Most kids quit music lessons.

bored child
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It’s a fact, and parents don’t just fear it, they expect it. And they should – children, when presented with a long-term challenge with mixed results and few immediate rewards, will beg to quit. It’s just not fun. And what parent wants to spend years and years dragging their kids around to something that they absolutely hate?

Some kids don’t quit, though. And research has attempted to find links between talent and engagement, or economic status, or technology. However, the findings from the studies from across North America came back with some rather unexpected results. Simply put, it comes down to engagement and motivation. Parents, teachers, and schools that create numerous and consistent opportunities to engage and reward their students (and their parents), had dramatically higher ‘stick’ rates than those that didn’t.

So if you’re a parent who has a son or daughter, and you’re already having problems keeping them interested in music, here are 5 things that research has taught us, that you can put into practice right away. Because finding a way to keep your children in music is vitally important – because, of course, there’s even more research that proves that music dramatically enhances brain development, longevity, and overall cognition levels.

There is no better ‘brain boost’ than music, so figuring this out is absolutely worth it.

FRIENDS

We all take cues from our friends and peers. If we’re Group Music Lessonsdoing something that our friends think is cool, or they are also doing it, we feel validated and a sense of belonging. If we’re spending time on an activity that our friends don’t understand, or can’t connect with, most people will disengage.

For young music students, the same principle applies. If they can connect with other people their same age, who are also learning or experiencing music, then it helps them to feel like they are doing something relevant and ‘normal’.

Tip: Find local choirs, bands, ensembles, or schools that encourage ensemble-based performance or learning is a great way to create this social dimension. If they also form friendships with these people, the draw to maintain the music will become even stronger.

HEROS

Most life-long musicians, whether amateur or professional, will have a story about who inspired them to play. Maybe it was a famous rockstar. Maybe it was an uncle or cousin. But nearly always there is someone who inspired them to play – a musical “hero”. We all need heroes, and when you can attach music to some far-off goal or ideal, it’s incredibly inspiring.

Tip: If there are bands or musicians that both you and your child like, see if a concert or another live event is an option. Or take some time to suggest highly-regarded musicians that are consistent with your son or daughter’s tastes.

PURPOSE

young boys street performance
Image Courtesy of Pixabay

One of the biggest disconnections with music lessons and young people is that most teachers and schools don’t give real-life ways to use the skills they’ve learned. To most kids, an exam, or a recital with a few relatives isn’t enough a good enough reason to learn a very difficult skill. It would be like learning a sport like soccer or hockey, but all you ever do is practice with your coach, and then do a skills competition once a year. No one would play hockey.

Tip: Find times and places where your kids and share their music with others, or with each other. Playing at a local restaurant, or a retirement home can be good ways to share music with a real audience. Or, find other families with children who play, and have a musical ‘play-date’!

EXAMPLE

Even when it seems like they don’t, kids absorb and observe the most cues from their parents. If you want your children to care about their music lessons, then they need to see you care about the music lessons as well. The minute they feel you loose interest, or that you would rather not spend the energy, the requests to quit will come fast and furious.

Tip: Spend a portion of their daily practice time together. Stay interested in what they’re working on, and check in on their progress regularly. As you see them accomplish things, even if it’s a very small achievement, help them to celebrate and feel good about the ‘win’. Also, if there are ways for you to participate in the lesson with the teacher, that also helps demonstrate the lesson’s importance.

RELEVANT

family around piano
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Classical music is what most piano lessons are based on. However, unless you or the rest of the family are electively listening to classical music for fun in the home, the genre will instantly feel disconnected and irrelevant to everyday life. Kids will want to play what they hear around them. If they don’t hear classical, they probably won’t want to play it. If they only hear Top 40 or Pop, then that’s what they’ll want to play.

Tip: Make sure you can connect with a teacher or a school that offers the option of various repertoire and genre streams. And keep in mind, a child’s sense of relevance will come from their surroundings – if you want them to like playing a certain type of music, they’ll need multiple ways to experience it….not just in a lesson.

We all can’t be super-parents, and kids will be kids. But if you’re able to take some of these tips and apply them to your son or daughter’s experiences with music lessons, they will make an enormous difference in their engagement, and ultimately their motivation to continue on. Every successful musician on the planet has experienced plenty of all 5 of these tips, and everyone can do them. Good luck!

Featured Image: Image Credit

 

 

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