Updated: Apr 6
All kids are attracted to music and everyone benefits from it, but for different reasons some people continue playing music throughout their lives and others quit. Don't do these things if you want your kids to stay excited and interested in music, so they can get the benefits of music everyday of life.
As a music teacher for the last 15 years, I've seen all the scenarios of why some people stay with it and others leave music behind. Often, it's seemingly innocuous, off-the-cuff reactions from other people that either accelerate or extinguish the flame of curiosity in those who want to interact with musical expression. Here are the top five ways to crush a kid's interest in music.
This is doing things like telling your kids they don't sound "good" while playing, it's annoying to hear them practice, or making jokes about their playing or learning process. There is a path of growth for everyone with music and the pieces have to be put together one at a time. Even the most virtuosic, accomplished musicians sounded like beginners at the start of their path. Keep that perspective as you watch your children grow with music. Your comments might feel innocent but they hold a big impact with kids. They're likely to internalize your comments and if you ridicule them with unsupportive comments, they might let themselves be persuaded to not continue a relationship with music. Your words mean a lot, so pay attention to how you respond to your children's interest in music.
You're using negative reinforcement if you complain about money or the cost of music lessons, if you punish your kids by taking away their music, or by complaining or punishing them if they don't practice to your liking. Kids are naturally drawn to music but if they have negative music memories early on, they probably won't want to continue making music memories. You may have had similar experiences, yourself. As a music teacher, I've heard many times from parents how they were in music lessons as a kid but soon quit music all together, because of having a teacher they didn't like or their parents were too harsh or unsupportive of their musical path.
Finding ways to positively reinforce your kids' playing will have much better effects. Try to reinforce your children's curiosity about music. Play them your favorite music and tell them, or better yet, show them through dancing and singing how much you cherish the music and why you like listening to those songs. Have instruments out and easy to play at home. Have concerts at home and celebrate each family member's creativity, courage and expression. Recognize when your kids are singing their own made-up songs and let them know how much you enjoy listening.
As someone is learning music and developing a relationship with it, it's extremely discouraging to hear comments like, "You're not a singer. Why continue? How can you play drums? Not everyone is going to be a rockstar. How are you going to make money with music?" It's a huge myth that learning music is only for those who want to be professional, performing musicians. MUSIC IS FOR EVERYONE!
Music has numerous benefits and every person can harness these benefits by engaging in the 7 Uses of Music: listening, learning, playing, performing, writing, recording, and teaching. Consider how many doctors, therapists, celebrities, and athletes play music; plus how many people, like comedian Bill Burr and Olympic gold-medalist Caeleb Dressel, profess to the therapeutic, mind-body benefits of music. It is a beneficial thing no matter what career path a kid chooses.
Wrong Instrument or Plan
Music instruments have different personalities and not every person will enjoy every instrument, so finding the right instrument to learn is important when starting out. Then, once you learn one instrument it becomes easier and more fun to learn another. You want to find the right instrument that fits your kid's personality and have a lesson plan that grows along with your child. This musical growth plan should be both challenging and stoke your kid's curiosity along the way. The right music plan will encourage exploration and bring new experiences as the kid progresses.
The home environment and practice schedule will also have a big impact on a child's interest in wanting to learn and play music. If you home music space is dingy and the instruments aren't in-tune or properly cared for, and the television is loudly playing in the next room, no one is going to be interested in practicing. You'll stifle your children's interest quickly if you try to force your kids to practice, especially on the incorrect schedule. Positive reinforcement is the best way to encourage your kids to love the music learning process and want to play at home. Notice when your child goes over to the piano and plunks on the keys or casually starts singing a song, and give an encouraging response like, "Wow, it's so fun to hear your songs!" This is the type of positive experience that will build a child's confidence and creativity.
Children's music mentors start with you, the parents, and the kids' family and friends. You help your children form these initial responses to and beliefs about music. The musical experiences you provide in the first three years of a child's life will help form a healthy brain, and in the next few years music will help a child start to experience expression and feelings. These are the foundational musical experiences that will make a child responsive to music and have an intuition for how it works.
The hidden truth about music lessons is that all of that foundational building can then be dismantled and torn down if you introduce the wrong music teacher or mentor into the mix. Despite their best intentions, some teachers won't be a good fit for your children, and that's why it's important to research your options when looking into music lessons. Likewise, finding a music teacher that IS the right fit for your kids will help them unleash the musicians within to get many more benefits from music, then they would having the wrong musical plan.
It's my mission to help all families harness the benefits of music by developing a daily relationship with it and using it holistically throughout life. I created the Jackson Music Program to make it easy for families to be able get the benefits of music. You can learn about my program, how to benefit from music wellness, and to start music lessons by visiting my website and using the contact page.
I hope you get some music today!
Jackson Music Program