Time to quit? I can’t take the fight anymore

Yesterday I had one of those very uncomfortable situations where my group class of five-year-old children were sitting in the waiting room when one boy shouts out “I hate music, I want to quit’.  Suddenly his mom turns to one of the other moms in the class and says ‘see, I told you, this is what I have to put up with every week’.  Now I must say the boy is doing great, he is playing well, he understands the material, he comes prepared and he is certainly improving every week. When I finished the class and went home where I found my 14-year-old son sitting in front of the T.V. playing video games.  “Have you finished your homework?” I asked.  “No, I hate homework and I hate school.”

Music is not for everyone, I know that… Music is not easy, I know that too, but I also know that this mom will eventually give in and let her son quit lessons.  I have seen that look of despair on parents face enough times to know that the fight they go through every week is wearing on them and it is only a matter of time before the child wins.  50% of students stop taking music lessons within the first year, and by the end of the second year only 20% of students will continue with their music classes,

I hate to say it but when asked I tell parents it will take five years for a student to develop the habits of good practice, the commitment and the daily routine for music to be fun and part of their daily lives. I can hear the screams now “five years, are you serious?” Obviously, every child is different and students of different ages will advance and mature at different rates but I can say almost unequivocally the first two years are the hardest for everyone.

I would like to believe that as we raise our children they will begin to see and understand the value of the activities they participate in.  I would like to believe that the daily arguments and fights over the most mundane of activities will eventually just go away.  All my children are older but even to this day, I fight with them to get their homework done, clean their room, brush their teeth and go to school.  Often I feel like I am the only parent who goes through this but I believe this is very common.  

Any skill that we want to master will take time, take dedication and take considerable effort.  This is true for students of any age and goals of any size.  Just ask anyone with a new years resolution to drop a few pounds… It’s hard, really hard.  The one thing we know is that it takes time to achieve our goals, time to find the joy and the satisfaction in the work and time to form the habit.  We live in a society of distraction and deflection and kids are very easily influenced by the mechanics of our society. Life is challenging and music lessons can be hard, I just ask that you don’t let your kids quit too soon.

Talk to your teacher about things that we can all do to make the classes more fun, help get your child engaged and reduce the amount of pushback you get from your children.  Also, talk to your children so they understand that they are making a commitment of time. Give them an endpoint when you will re-evaluate and they will have the choice to continue or drop out but not sooner.  If the commitment is open-ended they will push back every time there is something more fun to do.  There is always something more fun to do.

As teachers and administrators, we have suggestions and strategies to help you get through the first few years.  Programs exist that can help encourage and motivate your child and instill habits for success.  What I would ask any parent is start with a true commitment, one year or better yet two years before you re-evaluate.  I am sure you will experience times when it is a struggle and times when it is a challenge but does get easier.  The rewards and benefits of a formal music education or unmeasurable but it does take time and just like homework or brushing their teeth sometimes we need to prepare for a little pushback.

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