Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Being a Teacher and a Parent

I recently started teaching my daughter violin lessons. She is now three years old, and my mother got her a violin for her birthday. While I have taught music to children her age before (I some Suzuki teacher training on violin), this is the first time that I've been a parent. It's been a fun and rewarding journey so far, and I'm looking forward to seeing how my sweet baby progresses. However, being a parent, not just a teacher, has definitely given me a fresh perspective on learning music at a young age.

Daily Practice Is Tough

Like all teachers, I've encouraged my students to practice every day, if possible. After all, regular practice is necessary to develop any skill. For young children, I've helped parents learn how to practice with their children, since kids under six or so are really too young to practice independently. But, like many teachers I know, I hear "we didn't have time to practice this week" over and over again. As a parent with a child who's learning music, I'm more sympathetic than I used to be. Establishing a practice routine is tough. My daughter likes her violin, but she also wants to color, play with play-doh, and watch endless amounts of "My Little Pony." When I first started working with her, it took plenty of chocolate to get her to practice! 

A Routine Helps!

While at first I relied on chocolate to convince my daughter to practice, as we developed a routine and she felt more comfortable with her instrument, she's seemed more excited and interested (we're down to only needing about three M&M's per practice:). Now, violin has become a regular and predictable part of her day. It helps that daily practice also makes her sound better! It's important for any parent to remember that starting a new activity always takes a little bit of time--everything feels new and confusing, it can be a bit overwhelming. But with slow, steady effort and a little bit of fun and encouragement (chocolate!), it gets much easier very quickly.

Embrace Short Attention Spans

Too many parents bemoan their children's short attention spans, without realizing that it's developmentally normal and appropriate for young children to have them! So instead of fighting a child's natural development, go with it. I keep practice sessions short (fifteen minutes or less), and focus on doing a wide variety of different activities to keep my daughter from getting bored with doing one thing over and over. Often, this amounts to switching between bowing exercises and left-hand exercises, with a little bit of singing and listening practice thrown in. If my daughter gets tired or distracted, we're done. It's less important to have long practice sessions (especially at young ages, when children get tired and bored easily), than it is to have regular practice sessions. 

Overall, I've loved sharing music with my little girl, and I hope that it will become something special that we can do together. There's lot of evidence that musical training helps children's brain development, but when it's done correctly, I think it can be a beautiful, enjoyable family activity as well.



  1. Wow. What a gift to give your daughter. I wish I were able to do the same for my son but I am hoping to buy a second hand piano for him. I used to nanny for a family where they all played piano and either cello or violin. The elder two practiced independently but getting the younger two to practice at times, was really hard work. They have all grown to be very talented musicians though. Thanks for joining the #weekendblogshare

    1. Thank you! It's been a little over a month now, and I've been so happy to see her progress. Piano is a beautiful instrument, and I'm sure your son would love it! I just try to keep it practicing stress free, and already my daughter has started enjoying her practice more.

  2. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to encourage a child so young to practice! I guess that over time, once a child has mastered the basics, they'll perhaps be more keen to practice as they'll understand that it leads somewhere. It's great that you can pass this skill on to your daughter and that you're both learning from the process :) #weekendblogshare

    1. Thank you! It is hard to get them to practice, especially at first, but after a while they seem to enjoy it!