Realistic Expectations

Dear Parents, please have realistic expectations about your child and his musical abilities. Let’s face it, most of our children are not musical geniuses or child prodigies. Sure, some may have greater talents or abilities than others. Some may have a greater drive or passion for music than others. But that doesn’t mean that they are destined from birth to be the greatest in the world!

Parents, Please have realistic expectations about music lessons!

Realistic Expectations:

Expect them to be THEIR best, not THE best.

Expect your child to be diligent in their efforts, to work to the best of their abilities. Also, expect them to make progress, to improve. I have told my own children repeatedly, to just expect that someone will always be better than they are. Even the greatest of musicians must face up to that. They may be the greatest today, but what about next year? New talent is always surfacing, there is always new competition.

Don’t pressure your child so much that she loses her desire and love of the music.

The amount of stress a professional musician deals with is incredible – will I stay on top of the musical world? Will I be able to make it? Can I deal with another world tour? How do I handle the next series of auditions, or competitions? Performance anxiety is a real thing among professional musicians. Many of them are on medications to help them deal with the stress of their lives. Many studies and articles give evidence to the stress and performance anxiety faced by professional musicians. Here is just a sample:  Musicians and Performance-Enhancing Drugs    Musicians and depression    Drug of choice for professional and pre-professional musicians   Is this really what you want to push your child into?

Don’t sacrifice your child’s love of music to your desires of perfection and a professional music career. Go into music lessons with realistic expectations. Maybe your child will show great ability and become the next world star. Or maybe not – maybe he will just enjoy learning and playing music as a hobby. Be okay with either. Let your child make that decision – don’t force him into it!

So what should you expect your child to get from their music lessons? Here is a list that should make any parent happy.

  • Discipline, patience, perseverance
  • Improved physical skills – coordination, fine motor skills
  • Sense of responsibility
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Greater creative self-expression
  • Improved academic skills
  • Exposure to history and different cultures
  • Better listening skills
  • Improved memory
  • Enhanced social skills
  • Most of all – pleasure, joy, and a sense of accomplishment

If you see even some of these results of music lesson in your child, I think you can say that the time and money invested in music lessons were worth it! These are qualities we all want to see in our children. These are definitely realistic expectations.

Music Lesson Etiquette

Etiquette refers to conduct and behavior that is proper for a given situation. Music lesson etiquette is correct behavior or conduct relating to the music lesson. Usually, proper etiquette is a show of respect for other people, their time, and their property. Let’s see how this relates to your music lessons.

Music Lesson Etiquette

Be prompt.

Be on time, even a bit early, for your child’s lesson. You are paying for a certain amount of your teacher’s time – be there so your child can get the most out of every lesson. Do not expect the teacher to teach five or ten minutes later just because you got the five or ten minutes late. Most likely the teacher has another student waiting right after your child is finished. I understand that sometimes traffic is horrible, or something happens that is completely out of your control. In that case, give your teacher a call or text and let her know the situation.

Be sure your child has all his materials with him (music and instrument).

Please have your child come prepared to his lesson. The teacher’s job is more difficult if your child shows up for lessons without his music or instrument. A good teacher will be able to adjust, but you should not put that pressure on the teacher, especially if the forgotten music is habitual. It is not fair to either the teacher or the child.

Don’t monopolize the music teacher’s time.

Sure, you want to have a conversation with the teacher, but if you talk to her for fifteen minutes, then your child only gets half a lesson. The child is cheated out of half her lesson, and the teacher will be frustrated because she is unable to accomplish her goals for the lesson time. Instead, ask her when she is available to talk, or if she has time to talk before or after the lesson. Respect the teaching time.

Don’t expect the teacher to adjust her schedule to yours.

You chose a particular time for your child’s music lesson. Don’t expect the teacher to keep rearranging his schedule to fit all your other activities. Most teachers will understand emergencies, or illness, but they are not required to change their schedule to fit around soccer practice or last-minute school projects.

Respect the teacher’s space.

Whether your music teacher teaches in a studio or in her own home, you are entering her space for a lesson. The teacher has a designated area for waiting parents and students, designated restrooms for your use. Stay in the designated areas! Respect the space – keep it clean, leave muddy shoes by the door, keep feet off the furniture. Show common courtesy!

If you must bring other children with you, keep them under control and quiet.

