The rough statistic is that roughly 8 out of 10 children quit piano lessons within the first 2-3 years of studying. Perhaps you, yourself were one of the 8 in this statistic and regret it to this day. Playing a musical instrument is relaxing – it has therapeutic value beyond being something you can show off at a party or turn into a career, and yet, many individuals see it as superfluous and trivial; as a waste of time. Too many people approach the task of learning an instrument with an all or nothing mentally: if I can’t master it, then why even bother. If you’re trying to atone for your own missed opportunity by encouraging your kid to play, the best strategy is to approach the process with a relaxed attitude.
If you look at almost any complicated skill that you’ve learned or witnessed someone learning, you’ve probably observed that this skill was not learned overnight. A mistake that many people make when trying to learn a language, an instrument or how to paint, is that they want to learn all at once. By putting that much pressure on yourself, you’ll blow a fuse – you’ll end up having a frustrating, unpleasant relationship with the process and give it up altogether. The real secret of learning is patience: if you can just do a little bit every day – practicing the piano for 15-30 minutes, for instance – you will make a great deal of progress over a 6-month period. However, if you force yourself to power through marathon four-hour practice sessions every day, you will almost definitely burn yourself out. As the popular saying goes: everything in moderation.
If you can find a good teacher to provide local music lessons for your kids or teens, then that will get them off to a great start that they can build on over time. When you’re a kid you don’t have a million obligations, so setting aside thirty minutes in the evenings and on weekends shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re personally involved and encourage their progress, it will go a long way, though you don’t want to be hovering over them the whole time – what you want is a light touch.
As your child shows the first signs of progress, they will start to enjoy the sounds coming from the piano and begin to appreciate the inherent pleasure of playing music. Typically, when we talk about getting into that meditative mindset known as a flow state or simply “the zone”, we find that an individual is able to lose themselves for long periods of time where they are not aware of the passing hours. Of course, when you look at celebrated composers, they could go for days without eating or sleeping when they were obsessively scoring a symphony. While your child should definitely eat and sleep, once they start to get a bit of traction on their chosen instrument, you will start to see them practicing without any encouragement.
If after a few months, the magic isn’t happening, don’t force it; let them off hook. On the other hand, if they’re flying through Chopin’s Nocturnes and heading towards Mozart, then you can take pleasure in the knowledge that your subtle approach actually paid off.