A post for parents: Quitting … before you quit, here are some things to think about

Amongst children and teenagers, wanting to quit is not uncommon. This is not something exclusive to piano. It happens to students of other instruments, interests and sports. Having said that, I recently read a dissertation on perceptions of practice from young piano students… and apparently the music lesson cessation rate is the highest amongst those who play the piano!

Some parents are very okay with quitting. If the child decides to quit the piano, then in the eyes of the parent, that’s their child’s decision and that’s going to happen. Other parents do not want their children to quit until they reach a certain age or level because they believe that their children have invested so much into music lessons, to quit would be a waste of money and effort. Besides this, such parents believe that when the children grow up and become adults, they might regret quitting. There is a counter argument to this: – some adults who were forced to continue hate the piano, by the time they reach adulthood they close the lid and never touch the instrument again!

So where does one find a balance? When is quitting a good idea?

I think the more important question that needs to be asked is: why does my child want to quit playing the instrument. It would be a good idea to ask other questions surrounding this:

–          Is it time to find a new teacher – does this teacher work with my son or daughter? Does my son or daughter get along with the teacher? Is my son or daughter learning anything of value from the teacher? What is happening in lessons? How does the teacher teach? Perhaps the teacher only specialises in an area that does not suit my son or daughter… or maybe my son or daughter has outgrown the teacher?

–          Is my child playing the right instrument? Maybe s/he would prefer to play oboe or bassoon, or percussion, or violin, or harp.

–          Does my child want to quit because s/he feels that their progress has hit a plateau? Or are music lessons the same old thing for them, without variety, maybe they have been doing exams for too long… maybe it’s time to not do exams.

–          Is my child practicing? Is my child practicing effectively? Does my child hate practice so much that s/he’d rather stick pins in his/her eyes than practice?

–          Why is my child taking music lessons? Whose idea was it in the first place?

It’s normal to lose interest any instrument, sport or hobby. If the line “I want to quit piano” happens occasionally and sporadically I don’t think that is really much cause for concern. In my opinion, if you’re a parent and the line “I want to quit comes up,” comes up several times that it starts to become a problem, the best thing to do if is to sit down and talk to your child and ask these kinds of questions.  Why do you want to quit? Do you like your teacher? Do you like your lessons? Would you like to study with another teacher? Would you prefer to play a different instrument? Do you want to quit because you find that piano is the same old boring routine that you want to get out of? Are you more interested in dancing or soccer that you’d rather devote more of your time to that activity? How badly do you want to quit? Those kinds of questions should lead to some insight on the child’s part.

Then talk to the teacher. In my experience as a teacher, when it comes to dealing with parents, I’m always very open an honest about these matters – I don’t sugar-coat the truth with lies on progress and performance. I tell the truth, not brutally, just honestly.  To me, my best interest is in the student, not me, not my reputation, not my pay cheque. If the student should be on another instrument or with another teacher, I will be very honest about it and even suggest it. Also sit in and observe a lesson so that you can see for yourself what is going on.  This should give you some more perspective.

90% of the time, when it comes to children and music making – wanting to quit really translates to: a time to re-evaluate things.

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