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Overcoming Obstacles – How to Nudge Children When They are Resistant

January 6, 2012

Matt at Keys for Kids Music FoundationPraise, not punishment

Kids will push back if you try to force music on them. But they’re encouraged when you praise their successes both little and big, whether they’ve conquered a tricky passage while practicing or they’ve drawn applause at a recital. Depending on age and temperament, some other forms of rewards may work, including “star charts” and healthy snacks.

Practice made possible

Find the right time for regular practice sessions during the week and on weekends. If it’s right after school and before homework, it might seem like a good break from academic matters. For very young and beginning students, you may want to break practice up into several short sessions, interspersed with other activity. If they can avoid hypercriticism and can manifest helpful encouragement, parents, particularly those with know-how, may want to be present during practice.

Choose the instrument and repertoire that fit

One mom, who’d switched from piano to flute as a child, found her son switching from piano to trumpet, and both were thus able to sustain their interest in music. Another mom, though pursuing a career as a classical pianist, supported her son’s inclination towards rock drumming. Aside from what you want, get some recordings and music books that they want. Kids’ motivation is magnified when they can practice and perform what they like, and exploration is vital to their development.

Reach out towards role models

The Bay Area is a paradigm showplace for a magnificent variety of musical genres, where your kids can discover, in your company, what kind of music they’d like to make. Seek out smaller venues and special events where the kids can get to actually meet the performers and talk with them about following in their footsteps.

It takes a family, and a village

Not all families are musical, but most can be, and singing and playing can foster togetherness, even when not every parent or child is equally gifted or motivated. This spirit can expand outside the house to sharing music with community groups and friends inside and outside of school. Encourage your kids’ participation in sing-a-longs, garage bands, and informal sessions of playing and listening, which can be at least as much fun as sports.

Jeff Kaliss has featured and reviewed classical, jazz, rock, and world musics and other entertainment for the San Francisco Chronicle and a host of other regional, national, international, and web-based publications. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, and is the author of I Want to Take You Higher: The Life and Times of Sly & the Family Stone (Backbeat Books) and numerous textbook and encyclopedia entries, album liner notes, and festival program notes.