As a teacher, it breaks my heart when I lose a student who I know has the ability to be a great guitar player but for some reason doesn’t want to continue with lessons.
Well, before we get to the REAL reason why students quit lessons, let’s first paint the picture….
Sarah had been sitting with her daughter Alice for an hour trying to get her to practice. What would normally only take 20 minutes is now taking up most of their evening.
Every time Alice hits a wrong note the guitar goes down and the more angry she gets. This has been happening more and more lately, Alice just doesn’t want to practice. She loves her guitar lessons and always comes out of her lessons happy and motivated but at home she just does not want to pick up the guitar.
After a week of the same battle every night Sarah reasons that Alice does not want to learn to play the guitar anymore and for some reason has lost the passion to play the instrument. When she asks Alice if she would like to take a break Alice says yes and Sarah is relieved, she does not want to force Alice to do something she does not want to do and she does not want to end up with Alice hating the guitar, music or her mum for making her do it in the first place.
Sarah tells Alice that they will take a break from lessons and if she wants to pick the guitar up in the mean time fantastic, but they agree to leave it a few months and see how she feels then.
The above story is so commonly played out that sometimes I feel like Bill Murray in the film Groundhog Day! I to use to think like Sarah and shrug it off when I would get the ‘he/she doesn’t want to play guitar anymore’ phone call and put it down to the fact that someone had stolen that poor child’s passion.
I have since realised that there is something else at play here that explains why children give up at things they used to love for no apparent reason other than they have lost the passion and that one thing is:
As parents I think we sometimes forget just how fragile confidence can be so often look passed it as the source of the problem.
When a child says “I don’t want to practice” what they are really saying is “I can’t do it”. It is easier for them to withdraw than it is to face the fact that they can’t do it now but through perseverance they will be able to do it later.
So how do you get your child thinking they can do it?
Here are my top ten tips for building confidence in your child when practicing:
- Be your child’s biggest cheerleader, encouraging them every step of the way.
- Remind your child that they can play guitar by having them do something they can already do. This could be a song they learned some time ago or something as simple as naming the six guitar strings.
- Praise effort more than the result. We want our children to know that true achievement comes on the other side of practice, perseverance and patience.
- Set realistic goals so your child has a purpose and knows where they are heading.
- Create a series of milestones with rewards to help keep your child focused and moving forward.
- Allow your child to have some choice in their practice sessions as this will help to empower them. Autonomy has been found to be a big factor when it comes to motivation.
- Normalise mistakes and let your child know they have to get it wrong to know how to get it right.
- Break activities down into baby steps. If you are practicing a scale rather than present all the notes at once take each note one at a time, then each string and slowly bring it all together.
- Use descriptive praise to help boost your child’s self-esteem e.g. “because you took your time and didn’t rush all those notes sounded nice and clear”
- Be consistent with practice. The main confidence killer is being inconsistent with practice. The result of inconsistent practice is your child feels they are moving too slow and get fed up or they start to feel like they are going backward as they are not retaining what they previously learned.
So next time your child wants to quit guitar lessons or any activity for that matter rather than throwing in the towel, dig a little deeper and try some of the tips above. You will get them back on track in no time.
When looking back over my childhood I went through loads of hobbies and in retrospect I can see that lack of confidence was the reason for me quitting each time. Isn’t hindsight a great thing!
How do you keep your child moving forward and motivated? Leave a comment below, I would love to know.