1. Encourage daily practicing. Short but productive practice sessions are more effective than occasional long practice sessions that will feel like a chore. Regular practicing is an important habit to develop in students of all levels and ages. Recognize your child’s attention span and figure out the length of practicing that suits their needs.
2. Support your child when they are struggling and want to give up. If you ask any musician, most of them will tell you that they have considered quitting at one point, but with persistence, they were able to overcome the challenges in order to continue to enjoy music. Understand that there will be some difficulties in everyone’s learning, and that does not mean that they will not enjoy playing piano anymore. This will help your child develop a good work ethic in other parts of their life as well.
3. Communicate with your child and their teacher. Ask your teacher what the student needs to work on, and ask your child if they have been working on it at home. However, give your child space when they are practicing, so they don’t feel nervous from being constantly critiqued. Behind every successful student is supportive parents and a good teacher.
4. Encourage goal setting. Exams are not for everybody, but they are a good way to set a goal for the year, or semester. Most children who follow the Royal Conservatory of Music will complete a level every year, which includes meeting requirements in: playing a selection of pieces, technical exercises, sight-reading, theory, ear-training, and more. The completion of these exams not only allows the students to feel more confident in their performing skills, but also get some high school credits (depending on where you live) once they achieve certain levels. These achievements also look great on their resume if they choose to apply for colleges or universities after high school, regardless of whether they choose music or not.
5. Let them perform. Along with exams, performances are a great way to set goals, and in many cases, the main reason we learn to play music – to share the beauty of music with others. Performing is stressful for some, fun for others, and for many, including myself, it is both. However, performing frequently not only tests you in seeing how well you know your pieces under pressure, it also helps you gain confidence. The exciting part about performing is that, when prepared, it shows off all the hard work you put in preparing yourself, and you get to enjoy the music without any limitations. Many teachers organize performances for their students, or send them to competitions. You can also encourage your child to audition for their school’s talent shows, and practice performing for family friends.
6. Understand that talent is developed, not something you’re born with. There are a lot of natural aspects to one’s success in music, including your hand shape/size, how fast you learn, the way you learn, among other factors. However, there are no professional pianists who have not practiced for years to achieve what they can do. There are prodigies who are able to play advanced repertoire at a young age, but these children were all encouraged to practice long hours by their parents in order to get where they are. As a parent, it is important to understand that your child’s playing may not sound amazing as soon as they start lessons, and that does not mean that they have no talent and should give up.
There are many other ways that you can support your child in their learning, but most importantly, do your best to help your child establish good work ethic and enjoy a positive learning experience.