You’ve just learned that your child is not just a little talented—he or she is a musical prodigy. While this scenario is particularly overwhelming for parents who aren’t musically inclined, it can present a new set of complications that the vast majority of parents aren’t equipped to handle. How can you give your child the tools he or she needs to develop and refine his or her talent without becoming oppressive and domineering? Is it possible to raise a child prodigy without turning your child into mini-adult? What steps should you take to ensure your child gets the training he or she needs?
To keep your child healthy and happy while challenging them to achieve their musical potential, do the following:
1. Promote creativity.
Because primary music classes focus on learning to play music that was written by others, they are often filled with simplified versions of classical songs with easy-to-follow patterns and melodies. However, it’s never too early to encourage your child to be creative and develop his or her own sounds. While prodigy students rarely need encouragement to practice, they do, however, need encouragement to venture beyond the notes that are already written and create their own songs. These children’s early tunes may never make the radio playlists, but they are a vital step in learning to interpret musical sounds—a skill that will help them appreciate and understand music in a whole new way.
2. Encourage listening.
Expand your child’s listening repertoire by playing a variety of musical genres and styles. Take him or her to operas, symphonies, and other musical performances as often as possible. Not every style of music will appeal to your child, but he or she should have the opportunity to hear the wide range of music available. Introduce your child to different styles of classical music, converse with him or her about your favorite rock band from your teenage years, or discuss the rise and fall of popular music styles. As your child begins to listen critically, he or she will start to develop his or her own sense of musical style.
3. Facilitate performances.
Not every 5 year old is ready for a stage performance at the local performing arts center. However, you can help you child develop early performance skills by setting up a “special showing” for friends and family in your home. Find teachers who encourage students to participate in recitals, musicals, and other ways to publicly share their musical talents. Taking part in a musical competition, playing for the school choir, or pursuing other ways to perform can help enrich your child’s musical development and help him or her build confidence.
4. Establish a life balance.
Even a child prodigy needs to go outside and play regularly. While the temptation may be to use every waking moment as an opportunity for more practice, you need to allow your child the opportunity to be a kid. This may be particularly difficult for a child who adamantly wants to pursue their musical passion. However, it is important to establish healthy boundaries for them while they are young, so they learn to enjoy other aspects of life as well.
5. Research musical education opportunities.
While there are countless opportunities for child prodigies, not all of them will be a good fit for your child. Do your research to find the teacher, school, or facility that will best meet your child’s needs and dreams. In addition, take advantage of the various scholarship opportunities available for those who may need financial assistance.
If your child is determined to hone his or her musical gift, finding the right school for them will require a significant effort on your part. This may involve an extensive application processes, followed by auditions and tryouts, but your efforts will be worth it when your child fulfills his or her dream.
6. Work with your child’s teacher.
Choose your child’s teacher carefully. Don’t be afraid to shop around for a teacher who best suits your child—the most effective teachers want to work with students who are a good fit. Once you have established a relationship, work together with the teacher to establish a practice schedule and learning plan that will help your child develop. Discuss concerns about maintaining a healthy balance at the beginning, so there are no surprises later. Explore what opportunities for performance the teacher provides and ask about “trying out” the teacher for a few weeks to see how your child responds to his or her methods. If you partner with the teacher, your child will be more apt to succeed.
The most important thing a parent can do for a musically gifted child is to encourage him or her to follow his or her dream. You may not be raising the next Sergei Prokofiev, but you will be developing a child who is passionate about music and who will benefit from the influences of musical training for the rest of his or her life.