We love music around here and are often having dance parties. One of the things that we, and a lot of other parents, struggle with (among other things) is whether or not to make our kids learn how to play an instrument. We’ve been thinking a lot about that lately since we have it on good authority that Santa is bringing our son a drum kit for Christmas.
On the one hand, forcing a kid to learn how to play an instrument can be damaging later on. The last thing you want is for your child to grow up just hating the piano or classical music (or the drums, ahem) because of all of those hours they were forced to stay inside and practice when they would have rather been out playing soccer or learning to paint.
At the same time, you want your kids to try everything. After all, how will they ever find out if they have an aptitude for something if they don’t at least give that thing a try? There are also other, practical benefits to having your kids spend at least a year taking some form of music lesson (in addition to whatever they are learning in school):
Music is math. Seriously—the way that music is arranged is all about math. Music is a series of beats and how those beats are broken down is what makes music sound the way it does. Learning music theory can help your kids see math in action in a new way that might help them with their math classes in school.
Music takes discipline. Practicing an instrument helps drive home the point that skills take time to develop. Music lessons show your kids, through their own actions, that even if they aren’t great at something the first time around (or the fifteenth), if they set their minds to something, they can learn a new thing. Not all talent is inherent!
Music is an outlet. Music gives your kids a healthy way to express their emotions when they feel overwhelmed.
Now for the practical stuff:
If you do decide that your kids should learn an instrument, it’s important to be a little bit flexible. You might have your heart set on raising the next Yo-Yo Ma, Bach or Streisand (the voice is an instrument too!) but it is important to allow your kids to pick their own instruments to study. Remember, they can always switch later. Forcing them toward a specific instrument can put a lot of pressure on them. Allowing them to choose for themselves helps them feel like they are in control of the situation. Our son was already showing an interest in the drums, hence Santa’s present!
Take some time to find music lessons that you can afford. A great way to do this is to spend some time searching online. Websites like Take Lessons are great repositories for teachers of every stripe. Find someone local who can help your child learn the violin or the piano or the drums (like our little dude soon enough).
Friends whose kids are taking lessons will also be great sources of recommendations and references. They’ll know your budget and who will be a great personality match for your son or daughter.
Don’t over commit. Ask your kids to commit to learning for at least one school year and then, at the end of that year, reassess. This gives your kids an out if they decide that they really don’t like learning that particular instrument.
How have you helped your kids get excited about learning music?
Guest article by Sara Stringer