Updated: Jan 26, 2022
By JJ Jackson
Kids can give new depth and character to what it means to be stubborn and sometimes it can feel frustrating to try to get your child to do ANYthing, let alone practice their music. You might intuitively think that only some kids have the inner passion and desire to want to sit down and play music. Indeed, some kids are more naturally drawn to music, while others may need more exposure and encouragement to explore the benefits and wonder music has to offer. However, everyone is connected to music and can reap the benefits of music by finding how children can tap into their musical interests.
You want to reach kids based on their unique personality and contribute to each child's inner and outer music worlds to give them the best path of finding joy and growth during music practice and play time, thus helping to foster the children's inner passion and desire to play.
The "inner world" consists of the aspects of the child's own thoughts, feelings and experiences toward music while they're playing music at home. Are your kids encouraged or discouraged to play or to practice new things? Are there lots of distractions around indicating a lesser value placed upon musical activities? Or, do you make it conducive for music in the house?
When a child is excited to sit and play music, it becomes much easier to participate in lessons, family jams or whatever musical growth plan is right for the child. To build their inner desire to play, have kids participate in picking out what songs to learn, what instruments to play, what kind of lessons to use, and what musical goals to pursue.
After teaching over 8,000 music lessons to kids, I've seen examples of kids struggling on piano or guitar, then trying a different instrument like drums or ukulele and quickly excelling. Exposure to all instruments is beneficial and as kids grow with music it'll be easy to see what instruments resonate with them the most and those are the instruments they should be focusing on to get the most benefits of music.
It's beneficial for family members to learn music together but it's a different mix and format for each family. Some family members work best when all in the room together learning, while some learn better mostly as individuals who come together at certain times for group playing and learning.
All these factors contribute to what kind of inner experience a child will have in relation to music. Everything from family traditions, to instrument choice, to connecting with the right music teacher will help to enhance a child's natural instinct to want to play and grow with music. The right music teacher will be able to connect with your child on an individual basis, deliver thorough lesson plans, and achieve the goals of you, the parents, as well as each kid's personal goals. The right music teacher will help each student, each family, be empowered through music and grow closer together in a life enhanced by music.
The "outer world" consists of the home environment and how children see other family members interacting with music. What kid is going to want to play the piano if it's dusty and shoved in the corner, hasn't been tuned in years, and also serves as a permanent laundry table?
Make it rewarding to play music at home. Make it fun. Keep instruments in good condition and easy to access. It's amazing how much more your child will play if the instrument is out in the living room on a stand, instead of put away in a case. If you have a piano at home, make it a focal point of the room that draws in your attention. Keep it clean and in-tune. An acoustic piano should be tuned once every six months.
Get excited when someone plays music in the house. Saying something encouraging like, "It's wonderful when I hear you play while I'm doing the dishes," provides a tremendous amount of positive reinforcement for the child's desire to play. And most importantly, know that your kids will learn the greatest from what they model from you, so the biggest way to get them inspired to want to play music is for them to watch you playing it yourself. You don't have to play anything spectacular, just model to your kids an interest in learning and expressing yourself with an instrument. I guarantee they will follow.
Since we know that every kid is different, here's some tips based on Myer's-Briggs personality traits for helping to develop a love for music and a desire to play. If you don't know your child's personality type, here's a free personality test.
INTROVERTED VS. EXTRAVERTEED
First, let's acknowledge that aspects of personality are on a spectrum, but for ease of communication I'll describe these music tips based on kids who are mostly introverted, meaning they prefer alone time to recharge their energy, in contrast with kids who are extraverted, meaning they gain energy from social situations.
Introverted kids grow best with music by having alone space and time to practice, play and create their music. They flourish having a place for music they can trust will remain stable for them to use and invest their energy in making it their space. When you listen to music together as a family, understand that your child might want alone time to reflect before giving their opinion.
Extraverted kids flourish by talking in-depth about the music you listen to together, and by having many opportunities to play music for the family. For these kids, make the music area a place that encourages group involvement in listening to and playing music. Take lessons along with your kids and they'll likely be more motivated.
THINKING VS. FEELING
This spectrum of personality distinction refers to a "thinking" child who makes decisions predominantly based on logical reasoning, versus a "feeling" child who makes decisions primarily based on their feelings and emotions at any given moment.
