Why My Kids Aren’t Allowed to Quit Piano but Maybe Yours Can

Why My Kids Aren't Allowed to Quit Piano but Maybe Yours Can - Coming from a mother who is also a piano teacher, this article has great perspective! PlanForAwesome
  • Disclaimer #1: I am a piano teacher.
  • Disclaimer #2: To quote my kids, I am “the worst mom ever.”
  • Disclaimer #3: These opinions are mine and mine alone. What is right for one family isn’t necessarily right for another.

A little background…I was a perfect child. I think it’s best to just get that out in the open right now instead of beating around the bush. I was the kid who left love notes on everyone’s pillows, was labeled the peacemaker of the family, and have been nicknamed by my family as “burnt cookie girl,” because I would always take the burnt cookies; not because I liked them, but because I wanted to save the good ones for everyone else. I was a total nerd and loved reading, homework, and doing workbooks. There was just something about the feel of a freshly sharpened pencil writing on a fresh piece of clean, white binder paper. I asked for office supplies for my birthday, and saved my money like a pro.

Like I said, perfect child.

I was unusually responsible for my age and always mindful of how my decisions and requests would impact our family dynamics. Being the youngest of 4 kids, I had the advantage of observing my older siblings. I witnessed them asking for things and then I waited and paid close attention to my parents’ reactions.

I was under the impression that we were totally poor. My dad was (and is) a total tightwad. And that’s putting it lightly. So I was terrified and equally guilt-ridden whenever I considered asking for anything that would cost money.

When I was 8 years old, I finally mustered up the courage to ask my parents if they would pay for me to take piano lessons. It took a lot of guts since I knew piano lessons weren’t cheap, and since I was certain we were on the verge of living on the streets. But I wanted it SO BAD.

And since I had absolutely zero athletic ability, I didn’t need to worry about wanting to ask them if I could play a sport any time soon. So piano seemed like a good compromise.

To my pleasant surprise, they said yes! I was determined to see it through and not waste one penny of my parents’ money.

And, being the perfect child that I was, I practiced every day without arguing, urging, or fighting. My parents were practically handed their investment on a silver platter when just a few years later, I quit taking lessons and played for sheer enjoyment. Can you imagine? A kid playing the piano because she actually LIKED it!

Why My Kids Aren't Allowed to Quit Piano but Maybe Yours Can - Coming from a mother who is also a piano teacher, this article has great perspective! -PlanForAwesome

Now we exit my childhood fairytale and enter the real world of my life as a parent. My kids hate the piano. They hate me for making them play. They hate me for making them practice. They hate that I am a piano teacher. They hate everything about it. We fight about it daily. But they still do it.

And here’s why…

It keeps them busy.

I require very little of my kids on a daily basis, all things considered. If a kid age 0-8 has enough free time to be on screens for the national average of 2 hours and 19 minutes per day (source), then they certainly have 10 or 20 minutes to dedicate to practicing the piano.

During certain sports seasons for certain kids, I ease up on them. I am not going to have them sacrifice sleep just to get in their piano practice that day.

Depending on the day of the week, it’s hard enough to figure out when to fit in eating dinner, let alone things like piano practice. So those days it’s a given; no piano required. And now that some of my kids are getting older, I find that the younger kids practice more days each week than the older ones. That’s natural. All the more reason to not let the little kids slack.

To be honest, my 11 and 12-year-olds haven’t progressed much in the world of piano for the past 3ish years. They still play new songs. But they just don’t practice frequently enough and intensely enough to be progressing like they used to. And I am okay with that. They are both heavily involved in sports and church activities, and I am happy as long as they are at least in a holding-pattern with piano so they don’t lose what they have. But they wouldn’t have skills to maintain if I hadn’t made them practice when they were little.

My 6 and 8-year-old have plenty of time to practice almost every day of the week. It’s 20 minutes out of 1,440 minutes in a day.  
They can handle it. So…it is expected.

It teaches them delayed  gratification.

So many things in this world are about instant gratification. Learning to play the piano is not one of those things.

It takes time and effort to get a song to sound how it should sound. The gratification comes after the hard work. I love that.

They can do hard things.

Almost every single new song, I hear the words, “Mom! This is WAYYYYYYYY TOO HARD! I can’t do this!”

And every single song, I remind them of the previous song they mastered, and remind them that they said those exact same words about that one.

I think this is an incredibly important lesson for kids to learn. Lots of things in life start out hard. It’s supposed to be that way. Piano is one of thousands of things they will be faced with that will seem daunting, intimidating, and impossible. I love that they get to see this principle over and over again, at a young age, and with me by their side.

They don’t like it.

Wait. WHAT?!?!? That’s one reason I DON’T LET THEM QUIT?

Yep.

They can’t quit just because they don’t enjoy it. Just like they won’t be able to quit a boring job or drop out of a college class that they hate or give their kids up for adoption just because they don’t like being a parent, or they realize it’s hard.

LIFE IS HARD. LIFE IS FULL OF CRAP WE DON’T LIKE. GET OVER IT.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t fill up my kids’ lives with as many things as possible that they hate. But when there is something that I deem useful, beneficial, or productive, then yes. I still make them do it. It’s how we grow. And it’s how we get crap done.

There are countless REAL-LIFE benefits having to do with the human brain that are directly related to playing the piano (or other musical instruments).

This could be a whole post in itself, but I will highlight just a few of the proven benefits of music below:

  1. Helps prevent age-related memory loss and hearing loss (to read about the studies, see the source – ABC News)
  2. Helps the brain with spatial-temporal reasoning – understanding math, science, and engineering-related concepts (source)
  3. Increases hand-eye coordination as well as fine motor skills
  4. Increases auditory and language skills, including auditory working memory and auditory attention (source)
Why My Kids Aren't Allowed to Quit Piano but Maybe Yours Can - Coming from a mother who is also a piano teacher, this article has great perspective! -PlanForAwesome

It teaches them rhythm,  which is pure math.

Aside from the physical stimulation and effects on the brain itself, learning the actual timing and rhythm of notes is math. It is real-world math! Certain notes that look a certain way are worth 1, 2, 3, or 4 beats. Others are worth 1/2 a beat, and even smaller fractions of a beat. If a note has a dot after it, you add half the value of the note to itself. If two notes are tied together, you add their values together. Time signatures (the little numbers at the very beginning of a piece of music) are all about counting and rhythm and the number of beats in each measure.

Hello!!! How cool is it that my 6-year-old knows all about fractions, but doesn’t even really realize it yet?! Total bonus.

It gives them practice in  performing in front of  people.

Whether we like it or not, we all have to face it. Eventually, in one form or another, everyone has to speak, perform, or present something in front of an audience. Whether it be a speech, a presentation in school or for work, a talk at church, or acting out a skit at 6th grade science camp, we ALL experience it. How great to have a few experiences under their belts before having to perform at school or church or work!

Hallie, Age 6

My kids have learned how to overcome making mistakes while performing, how to bow with grace after a performance regardless of how many times they mess up, and how even if they do mess up, life goes on and no one remembers the next day.

I am the mom and they are  the kids.

There’s a reason the legal age of adulthood is 18. It’s because the human brain isn’t developed enough to make good, sound decisions until the age of 18. Actually, it’s even higher than 18… but this argument works like a charm for my kids (source).

This is not just me telling my kids that I’m smarter than them. This is legitimate science.

“Pictures of the brain in action show that adolescents’ brains work differently than adults when they make decisions or solve problems. Their actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex (source).”

So sometimes I am going to make my kids do things that they don’t want to do, because I have better decision-making skills than they do. My brain is more mature than theirs.

I am older and wiser.

I have experienced more of life than they have. I am older and wiser, and therefore am making this decision on their behalf. Enough said.

I want them to be able to  serve.

We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and being able to play the piano is a valuable and much-needed skill in our church. We sing opening and closing hymns in almost all of our Sunday meetings, as well as meetings during the week. The congregation is accompanied by either an organist or a pianist.

No one is paid to provide this service. Those who have the ability to play are asked to share their talents and serve. The problem is, this requires more than a couple hours’ worth of preparation. In order to be able to serve in this capacity you need to start a lot earlier than the day, week, month, or even year of being asked.

