Why isn’t my child improving? (The solution isn’t always practice!)
Guest post from former Learning Allegro instructor Haleigh Swansen
When I was at Learning Allegro, my favorite lessons to teach were to brand new violin students — the people (young and not-so-young) who had no idea how to hold a bow or name the strings. Before those lessons, I would always give the same speech:
“Violin takes a while to sound good. Don’t get frustrated if things don’t click right away.
That speech is probably important for beginners on every instrument to hear. Musicianship is a marathon! It takes time, patience, discipline, and faith in what the sound will become over the years.
Eventually, though, those beginner violin students would get a different kind of pep talk:
“Watch your pitch! Other finger! You’re still having trouble with that measure.”
Why the change? Simple: those students were progressing in their studies. The basics were becoming more natural to them. Once a students finds his footing and gets comfortable on an instrument, it’s time to turn up the pressure a little bit!
The pep talk game is interesting. On one hand, there should always be grace for learners! Teachers should help students enjoy their craft, and the classroom should never be a place to fear. As one of my friends always says, “Lessons should be the safest place to fail.”
However, classrooms should also be places where people are challenged. When encouragement is not paired with honest criticism and hard work, you can’t grow!
Personally, I have seen very talented musicians “fizzle out” and plateau because they weren’t encouraged to take their craft seriously. Again, music should be fun and exciting, but it should never be fun at the expense of effort and focus.
From time to time, people ask us, “Why isn’t my child getting better at violin/piano/drums/etc?” Sometimes, the answer is lack of practice. Sometimes, the child lacks confidence and just needs to be built up a little more. But sometimes — many times — the answer is that in the name of having fun, the child is forgetting to take the learning process seriously.
If that’s happening, one of the best people to combat that issue is you, the parent!
Mom and Dad play a huge role in the pep talk game. You need to be your child’s biggest cheerleader, but also a coach — someone who will cheer for their successes, keep the game fun, but also keep their eyes on the prize. As your child practices, attends lessons, and dives deeper into studying music, help them to push towards real growth. Learning does not always have to be boring, and fun should not be purposeless. Help your young musician to find the fun in learning while embracing the challenge of hard work.
After all, the best way to run a marathon is with a buddy — someone who believes in you and won’t let you give up.