Parent's Role in a Child's Success

An excellent analogy of the role parents have in their child's progress is to imagine a motor boat. The teacher is at the front, steering the boat. The child is in the boat. The parent is at the rear of the boat moving it forward.  

Yes, you are that important parents!  Your involvement in home practise is crucial, especially for young students' progress. 

Advice from Leona's Piano Studio 

  • Parents will need to help their child work out a daily practise schedule and remind them to stick to it. Less than 15% of children are self-motivated to practise, so be prepared: motivating your child to practise daily is likely the most challenging issue you will deal with. Practising at the same time each day is strongly encouraged. (some parents set an alarm as a reminder) 

  • You will find there are many tips on the internet to help encourage a child with their daily practise. Some of the information strongly suggests leaving practising to the student, rather than helping them structure their practise sessions. I do not agree with this advice. Children need help disciplining themselves to practise, just as many adults need to provide accountability in the work force. Practising can be hard work, and it can take months to prepare a piece for competitions or exams! 90% of parents need to stay involved in monitoring practise sessions in order to maximize their investment in piano lessons. I believe that eliminating 'screen time' until lessons have been practised could be your best motivator.  

  • If you really want your child to be successful in music, please do not overschedule him or her. I believe that children lack the life experience necessary to make wise decisions such as this on their own.  Help narrow down the options. It may help to think ahead twenty years; what skills will be most important for your child to have developed as a child? Many skills  can be developed later as adults. It has been scientifically proven that the study of music helps to develop the brain. Therefore, it is vitally important to study music as a young person. Even as adults, balancing what we can handle can be difficult! Once  your child is overscheduled, music will become just one more chore and here will be little time or energy for practicing.

  • Practising in the early morning is very helpful. If a child can do half of their practising before school, they  more apt to be willing to finish the practising after school.   

  • Children often find the first day of practising after their lesson difficult as they are beginning new material. Encourage them that pieces become easier as the week goes by. 

  • IF you hear your child playing entire pieces through with mistakes in the same places each time, they are simply wasting time and 'ironing in' the mistakes. Authorities on practising recommend learning a piece in 'chunks'; practise two or three bars at a time, repeating the Left Hand 5 times, repeating the Right Hand 5 times, then playing Hands Together 8 times. Next, they can move on to the following two bars. Your child will need to be encouraged to practise in 'CHUNKS', as students prefer to just play their pieces through from beginning to end. This can actually be the worst way to practise! 

  • Children must count out loud as they play. This is a skill to be learned, and most children object to this and will say it is too difficult or it mixes them up. Do persevere in encouraging them! Once the rhythm of a piece is mastered, then they no longer need to count out loud. This skill is so important that it is an essential skill of belonging to this studio! 

  • Most of the time a child is practising, especially after the first year or two, they should be using a metronome. If you do not hear the metronome, please encourage them to use it. This again is a skill to be learned! Practising without the metronome can lead to many problems that are very hard to correct! 

  • The more you can sit in the room with your child as they practise the better they should progress. This is especially true of the beginning student. Young children will need your help in understanding their homework instructions for the week. Once a student becomes self-directed, even sitting in for five minutes can be encouraging for a child. It shows you value what they are doing. Try to only offer praise at these times, not criticism.  

  • During lessons, parents are advised to sit in the waiting room with the door open to the studio so that they can overhear what is being said. This gives a good indication of how well their child's lesson material has been prepared. 

  • Check your child's homework page at the end of each lesson. Look for any reminders or emphatic notes the teacher has written. 

Philip A. Johnston in his book The Practice Revolution also stresses the parent's role. He states that the single most important thing you can do is to be 'over the top' genuinely interested in what they are doing. Children love to be the center of attention, and this is a way of letting them know that you are excited about what they are learning. Be sure to ask right after the lesson how things went, look in their notebook to see what the teacher has written, and have conversations about their music any time of the day - be interested in how they are progressing. 

His second point is to encourage them. If you hear them playing something extra well, stop and encourage them! Also, if they are frustrated, try to help them persevere through the time that they feel that way. 

Thirdly, he advises to help your child reflect on what happened at the lesson. By asking them questions, you are helping to cement what really did go on at the lesson and what their new goals are . 

His next advice is to steer them in their practising. If they are repeating something they already know well, suggest they work on another area that is not as strong! 

Next, he advises parents to be enthusiastic about what they are playing and about their progress!  

His sixth point is to make practise charts. Check half way through the week to see how they are doing at achieving their goals! If they are having trouble, you can suggest they contact their teacher to get clarification on what was intended.  

Another source, the Alfred's Premier Course "At Home Book" makes suggestions such as the following: 

  • take your child to musical events such as recitals, concerts and musicals 
  • play music in the home, using recordings and videos 
  • accept the fact that they practise for a variety of reasons, including rewards and consequences. You might want to limit play or screen time until the practising is done 
  • help them understand that practising is a discipline that develops other life skills such as concentration, diligence and perseverance 
  • most important is to help them practise regularly, preferably at the same time each day 
  • give rewards for hard work - incentives help all of us 
  • treat performances as a time to share and celebrate 
  • practise performing at home while videoing or audio taping their performance 
  • encourage them to perform for family, friends, and at school or church 
  • praise them after their performance