Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, July 1, 2011

How To Know If Your Child Is Ready For Piano Lessons

As a piano teacher, I am asked frequently, "At what age is a child old enough to take piano lessons?"

The answer is:  It varies with each child.  Consider the following.

1.  Does your child have a good attention span?
2.  Can they count to at least four?
3.  Do they know the alphabet?  
4.  Do they have an interest in it?

5. Are you willing to follow through, making it a priority and encouraging them to practice?

As adults, we know that when we lack interest in something, we don't tend to be successful at it. This isn't any different with children. We all have our passions in life and I would rather a child pursue the violin if that is their passion, but I have met parents who have made it their own goal for their children to be pianists. While their motives may be good, this produces students whose hearts aren't in it and they don't want to practice. When I have taught children forced by their parents, they stop progressing at some point and it starts to feel like expensive babysitting. As we work on the same piece repeatedly with no improvement from the last week, I feel like the parents are wasting money that could be spent on developing a talent their child would truly love.

If your child has the passion but not the attention span, you might be able to find a teacher in your area who is willing to do shorter lessons or has creative ways of catering to kids who struggle to pay attention. For instance, I teach several children who have ADD and they don't respond well to long-term rewards (i.e. You will get to pick a prize after doing x amount of practice this month.). They do better receiving small incentives after each goal accomplished within the lesson. For instance, one student of mine has such difficulty staying on task, he is given a small piece of candy after playing a new song. Another responds well to a point system and we make a goal for 20 points by the end of the lesson. If he accomplishes that, his mom gives him a reward of some sort. I strive to get to know my students because I don't think a one size fits all approach works.

When I was in Kindergarten, I asked my parents for lessons and they never had to ask me to practice. My brother also took lessons, but he got less serious about it, stopped practicing, and my mom eventually told him he had to quit. He now says he wishes she made him stick with it, but I think that would have been counterproductive. His love for music did at least continue and I believe no matter how old you are, it's never too late to learn.

I hope your child will be interested in some kind of instrument because I believe music is good for their mind, body, and soul. Good luck as you make these decisions that have the potential to shape their future.

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