Effective parenting

Me: Have you practiced piano today?

Son2: I just finished.

Me: But you only did your exercises. You need to practice your songs, too.

Son2: I can’t find my piano notebook. It’s been missing for a while. Without my notebook, I don’t know which songs I’m supposed to practice.

Me: Okay. Go look for your notebook.

(Ten minutes pass)

Me: You still need to practice your songs.

Son2: I still can’t find my notebook.

Me (getting annoyed): Okay, new rule. If you can’t find your notebook, then you will have to practice every single song in all of your piano books.

Son2 (20 seconds later): Found my notebook, Dad!

13 comments for “Effective parenting

  1. Kaimi,

    We asked our piano teacher to give our son a grade each week. He gets paid based on his score. I made sure that the biggest jump in pay comes from doing a little more than he tends to. It is far cheaper than how much we pay the teacher and, so far, rather effective.

  2. We finally had to get our daughter’s violin instructor to tell her how long she needs to practise each day. She thought she had to do each song once.

  3. Boy is that ever true. Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques, all damn day, but what do we know about “Soeur Jacqueline”? Next to nothing.

  4. Iusually hand them a hymn book and tell them when they can play it from memory they can start skipping practice. So far none of them have taken me up on it.

  5. My daughter was awarded a music scholarship worth over $100,000 this week to a leading private university. I am so happy for her.

    Parents of young musicians, you must think carefully about what and why you are doing this. For me:

    -Music is fun. Never forget this.

    -Music is great family entertainment for parent and child alike.

    -Music improves memory, especially since memorization is not given much emphasis any more in most schools and it lifts other intellectual skills and increases academic performance.

    -Music obviously teaches discipline and the law of the harvest.

    -Music teaches self-confidence in front of people and develops skills related to thinking on your feet.

    -Music usually leads to membership in a peer group that is made up of mostly decent kids, at least up to the high school age.

    -If you are a boy, all orchestras and many bands have a disproportionately large number of nice girls to meet and eventually date.

    – Music will teach about failure and disappointment, eventually. This might be its greatest gift.

    -Music allows children to help other people; enriches sacrament meetings, cheers lonely nursing home residents, spices up Christmas celebrations, brings comfort at grandparent’s funerals, etc.

    -Music can lead to some pretty good field trips; Italy and China in my daughter’s case. And rarely to college scholarships.

    Just my advice: Try to refrain from doing things to your kids that interfer with these underlying goals. Don’t make your kids just practice for practice sake. Give them a goal to prepare to perform at a family, church or community event. I know it can be a thin line to walk.


    About my daughter; she is unique, as is everyone. We are not a musical family and never even considered lessons for our kids. She just decided, on her own at age 4, to play the violin and insisted on it for 6 months until we relented. I never made her practice, she carried that first mini-violin around the house and slept with it. In fact, I often secretly wished she would quit and save me the expense of the lessons. Perhaps it is my fault that she is not better, because I didn’t discipline her more. But I am also her biggest audience; she didn’t really practice much over the years, she plays little concerts for me every day.

    She was so cute, but she did not show much talent at first. The local Baptist church, where her first lessons were given, made an 8 foot tall oil painting of her for the entry hall into their music building. At that point she looked far better than she sounded. We stumbled onto the Suzuki method, which I highly recommend, and it took her more than a year to go through each book. Her first solo performances were simple hymns played in church and at her friends’ baptismal services. Eventually, she started doing well on auditions and she amazed me time and again and got into increasingly competitive orchestras and positions. She loves to perform and has been concert master in her high school and in the county youth orchestra.

    The Symphomy Orchestra in this city has a youth division that draws top talent from four states. My daughter made it into this orchestra twice. Don’t tell anyone but on this the third year, she sort of layed a rotten egg at the audition and only made it as an alternate. (She was eventually selected as a full member when another more talented girl quit because her chair assignment wasn’t on the front row). It seemed like the end of the world, the tears and bitter despair. I wondered if that amount of disappointment and pain was worth it. She got more serious about correcting some of her weaknesses and is a better musician for it. She is also not nearly as confident as she used to be.

    At this point of high school graduation, she is probably among the top 20 violinists in high school in the state, but definitely not among the top 10. The very top musicians are practicing about 10-15 hours a day and driving themselves crazy. They are home schooled or else severely compromise their academic development. My daughter practices about 10-15 hours a week and it shows. This music scholarship was turned down by at least two of her more dedicated friends (that she knows about) for rather ridiculous reasons and she is so blessed to receive it.

    She wants to double major in Mathematics and Music, because she understands that since financial independence is one of her goals for a college education, music alone will not do that for her. Even at the very highest level, the professional music career is very risky and unstable. Unless you teach in the public schools and there you need more to know how to handle teenagers and you don’t have to be able to play very well at all. Cat herding might be a better major for that.

    Some warnings:
    I have known of teenagers attempting suicide when they failed to be selected after an audition. I know of parents who beat their children over music and have driven them far away emotionally because they did not meet their expectations. Almost all of the high school students performing at the very top level in this state are friends of my daughter and they are not living emotionally very healthy lives. One of her friends, likely the best in the state, won first place in a competition, and played an amazing solo piece flawlessly in Symphomy Hall to a packed audience. Then she went back stage and threw up for an hour and had a nervous melt-down that lasted a couple days. This, the result of good parenting?

    Music is the sort of thing that once you are hooked, you will either eventually fail at it miserably or it will completely consume you. So be careful parents and keep a mature perspective.

  6. As an occasional piano teacher, I agree with Mikhail’s first point: never forget that music is fun. I mostly teach young kids (surprise! who else would be taking lessons?), and one of my goals with every lesson is that at least part of it is fun. The other goal I have is to teach them that they can do hard things. Learning new concepts and new songs can often be hard. Whenever I get that complaint, I just tell them, “That’s okay that it’s hard, because you can do hard things.” Once I get them to buy into that concept, their self-confidence grows as fast as their competence–sometimes even faster.

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