Plenty of research has demonstrated the benefits of learning to play an instrument in childhood. From better cognitive function to higher standardized test scores, it has been widely accepted that music appreciation is something most children should participate in if given the opportunity.
Despite the benefits, some children may resist when their parents suggest or sign them up for music lessons. In the following, explore some of the benefits and drawbacks to requiring your children learn to play an instrument.
What Advocates Have to Say
Those who feel that children should participate in extracurricular music lessons, regardless of their level of interest, strongly believe that they will benefit in the long run. Oftentimes, a child may not initially be interested in learning to play an instrument or take music appreciation classes. However, as time goes on, they may begin to come around. What may at first seem like punishment may eventually become an enjoyable activity that they look forward to doing.
Advocates for music education insist that encouraging children in this area goes beyond simply learning an instrument. When children are required to engage in pre-arranged activities, they develop a resilience that helps them to see the value of doing their best, even when they are participating in an activity that they don’t necessarily enjoy.
Proponents also believe that in some cases, younger children are not equipped to make all the decisions regarding their extracurricular activities. In these instances, parents should continue to guide their children’s decisions, taking into consideration where their interests lie. While parents may be tempted to put their children into music lessons based on the results they’ve seen in others, it’s important to remember that children have different abilities and interests, so the results may vary.
When to Discontinue Lessons
Just as there are advocates for requiring children to take music lessons, there are also those who believe that expecting children to learn an instrument is a flawed approach. Logically, children are more likely to excel in activities in which they are truly interested rather than being forced to go along with an activity chosen by their parents. Those who are against forcing children to play an instrument argue that this low level of engagement will not produce all the positive benefits associated with music appreciation.
Eventually, there may come a time when parents will have to seriously contemplate whether the perceived benefits of music lessons outweigh the apathy of the children forced to participate. In some cases, this can create larger problems that spill into the children’s homes and social interactions. Children may also begin to feign interest in other activities in order to escape their pre-chosen activity—the motivation may not stem from genuine interest.
Despite these facts, children who want to quit early on should at least be encouraged to stick with it for a while to see if things become easier. This level of compromise will help children to feel better about the activity, and given some time, they may even begin to enjoy playing the instrument.
In some cases, a child may actually want to play a different instrument. If your child mentions being interested in playing something else, it’s a good idea to at least consider the possibility. You may find it easier to convince your child to stick with the instrument they are currently playing in exchange for the opportunity to play the instrument of their choice at a later time. Doing so sends the message that they cannot quit something as soon as they start, and at the same time it communicates that you understand their feelings. The approach works relatively well as long as your child does not feel that they need to switch instruments every time they get started.
The most important thing to remember is that you must know your child and their tendencies. Some children will balk at any suggestion, while others will be more inclined to go with the flow. Alternatively, parents should not push their children further than necessary or try to live vicariously through them. Some people do not have natural musical talent, and pushing them too hard to pursue it may cause undue stress. While the mental, physical, and social benefits of music lessons have been proven, children need to do something that they actually enjoy.
The decision to permit your child to discontinue music lessons will be highly individual and based on several factors. Ideally, parents and children should make the decision together. However, parents should be aware of common signs that their child is losing interest. This can be accomplished with clear communication with your child about why exactly they don’t wish to continue. For instance, it may be discovered that it isn’t the activity itself that they don’t like, but the environment, the instructor, or even the other students. If any of these is the case, it will be relatively easy to keep your child engaged by switching teachers or schools altogether. In the end, learning an instrument offers numerous benefits, but none of these should override your child’s well-being.