. If they play incorrect, they have to draw the hangman. TIC TAC TOE is goo as well as making (or have her make) practice sticks. There are other game options listed in Simpedia.
Winnie B., Colorado
I would mention that children always go to school whether or not they feel like doing so and don’t carry on for days on end until the parent lets them quit. So how does that happen without the fuss that sometimes accompanies practice? IE, how is that the parent behaves differently to get a different set of feelings with the child?
I like to suggest finding a time in the day which follows a regularly scheduled activity; 1st thing when getting up in the morning is great!. If evening, many have found success in saying that practice occurs directly after dinner; from the chair to the piano. Anything which makes the practice follow a routine and joins a routine which is established can make it more just a regular part of the day, rather than being a big deal about which everyone gears up in expectation of a fuss.
On another note, many children enjoy playing for others: I have several students whose parents have arranged their children to play for others on a pretty regular basis, and often it seems to help them take pride in their songs, as some don’t appreciate their songs through repetitive playing in playlist practice.
Sheri R., California
Yes, the word I use with parents who struggle with this is directly from the relationship conversation which is “non-negotiable.” That if daily practice gets put into that category from the get-go, just like school, brushing teeth, being polite, eating vegetables, whatever, then the inevitable struggles between parent and child will be greatly minimized.
I also think for those who teach Kindermusik, they have a great opportunity to start educating parents when kids are young. (And pretty soon we who solely teach SM will have an opportunity with parents of 3 and 4 year olds too!) They can encourage parents to plant the seed early that “when you’re 6 or 7 you’ll get to go to school every day and play piano too.”
I mean how many kids honestly waste time fighting with their parents over school or brushing their teeth–they just know it’s not worth the effort because they’ll lose–it’s part of their culture. Where there is wiggle-room kids will go for it every time until they break us down and win or just force a lot of wasted expended energy that creates lots of ill-will. When it’s not a choice, an elective, most kids get in alignment with the family expectations pretty easily, no? The more we can get parents to see that the better!
Also helps of course when parents totally get why they have their kids in lessons in the first place and that’s where keeping that conversation alive too comes in because I think that’s one of our biggest and most challenging jobs as it creates that longevity and inevitable outcome of another musically expressed human being!