Kids who are involved in sport tend to get a lot of “proud parent moments” – Mum shouting encouragement from the sidelines or Dad giving an enthusiastic pat on the back post-game. Piano kids don’t get this as much. They slog away day after day perfecting their skill with little glory until it is time for an exam or a recital. So what can we do to change this?
The key is in having your child see that you truly value the piano and that you understand the commitment it takes to learn an instrument. Most importantly, let them regularly see how proud you are of their effort.
Your child has a piano practise tank. It’s usually about 3/4 full – fun pieces, enjoyable lesson activities and a love for music keep your kids going. But occasionally that practise tank dips and the indicator light comes on telling you that a fill-up is due. What can you do to fill this practise tank? Try some of these ideas:
1. Sneak-a-Practise – Leave your child a note on his or her pillow on a weekend night that says, “Tonight you get to stay up late. When everyone else is asleep, you and I are going to sneak to downstairs/music room/lounge room so I can listen to you play the piano.” Serve warm milk and a snack in the piano room and light it by candle light only. This will be a very special memory for your child.
2. Piano Pancake Surprise – On a weekend morning when the routine is more relaxed and you are still all in your pyjamas, surprise your child with ‘piano pancakes’ topped with chocolate chip crotchets (or quavers, or rests or whatever symbol they know that takes your fancy). For each pancake on the plate, have your child perform a piece for the family while you all watch.
3. Exclaim with Pleasure – It doesn’t always need to be something fancy. Sometimes a genuine, enthusiastic and unexpected, “Wow, that was amazing!” part-way through their practise is a great motivator.
4. Check In – If you are on your way home from work and your child is already home, call him or her (hands free) from the car and make a special request for some driving music as you continue on your way home to them.
5. Tech Free Practise Time – Whenever your child sits down to practise, make the household tech free. Turn off the television, mobile phones, computers… everything. Let the home be filled with the music they are creating and allow yourself to be fully present. This also shows your child that you value what they are doing and how hard they are working.
6. Start a ‘Warm Fuzzies’ Bag – Hang a pillowcase from the top of the piano. For each practise undertaken during the week, write a note about something you noticed was done well (e.g. how your day was brighter for hearing the music, a piece was improved, he played your favourite etc). At the end of the week your child can open the bag and read all the notes.
7. Host a Piano Picnic – Invite the whole family to a ‘Piano Picnic Dinner’. Spread a blanket on the floor near the piano and serve some special picnic fare – cheese and crackers, tea and biscuits. In between bites, have your child provide the dinnertime entertainment. You may even like to make it a fancy occasion, drinking your tea with your pinky raised and speaking in a dignified manner… “Oh, daaahling, that was simply splendid… just magnificent playing, daaahling!” It will give them a good giggle as well as making them feel proud.
Of course, these ideas all take a bit of effort and some preparation. But think about the amount of effort your child is putting in to master an instrument like the piano. By showing how much you value their involvement in piano, you are laying a strong foundation for years of musical enjoyment, as well as strengthening their self esteem and self image.
So pick one or two of these and give them a try. In a fortnight I will give you another seven ideas, so be sure to check back in.
If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW.