Are We Having Fun Yet?
Have you considered how freely we use the word “fun”? We will say it’s fun to go to a movie, or get ice cream or go on a hike. But we will also use the word fun to describe some activities that have many parts to them that by themselves, we would not ordinarily call “fun”. Take my husband’s interest in golfing, for instance. He is willing to get up at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, drive for 45 min., sometimes in the fog, lug around a heavy bag full of bulky things, trying to hit a little ball into a small hole. He calls this “fun!”
Now what does all of this have to do with learning to play the piano? Sometimes we parents want things like studying the piano to be fun for our kids. And it should be. But may I suggest that not every moment of the experience will be “fun.” Students need help in recognizing more subtle experiences of fun. Their awareness can to brought to notice moments of deep satisfaction; feelings of success; sense of elation when emotions are connected to the music. But in order to have that kind of fun, it often requires doing things that won’t necessarily feel fun, at that moment. Sometimes I think we miss the little moments of success in the daily process of practicing whatever we’re trying to learn. This is a concept I am communicating to the students when I see them at their lessons. I want them to notice the small successes and to experience the fun that comes with improvement.
So how can you help your child to tolerate the harder parts of piano study in order to experience the “fun”? You can help by reinforcing the small improvements you hear at home. Piano practicing can be lonely, and I would encourage you to sit and listen to your child play for about 5 min. at least twice a week. (With older students- middle school and above- ask them when a good time would be to come and listen.) This is not with the purpose of instructing or pointing out anything negative, but just to be with them and really listen. That can feel very encouraging and helps with the loneliness. I am convinced that it is the friend aspect that makes sports so popular. When you think about it, there are many parts to sports that most kids would not call “fun”, but they are with friends and they have the support and connection that comes with other people doing something with them. That is hard to duplicate with the study of a musical instrument, (which is one reason why I have group lessons) but you can also help by your interest and presence during practicing.