I understand that you may have no choice but to bring your other children to music lessons with you. Maybe they are waiting for the next lesson, maybe no one is at home to stay with them. Fine – but keep them quiet and content. Make sure they have some quiet activities to do. Keep them in the designated waiting area. If they just cannot sit still or keep relatively quiet, take them outside. Maybe there will be days when you will just have to wait in the car. Or go to the park, or the play place at McDonald’s. Your music teacher cannot concentrate on your child’s lesson when he is wondering if his studio will be in one piece when your child’s lesson is finished.

Respect others who are waiting.

Be courteous to others. If someone is waiting for their lesson, don’t expect the teacher to spend time holding a lengthy conversation with you. Make space for others to sit down while they are waiting – consolidate your other kids and all your stuff. Be kind – don’t talk disrespectfully about other students or the teacher.

Pick your student up on time after the lesson.

Your music teacher is not your babysitter. When the allotted lesson time is over, be there to pick up your child. The music teacher is not responsible for watching your child after the lesson is over – she is supposed to be concentrating on teaching her next student.

Don’t bring your student to lessons when he is obviously sick.

This should be obvious, but I will mention it anyhow. Why bring your child’s germs to infect the teacher and anyone else who is there? How does that show respect to anyone? If you know your child is not feeling well, don’t bring him to music lessons!

Pay your teacher promptly.

We addressed this in a previous post (see here: Pay Your Music Teacher!), but be prompt in your payments. Your teacher is depending on that payment to pay his bills. This is part of his income. Your prompt payments help relieve stress for the teacher. If there is an emergency or unexpected problem, talk to the teacher and see what the two of you can work out.

Music lesson etiquette just boils down to common courtesy and respect for others. Although respect and courtesy are often lacking in today’s world, let’s make an effort and show proper kindness to others in the music lesson setting.

Music teachers, what other things would you add to our list? Post your suggestions in our comments section.

How to Help your Child Practice Music

Help Child PracticeSo you got your child started on music lessons. Now he must practice. That’s right, your child’s music teacher expects your child to actually practice between lessons. And if you really want to make those lessons worthwhile, you will have to help your child with this. What does that mean? What does that look like? Keep reading for some suggestions.

Practice is NOT what is supposed to happen during a music lesson.

During your child’s music lesson, the teacher expects to hear how your child has progressed since the last lesson. Has he mastered the material that was assigned? Has she corrected the mistakes or difficulties that were discussed at the last lesson? Also, the lesson is the time to focus on new concepts, new techniques, new music. But if the student does not demonstrate mastery of the last material, how can the teacher justify presenting new material? Practice at home is what allows the student to master material already taught. No practice = no progress!

What does it mean to practice music?

I suppose a good definition of practice is the repeated performance of a new skill or technique with the goal of improvement and mastery. The goal of every practice session should be to improve or perfect at least one problem.

Ideas you can use to help your child practice

Be present, not absent

Be present at the lesson so you know what the teacher expects your child to do.

Be present at practice times to encourage your child, to be sure your child is doing what the teacher expects.

Be positive, not critical

Encourage your child while he is practicing. Tell him he is doing a good job at working through something. Tell her she is following the teacher’s instructions well. Encourage him to keep going.

Consider practice time as play, rather than work.

I know real practicing is hard work, but a young child should view practice time as fun, not a chore. Have a set time every day for practice and see if you can turn at least some of it into a game.

Give praise, not pressure

Praise your child for doing something well. Praise her for following instructions. Praise him for completing an assignment. Don’t let your child come to associate practice time as stress time or pressure time. Don’t threaten.

As a child gets older and advances with his music the demands on the parent change. You are not required to be at every practice session – he becomes more independent with his practicing. But even them some parental involvement in still important. Continue to take an interest in their music. What are they playing? How does his teacher want him to play the piece? Show interest in his work and accomplishments. Maintain good communication with the teacher – is your student meeting the teacher’s expectations?

Notes to musical moms

  • Don’t sit down and play every piece for your child before they begin to learn it! This will not help your child learn or improve his music-reading skills. And it will not help your child to think through and interpret a piece for himself.
  • Don’t over-correct. I had problems with this. Listening to my kids practice and play things incorrectly would drive me crazy! But if I told them everything they needed to fix, they would never learn to listen and find the errors themselves. What to do? Sometimes you just have to leave! Leave the room, leave the house. I have just gotten up, walked around the neighborhood until I figured they were done practicing, and then came back.
  • Play duets with your child – just for fun! Or accompany them – just for fun! That will help to teach them that music can be fun! They also will see that playing with others is truly enjoyable.

What further suggestions do you have for help with practicing? Let us know in the comment section!