Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Non-Musical Parents Supporting Musical Kids

by Betty Galvan

Introducing music or a musical instrument to our children is one of the greatest gifts we can give as parents. Listening and concentration skills are strengthened in our kids when they learn to play. It also promotes discipline, structure, time management, and increases memory, math and reading skills. We all know every child can benefit, but what happens when we, the parents, don't know how to play?  

When our oldest son expressed an interest in playing piano at the age of five, we knew that although he was young, he could probably start. My husband and I were hesitant, not because we thought it would be a passing phase of interest in our child, but because he and I don't even know how to read music, let alone play an actual instrument. 

Like any activity we sign up for, we talked to Diego and reminded him of the rule we have always had in place when starting something new-we start and we don't quit. After the assigned dates are completed, we can then talk about his decision to continue or not. Jose and I knew that piano was going to be challenging...for us! There had to be a way for us to help Diego even though we were completely unaware of the process. We knew that the benefits outweighed our personal hesitation. So we all gave it a go! 

We had to make sure that like any activity or sport we had to follow these guidelines as a family to support Diego with piano playing:  

Make practicing part of the routine. We have added piano practice to our after-school schedule. Right after homework, dinner and bath, piano is scheduled right in there as well.  

Keep constant communication with teacher. If possible, be there for drop-off and pick-up. Seeing the teacher once a week, even for a few minutes, gives us the opportunity to touch base. Diego also carries a special notebook to class and back home so his teacher and I can send each other notes.  

Help practice when possible. We can do musical note flash cards together. I quiz Diego and it is like a game to him. I also sit with him or near him when he plays. His brothers are around to benefit from listening and watching, and Diego doesn't feel isolated. 

Reinforce music as much as possible. Find music to play that isolates your child's instrument of choice. And take the time to point out when you see someone playing live (the organ player at church, the guitar player on the subway, and the mariachi band at the wedding). 

Listen. Be available when your child should be practicing. We don't know all the songs but once in a while you'll recognize a tune even though you didn't know the name of the song! The more your child plays, the more you'll recognize mistakes. It's hilarious when Diego is surprised that I caught a mistake! 

Allow for free play. Every so often Diego just wants to "mess around" on his keyboard. Why not? Practicing doesn't have to be so structured. Who knows? You might have a little composer in your home.  

Be supportive. There will be tears (and I'm not talking about them being induced by "tiger mom" behavior)! There will be times when playing an instrument is frustrating. We take a deep breath, a break, a snack and we resume or not. We always make sure to make a note for his teacher if something is too difficult. I can't help-but she will!! 

Enjoy! First and foremost, kids should have fun with any activity they pick up. And the earlier you expose them to extracurricular activities, the easier it will be to find out what they love - or don’t love.  

Good luck!  


Betty Galvan, is helping her readers "find the positive and seek the benefits" over at her blog,

She is the mother of three beautiful little boys and a teacher.



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