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3 Ways Parents Set New Music Students Up For Failure

It’s a natural desire for parents to encourage their children. The support, praise, and recognition of achievement goes a long way towards developing your child’s self-esteem, and provides a good foundation on which to build the skills he or she will need for future success. And as music training and instruction is becoming more widely acknowledged for its ability to improve academic performance and promote overall healthy brain functions, many parents are ready to back their child’s interest in learning to play a musical instrument. Which is good.

However, often unknowingly parents can sabotage their own intentions. Researchers and studies agree: music training offers lifelong brain benefits and develops the teamwork, resourcefulness, and determination that are necessary to succeed in life. But for one reason or another, sometimes parents can do the wrong things and actually set new music students up for failure.

These three common mistakes have the ability to sour your child’s attitude towards learning music. And without the right outlook, students won’t benefit from the instruction and will simply end up quitting music to pursue other, more fulfilling activities.

Problem #1: Too Much, Too Fast

Since research has shown how music training builds grey matter and forges new cognitive connections, parents are eager to start music training at an early age. Indeed, a recent international study cited in the Journal of Neuroscience, “Early Musical Training and White-Matter Plasticity in the Corpus Callosum: Evidence for a Sensitive Period” identified that from ages six to eight, music training has greater effects on developing brain structure and behaviors, which last a lifetime.

But, just because that’s the optimum time to embark on formal music education, doesn’t mean that all children will respond favorably to the introduction. Many parents make the mistake of forcing their children into music training too soon. And for some kids, this creates antipathy later.

A better way to introduce young children to music is to let them explore at their own pace. Natural curiosity is a great thing to encourage, but having to deal with the stress of recitals and performances before the age of six can be too much, too fast.

Avoid this by sticking with classes and curriculum that are designed to focus on rhythm and intonation training. Simply being able to clap a beat and recognize large differences in pitch builds the foundation children will need when they later pick an instrument to learn.

Problem #2: Too Little Involvement

As with all parenting skills, there’s a fine line to walk when introducing music instruction. Too much pressure is just as detrimental as too little involvement. Parents need to provide the right amount of support without overwhelming the student, but a totally lax attitude will only tell your child that learning music isn’t very important.

In fact, many music students quit playing simply because of a lack of encouragement at home. To prevent this, you’ll need to take an active role in your child’s music education. Attend classes, offer a supportive place to practice at home, and embrace each achievement with the sort of praise that recognizes the struggle it took to accomplish. These things may seem obvious, but so many kids quit because of a lack of direction at home that it’s important to help guide and support their progress.

Problem #3: Unrelenting Pressure to Overachieve

This has become more of an issue over the last few decades. Even unconsciously, parents can place so much pressure to be the best on a child that eventually, the child will resist an activity. It’s a common problem in sports. Over-zealous parents, who perhaps want to vicariously enjoy their children’s achievements, place undue emphasis on performance, and subsequently hinder real aptitude.

And although you’re unlikely to witness a crazed “piano mom” coaching from the auditorium seats, yelling out phrases like, “don’t miss the transition!” parents can place too much pressure on their kids to perform or advance at a pace that is contrary to their natural development. Let your child progress at a pace that is right for her.

Learning to play an instrument offers many lifelong advantages, but as a parent, you have the ability to either see the fruition of those benefits or to stifle them. But by starting off on the right foot and combining a judicious mixture of encouragement and support, you can ensure that your child receives the advantages of music instruction for the rest of his life.

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