“How come my kid hates piano? My child has taken piano for two years, and now wants to quit piano, what do I do?” I often get this question from parents.
If that’s your question, I can tell you several things about yourself.
First, your child’s piano teacher is a disciplinarian and devotee of piano pedagogy, proud of the tradition of time tested methods, devoted to developing physical technique.
They have a method and they stick to it, no matter who the child is. Their view is that your child is weak, needs to be coddled, and is a symptom of all that is wrong with America.
Second, your child is not a quitter. How could they have survived this for two years and not be a persistent worker, trying to deliver the goods?
Third, you’re not a clairvoyant, but you do know your child. If their pleas to quit seem genuine, you need to listen to them.
In fact, the tell-tale signs of quitting are there all along. For example, I can tell you three things about your child quitting piano that I couldn’t possibly know unless I am clairvoyant or completely correct in my assertions.
So here comes the Swami.
Here are his three observations about how a child hates and then quits piano. See if I’m not right.
First, I can say without fear of contradiction that there was a period at the beginning of your child’s piano study when they were infatuated with it. I call this the “honeymoon.”
During this initial time, it is not difficult for a clever teacher to interest a child in the rudiments of piano if presented in a non-threatening way. Soon, however, the teacher realizes that the child cannot progress further without learning the steps outlined at the beginning of any piano course.
But, unfortunately, the teacher’s only tool is repetition, which deadens the child to the instrument if done incorrectly. (Repetition must always be made into a game. Always.)
Thus, second, you noticed your child suddenly became uninterested in the piano. They did not want to play any more, because they were asked to simply repeat boring pieces that were music-like, but had no actual musical substance, from the child’s unspoken point of view. Each piece was like the last. Dull.
All discussions of deferred gratification aside, you now have a problem on your hands.You ask the teacher. What could they possibly say, except, “The child must pay attention and practice more.”
In real world terms, the piano teacher is saying, “Don’t let this child be themselves during lessons because I’m not prepared for children’s temperaments and variable personalities. And since I’m out of ideas, make them repeat my boring system that fails 90% of the time. I learned this old-fashioned way and I have no idea how to help your individual child enjoy the piano and music in general.”
And, third, the Swami can tell you that there was period toward the end where you nagged your child to practice, and the child shut down all interest in the instrument. This is the point at which, unknown to you, the child began to hate the piano, because, from the child’s point of view, it was making you so angry.
The child could not express anger at you for nagging, so they began to hate the piano.The end result is that the child feels like a failure, and a quitter, when there was really no need for this negative result. The child could be fooling around on the piano right now, expressing their interest in their own away.
What really happened was that the teacher deemed the child a failure. They did this in order to call themselves a success. Think about it for a moment and you will see this is all that could possibly be true.
It’s not as if you had said to the teacher, “Make my kid get to Carnegie Hall or else.” All one has a reasonable chance to expect of piano lessons is that the child is interested in music and the piano, and would like to know more.
As soon as you brand a child, IN ANY WAY, a failure, they will have no more interest in the subject. That is simply human child nature, to be shy of failure.To speak on a larger scale, the piano and music business in general suffers because there are less players, less pianos, less music that is not computer generated. And these fewer players are a result of decades of this disciplinarian piano teaching ethic, which says, “Carl Czerny taught this way in 1825 and, by God, so will I.”
The point is that this system of music education completely ignores children of humble gifts but great interest. Is not the piano for these kids, too? One of the amazing things about the piano is people’s continued fascination with the instrument, whether they can play or not.
In addition, as an added ironic twist, the parents who come to me and say, “Make my child love piano,” were once the poor kids who were branded various levels of failure at the piano. Such is the fascination with the piano that generation after generation says, “Teach me to play piano.”
Go slowly enough, and you shall.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press
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