There are plenty of reasons to start learning music – but, what about reasons to stop? Enrolling your kids in music lessons is an exciting new journey, especially if you’re a music lover yourself. Studies have found that kids who take music lessons perform better in math, exercise greater patience, and are more collaborative in nature.
There comes a time in every music-practicing family, however, when your child asks to stop taking music lessons. The reasons for the request vary, but almost every parent will run into this at some point – and parents should think twice before granting the request. It’s okay for children to stop doing an activity they don’t enjoy. But make sure your kids are quitting for the right reasons; otherwise, they may miss out on an enjoyable and fulfilling lifelong hobby. It’s not often that music teachers hear adults regret having stuck with their music lessons as a child – it’s typically the other way around.
Keep these considerations in mind before allowing your child to ditch music lessons for good.
If your child expresses disinterest in music lessons, perhaps it’s time to switch instruments. Ask her instructor about other lessons – the teacher may have a good recommendation, or may allow your child to test out a new instrument. Sometimes, adding a second instrument can provide a new level of excitement about music education – and renew interest in the first instrument. Understanding the way instruments work together brings in a new component to music lessons, and may re-energize interest.
There’s another psychological component at work here: if your child feels like the decision of what instrument to play was made by parents, he or she may not feel as much ownership over the activity. This can change entirely, if you give the decision back to the student. Talk with your music lesson provider about the options available to your children – then, come up with a plan to either integrate a second instrument, or replace the first one with something new (that your child chooses herself!).
Take a hard look at everything going on in your child’s schedule – between school, extracurricular, and social activities, is your child getting enough down time? Contemporary research shows that children who are over-programmed have higher levels of stress, and depression. It’s tough to know where to draw the line. Which is more important – music lessons, or sports? Homework, or choir practice? Are all of the activities in your child’s life feeding long-term goals, or are some just arbitrary?
Start by looking at your child’s current schedule, and ask which activities he or she likes the most – then, ask what he or she wishes there was more time to do. Point out the gains the child has made in each area, and decide if some things can drop from the schedule, to allow more time for music lessons and practice. Remember that practicing is a huge part of learning music – if your child’s schedule doesn’t leave enough time to practice, music lessons can start to feel stagnated or stressful, as progress becomes more difficult. Perhaps there is a way to cut back on music responsibilities, but still remain in lessons. Before you make the drastic decision to completely stop lessons, look for ways to rearrange or build time in your kids’ schedules.
Motivation for Lessons
When music lessons begin to feel overwhelming, consider the whole point of taking them in the first place. Many extracurricular activities for kids are designed with fun in mind, but music goes deeper than that. When kids experience challenges in music lessons, it may seem easier (in their minds) to simply stop taking lessons – but often this isn’t the best policy. Some of the world’s greatest musicians bloomed late in life. If they had abandoned their dreams based on difficulty, the world would have never known showstoppers like Leonard Cohen, Susan Boyle, or Sheryl Crow.
Ask yourself – why did you enroll your children in music lessons? You probably enrolled them because learning music builds confidence, boosts academic performance, and stimulates brain waves – the challenges that arise are part of that quality-building process. Anything worthwhile in life comes with some difficulty, and takes hard work to accomplish; your child may be too young to understand that yet. If your child is asking to stop taking lessons, ask why. If it’s because it’s “too hard,” have an honest conversation about how challenges bring opportunities. Ask how you can help get your child past the current obstacle, and encourage him or her to ask for more guidance from the instructor – this is a great opportunity to learn firsthand the triumph that comes with overcoming a challenge.
This may be the most difficult factor to consider, as it requires some self-reflection. As a parent, ask yourself if you could be doing more to support your child’s musical learning. It’s easy to assume the responsibility for nurturing musical growth lies with the paid instructor, but in truth, parents share in this role. It may not be enough to tell your child to practice; sit down with your kids while they play – give instruction if you know how to play, or simply give encouraging feedback. Perhaps sit in on some of their lessons, and get excited about performances.
Remember that part of the satisfaction kids experience from music lessons is pleasing their parents. Show your kids that you’re proud of them, especially in times when the lessons seem particularly difficult. If you want to foster their musical interest, don’t complain in front of your child about the time it takes, or the cost of the lessons. When your kids see that you are completely on board with lessons, they will have more enthusiasm too.
Don’t Quit for the Wrong Reasons
If your child truly doesn’t enjoy his or her musical activity, it’s okay to stop taking lessons, or change course with a new instrument. Children often don’t have the emotional insight to analyze their own feelings accurately – so it’s your job as a parent, to help figure out if your child actually dislikes music, or if there’s something else at play.
Before you throw in the towel on music lessons as a whole, think about the reasons behind your child’s request to quit. How can you better accommodate the lessons in your family schedule to keep them? Does your child have the big picture in mind? Parents have the responsibility to look at music lessons – and all character-building endeavors – from every angle, before making any permanent decisions. Down the road, you won’t likely regret the decision to persevere with your child’s lessons – but you might have second thoughts if your child abandons music too young.
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