Posted by StringOvation Team on Jan 4, 2019
Kids have so many different activities they can enjoy. Learning to play an instrument is one activity whose multiplicity of benefits for children is well-documented.
Yet just as there are ways parents can set new music students up for failure, there are even more ways parents can advocate for their child's musical development.
5 Ways to Advocate Directly for Your Child
Here are some ways in which a parent can look out for their child's interest – ensuring they're getting the attention and direction they need to grow their skills and the mentoring that expands their world of opportunities.
- Get to know the music teachers in your child's life. Don't be overbearing, but get to know them and let them get to know you. You're not becoming social friends. You're developing a personal relationship, which improves communication.
- Check-in regularly with your child, in positive ways, about their music lessons. Daily practice, rehearsals, and lessons take a lot of anyone's time, let alone a kid. Give them opportunities to express what they love about learning their instrument to help them work through the times when they're struggling.
- Learn about your child's instrument and music so you're in a position to know what questions to ask about their pace of development, skills that need extra attention, and what sort of opportunities (like auditioning for a youth orchestra) your child is ready to tackle. If you want to optimize your time talking with music professionals about your child, you need to know what you're talking about.
- If a music teacher or private tutor has identified specific weaknesses your child needs to focus on, make sure that lessons and practice plans are devised to reflect that feedback.
- Pay attention to your child's instrument and related tools. The quality of the instrument (or lack thereof) will show up in your child's playing. If your child has become an advanced violinist, playing a beginner's violin will hold them back. You can be mindful of your budget and still get your child the best instrument for their skill level.
3 Ways to Advocate for a Strong Music Learning Community Around Your Child
Having a strong, active music community filled with resources provides an environment where your child's musical abilities and ambitions can thrive. Whether your child has professional aspirations or just really enjoys playing an instrument, be an activist for developing your community's musical eco-system.
- If your school's music program needs parental volunteers or boosters, make sure you're one of them. If you can't be a leader on the booster committee because of your other commitments, you can be an usher at performances or a chaperone on a road trip. Support the music programs that are already in place!
- Use your social media or other platforms to encourage attending and supporting a wide variety of local music events, if they aren't school events. Communities have values, and you can advocate for music appreciation and participation to become valued in your community.
- Are music programs at local schools underfunded or poorly staffed? Get actively involved with the local power brokers who can change that.
4 Ways to Teach Children to Advocate for Themselves
Much of your child's time learning and rehearsing music will be spent without you around. Teach them to advocate for themselves, so they feel invested and in control of their musical growth.
- Encourage your child to speak up in a variety of situations to build their confidence in speaking to adults. Simple interactions like having them order their own food at a restaurant (or at least ask for a refill) for young kids, or having older kids talk with potential music tutors as part of the process of selecting one, helps to encourage confidence.
- Let them know it's okay to ask for what they want or want to know. For example, if your child wants a solo, let them know they can (and should) ask their teacher what they need to do to achieve that goal. Teach your child how to ask for, and accept, feedback and criticism. Have them practice with your first. This will also help develop their own list of questions.
- Help them to be honest about their strengths and weaknesses. If they can't be honest about where they need assistance, they can't ask for it.
- As they get older, put them in charge of researching possible learning and musical development opportunities for themselves. They know how to use the internet.
They Can't Do It Without You
Whether interest in music came naturally from the child or parents planted the idea, it's critical for the student to have parents who are supportive of their child's efforts. The benefits of music lessons are vast, but they don't come without effort. For any child to get the most of whatever level of music learning they want, they need their parents on their side.