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Your Child Today: 8 to 11 years

Music to Your Ears: Six ways to entice your child to take up an instrument

David was 11 when his parents insisted he take piano lessons. Every day he was expected to sit down and practice. Every day was a battle.

A year and a half later, David quit piano and took up electric guitar. Today practicing isn't an issue. He still doesn't take lessons, but he practices every day.

Parents try all sorts of things to get kids to practice music. We prod, we push, we nag. They finally sit down to practice. Then, ten minutes later, they're outside shooting hoops.

Few would dispute the benefits of mastering an instrument: concentration, poise, memory training, self-discipline, even (according to recent research) higher achievement in other academic disciplines. Yet in today's fast-paced culture, the notion of sitting down to practice scales is losing its appeal.

Enticing your child to take up an instrument may be a challenge, but it's not impossible.

  1. Allow your child to choose. While studying piano provides a good foundation for learning other instruments, many kids prefer the guitar or the flute. "Giving them a choice can often mean the difference between a motivated and an unmotivated student," says Nancy White, who has taught piano and guitar for more than 15 years.
    Kids at this age are into friends, so consider allowing your child to study with the same teacher her friend uses. Participating in the same recitals and practicing similar pieces can jump-start a reluctant beginner.
  2. Take advantage of timing. Have your child begin lessons a few weeks into the summer, when kids start to mumble, "There's nothing to do."
  3. Encourage regular practice. Start at about 15 minutes a day, eventually shooting for up to an hour (in two or three installments). But don't expect your child to relish the task, especially at first.
  4. Don't hound your child. "We never wanted our daughter to lose her love for the piano," says Toni, whose 10-year-old daughter, Ashley, has been studying piano for two years. "If something else came up, like soccer practice, we didn't bug her if she couldn't practice piano. We knew she'd get back into it in a day or two."
  5. Be flexible. Not every teacher-pupil relationship works. Don't force your child to continue with the same teacher if he's uncomfortable with the arrangement.
  6. Be diplomatic. You may be sick of hearing "Cruella da Vil" played for the hundreth time. But if your kid is having a blast at the piano, it's worth another encore.

?Elaine Minamide
Freelance writer, educator and mother

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