What Kids Need: Music

Not just music, playing an instrument, or learning to sing.  As a high school band director for many years, I can say with authority that the kids that are involved in band, orchestra, or choir are good.  They often take private lessons and practice their craft at home.  Because playing an instrument takes many years, it teaches kids perseverance, the self-discipline of regular practice, and delayed gratification.  I always said that you have to pay your dues if you want to get great at something.  It might be athletics or other such high-level participation, but it is always the sum-total of years of practice.  These skills stay with kids for life.  Search Institute reports from their five-million surveys of young people that only 27% of youth surveyed have this asset in their lives.

Encourage your kids to participate in music, teach them that it is a long-term commitment and that they need to stick with it.  I started playing the piano when I was about eight years old.  There were many times that I wanted to quit.  I liked how my dad taught me sticking with something.  He never told me I couldn’t stop, he always said I could stop, but the underlying message was that you needed to stay with it.  I did stay with it, and today, I still play the piano.  So many of my friends will hear me play and say, I wish I could play like that.  I often reply, no, you don’t, or you would play like that.  They look confused and then come to understand, it takes commitments, long-term effort, perseverance, determination, and the knowledge that you are getting better and better.

Encourage your kids to practice even into high school.  Attend concerts and let them know that here are some of the benefits of playing an instrument for many years.  Let kids choose their instrument because when they are forced onto an instrument because it is in the family or because someone wants them to play it, they will give up when the going gets tough.  My father, although he worked at night, he always attended our concerts.  I encourage parents to be sure to make time to be at all the performances.  There aren’t that many of them, but kids know if their parents are there to support their ongoing efforts.  I played the drums as well, and my parents never complained about the noise or the volume.  They were very tolerant even to the point when I played in a rock band, we practiced at our house, and my dad had the basement rewired to accommodate the power needs.  That type of support will always be remembered.

Explore different types of music with your kids, classical, ethnic, country, rock, modern popular music, and be willing to listen to it with your kids.  Make some positive comments, like, he has a tremendous high register with his voice.  Finally, take your kids to live performances of all kinds.  My parents always bought tickets to the Community Concert Series in our town, and we attended the symphony orchestra concerts at the college, with whom I eventually played percussion.  Involvement with music takes close parenting and lots of encouragement to kids to stick with it.  The benefits are for a lifetime, and the character development will serve them all through their life.

Yours for Better Parenting,

Rich