As a teacher, I am never surprised when I hear from a parent that their child does not want to take lessons anymore. It is very normal for students to go through stages in their learning where the challenges and amount of hardwork required exceed the “fun” aspect. After all, piano study is a rather lonely and difficult pursuit. What should parents do when students express the desire to quit? Should they give in and substitute with another activity instead?
I came across an article about teaching the value of commitment which explained this dilemma so well, here is the link to the article. It is a must read!
If quitting seems inevitable, it is very important that students do not get to quit on their terms. Parents should plan an “exit strategy”. The exit strategy is an achievable goal, or set of goals, and when the student has reached the goal(s), parents can then discuss together with the student the decision to quit or not.
Here are some of the things parents can do or say to their child when the dreaded moment of “I don’t want to take lessons anymore” comes:
1. At least finish all your current books. After you finish learning all the pieces in your current book(s), we can discuss this issue again. May be there is a really good song you may like in these books?!
2. No auditions/recitals/tests/competitions, just learn for fun. While there is a lot of value in these opportunities, they are not for everyone. They are a means to an end, as most people work harder when they know there is a deadline to meet. Some students thrive under pressure, others shut down. Perhaps the reason the student is not interested in lessons anymore is because they did not enjoy the process of preparing for these events.
3. Set an age limit – when you turn “X” we can talk about it more then. Students do not always know what’s best for them. I don’t know how many times I have heard people say “I wish I did not quit lessons when I was a child”.
4. Talk to the teacher and see if perhaps changing the amount and type of homework assignments may help the student be more interested.
5. Change teacher, study for at least another semester and then see. Sometimes a change of pace, change of teaching style may help.
When a student says “I don’t want to do piano anymore”, what they are really saying is “I now realize piano is too hard. I have to spend so much time to practice in order to be good.” Nobody quits lessons because they do not like music anymore. They still like music, they just do not want to work so hard. They want to spend their time doing something else. While there is nothing wrong with that, students also need to learn to not give up so easily. No one enjoys spending time doing something they are not very good at, but no one is going to be good at something unless they spend time working on it! When students practice, they become good, they enjoy it more, and they want to do more. The same is true the other way around.
Of course, music is not the only beautiful thing in life; there are other worthwhile pursuits. But what I can say, without any hesitation, is that music IS worth fighting for!