Helpful tips and funny thoughts from a musician's mind

Musical burnout? Finding the source of your child’s frustration.

Musical burnout? Finding the source of your child’s frustration.


Yes, I’m in the music education business. No, I’m not writing this to guilt-trip you into keeping an unhappy child in lessons! There are certainly times to take a child out of music lessons, just like there are times to take them out of soccer, dance class or any other activity. However, many of the things that make a kid say “I want to quit” are easy to fix, once you know the source. Before throwing in the towel, check out this list and see if it sounds like your child. Maybe there’s an easy solution below!


Do you have a frustrated musician on your hands? What do you do when your child tells you that he or she wants to quit music lessons?

In many cases, I think we approach what I call “musical burnout” the wrong way– we fail to track down its source. As a former music student, I can attest that my own frustrations in grade school were normally “quick fixes.”

There are many reasons your child might get frustrated with music lessons, but here are a few common ones that I’ve heard over the years.


1. I WANT TO QUIT BECAUSE I’M BORED. Talk with your child’s teacher about finding ways to make lessons new and exciting again. Join a group performance class. Try a summer music camp. Even just starting a new genre of music can make a huge difference! There are tons of ways to spice up your child’s private lessons and make music exciting again. (For more ideas, click here and here).


2. I WANT TO QUIT BECAUSE I WILL NEVER USE MUSIC. Lies! Music lessons are a combination of art, mathematics, listening skills, communication skills, group work, hand-eye coordination and a host of other useful skills. Even if you don’t become a professional musician, those skills will benefit you wherever you go. If this sounds like your child, look for ways to connect his or her music lessons to the “real world” around him.


3. I WANT TO QUIT BECAUSE BAND/ORCHESTRA IS “UNCOOL.” I’ve met people who quit music lessons because they didn’t want to be labeled “music nerds” in middle or high school. And guess what? Later in life, they regretted caring so much about what the other kids thought! Remind your child that grade school is a very quick season of life, and encourage your child to pursue his or her passions regardless of what others might say. Help your child to see that the value of what they enjoy will outlast the criticisms of their school buddies!


4. I WANT TO QUIT BECAUSE I WILL NEVER GET IT RIGHT. Skills take time to cultivate! If your child is in a “I can’t do it” funk, remind them that most things in life are learned slowly. Babies take months to learn how to crawl. Kindergarteners spend a whole year learning how to read. Playing an instrument is no different! Encourage your child to persevere and let them know that you notice their efforts. You can also reward the small milestones in their lessons, like getting a new book or moving up to a better chair in orchestra.


At the end of the day, many of the frustrations young musicians experience are easy to overcome. Encourage your child to persevere, even through the “boring” seasons, and in time, the frustrations will turn back into love for the instrument. They did for me!


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