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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:

  1. 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#!”
  2. 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.

[Feel free to link to this article or send the link to your piano families.]

Help Kids Practice Piano with these 5 Tips from Disney Songs | composecreate.com

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!


By |2017-12-27T11:11:02+00:00January 27th, 2015|General Music, Piano Teaching, Practicing, Wendy's Piano Studio|11 Comments

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  1. Debra S. January 27, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Great post, Wendy!

    I love what you say about the benefits, indeed the necessity, of letting students struggle. A very wise friend once said to me, “The moments between confusion and understanding are called learning.” This has become one of the mottoes of my studio and I would venture to say, even my life. How much less scary it is to feel confused when we understand that it is an essential part of the process.

    Your Disney analogies are delightful, and though you use them on a more metaphorical level, I can’t help remembering some wonderful practical advice from those very cute kittens in “The Aristocats:”

    “If you’re faithful to your daily practicing
    You will find your progress is encouraging.
    Do mi so mi, Do mi so mi
    Fa la so it goes
    When you do your scales and your arpeggios!”

  2. Amy January 28, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Yes so Dear to My Heart is a Disney song

  3. Gracie January 28, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    Thank you for sharing all your experience as a parent and teacher. . I love your Blog!! 🙂
    In my studio I also deal with parents that don’t take the time to “Listen” to their child’s practice and expect the student to do everything on his own. So this is the other extreme. Be part of the practice time, encouraging the student to play for you ( the parent) and celebrate any success or progress in his practice. And I totally agree with all you said about let them recognize their mistakes in their own time. It will make them feel proud of their own effort. Thank you again for all your teaching 🙂

  4. Alexandra Weiss January 29, 2015 at 2:37 am

    Hi Wendy:
    I would love to have a special discussion group / blog about piano teachers who are teaching their own children piano.

  5. Elizabeth H January 29, 2015 at 7:19 am

    ^^ ditto to Alexandra’s comment!

  6. Cindy January 29, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    Hi Wendy!

    I second Alexandra Weiss request – I am teaching my daughter, and soon will be starting with my second child. I would LOVE to hear how other people teach their own children. Thanks for all you do!

  7. Michael January 29, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    As a fan of your blog, all things Disney, and watching children grow musically I love this post and plan to share the great jnsights

  8. Sally February 1, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Wonderful article! I’m thinking about holding a Back-To-Lessons barbeque at my home in late summer with all the parents (no students) and do a little “teaching” and this would be a great article to present. Thanks again Wendy for your insights!

  9. Lucky Links {Weekly Reads} | Old New Legacy February 23, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    […] in addition to my usual pre-k and kindergarten posts. This one is a fun one from Compose Create, 5 Things Piano Parents Can Learn from Disney Songs.  My favorite is, of course, “Let it […]

  10. […] Help Kids Practice Piano with these 5 Tips from Disney Songs […]

  11. Austin October 27, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    *coughs* It’s “Kristoff”, with a K and two F’s. I don’t want you to lose your Disney creditability. 😉

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