For kids on the "thinking" end of the spectrum, appeal to their logical reasoning when setting musical goals and managing their expectations. Take the idea of musical scales for example. You'd have an easier time motivating these kids by explaining logically how learning scales leads to better finger dexterity and knowledge of melody and harmony, which they can then use for more advanced artistry and performance skills. Pick out appropriate learning songs based on how they can follow the path of growing their skills.
For kids on the "feeling" end of the spectrum, get them motivated to learn scales by having them imagine what it would feel like to be able to play their favorite song, then say that learning scales is the first step toward being able to play that song. Picking out the right songs to use as learning tools would be based on how the kid emotionally relates or "feels" about each song.
PERCEIVING VS. JUDGING
This spectrum is the most misunderstood in personality types. It refers to how a child prefers to schedule and accomplish tasks. A "perceiving" kid likes spontaneity and works best by bouncing between many tasks until they are accomplished. A "judging" kid prefers to stick to a regular, predictable schedule of activities and accomplish tasks one at a time without moving on until the previous task is finished.
If your child's personality type has a "P" in it, the child is the spontaneous kind, so make it easy for them to play music whenever the inspiration strikes. Have lots of instruments out and ready to play. Also, make sure these kids have lots of songs to work on because they will like to jump around a lot.
But if your child's personality type has a "J" in it, then this child will do much better if music is scheduled at the same time each day and there's a consistent practice routine. Have these kids work on one song at a time until completed before adding in new material.
INTUITIVE VS. SENSING
This spectrum usually doesn't develop in children until around age 12 to 13. It is represented in your child's personality type by the letter "N" for intuitive kids and letter "S" for sensing kids. The intuitive "N" kids take in information about the world through a combination of the five senses plus intuition. Sensing "S" kids take in information primarily only through their five senses of sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch.
Sometimes intuitive kids can get overwhelmed with choice paralysis as they gather lots of songs they can play and it can be a distraction from playing. One way to utilize the kids' natural intuition in coming to a decision is by using a "song bowl," which is a bowl filled with slips of paper that have song names written on them. The child can pull out a slip of paper and play that song.
For the sensing kids who are extra-attuned to their five senses, be extra sure that the music area in the house is free of distractions. The sound of a T.V. playing in the other room can often be a huge obstacle to the kid being able to focus. Make sure there's no unwanted sounds or visual distractions in the music area. Sometimes having a bunch of papers strewn on the piano or a vibrant decorative piece on the wall can be enough distraction to make someone not want to play. These sensing kids will also have more of a chance of being inspired to play if they organize their songs based on tone, tempo and other aspects that can be perceived through the five senses. For example, play all their soft and slow songs first before playing the faster, louder songs.
SHARING MUSIC TOGETHER AS A FAMILY
Remember that sometimes the best inspiration for a kid to play is just to listen to a cool sounding song. Listen to some of your favorite songs together and your kids will pick up on the uplifting feelings. Good music experiences are contagious and your kids will vicariously reap the inspiration you feel when you hear your favorite music. This inspiration is the main goal with sharing music together and exposing your kids to wide ranges of music, especially your favorites.
Even with music lessons, the main goal is to empower kids with the tools to access their creativity and express themselves through whatever inspires them. While you're building a family tree of musical growth, each child is growing on their own path also. Keep these four things in mind to nurture the family bonding and also the child's growth.
Encourage each child to write their own music and keep a list of their original songs to remember and play.
Have a "favorites list" composed of each kid's favorite songs they can play. These songs are the biggest motivators to play, so keep them in regular rotation.
Keep a clear list of new songs and other material that each child is learning, so they know accurately what to work on to keep growing.
Create a context of musical appreciation, expression and growth in the home. Another effective way to do this is have regular concerts in your home. This creates opportunities to work toward goals and develop expressive abilities through performance. It's also a powerful way to bring the family closer together, similarly to how listening to music together creates a lot of bonding and inspiring moments.
Keep it fun, positive, encouraging, and model to your kids the value of embracing challenges and growth. The reward for your children comes in the wisdom and superpowers they unlock through music. Your reward is more quality time with your children and the chance to see how they are a fractal representation of your own growth as a parent. The inspiration and empowerment you embody will diffuse out to your kids, and music is a great medium for this.
Learn more at JacksonMusicProgram.com.