Help Kids Practice Piano with these 5 Tips from Disney Songs
Struggling to help kids practice piano? If you are the least bit musical, you know it’s hard to listen to your own child practice. In my early days of listening to one of my children practice, one of two things always happened:
- I would yell from the kitchen about how to fix everything. “That’s an A!” or “Count out Loud…I think that rhythm is wrong!” or “Don’t forget your scale! Wait that’s a C#!”
- I would walk around the kitchen, trying to ignore everything I heard, and keep quiet until I was exhausted from just the attempt. I’m sure this resulted in a significant rise in blood pressure.
So, after practicing the art of listening to my child practice now for several years, I feel like I have at least a few tips to give to other parents out there. However, Disney beat me to it. Here’s what those every popular, and sure-to-drive-you-crazy songs can teach you about helping your child practice.
1. Let it go.
Yes, you already knew that was number one! I’ve found that if I can just make myself “let it [the mistakes] go” for the first two days of practice, they often fix themselves, or rather my child actually realizes something is wrong and fixes it eventually. Those first two days are excruciating and I often hide in the back room in order to not hear. But it’s worth it because this alone time allows my child to have the autonomy they desperately want and need and gives them room to struggle, thus producing discipline and hope.
2. He’s [It’s] a Kind of a Fixer-Upper
It seems obvious when I say it now, but every piece is a fixer upper, especially at the beginning of the practice week. Just as in the Frozen movie, when the trolls sing that Cristoph is basically an ongoing fixer-upper, so each piece is something that cannot be improved all at once. There are always good elements or efforts (like diligence, thoroughness, etc.) I can find for which I can praise my child at beginning of the week, and every day provides another opportunity for things to improve. It seems obvious, but I have to admit that I’m still learning that just like people, no piece can be perfected quickly.
3. Can You Feel the Love Tonight?
Now, I don’t just let my child practice without any input. After a few days of leaving them on their own, I’ll offer a tip or two that will help them correct a piece. But, if my child can’t hear love in my voice while I’m tweaking, then it’s NEVER going to be a good thing. The piece may be perfect, but if my tone of voice is harsh, criticizing, degrading, or irritated, this just puts a wedge between me and them and future interactions about piano just become more and more stressful for both of us.
4. I’ve Got No Strings to Hold Me Down
This song from Pinnochio reminds me of two things I’ve learned. The first is that allowing children to do things on their own, complete with all the mistakes that are guaranteed to happen, is extremely important in their future success in life. If you have not already done so, stop everything and read this post about what Brene Brown says about struggle.
The second thing this song reminds me of is how important it is for children to have freedom to experiment. If while I am listening to my child practice, I suddenly hear some doodling, I have learned to be grateful for this and inwardly cheer. This means that my child is being creative at the piano and is developing a love for music that is independent of my and their teacher’s wishes and assignments. This is paramount in helping my child develop a love for music and a well rounded music education. [Note, some children “doodle” their practice time away, but this is why I don’t insist that my child practice a specific number of minutes, but that each assignment gets noticeably better every day.]
5. I Want to be Part of Your World
In the child-rearing years, there’s a delicate balance between parents allowing their children to develop their own interests, and exposing (without forcing) them to our interests. I have to remember that while I want my child to be a part of my musical world, it just may not be in his or her interest. I will still enroll them in piano lessons, at least through their grade school years, because I know it’s good for them. But, I can’t force my interests on them.
In a related way, this Little Mermaid song reminds me that whenever my child invites me into their world, it is a rare and very special, almost holy invitation, and I should accept the invitation with great enthusiasm. For example, if she says, “Mommy! I just made up a song. Do you want to hear it?” The answer is always an enthusiastic, “Yes!” even if I know that she should have been practicing her scale. Of course, she’ll have to practice her scale before she comes to dinner, but I don’t have to force that issue now. Not when she’s so excitedly invited me into her unique world. I truly do want to be part of her world.
Do you have any advice to share on helping (or not helping) your child practice? I sure didn’t cover all of it, but these are the things most dear to my heart right now. [Wait, is “So dear to my heart” a Disney song?] Leave a comment and let me know!
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