Recently a reader of our blog asked for help in responding to a parent email. If you are faced with a student about to quit piano, feel free to use our response, alter it to fit your situation, and save your piano student.
So… A Parent Emails and Says Something Like This
He’s wavering as to whether or not he wants to continue with piano next year. He says he likes it but he’s not sure he wants to continue. Until now it’s totally been up to them wanting to do it or not. I don’t want to push them to do it because I don’t want it to become a negative thing when he’s doing so well and has so much potential! It would be such a shame for him to stop and lose all of what he’s learned so far! Any advice to help me “convince him” to keep playing without forcing him (which I could but I really want him to want to)?
And This Is How We Would Respond
I’m happy to help you out! Obviously my opinion is slightly biased!… and only you know what’s truly best for your _________, but because we really care about ___________ and because he is quite talented here’s my two cents…
In my many years of teaching piano I can tell you that it is completely normal for kids to go through peaks and valleys in terms of their motivation on the piano. One of the wonderful things about learning an instrument is that it requires long-term commitment. It’s not an activity that you do short-term, gain an easily-learned skill and then move on. It requires months and years of “stickwithitness” to get real results.
Because kids aren’t often exposed to these kinds of activities, it’s an experience that is (unfortunately!) new to them. It’s easy to quit piano because it’s easy to not have to put work into something. At __________’s age it’s almost impossible for him to think long-term about how he may actually want to be able to play the piano later in life. Kids think in the here and now, and it can be difficult to truly decipher exactly what it is that is causing their “valley” in motivation at that particular moment.
Piano lessons are also one of the only extra curricular activities that require children to take responsibility on their own at home. With sports you can show up and practice or play a game. Piano is different in that it requires a sense of self-discipline, and it can be hard for kids to see the benefits this (of which there are many).
I can tell you with 100% honesty that I have never ever met someone who said “I’m sure glad my mom let me quit piano lessons.” In fact, I hear the opposite from people constantly!
I admire your desire to not make this a dreaded activity, because music should ultimately be an expression of joy. My studio’s focus is on creating opportunities for piano to be as fun as it can possibly be. However, as with learning any new skill there are times when what we are learning is more difficult. I’m a true believer in the idea that feelings of self-esteem and confidence come from conquering difficulties and reaching goals. If we let children quit when things get difficult, then they lose those opportunities to prove to themselves that they can do it; that they can work through an obstacle and come out on the other side better than they were before. If we leave the decisions up to them all the time their “kid-ness” takes over and they choose the easy route because that’s what feels good in the moment. We as parents don’t know if they actually chose to stop for reasons that might otherwise be easily remedied (ie. it’s the end of the year and they’re getting a bit burnt out with school and other activities)
Sorry for the long-winded response. Involving children in music is something I’m very passionate about as I have seen first-hand the social, emotional, and academic benefits that playing the piano brings… which is really the main reason I run my music studio (and even started it in the first place). When we see a student like __________ with heaps of potential, it’s sad to see them turn away from that, and I’d love to help him get excited about the piano again in any way I can.
If you have any other questions at all I’m happy to answer them.
Talk to you soon,
P.S. We were happy to hear back that this particular parent re-registered their child! Mission accomplished. But, if this email doesn’t work for you, give your “piano student on the brink” a copy of our book, Shhhh… Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice. And if that doesn’t work… well… you can certainly say you gave it your best shot!