I want my kids to have the option to be able to serve in this area.

In fact, my older two kids have already served in this way. My 12-year-old daughter played prelude, postlude, and accompanied the congregation in an opening and closing song at her cousin’s baptism. My 11-year-old son played the piano in Primary (a church meeting for kids ages 3-12) one Sunday when the regular pianist was out of town.

It has put food on my table.

Literally. You just never know the future. If my parents would have told me when I was 8 years old that I would eventually find myself divorced with 4 kids under the age of 8, needing to go back to work after being a stay-at-home mom for 8 years, I wouldn’t have believed them. But life often doesn’t turn out the way we anticipate. I will forever be grateful for the option I had to begin teaching piano lessons and be able to keep my kids out of daycare these past 5 years. That is simply a job that would not have been available to me, had I not put in my time developing that skill in my very early years.

I have known several people who have taught piano lessons to provide additional income for their family, and what a blessing it is to be able to work from home and be your own boss!

I’d like my kids to have that in their back pockets in case it’s ever needed in their future families.

Music is just good for the  soul.

I get a feeling when I am playing the piano that I can’t get anywhere else. When I am playing a piece that I have practiced to the point of it not requiring much effort, it goes from a chore to a pleasure. I particularly enjoy playing religious music. My life has been enriched by the unique spiritual connection I feel when playing songs of worship.

I see this same phenomena happening with my older kids already. My 12-year-old daughter has a couple of favorite church songs and classical songs that she often plays just for fun; not during her required practice time. The fact that she plays them by choice says it all. Just watch her. You can’t tell me she doesn’t truly enjoy this.

Kambree, Age 12

My 11-year-old son is an absolute joy to watch. His whole body moves with the music and he is in his own world when he is playing his favorite songs. This is a video of him playing when he was 9 years old.

Cody, Age 9

I love witnessing the satisfaction they get from playing the piano. But I don’t let them know that I notice. Because then they’d either have to lie and say they don’t enjoy it, or actually admit the truth that I might be right. And either outcome would wreck it. So I just quietly smile when I see it happening. I wouldn’t trade it for the world; it just makes my mom heart happy.

It’s free and convenient  because, well, I’m a piano  teacher.

This one isn’t really fair. But it is the biggest reason my kids aren’t allowed to quit, and maybe yours are.

Even after going over all the benefits that piano lessons can provide, at the end of the day, they are expensive, and they are another thing on the calendar. These two things are not issues for us, since I teach my own kids for free and can give them lessons whenever it works out for us. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still an inconvenience and it’s always weighing on my mind. But at least I don’t have to drive them somewhere at a specific time every week, and have it line up with 4 different sports schedules. I teach a lesson here and there to whoever is ready for one when I have the time. It doesn’t get more convenient than that, so…

My kids aren’t allowed to quit piano. But maybe yours can.

Every situation is different. Every kid is different. Every parent-child relationship is different. Family dynamics, finances, schedules, desires, battles, and resources are so diversified from house to house, that there really is no right answer here.

So for every reason my kids aren’t allowed to quit piano, there is a solid and valid reason for another kid in a different family to absolutely quit piano. And that may be the right decision for them.

We are all in this parenting thing together. We’re all just figuring it out one day at a time. That’s how it’s supposed to be. ♥

Bottom line: all of us are going to be okay, whether we take piano lessons or not.  

For two of my most popular parenting posts, see 2 Pieces of MOM Advice I Wish I Had ACTUALLY Listened To and The Only Journal I Keep – And For All The Wrong Reasons.

If you are a piano teacher, or know of one, check this post out: How to Plan For An Awesome Piano Recital – FREE PRINTABLES!

4 thoughts on “Why My Kids Aren’t Allowed to Quit Piano but Maybe Yours Can”

  1. This is SO GOOD!! Super thoughtful and genuine. And the sources and additional information is fabulous! My littles are too young for this type of decision, but I have already thought about it. And have so many friends who have agonized about what to do. Thank you for sharing your experience and your heart! I’ve pinned so hopefully many others find this 🙂

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