So Your Child Wants to Quit Piano?

I belong to a large community of Piano Teachers. Recently, one of them shared something that received a HUGE community response. 

They said: "I'm so glad my parents wouldn't let me quit piano."

A PIANO TEACHER SAID, "I'm so glad my parents wouldn't let me quit piano."

And they were quickly echoed by a bunch of other piano teachers: "Amen! Me, too!"

These people have made a career out of teaching music, performing, composing, accompanying, etc. And yet a bunch of them wanted to quit music lessons when they were young!

(I've included the original post and comments at the end of this blog post if you want to read them.)

Quitting is Easy

Think about your life as an adult. Imagine you just worked for 8 hours, the commute home was 2 hours, and now it's time for dinner. You have 3 kids running around and you're exhausted just looking at them. Are you going to cook a 3-course dinner or order take-out? 

Even if you decide to cook, you're still probably leaning toward the take-out/microwave dish/mac-n-cheese/5-ingredients-or-less-with-bagged-side-salad dinner menu. It's just easier.

When faced with something hard or something easy, most of us will usually pick the easy (or easier) option. But think about how you feel when you take on a challenge. It may be hard, but the experience is so much more satisfying and fulfilling!

Sticking It Out

Is it a challenge to get your child to practice? When your child's lesson day rolls around, do you realize you haven't heard the piano all week? Does your child tell you they'd rather play video games than practice piano? How often do you insist on practicing vs. giving into their whims?

On the other side, how does your child feel when they finally "get" it? How do you feel when something they used cry over because it was "so hard" is now something they roll their eyes at because it's "so easy"? Once they've practiced a piece until it becomes easy, you're probably faced with a new struggle -- getting them to stop!

Too many parents assume that if a child wants to learn music, they'll be motivated to practice on their own. THIS IS NOT THE CASE for most children. They need to be guided and encouraged, and told to "stick it out" when things get tough -- which they will. If playing piano was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Your Parental Influence

As a parent it is crucial that you help your child through every step of their journey. Your child's time with their music teacher constitutes a tiny portion of their week compared to their time with you:

Assuming a child is in school for 6.5 hours/day on weekdays and sleeps 9 hours/night, there are 8.5 available hours every weekday and 15 hours every Sat/Sun. This leaves a total of 72.5 hours/week for meals, hygiene, homework, other extracurricular activities, chores, personal play, social, family time, travel, etc...and Piano. 

Of these 72.5 hours, they are with me for 30 minutes. This comes out to only 0.69% of the total time outside school/sleep! Even if they take 60-min lessons, it's only 1.4% of the total time. I can encourage them and inspire them and provide exciting educational music to learn, but my time with them is limited. I only get 1% of their time outside school/sleep each week.

Parents have the remaining 99% of influence over their children's schedule. You have a lifetime of experience and a greater perspective of what hard work means than your child who has lived only 5-18 years. You make them brush their teeth and shower and do their homework because you want them to develop good hygiene habits and get a good education for their future.

Why do so many parents let music fall by the wayside when studies show music is just as important for child development as other educational subjects?

It's true that some students may never develop a passion for music. If piano lessons are a significant source of strife in your home, you have to make a decision for what's best for your child. That might mean letting them stop, or take a break for a few months. Or it might mean letting them struggle through it (and cheerfully listening to some rough practice sessions!).

Just don't let their limited life experience and perspectives convince you they know better. Even the most brilliant young person still needs parental guidance, and you have a better vision of their potential than they do.

Not every music student will turn piano lessons into a career, but every single student can be enriched by the experience. No parent wants to hear their adult child say, "I wish you hadn't let me quit," yet as a teacher I hear this all the time!! Give them that opportunity.

Your child may want to quit piano someday, but I hope you will encourage them to stick it out. Today they may think you're the "meanest mom ever", but you can probably bet they'll thank you for it later. 

Nova Charle (Piano Teacher):

“Last night, while playing Crazy For You with [my city musical theater], something occurred to me. As I was listening to the beauty of one of my favorite composers, Gershwin, I thought about how lucky I am to be able to play in this group. And how, if I had had my way when I was 8-9 years old, I wouldn’t be playing this music right now.

“Because when I was that age, I wanted to quit piano. I hated the amount of work it took to be able to play well. I screamed and I cried and I called my mom all kinds of horrible names for making me do something so horrible as take piano lessons. If she had given in because she was tired of fighting with me, I wouldn’t be here right now.

“I wonder how many other people would be playing in all the places I play if THEIR parents hadn’t let them quit. I meet people every day who tell me they regret quitting piano. Their mom got tired of fighting with them. They wish she hadn’t. And yet the cycle continues with my students. It’s just sad.

“By playing piano I can make [pretty good money teaching, playing for church services/funerals, weddings, accompanying choirs, shows, and more.] I’m not rich and never will be, but it sure beats working in a cubicle or a store for minimum wage. And I wouldn’t have this honor and privilege if my mom hadn’t been so MEAN!!!!!!

Sometimes things are hard. Sometimes they are frustrating. But anything worth doing IS hard and frustrating. That’s how you grow. I’m just so grateful I didn’t get my way.”

Some of the Comments from Other Piano Teachers:

Yep. My dad didn't let me quit. Definitely grateful!!

My parents didn't let me quit either. I'm so grateful because that's how I found my true passion for music, being made to continue to do it.

Preach it, Sista!!

Amen.

Thank you so much for sharing this!!

My parents said my sisters and I didn’t have to take piano but if we did, it was a 10 yr. commitment. What does a 5 yr old know about what 10 yrs feels like?? Lol! Glad I was naive and said yes.

Wish I could print this out and put on my studio wall!!

I’m SO thankful my mom was mean and made me practice!

Me too! Mine went so far as to have a conspiracy between my first teacher and my next teacher and my mom so that I wouldn’t quit. It was 4th grade. I didn’t know about that until I got to college! Oh, I hate to think what life would be like if they hadn’t come up with that idea to keep me playing!

I am glad I didn't get my way too. Wanted to stop too but now work as a pianist and piano teacher!

Letting a child quit because it’s getting hard is sending the wrong message. It should be good things come from hard work. No, you may not quit.

Bri

From toddler tinkering at the keys to university music student and beyond, Brianne's whole life has revolved around music lessons, competitions, performances, and more. Now she is professionally involved in teaching, composing, orchestrating, and performing in a variety of contexts. Bri's desire is to help individuals of all ages come to enjoy the beautiful and fun nature of creating music through developing their musical talents.

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