The subject of parental involvement in children’s music lessons can be a touchy one for parents, students and their teachers. The commonly held assumption that the more parental involvement the better doesn’t always prove true. We’ve all heard about the downside of “helicopter parenting.” Many of the same issues can surface when it comes to music lessons. Let’s take a look at a few specific areas where less can sometimes be more when it comes to parental involvement and music study.
- Parents attending lessons with their children. This may sound like a wonderful idea on the surface, but it isn’t always constructive. Some teaching styles, such as the Suzuki method, encourage close participation and attendance at all lessons. Yet other teachers find that parents pose a distraction to both the student and the teacher in the studio and prefer not to have a parent present. It’s always a good idea to discuss preferences about this at the outset with your child’s teacher.
- Parents trying to help with practice. Sometimes with the best of intentions, parents can help too much. This can mask underlying problems the student may be having, and delay getting them addressed and resolved. Very young students pose an exception to this rule. Five and six-year-olds will probably need an adult to help guide them through their assignments and make sure they’re making their goals, but older kids may do better on their own.
- Nagging about practice. It can be a fine line between encouragement and driving a student to lose interest. Gentle reminders are great, but you don’t want music practice to become a source of contention or power struggle in the family. Simply providing an atmosphere of structure and support, where time is set aside for regular practice, is the best way to set the stage for long-term success. Remember, too, that it’s natural for a student’s interest in practice to wax and wane over the course of time. Even when practice time slips, students are generally still progressing in their lessons.
- Create a musical culture at home. Listening to great music is within the grasp of every family. Classical radio stations, music downloads and even YouTube videos can expose a child to wide variety of composers and pieces which will provide inspiration and motivation. Pay attention to pieces that spark your child’s interest, and make a note to purchase the sheet music.
- Create and expand your child’s library of sheet music. Just as reading an array of books helps make a better reader, learning many pieces of music greatly improves sight reading skills. Having lots of sheet music on hand is the equivalent of having an exciting collection of books to read, rather than reading the same story over and over again.