What kids wish their parents understood about encouragement
“When you joined Warren Lessons, you gave your child a wonderful gift that will last the rest of their life.”
I know what you’re thinking. How can anyone else know what works for my child? Fair enough, but in my many years of cultivating a program of this level of success, I have come to learn a great deal about how you the parent can provide the most positive experience while helping your child get the most out of his/her lessons.
This of course came from years of hearing teens relate their experiences and my own observations over the years.
THINGS ARE A BIT DIFFERENT TODAY
My expertise has been in the ability to meet the student where they are at and work with their particular learning style. Because I work with so many kids and teens, I am acutely aware of how different the attention span and ability to take in and apply musical concepts is from where it was even 5 years ago, let alone what we grew up with.
With the pandemic adding to even more time students are on their devices than before, keeping them engaged is literally a minute by minute process for many.
Growing up with the expectations and culture our parents instilled was what fit our need at that time. Today, it is not uncommon for parents to feel frustrated in trying to use the same approach ours did. For example, parents may feel frustrated that their child is not practicing as much or as often as they feel they should.
Not To Worry
As a professional, it is my job to make sure you the parent, are made aware of how the progress of your child is going. This is a process that takes time and explores a variety of paths along the way to success, as it is not a linear process.
Because we offer several Performance Camps throughout the year, your child will have every opportunity to show what they have learned to apply.
we have helped many students reach incredible levels of success as future teachers themselves, touring pros, and achieving substantial scholarships when applying to music schools such as Julliard, Berklee, Crane and Belmont.
Playing an instrument well requires effort over a long period of time and progress does not come overnight, even for adults. Time spent regularly and willingly playing and practicing counts far more than anything you might think of as natural talent. As teacher or parent our job is to encourage that.
With that in mind, allow me to share some insight I have gained from experience and talking with other teachers, including fellow guitar instructors; Mike Warren of Mike Anthony Guitar Lessons in Niskayuna, NY and Kevin Kretsch who teaches in Paris. Kevin shared some helpful “Dos and Dont’s that I expanded on.
THE DO’S AND DON’TS
DO help your child to find the time and space to practice. Time spent with the guitar in their hands is the only path to progress.
DON’T force them to practice if they are too tired or not in the mood. Practicing should be done to make them happy in the future, not to make you or me happy in the present.
DO encourage regular practice. 10 or 15 minutes of practice three or four days a week is far more useful than a rushed hour or half hour just before the next lesson. Encourage vs make feel like homework, even though you will naturally want to treat it the same way.
Kids play games because they enjoy the experience. If they relate their instrument to enjoyment, the experience is rewarding. I’m fairly certain, most kids are not eager and excited to relax by studying homework.
DON’T scold them for not practicing. Let me stay on them about effort so that you can be the one that they see as encouraging and into what they are achieving. Trust me…this goes a long way beyond the lessons.
DO compliment good playing and congratulate them for improvement and for practicing. Please please please avoid any comment after you complimented them. Even the best intended comment takes away what the child or teen felt from the compliment itself.
YEP…I’ve had countless kids tell me this. There is nothing to be gained by adding a “constructive criticism” or “suggestions” after a compliment.
As a corporate executive and manager of many employees over the years, I know this all too well. Let the compliment sit, be taken in and at a later time, pose your constructive criticism or suggestion as a question:
“Hey Tim…When you play those power chords, it looks uncomfortable on your hand and wrist. Is there any way you can position yourself that would help with that?”
Let him or her respond and give it some time. They will start to explore or refer to the lesson notes on that topic or ask me. In this way, you appear to be partnering with them and genuinely interested, without taking on a teaching or guiding role. I can’t tell you how empowering this feels for the student.
DON’T scold or criticize them for poor playing. Making mistakes and getting things wrong is an important part of learning to get it right.
DO buy a guitar stand and put the guitar on it. A guitar within easy reach is played far more often. Remember, time spent playing is the only path to progress.
DON’T keep guitars in cases if at all possible. Yes, cases protect guitars, but guitars in cases don’t get played.
DO make sure your child’s guitar is in good condition and playable. Call me when an issue arises. As the maker of Warren Guitars I can make sure the instrument is in good playing condition.
DON’T start your child with a guitar from Target or the like, or one that you bought for $30 on eBayy . It will be difficult to tune, difficult to play, and will kill your child’s enthusiasm, possibly forever. If you need help or advice, don’t hesitate to ask me.
DO talk to your child about their lessons. Encourage them to engage with me, to ask questions during their lessons when they need to, and to let you know if they have problems either with the lessons or with practicing at home.
DON’T hesitate to talk to me if there are any issues. Acting quickly to solve problems for your child is great encouragement to them in itself.
DO encourage your child to explore many musical styles and help them start their own musical library.
DON’T criticize their taste in music. This is the single biggest divide parents place between themselves and their kids. Telling them their music sucks when it is the soundtrack to their current moment in life just as yours was for you, sends a message that is everything opposite of what they want to feel.
Do you recall your youth and the music that you liked? Some excited you, some moved you and all of it was part of your growing up and learning about life. Now imagine if you experienced what this 14 year old student articulated so well: My parents are always trash talking today’s music.
Well I listed to today’s music and it was like my dad was saying; “What you like sucks, your choices suck and the music that makes you feel all the stuff you do sucks.” Not a pleasant feeling to associate with learning an instrument is it? It is destructive in ways that extend well beyond the lessons.
DO “encourage” your child to play for family and friends, but not in front of them, as it puts them on the spot and most hate that and will shy away from it altogether, just to avoid that situation. Instead, tell you child “That riff you are playing sounds awesome. Do you think Uncle Joe will recognize it if you play it?”
Then, it becomes a different feeling. It’s one of you asking and giving them a choice, which feels empowering. They may decline the opportunity a few times, but if you leave it at that and don’t show disappointment etc… they will start to think about it on their own and as experience has shown, will do it on their own.
DON’T push them to play for others if they don’t want to. There is nothing wrong with music being their own private journey. What is important is that they are on that journey at all. Pushing too hard will put them off.
To Keep In Mind
No student progresses at at the same rate all the time. Some students pick up the basics in a matter of weeks but their progress may slow for some months after that. Conversely, some students take months to master the basics but may then progress quickly for the following months. Progress is never constant and every student is unique.
Interest will also ebb and flow. No student, whether adult or child, can give all their attention to one thing all of the time. Nor should they.
Finally, enjoyment is just as important as practice. I encourage my students to make clear distinctions between practice time and playing time but to give equal weight to both. Enjoyment and practice need to be balanced. When they are, enjoyment and progress maintain each other.